Sunday, November 30, 2008

Could've been so much more...

August 1984

It's been a couple of weeks, but I'm really trying not to waste time, so I've been slack in doing the review thing.

Once I decided to do one of these, I grabbed a handful of unsorted comics and looked for one to review. I've done three Legion comics already, and doing another one would be right after a glowing review of one, and just seem redundant. There were a few comics that were more recent, and I felt like revisiting my childhood. Ah-ha! Power Pack fits the bill nicely.


There's a battle in space, just outside the Earth's atmosphere, and it's sevral ships attacking a lone white starship. It's observed by Katie, the youngest of the four Power children, whose father is desuigning a new energy source for the government. Their parents let them spend the night in their sleeping bags on the back deck of their beach house. Katie sees the attacked spaceship in the surf on the beach. She wakes up her siblings and they investigate. The oldest child, Alex waits by the ship with Katie while younger brother Jack goes with his older sister Julie to wake their father.

As they near the house, one of the ships that attacked the downed ship landsby their house. Alex and Katie are greated by the ship's pilot, an alien nick-named Whitey, who then rescues Julie and Jack, but is too late to keep the attacking aliens, lizard-like beings named Snarks from abducting their parents. Whitey is injured in the rescue andas the Snarks leave with the Power kids' parents, he teleports himself and the children to his ship, Friday.

Whitey is dying from his wounds, and uses the last of his energy to transfer his powers to the children. When they are caught in the Snarks' trator beam, they discover their new powers. Jack controls his own gravity, Julie flies fast, leaving a colored trail in her wake, Katie disentigrates objects and then shoots off energy balls, and Jack can expand into a cloud. They use these powers to escape the Snarks and giving themselves codenames vow to rescue their parents before the Snarks can get the secrets of their father's Energy Converter.


The kids have a natural feel to them. I once heard Louise Simonson complain that she'd gotten fan mail wanting her to have Katie talk like a toddler, using "me" instead of "I" and crap like that. Each kid has ahis own personality, and the powers don't match those personalities. Let's face it, does the person with fire-based powers always have to have a short temper? Does the person with shrinking power have to be shy? Louise did really well with this issue and the next two, but given that this was a first issue it was written very well and led brilliantly into the next while having a natural ending of its own.

This was June Brigman's first comics work and its absolutely great. The kids look like kids of their stated ages, and not a uniform age.  The scennes, despite being set at night, aren't too dark, although the flip side of that is that the scenes involving light aren't bright enough to convey that. For this, I primarilly blame colorist Glynis Wein, who colored it like an issue of X-Men or Avengers instead of the next generation comic it was.

Bringing Brigman, a first-time artist with no background in super-heroes, on as penciller is the giveaway that this comic is the beginning of a new era of comics. That's not because of the technology used in creating the comic, for it's produced for the most opart, in the same old manner. The characters aren't seen in their costumes at all in the issue, and the origins are based in the straight science fiction realm. While the kids mention super-heroes, it's not definite that they exist in the Marvel Universe, or if they know these characters from comic books. This book could've gone in a different direction entirely, away from New York and Super-Heroes and ventured into uncharted waters for a mainstream comic. It probably would've died a speedy death in the mainstream market of the mid 1980s, but it would have definitely been influential in the development of the comics medium.


Like I said, this could've gone differently. The issue has never been collected, but if you find this at a comic shop or convention, look for the next two issues as well. They make for a great closed storyline. Love and Rockets was being published by Fantagraphics at this time. Comico was getting started, and would eventually publish some of the first work by Matt Wagner and Bill Willingham. First Comics was going on and publishing some the greatest independent comics of the time, including Nexus, American Flagg and Sable. If Power Pack had been published anywhere else, it may have been a very influential comic book.

Also, I apologize for no scans of panels from the comic. This review has been sitting in edit mode for a while, so to keep from delaying it further, I decided to post it without scans. (sans scans?)

FINAL RATING: 7.5 (out of 10)

The limitations of the technology of the period, lumped together with a lackluster coloring job lowers the rating for this book. The premise is great, the writing is fantastic, and the art is extremely good, and shows Brigman as a top notch cartoonist.

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