Power Pack: Day One #1–4 by Fred Van Lente and GuriHiru
Back in March, when I first read about the mini-series, I took a slightly defensive stance to the announcement – why should they revisit an already perfect story? Hmm?
On reflection, this was perhaps an over-reaction to a completely sensible idea: if you are doing new Power Pack stories (and people are buying them in sufficient numbers that they continue to be printed), where is the harm in retelling a classic origin story for new readers who haven’t read it before? It’s not as if you can get the original comics in trade format …
Therefore, when I saw the digest-sized trade paperback in the comic book, I picked it up on a whim – this is a very strange thing for me to do, because I know that it is a dangerous thing for my bank balance to pick up books just because I feel like it. However, I felt unprofessional slagging off something without seeing it, and I’ve got a soft spot for Power Pack, so I bought it.
Firstly, I’m assuaged by the line inside: Based on a story by Louise Simonson and June Brigman. They’re paying some sort of tribute to where this story comes from, and that is a good thing. And, essentially, the story is the same as told by Simonson and Brigman – the Powers family, the kids (Alex, Julie, Jack and Katie), the antimatter process, the Z^nrx (aka Snarks), the Kymellian (horsey/pony) Aelfyre aka ‘Whitey’, his smartship Friday, the ‘elemental’ powers, the special suits, travelling in space, the parents not having memory or knowledge – but with a modern sensibility, a nice sense of humour and additional characterisation. Van Lente (more known for Action Philosophers, Comic Book Comics, The Silencers and Incredible Hercules) has a nice touch with this all-ages book, and the art by the art team of Gurihiru (two Japanese chaps: Sasaki on pencils/inks, Kawano on colours) is achingly cute – I had to use the cover for issue 3 because it sums up the adorable quality of this book. The other nice approach is to tell the origin story as the kids telling Franklin Richards how they got their powers, occasionally interrupting the flow as each of the Powers kids tell their story in their own unique manner, causing the family bickering to erupt.
I can’t fault this book – I don’t think I could hate Power Pack (well, except for the Tom Morgan-written issues, where they tried to darken up the tone – best forgotten) – and it is very enjoyable. The tone is a perfect mix of the light and the serious, the magic of being a child with superpowers and the reality of the death of Whitey – as I said before, the origin story is a perfect tale. But the charm of Power Pack was always there, as the first child superhero team in the Marvel universe, so it already a firm foundation. I don’t know if I’ll go out and buy the rest of the recent Power Pack books, but I’ve no objection to them continuing in this mode now that they haven’t made a hash of the origin story. The original Power Pack stories (those written by Simonson and drawn by Brigman and later Jon Bogdanove) still exist in my comic book collection and I shouldn’t begrudge the modern comic book fan from enjoying the delights of the best superhero kids team in the world of comics.