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Power Pack Issue Reviews: 14 / 15

Author: Dan Wilson and Brian Alan Smith
Updated: no later than 1998

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 Issue #62 Cover

Power Pack:
Issues 56-62

Cover, Issue #62, by Tom Morgan, Copyright 1990, Marvel Entertainment Group.

56: Childhood's End! Written by Michael Higgins. Penciled by Tom Morgan. Inked by Andy Mushynsky.

Yes, we already had a "Childhood's End!" story arc, but hey: it's a new creative team. This issue introduces an Elan alien to the supporting cast (Fantastic Four fans may remember the "Infant Terrible"; he was an Elan), and brings Galactus, the female herald Nova, and the evil Starstalker into the book. Don't be fooled by Alex's seemingly innocent hair loss; it's supposed to be the first step in a book revitalization, but it's actually the beginning of the worst plot development ever.
Rating: Two stars

Fire. Written by Michael Higgins. Penciled and inked by Tom Morgan. Additional inks by Andy Mushynsky.

Alex is officially going bald, and Jim has shaved his trademark beard, leaving himself with just a mustache. The Elan is injured, and spewing energy all over Friday (the ship, not the day of the week). An old, drunken bum in Central Park appears, and has the mysterious power to survive being lit on fire. The Starstalker is on its way to Earth, and only the Fantastic Four's Stimulator can save the planet, by both draining the Starstalker's awesome powers, and giving them to a recently de-powered Nova. So it's Mighty Marvel action, while Margaret Power, once again, breaks down and cries because her children aren't in their bedrooms.
Rating: Two and 1/2 stars

Star Struck. Written by Michael Higgins. Penciled and inked by Tom Morgan.

Margaret Power has magically calmed down from last issue, but not for long; Jim has figured out that his children have super-powers, and he's out to get the help of Mister Fantastic. While the Power kids fight a Nova filled to the brim with "evil energy", Franklin and the bum from Central Park hurtle through space to get the Ultimate Nullifier from Galactus. Galactus doesn't spare the Nullifier, but he gives them another weapon, which returns Nova to normal. The issue ends with Reed Richards and Jim beginning to accept their kids as a super-hero team, while Margaret sees her kids on TV, curls up into a corner, and sobs.
Rating: Two stars

At the Circus! Written by Michael Higgins. Penciled and inked by Tom Morgan.

It turns out that, at some point between issues 58 and 59, Jim suggested that young Franklin move out of spacious Four Freedoms Plaza, and into the Powers' apartment, to live with the other four kids. Jim's theory: another kid around with super-powers would help Margaret see how natural it is. This is unbelievable enough, but added to Alex's continued hair loss, this issue just seems too strange. These are the main plot points of this issue, and not the thoroughly forgettable "main" plot: the Ringmas ter's Circus of Crime wants to steal the Crown Jewel from a prince from an unnamed country. Only in the comic books do we see obvious exposition headlines like, "Rich Prince to Attend Circus".
Rating: One and 1/2 stars

Back to School! Written by Michael Higgins. Penciled by Tom Morgan. Inked by Dave Cockrum.

The credits may say "A new era of greatness", but this issue isn't it. Alex's baldness, as it turns out, was the beginning of his transformation into a Kymellian; he appears on page three as a big white horse, with a brand new costume out of nowhere. Jim has finished growing his new, "hip" goatee, and Julie is drawn to look much older than her 11 years (unless most 11-year-olds wear cut-off tank tops and biker shorts to school.) As in last issue, the "main plot" is completely irrelevant; aliens who are experts at brewing beer, and who happen to vaguely resemble turtles, do a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spoof. Margaret Power completes her return to normal in this issue, only to completely lose her sanity by the last page.
Rating: One star

Ghost of a Chance. Written by Michael Higgins. Penciled and inked by Tom Morgan.

This issue borderlines on the incomprehensible, as the creative team seem insistent on making the team darker. Friday crashes into the Powers' apartment building, pretty much destroying the top of it; luckily, no one else seems to live in the building. The Fantastic Four come to rescue, and Reed Richards tries to find a cure for Alex's condition, as well as for Margaret's breakdown. A disembodied Friday tries to help Reed, but all their efforts are for naught when the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes attack. The Ghost defeats the team, except for "Mister Power"; Jim now has his own costume and is ready to fight. Ignore the letters' page, where the creative team promises "Power Pack will be here for a long time to come"; it directly conflicts with the previews for next issue, promising "the end of Power Pack!"
Rating: One-half star

Lo, There Shall be an Ending. Written by Michael Higgins. Penciled by Steve Buccellato. Inked by Don Hudson.

Alex, trapped in his cloud form over his beaten team-mates, can only watch as Mister Power takes on Red Ghost's Super-Apes. But, after Alex gets a vision, ostensibly from Aelfyre Whitemane, "Alex Power is reborn!" (He still looks like a horse, though he's got lots more powers.) While Alex heals everybody, it turns out "Mister Power" was actually the Elan in disguise. When Power Pack is healed again, Alex joins them to make quick work of Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, and Alex begins to feel better about himself; he even goes so far as to say he's no longer "jealous" of Jack's Destroyer power. Never mind that Alex had it, and pretty much hated it, for about 28 issues.

The second half of the issue is devoted to wrapping up...almost nothing at all. Raymond, the flame-controlling bum introduced in issue 57, is left to go back to his world of bum-dom. Theoretically, he's the return of the Human Torch's old companion, Toro, but this is never confirmed (despite Higgins telling us we could "rest assured" we'd see Raymond again.) Friday is reassembled (in one page), and the Powers take the Smartship all over the world, looking for cures for Margaret and Alex. (Don't ask why Franklin went with them.) When they're unsuccessful, Jim drops Franklin back at Four Freedoms Plaza and announces his intention to take his family back to Kymellia for a cure.

As for Alex, he gets one last chance to say goodbye to Alison (yes, it's just one "l" again), and can't do it, because he's a horse, and she's with another guy. It's supposed to be tragic: Alex, a white horse with a "CAT Diesel Power" cap and overcoat, watching the love of his young life happily strolling in the rain. But it's all just silly by now. The last page, when the Powers soar up into outer space, is little more than a soliloquy from Alex, as he admits to himself that "Whitey" is watching over him; he decides that, in heading to Kymellia, he's on his way home.

So how does the issue end? With this speech: "There you have it, the final issue of Power Pack. But, don't worry, the Pack will be back sometime. You can count on that!" For people who'd followed the series for more than six years, it all seems a little trite. This issue represents nothing less than Marvel effectively throwing its hands up in the air and calling this title "hopeless". I can't bring myself to recommend it for anything.
Rating: No stars

Marvel Super-heroes Summer Special: Natives in a Strange Land. Written by Michael Higgins. Pencilled by Steve Buccellato. Inked by Don Hudson.

This 22-page story takes place around the last two pages of Power Pack #62, when the family goes looking for cures to Alex's and Margaret's problems. They're somewhere in the Caribbean. Jack's making passes at some redhead. Julie's mooning over the lifeguard (so that's what Billy Dee Williams has been doing since Star Wars!). Katie and Frank are building a sandcastle. Then all Hell breaks loose in the water. Everyone thinks it's a shark. Alex rushes into the water, taking off his trenchcoat, and discovers that it's not a shark, but a humanoid fish. Power Pack takes off underwater and discovers a mining expedition picking up iridescent globes off the ocean floor. The expedition's boat is attacked. Power Pack rescues the boat, but loses the globes.

One member of the expedition, a colleague of Dr. Power, reports that he saw some mutants. Of course, Dr. Power knows who they really were, and when he catches up with the kids, he promptly loses his temper, then finds it again three frames later.

Meanwhile, a blond woman, who's tried to get to the globes, runs out of some drug and makes her way to the expedition's new boat. The drug keeps her human. But now that she's out, she turns into a fish-creature. And then her husband attacks. The fish-woman is hurt during the attack. Power Pack rushes to her side and heal her while Frank calms down the fish-husband (apparently the FF had met the fish-husband once before, and related the incident to Frank). The globes turn out to be the fish-people's eggs, and everyone lives happily ever after. In the last frame of the story, we find out that the Powers are related to David Letterman; they all have giant gaps between their front teeth.

The tag at the end dedicates the story to the "crew over at Power Lines!" Oooooh. I drew some stuff for Power Lines, and I take offense that this story is dedicated to us! It's almost like Casey Kasem dedicating "Ode to Billy Joe" to the family members of the Heaven's Gate cult.

The story's awful. I took a few liberties condensing it, but tried to leave the stupidity in the synopsis. The only reason you would want to pick this one up is to have a perfectly complete Power Pack collection.
Rating: No stars (and very possibly lower) - drw

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