Power Pack are back! Katie, Jack, Julie and Alex are together for the first time in years in a five-issue mini-series tying in to the Outlawed event. As best as I can tell, that’s Civil War for Marvel’s younger set, and while I couldn’t resist grabbing a new Power Pack book, my lack of enthusiasm for a Marvel event meant it was weeks before I opened it.
As it turns out, the Outlawed business only comes up on the final page. Before that, the Power family have the comic all to themselves, and it’s ruddy wonderful. It begins with a recap of their origins, courtesy of Katie and her mini-comic.
Her plan is to reveal the siblings’ super-powers and activities to their parents this very night, at Margaret and Jim’s Silver Wedding dinner. Jack is all for it, craving attention, but Julie and Alex – who have been away in space with the Future Foundation – aren’t keen.
Katie agrees to keep the secrets for now, and the meal goes smoothly before proceedings are rudely interrupted.
The youngest Power girl makes her excuses and goes to the bathroom to change into her superhero togs. But how can Katie’s brothers and sisters join her?
Watch out, Boogeyman, Power Pack is gonna get ya!
This comic is a delight from beginning to end. The original Power Pack, under creators Louise Simonson and June Brigman, was a thoroughly charming concoction. The kids has well-delineated personalities and sparked off one another, they actually looked like children rather than adults with weird heads, and had adventures in the Marvel Universe that were happily untouched by major angst. But the creators who followed Simonson and Brigman never clicked with the concept, and Marvel moved so far away from the original set-up – Julie spent a few years hanging out with a college encounter group for screwed-up supers while Alex became a Fantastic Four regular – that it seemed the magic was gone forever.
But here we have writer Ryan (Squirrel Girl) North and artist Nico (Ms Marvel) Leon – their full names, honestly – reuniting the siblings for the most logical of reasons. They’re a few years older than they were in their debut run, but not so aged as to be unrecognisable. Katie, originally just beyond toddlerdom, is a tween here, Jack an early teenager, and Julie and Alex probably 19 and 21, if we allow that Julie’s college days lasted less than a year. Ach, who cares, they’re just great company. Smartly, Ryan doesn’t precisely map on the original character dynamics, having the quartet get along a little better than they did. They’re more respectful of one another, kinder – Katie still kicks against being the ‘baby’ of the family, but no one is actively patronising her.
The Power parents are as lovable as ever, fiercely intelligent but somehow oblivious to their brood’s other lives – I’d love them to find Katie’s comic, because they really should know what great kids they have.
As for the villain, he’s a hoot. Laughable, but actually rather scary.
Leon is the perfect partner for North, superbly capturing the surburban ways of the Powers and, vitally, making Jack, Julie, Katie and Alex recognisably kids and young adults – Alex’s beanie, in particular, is a telling touch. He also handles the humour with a deft touch and captures the joy of young heroes in flight.
And those opening pages, drawn in Katie’s, shall I say, naive art style, are tremendous. I was expecting to see a credit for some young relative of Leon’s but no, he really is still on speaking terms with his inner child.
Colour artist Rachelle Rosenberg brings extra life to proceedings with her joyous colour palette – the foreground figures pop against backgrounds with lovely graduated tints. Plus, she models faces and clothes with her tones, Marvel apparently being too mean to employ an inker to add depth. Travis Lanham’s use of upper and lower case is the only creative decision I dislike; it makes the book look like it’s aimed solely at the younger set, whereas this is definitely all-ages fun. Which isn’t to say Lanham does a bad job, he’s an asset to any book, and likely just doing what he’s been told. (Cards on the table, I hate storybook fonts used for entire issues under any circumstances, having grown up with it as shorthand for whispering.)
The cover by Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer and Frank Martin is bright and beautiful, but the new logo is a bit of a passion killer. Yes, I see what someone did there, designing it around a computer on/off button – power, geddit? – but it lacks the pure comic zip of the original.
This is a wonderful debut issue and I’m now confident that the remaining chapters, despite being linked to the Outlawed business, will be total treats too.