Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Christmas Comics: Power Pack #20 (March 1986)
Writer: Louise Simonson
Artist: Bob McLeod
Letters: Joe Rosen
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Carl Potts
Editor in chief: Jim Shooter
Power Pack always was a book I really enjoyed and, for a time, was one of the best books Marvel published. This issue has a Christmas tie-in, but there’s a pretty convoluted plot to wade through, not to mention a fair bit of continuity that’s not well laid out for new readers.
This story began in Power Pack #18 — a Secret Wars II crossover! — when mom Maggie Power is badly injured by the rampaging Kurse while picking up poster board for her son Alex to use for a school science project. That lead to a crossover with Thor #363 (which was written and drawn by Louise Simonson’s husband, Walt) and a double-size Thanksgiving issue in #19 that guest starred Cloak and Dagger and, of course, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine.
There’s also a bunch of continuity from The New Mutants to deal with, as Illyana had somehow lost control over Limbo in another Secret Wars II-related storyline I don’t exactly recall at the moment. And that’s where this issue starts: with a bunch of Limbo demons running through New York looking for innocents to sacrifice so they can move the entire island of Manhattan to Limbo.
Power Pack gets drawn into all of this because they’re at the hospital awaiting word on their mom, whose condition is deteriorating, when the demons show up to kidnap some babies from the maternity ward. They fight, find a library card belonging to their pal Kitty Pryde and call Xavier’s school to see if she’s OK. But it’s Dani Moonstar who answers, and she, Cannonball and Wolfsbane come to the rescue.
It’s a nice touch that this issue is drawn by Bob McLeod, who co-created The New Mutants. He has a realistic, illustrative style that is particularly expressive with faces. I like that all the characters are drawn with their breath showing when they’re outside in the cold winter weather. On the other hand, it’s occasionally too realistic for superheroes and there’s this odd quality, kind of like watching a movie version of a comic where they didn’t have the money or techniques to do really good visual effects, when it comes to the demons. And why the hell does he draw Dani Moonstar wearing leather Geronimo pajamas at the mansion? Isn’t the pinkish coloring of her skin, leather headdress, moccasin boots and native-style belt enough of an indication that she’s Cheyenne? Rahne isn’t wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes and Sam’s not decked out in Kentucky overalls, so why pick on Dani? It’s just weird, looking at it now.
Anyway, the fight plays out like a lot of superhero comics from that time. Little Katie gets captured and the demons want to use her as an innocent and a power source to open the gateway to Limbo. Meanwhile, in case it wasn’t confusing enough, Dani recently became a Valkyrie in the big Asgard adventure from The New Mutants Special Edition #1 and X-Men Annual #9, which brought Hela into the situation regarding Maggie Power. Turns out Maggie is about to willingly go to her fate with Hela until Dani can remind her of her kids, then she changes her mind while Dani wards off Hela long enough for Maggie to turn away from the light.
When it’s all said and done, The New Mutants go home, Maggie wakes up and it’s the best Christmas gift the Powers have ever had!
It’s not much of a Christmas issue, to be sure. There’s not much carol singing or many holiday elements on display. In fact, it’s full of demons and pagan gods, which surely wouldn’t go over too well with folks who object to these sorts of things. But it does have a nice little Christmas coda and was something of a turning point in the story of Power Pack, which was transitioning from co-creator June Brigman as the artist to Jon Bogdanove, who took over with issue 22, I think, just in time for a big outer-space storyline that bookended the series’ opening arc.
Lastly, this issue can’t go by without mentioning the cover, penciled by none other than Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and inked by Terry Austin. When Mignola talks about the endless stream of Marvel comics he drew in the days before he struck out on his own with Hellboy, this is exactly what he’s talking about. It’s a little bit of a muddled cover, which is dominated by Lightspeed’s rainbow trail. The rest of the characters are small and get lost amid a mess of Limbo demons. It’s not going to leap out at anyone from the racks, really, but a closer look shows some really nice little touches and some very fine inking, which is no surprise from the excellent Mr. Austin.