Power Pack #23-26
Issue(s): Power Pack #23, Power Pack #24, Power Pack #25, Power Pack #26
This arc ends the classic period of Power Pack where the team had their original powers. This is also the last story that had newsstand distribution, with the book becoming a bi-monthly direct market title with issue #26. But it's a great, epic arc.
The Snarks have captured Power Pack and are going to take them back to their homeworld. But first they have to rescue the High Snark Jakal, who Katie "fried" in his own forcefield and then got wrapped up in neuro-bandages and placed in the Arctic.
Notice Katie's bravery in the face of the Snarks, but later after hearing that Jakal's skin was fried by her power bolt, she begins to seriously doubt herself and hate her powers.
Alex and Julie are distracted by Alex's obsession with his semi-girlfriend Alison, and they fail to notice when the younger Jack and Katie come stumble onto the idea of having Katie disintegrate the oxygen in her crystal cell to escape.
The Snarks reflood the tank with oxygen and warn her to not try that trick again, and then Katie gets to see first-hand the damage that was done to Jakal.
While in a delirious state thanks to his injuries, Jakal mentions the fact that his mother, Queen Maraud, is poisoning Emperor Bhadsha. The leader of this expedition, the Ambassador Hadj, is scandalized by the thought and tells the guards to write it off as fevered rantings. However, this is another reminder that most Snarks, despite their outward appearance, are not necessarily evil. Even high in the ranks of Queen Maraud's clan it's shown that they are not in favor of treason against the emperor.
Queen Maraud herself arrives to inspect the "hatchlings"...
...and to demonstrate the Transfer Matrix, a device built by "the Wizards of Magus' world" which will allow her to transfer Power Pack's powers to her son.
Power Pack are joined by Kofi and his father Yrik, who have also been captured by the Snarks.
Power Pack come up with another scheme to escape, and this one partially works. Katie transforms back to her street clothes, disintegrates them, and then brings back her costume (note Alex telling her to "Shut up" while she hesitates.
This doesn't quite give her enough power to break out of her crystal cell, but by goading Jakal, they get him to finish the job.
With that we have one last hurrah with the team having their original powers.
Most of the team are recaptured...
...but Kofi is able to teleport away and Katie accidentally blasts a hole in the floor, falling into a cavern below where she's rescued by the local versions of the Moloids.
As a test of the Transfer Matrix, Maraud has Yrik's healing powers transferred to Hadj, and the transfer seems to be a success. She uses her powers to partially heal Jakal's wounds, although not enough to fix his hand, which was wounded during Katie's escape.
Another aspect of this story is that the Power kids are missing from Earth long enough for their father to notice. Margaret Power is still in the hospital and Jim has been spending most of his time there, but he comes home to find them missing, and he then gets a call from Allison McCourt, who is also looking for them. Issue #23 devotes its letter page to running pictures of missing children and information from Child Find Inc. about children abductions.
Franklin Richards has a dream watching Power Pack's father discovering they are missing (while it's happening). He initially goes to tell his parents about it, but stops when he hears them worrying about his powers.
Instead he tries to summon Power Pack's Smartship, Friday, and is successful.
Friday telling Franklin that s/he loves him, so soon after Franklin felt rejected by his own parents, most likely messes with his emotions in all sorts of ways.
Franklin does leave a note for his parents.
When they arrive in Snark space (via a method that allows Friday to travel the vast distance in a very short period), Franklin has a vision of Kofi floating in space.
Meanwhile, the subterranean creatures bring Katie to Yrik. Kofi is also criss-crossing the subterranean tunnels. The Kymellians get very horselike when they are running.
The moloid-creatures have a prophesy about the "star child" falling to them, but they really don't have much to do with the story. They are a convenient device for moving the characters around, but aside from a throwaway line at the end of the story by the Snark Emperor musing that they are more intelligent than he ever realized, there's no real resolution for them.
Franklin gets some help from Friday to fall asleep...
...and then locates Kofi and convinces him to escape the Snarks by teleporting far above into deep space. It's a risky maneuver but it works.
Back on Earth, Jim Power searches for his kids in Central Park, but is instead attacked by a street gang. He is rescued by Cloak, who says he will help look for his kids (it's unclear if he knows at this point that the kids are Power Pack).
Later, after visiting his wife at the hospital...
...he's contacted by Dagger, who also says she'll help.
Cloak and Dagger are used at their symbolic best here. Cloak as a dark avenger and Dagger as a ray of hope. They don't actually have much to do with the story and their biggest contribution is a Misunderstanding Fight later in the story. But they also serve to remind us that while Mr. and Mrs. Power think that their children are just ordinary kids, that isn't actually the case.
Back on Snark world, Maraud transfers the powers of the three captive members of Power Pack to Jakal.
They then show off their success.
I really love Jon Bogdanove art on these issues. There's a comedic aspect to it, which shows as Maraud and Jakal proudly parade their tiny prisoners. But it's not just goofy. It's really good as showing the Power kids as kids, and also great with the tragic sequences like the Power parents talking about their missing kids.
While Maraud is showing off her son, her ambassador Hadj shows up at Emperor Bhadsha's throne, where, ridden with guilt over Maraud's treason and driven partially mad by the power transfer, she tries to cure Bhadsha.
She fails however, and it's because at the same time, Katie has accidentally slipped and caused a cave-in in the subterranean tunnels, and gotten injured. Yrik tries to use his healing powers to help her, and finds that while he's trying, he's "pulling at the band that binds my powers to my soul". As he regains his powers, Hadj loses them.
Maraud and Jakal show up to stop Hadj, and they decide to finish the Emperor off by throwing him out a window. However, Franklin had located the captive members of Power Pack, and he sends Kofi to rescue them. But they tell him to rescue Bhadsha instead.
Even though we've learned that not all Snarks are evil, Franklin is less convinced and unhappy with Kofi's decision. And he feels validated when Maraud sends out a message claiming that the Kymellians are actually responsible for the death of Bhadsha and the disappearance of his body. Bhadsha's transmissions explaining that he is still alive are treated as disinformation, and the Snark Wars between clans begin. Franklin learns the importance of Kofi's decision when he realizes the horrors of war.
Katie shows up to rescue her siblings...
...but in return she is captured.
The art breaks down a little bit during issue #25. Possibly this is where Tom Morgan and Jose Marzan had to help out.
The moloids get Power Pack to where Maraud is transferring Katie's power to Jakal, and then we have the final fight between the powerless Power Pack and Jakal. They aren't powerless for long, though. Receiving the powers of four people is too much for Jakal and he starts to mentally break down.
As the need arises, each member of Power Pack gets a power back. However, it's not the power they started with.
I love that despite the high stakes, there's still immature squabbling between the kids, with Jack calling Julie a "bonehead".
The speculation for the power switch is that "maybe the transfer machine was broken or something", but it's pretty clear that the switch was due to the changing needs of the kids. Katie didn't want to be Alex's "gun" anymore, so now the oldest and most responsible kid has the most destructive power. Meanwhile Katie, with the flying power, "won't fall anymore". Jack immediately finds a destructive use for Alex's power that he never considered.
And, Julie, well, someone had to wind up with Mass Master's old powers.
It all makes sense and is interesting in its own right, but i prefer the original configuration. Katie's destructive capabilities were a good metaphor for a young kid with little self-awareness or control. Alex's "gee" powers were perfect for the older kid interested in science. Julie is the fantasy enthusiast and being able to fly on a rainbow beam fits that perfectly. And Jack was great as the Mass Master.
Moreso than the specifics of who has which power, though, the real problem is that this opens the door for power switachroos that ultimately ill serve the group, especially during the New Warriors period.
As he's dying, Jakal repents to an extent, and offers Emperor Bhadsha the use of his body, since his own was poisoned (note, by "toxins from Wizard's world". This again seems to refer to the Magus of the Technarchy. I wonder how Louise Simonson was envisioning that world at this time.).
Friday, the smartship, was nearly destroyed during the war, but a part of her machinery seems to still be active.
That concludes the main story, with the Emperor's survival ending the Snark Wars for now. But the kids are still missing from their parents' point of view.
Issue #26 has them being transferred home by the Snarks, who are attacked by Cloak and Dagger.
When that is settled, the kids are brought home.
It's not revealed that the kids have super-powers, but it is a strange group that delivers the Power kids to their parents. The parents were already vaguely aware that they themselves had been kidnapped by lizard creatures in their first appearance, so the explanation that the lizard aliens appeared again is accepted.
But while everything is happy again for the Powers, it's not for Franklin. Slightly earlier in this issue, Reed Richards determines the meaning behind Franklin's note, and we learn that the Snarks, or Zn^rx, were encountered once before by the Skrulls.
Reed gathers up the rest of the FF, including She-Hulk but not the Thing, and takes them to Skrull space. They do leave a note for Jarvis, but when Franklin dreams himself to Avengers mansion to see his parents, he doesn't see the note; just that his parents are again not "home".
Kofi, meanwhile, is fighting with his father Yrik (Kofi was actually forbidden from coming on the journey back to Earth, but he did anyway). During the fight with Cloak and Dagger, when Yrik got pulled into Cloak's cloak, he learned the reason why. Kofi's mother was killed (by a Bandersnatch, again continuing the Lewis Carroll connection with this series) while protecting Kofi...
...and so this has led to Yrik resenting him.
Kofi and Franklin were planning to run away together, but Kofi and his father reconcile at the end of this issue, leaving Franklin with the Powers.
At least he gets some delicious lentil soup out of it.
It's a really nice epilogue to a really nice story. Action, Snark politics, the horrors of war, the tragedy of missing kids, some nice character work for Franklin, and more, all with very human dialogue and fun dynamic art.
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This arc begins not too long after the end of issue #22, with the Snarks that captured Power Pack arriving in the Arctic to rescue Jakal. But the arc spans a period of time and i'm not placing this directly after that issue. Power Pack shouldn't appear elsewhere in between, though. Cloak and Dagger should appear here before they leave for Europe in Cloak & Dagger #7. Issue #26 also occurs during or after X-Factor #8 and Uncanny X-Men #208-209; while Cloak and Dagger are searching Central Park, they interrogate thugs that talk about "lots of weird stuff happenin' in Central Park with muties". See the Considerations for FF #296 regarding their placement and that box to California. The FF are in space at the end of #26 and shouldn't appear elsewhere until after issue #28.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (16): show
It's worth noting that for the first time in this arc, Franklin's dream-self displays the ability to communicate with others and the FF don't know that yet. That will cause some headaches when you try to place the FF vs. X-Men limited series in 1987.
Posted by: Michael | January 12, 2014 7:09 PM
In the UK, this arc was printed in 5-6 page instalments as the back-up strip in Thundercats. The comic also reprinted the very first story arc, and possibly a number of others inbetween (I only got that comic sporadically).
Having got the title sporadically during the period it was reprinting this arc, I have some slightly odd memories - being familiar with some parts of individual issues, but not others.
Posted by: Stephen | February 4, 2014 6:19 PM
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