Power Pack #56-58
Issue(s): Power Pack #56, Power Pack #57, Power Pack #58
The credits for all of these issues and through issue #61 have an asterisk next to the credit for Michael Higgins as a writer, and the note says "plot assist by Seth Kruchkow". I don't know why he didn't get a full co-plotting credit. I always think of a plot assist as "Hey, maybe they should meet Galactus" but if it's going on for six issues it seems like a full credit is deserved.
Anyway. I had a negative impression of these issues from when i picked them up a while ago (for the Galactus appearance, obviously!). And there are a ton of things that i still don't like about this. But reading it this most recent time for my project, i've become more ambivalent. The main plot here is actually perfectly fine, the sort of thing that you'd expect Power Pack to be doing if the series was going to continue. They may be kids but they're tied heavily into space themes and the Fantastic Four, so an encounter with some of Marvel's cosmic characters makes sense, and this story handles that basic plot just fine. Where it gets weird -- well first of all Tom Morgan's art is a disaster. He seems to be stuck somewhere between drawing cartoonish kiddie caricature stuff and wanting to draw very realistically. Sometimes, especially when it's on the cartoonish end of the spectrum, it looks pretty good. But the "realistic" stuff translates to the kids have weird looking faces and even weirder looking "muscular" bodies. And sometimes those two poles pull at the art from opposite directions, leaving the Power kids in a warped quantum state. On top of that, while the main plot is fine and it feels like there's some movement in a positive direction regarding Power Pack's secret identity with their parents (or at least their dads), the stuff around the edges is bizarre, particularly regarding Alex. In fact, the situation with Alex, and also with the Powers' mom, is so bad that it's the focus of a later retcon, which you can get a taste for by looking at the Characters Appearing.
The story starts with Franklin having a dream about Galactus.
Nova is going from planet to planet, trying to find a meal for Galactus. But she's finding all the planets already consumed.
And the path of the destruction is pointing towards Earth.
Franklin's parents, who have accepted his powers by now, and even utilized them on occasion, just dismiss them out of hand this time.
But the dream is real, and we see Nova continuing on her search. She finds an Elan (according to the MCP, this is in fact the Infant Terrible that once appeared in the Fantastic Four) on a world that has not yet fully been consumed, and is then approached by the creature responsible.
That creature is the son of the original Star-Stalker.
Nova tries fighting it, but instead he feeds off her power.
Meanwhile, since his parents won't listen, Franklin goes to Power Pack for help. Alex is a bit distracted by the fact that his hair is falling out, something that he's trying to keep secret from the others.
He's also apparently been doing some serious working out.
Friday flies the kids out into space to the location in Franklin's dream.
In addition to his hair problem, Alex is plagued with self-doubt.
They find the Elan and Alex mysteriously heals him.
Friday then detects the battle between Nova and Star-Stalker, and they go to see if they can help. Nova tries overloading Star-Stalker by feeding him even more power, and it seems to work, causing the creature to fall asleep. But it also causes Nova to revert to human form. Alex has Jack (who now is also looking kind of lumpy) attack Star-Stalker while he's down.
But that just causes the creature to wrap himself up in a cocoon and teleport to Earth.
At the beginning of the next issue, the Elan has gone out of control.
Franklin is injured by the blasts, and he falls into a coma. Katie shows more concern than the others, perhaps hinting at romantic interest.
It's also an homage to the Crisis Superman/Supergirl cover and similar poses.
Jack uses his power to absorb everything the Elan is generating. Jack's effectiveness, combined with Alex's hair loss, makes him further depressed and concerned.
Power Pack heads back to Earth. Meanwhile, Margaret Power wakes up and sees that her kids are missing, and immediately starts freaking out.
Jim Power is not so affected, and has the presence of mind (for better or worse) to lie to Margaret.
Jim then gives Mr. Fantastic a call to discuss things. But we won't see them talking until later.
Also on Earth, near where the Star-Stalker's cocoon is arriving, a gang of teenagers try to set a homeless man on fire.
I knew those New Kids On The Block were a bad influence. Why couldn't kids in the 90s listen to good and wholesome heavy metal and punk rock, like i did growing up?
The New Kids are temporarily scared off when the cocoon starts glowing brighter, but they'll be back.
Franklin is awake in dreamform while in his coma, but he's not able to communicate with the others.
So they go out to fight Star-Stalker, not knowing about the "real danger" that he's worried about.
Alex continues to be down on himself.
Meanwhile, Frankie Raye wakes up. At this point the New Kids have come back and set the homeless man on fire. She absorbs the fire to herself, which restores her powers.
She is surprised to learn that the homeless man is completely unharmed. And note that he recognizes her and worries that she'll find out about him.
It becomes pretty clear in this arc that the man was intended to be Toro, the Golden Age sidekick to the original Human Torch. That alone doesn't explain how he would know Frankie Raye, but we'll see other clues as we go and eventually Ann Raymond, Toro's wife, will show up in this series. But the series is cancelled soon after that, and i didn't think that we ever got an in-story confirmation anywhere that this really is Toro. In fact, the lettercol in Avengers West Coast #84 disavows the idea that this is Toro. But i see that the MCP is listing Toro as appearing in these issues, and i'm following that.
Meanwhile, some guy is leaving his apartment.
OMG, that's Reed Richards! Even the colorist couldn't tell.
Nova's powers were restored to her pre-cosmic levels, and that's not enough to fight Star-Stalker. So she goes to the Fantastic Four's building. Roberta, the robot secretary, allows her to enter. And she grabs a device called the "stimulator".
Shame on you! This is a children's comic! This device in the past has been called a power-ray or power amplifier. It's used to activate or restore powers. The plan is to use it to drain the power from Star-Stalker and restore it to Nova. It works, but also turns Nova evil. At the same time, Franklin has managed to contact Friday telepathically, and he's got her taking him, Toro, and the Elan into space to get the Ultimate Nullifier from Galactus.
As the kids fight Nova...
...Toro gets a haircut.
Note that Friday observes that the guy has a potential power level equal to one of Earth's super-heroes, and similar to Nova when she was in human form.
The Elan, unfortunately, has to have one of its antennae amputated.
A freshened up Toro is mentally joined by Franklin for the quest for the Ultimate Nullifier.
Even without the hindsight of knowing that the series will be cancelled before the "mystery" of this character is resolved, i feel like it ought to have been revealed now. Using Toro here seems to be a homage to the Human Torch's quest for the Ultiamte Nullifier in Fantastic Four #48-50, with Franklin playing the role of the Watcher. Why not make that more overt?
Instead, Toro's foray into Galactus' ship is weirdly truncated. Franklin comes back out immediately and there doesn't seem to be any reason for Toro to be there.
Galactus hears Franklin's story and perks up when he hears that Nova is involved. He says he's not certain that any human could wield the Ultimate Nullifier, but he's got another way.
Meanwhile, as the battle in Central Park continues, Jim Power and Reed Richards sit down for a conversation.
They're interrupted by the fighting, but that just confirms what Jim suspected, that his kids are on a super-powered team with Franklin Richards.
Not sure about Jim's new look.
Mr. Fantastic is pretty unflappable, and he enters the battle and starts working with the team.
To his credit, Jim Power is hanging in there, too.
Margaret Power, not so much.
Friday and her crew get back to Earth, and Galactus' "another way" turns out to be the very similarly named Elemental Obliterator, which will kill Franklin if he uses it. Thanks a lot, Galactus.
It's actually Jim Power who tells Mr. Fantastic to hold back and let Franklin do what he has to. Sure, Jim. It's not your kid.
But the Elan steps in anyway.
And even he doesn't have to die, thanks to Alex mysteriously wishing it to be so.
So all's well that ends well. Well, except for mom.
There is so much here that is awful. But i still maintain that the basic plot is pretty cool. The use of the Star-Stalker and the Elan is fun. I like the basic use of Frankie Raye, and she's an interesting character for the Power Kids to meet. The use of Galactus in Power Pack may seem a bit gratuitous, but we've seen equally bad uses (ROM, Dazzler) and survived them. I do think that space and therefore Marvel's cosmic characters are fair game for this series. I even like the ending, with Franklin being willing to sacrifice himself but not having to thanks to the Elan. And it's well past time that the parents found out what's going on, and Jim and Reed's reactions in this arc are pretty good. So i say that we keep the plot (hey, maybe that's everything that Seth Kruchkow contributed!), and just replace the script, and the art, and adjust the handling of Margaret, and ditch everything about Alex losing his hair and gaining wish powers. Just those few little tweaks, and you have a good story.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 65,350. Single issue closest to filing date = 52,500.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this after Fantastic Four #337-346. I actually hoped that some of this took place during those issues, but we don't actually get to see Franklin spending time with Power Pack while his parents are away, which is too bad.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAlex Power Clone, Energizer, Franklin Richards, Friday, Galactus, Infant Terrible, Invisible Woman, Jim Power Clone, Lightspeed, Margaret Power Clone, Mass Master, Mr. Fantastic, Nova (Frankie Raye), Roberta, Star-Stalker II, Toro
A theory was put forth in fanzines of the time that Marvel wanted to kill this book and ordered Higgins to write badly on purpose.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 14, 2015 11:05 AM
I always feel like the homage should be contributed to Dave Byrne's Phoenix cover (Scott holding Jean, from 1980), rather than Perez's Superman holding Supergirl Crisis cover (which was from 1985).
Am I just not seeing the "after Byrne" on the cover Perez drew or does he not have to, is it from something earlier still?
(also, Morgan's art goes through all kinds of bizarre permutations, doesn't it? Cannot wait for his run on Iron Man, haha :-D)
Posted by: PeterA | May 14, 2015 11:17 AM
They're all based on the Pieta. The Crisis image just became iconic in its own right, which is why it generally gets cited and homaged.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 14, 2015 11:19 AM
PeterA, just wanted to follow up and agree that the Crisis image really is identical to the Phoenix image.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 14, 2015 12:45 PM
Crisis was not a genuine Pieta tribute though as Supes is standing. Starlin provided the best for the Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel:)
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 14, 2015 4:26 PM
Let's not forget "Robin Dies At Dawn!," the grandpappy - plus all the others:
Dave Byrne definitely spruced it up with his take, I'll give you that, Peter ;P
Posted by: cullen | May 14, 2015 8:14 PM
Dave Byrne sounds like the ultimate lab-grown X-Men artist, produced from the genetic material of opinionated Canadians and no. 2 pencils.
Posted by: JP | May 14, 2015 8:25 PM
Right down to the name!
Posted by: Morgan Wick | May 14, 2015 8:46 PM
According to Mike Rockwitz when he saw how badly Higgins was writing the book he tried to get Louise Simonson back. When that didn't work out and it became obvious the book was being allowed/forced to die he just let the string run out.
Posted by: Tenzil | May 16, 2015 12:34 AM
I never think of the Batman/Robin or Odin/Thor ones as direct precursors to the Phoenix/Crisis ones because even though the concept is clearly the same, Scott's anguished cry cannot be found in the predecessors. The Legion of Superheroes one though makes me wonder if that one came before Byrne and if it then was maybe Dave Cockrum who drew it, possibly explaining my Dave Byrne brainfart (although now I'm jonesing for a Cockrum/Byrne team-up through clonage as mentioned by JP :)
Actually, now that I'm going through those covers more closely, there's a Lois Lane one that might be the one Byrne "homaged". Must... find... chronological cover placements...
Seems like they missed the Batman Death in the Family cover in the gallery that is much more Pieta-like?
Although I guess that's a TPB cover and ew, when you google Death in the Family you now get Joker playing with his own face covers. Excellent, DC, thanks for that!
Anyhoo, Power Pack, one of the very few Marvel comics I have not a single issue of, what's up with me? (I never took it seriously enough but now I realize the original concept was quite charming)
Posted by: PeterA | May 25, 2015 3:01 AM
The LSH one is LSH #296, which was released in late 1982 with a February 1983 cover date. The GCD says Keith Giffen drew the cover. The Lois Lane covers in the comics101.com gallery are clearly older still given the DC logos used; the one you're probably referring to is #128 from 1972.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | May 25, 2015 5:15 PM
Sinister Nova strangely sprouts superfluous shoulder spikes...
Posted by: Oliver_C | March 25, 2016 8:55 AM
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