Archive for Power Pack

For Lack of the Pack

Dangit, it’s been too long since I wrote something about comics, so we’re gonna remedy that RIGHT NOW.

Can we talk about the Power Pack? I know, the concept of a bunch of little kids with superpowers running around as superheroes in the Marvel Universe has long been something of a joke. They always seemed to be either lightened to the point where the kids were never in real danger from the supervillains, or grim-and-grittied up to try to make them more, well, grim and gritty.

But the various Power Pack miniseries that started in 2005 and ran to 2010 were really something else. They were definitely designed as all-ages comics, so the dark-and-dreary stuff got left out, thank goodness. They were made by various teams of creators, though they got their trademark clean-and-cartoony look from Gurihiru Studios, a couple of outstanding illustrators from Japan. They were great fun, teamed the Pack up with just about every major hero in the Marvel Universe, and embodied everything you’d want to introduce to younger readers about Marvel Comics. They had humor, action, great artwork, fun dialogue, characterization, and conflicts…

And nearly all of the miniseries are out of print right now. There are a few you can get for affordable prices on Amazon, but most of them can only be had by shelling out a lot of cash.

I think this is really unwise on Marvel’s part. They’re great stepping-on points for new readers, for one thing, and I really think they’re the kinds of books that could be, if not massive bestsellers, at least consistent movers in comic shops.

Let’s face it, kids who like comics want to read about Wolverine and Spider-Man and Iron Man and Thor and the Hulk and all their other favorite superheroes — and they were all guest stars in these wonderful, funny, endlessly enjoyable Power Pack comics.

So come on, Marvel, bring back the Power Pack, both for younger readers and for those of us old fogeys who enjoy these fun comics.

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The Hero Sandwich List of Favorite Comics for 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to do a year-end retrospective list — it’s always too difficult for me to pick out a list of things I enjoyed the most out of 12 whole months. But what the heck, I’m gonna try it today.

This list is strictly listed in alphabetical order. I can’t claim it’s a list of the best comics — I haven’t read all the comics, after all — but it’s the list of the 15 comics that I enjoyed the most.

American Vampire

Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, and Stephen King came together to re-invent the vampire for the rough-and-tumble American West. Outstanding characters, close attention to setting, and rip-snorting horror make this a must-read for anyone who loves non-sparkly bloodsuckers.


The adventures of Stephanie Brown as the newest Batgirl are full of great humor, great action, great dialogue, and great characterizations. This is one of the best superhero comics around.

Batman and Robin

Grant Morrison’s triumphant run of Batman comics had its most epic stretch in these stories of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne, as well as Alfred, Dr. Hurt, and the Joker. The scale of Morrison’s storytelling here was breathtaking.

Blackest Night

Possibly the most successful crossover storyarc in years, this grabbed readers’ imaginations and didn’t let go for months. Even better than its commercial successes were the overall excellence of the plotline. At its height, there was nothing as good as this story about zombies, power rings, and emotions.


I’m not a fan of the new series, but Garth Ennis’ original Crossed miniseries was the most harrowing, brutal, relentless, depressing, and terrifying horror comic to hit the stands in a long, long time.


This was, without a single doubt, the best comic series of the entire year. Nothing else came close. Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon deserve to win so many awards for this one. If you missed this series in the original run, you should definitely keep your eyes open in the next few months for the trade paperback.

Detective Comics starring Batwoman

Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III didn’t create the character, but they crafted her best stories. While Rucka brilliantly fleshed out her backstory, personality, and supporting cast, Williams took the stories and created some of the year’s most beautiful artwork and design.

Hellboy in Mexico

This story of, well, Hellboy in Mexico was my favorite, but I also loved all of the other collaborations between Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and fantasy artist Richard Corben. These two meshed together creatively in ways that very few creators are able to do, and all of us readers were the beneficiaries.

Joe the Barbarian

Grant Morrison’s fantasy story is both epic and mundane in scale, which is really quite a trick — Joe is in diabetic shock, and he’s hallucinating that his home and toys have turned into a fantasy kingdom. But what if he’s not really hallucinating?

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit

The second chapter of Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Donald Westlake’s crime fiction is a beautiful tribute to Cooke’s retro-cool art sensibilities and the pure fun of good pulp crime novels.

Power Girl

Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner created the best version of Power Girl ever for a year’s worth of funny, smart, sexy, exciting superhero stories. These creators loved this character, and you can tell that in every story they published about her. I still hope they’ll be able to come back to this title eventually.

Secret Six

Far and away DC’s best team book, Gail Simone has hooked us a bunch of people who are extremely likeable and also completely crazy and prone to trying to kill each other from moment to moment. This shouldn’t work as well as it does, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s colossal fun to read every single month.

Strange Science Fantasy

Scott Morse’s retro-pulp series packed a heck of a lot of audacious fun into six short issues. This was a treat visually, emotionally, intellectually — even on a tactile level, what with the heavy, rough paper it was printed on.

Thor and the Warriors Four

The Power Pack go to Asgard. I didn’t really expect much of it, to be honest, but readers were treated to godlike quantities of humor, excitement, whimsey, and awesomeness, thanks to writer Alex Zalben and artists Gurihiru, and to Colleen Coover’s excellent backup stories.

Tiny Titans

Probably the best all-ages comic out there right now. These comics are smart and funny and cute and just plain fun to read.

Aaaaand that’s what I got. There were plenty of other comics that just barely missed the cut, but these were nevertheless the ones that gave me the most joy when I was reading them.

So farewell, 2010. And hello, rapidly onrushing 2011. Hope you’re a better year for all of us, and I hope we can all look forward to plenty more great comics to come.

Now y’all be safe and have a good time tonight, but call a cab if you need it — I want to make sure all of y’all are here to read me in 2011.

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Power and Thunder

Thor and the Warriors Four #4

Loki and the Enchantress are triumphant — their spell has turned Thor and the other Asgardians into babies, and they’ve obtained the Golden Apples of Idunn, ensuring themselves immortality — and without the Golden Apples, everyone else in Asgard is now rapidly aging to their true ages of several thousand years old. The kids in Power Pack seem largely helpless to stop them, aside from talking a little smack. And even worse, the whole thing appears to have kicked off Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods and the end of the world. Jormungand, the immense World Serpent, appears to fight Thor. Alex Power is able to call on the help of Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers, but they can’t do much against a giant dragon fated to strangle the world. Will Thor have to sacrifice himself to save everyone? Or is someone else worthy to assist?

Verdict: Thumbs up times a billion. This was the best comic I got last week. Absolutely HUGE props to writer Alex Zalben and artists Gurihiru for this one — I haven’t had this much fun reading a comic book in ages. I’m trying to limit the spoilers, but there was a ton of funny stuff in here, and a ton-and-a-half of awesome stuff going on in here. There were about a dozen panels in this comic that could be entered in a Most Awesome Comics Panel of the Year contest, but I can’t show most of them to you, because they’d be spoilers, and this story is just too cool to spoil. I can, however, show you this:

Beta Ray Bill with an afro? I would watch a TV show based on that alone.

Oh, heck, we didn’t even talk about Colleen Coover‘s backup feature, with Hercules babysitting the Power siblings and telling them stories about his Twelve Labors. There’s not a lot of real plot going on here — it’s really just Herc telling stories and philosophizin’ about mythology and science — but it’s still a whole boatload of awesome. Coover’s characterization of Hercules is just perfect, and the final panel of this one should definitely be entered into that Most Awesome Comics Panel of the Year contest, too.

Tails of the Pet Avengers: The Dogs of Summer #1

This is really just a showcase of Chris Eliopoulos‘s very cute Franklin Richards stories, with a few guest appearances from the Pet Avengers. In the first one, Franklin accidentally creates a giant garbage monster and must defeat it with the assistance of the Pet Avengers. Later, Franklin has to dogsit Lockjaw for the Inhumans, and he gets his first dog, Lockjaw’s grandson, courtesy of his future self. And there’s a story illustrated by Ig Guara that features Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Fin Fang Foom and sets up this fall’s “Avengers vs. the Pet Avengers” series.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Mostly reprints, but they’re fun reprints.

Hercules: Twilight of a God #2

In the distant future, Hercules is the hero of the Andromeda Galaxy, and his kids and grandkids are the rulers of the planet Wilamean. But Hercules is being attacked by a new Silver Surfer, and a black hole threatens to swallow the entire galaxy. Can Hercules survive the battle? Can anyone?

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs down. I liked it on my first read-through, but the non-stop slugfest just didn’t do very well on repeated readings.

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Adventures in Babysitting

Thor and the Warriors Four #3

Power Pack has journeyed to Asgard in an attempt to cure their dying grandmother, but have accidentally been used as pawns by Loki and the Enchantress. As a result, all of the Asgardians have been turned into babies. It’s insanely chaotic (but also insanely funny), and things aren’t made any better, when Loki returns in his old-man disguise and tricks the kids into going on a quest for the Golden Apples of Idunn. Alex doesn’t trust the situation and stays behind, but the other three kids (along with Baby Thor and Baby Beta Ray Bill) set off to try to defeat the challenges on the way to the apples — the Door of the Aesir, the Path of the Vanir, and the terrible Ratatosk, Squirrel of Mischief! Can the kids get past all three challenges? And if they succeed, what does Loki have in mind for them?

And in the backup story by Colleen Coover, Hercules and Power Pack clean up the kids’ home while Herc tells them stories about his Twelve Labors — and perhaps most awesomely, joins Katie for a tea party. What, you don’t think the Lion of Olympus sometimes craves a little pretend tea?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Absolutely fantastically cute. Probably worth buying solely for the brief cameo of Baby Hogun the Grim, Baby Thor saying “I can get dressed! I’m a big boy!” and Hercules’ tea party.

Hercules: Twilight of a God #1

Wait, isn’t Hercules dead? Well, this story is set in the distant future, after he’s presumably been resurrected. Heck, it doesn’t even take place on Earth — everything happens on the planet Wilamean in the Andromeda Galaxy. Due to an accident in which Herc was trying to save a city from a missile, got his tunic caught on the missile, and ended up getting bashed into a few buildings at several hundred miles an hour, he now has to take medication to keep from being addled, and he can’t drink without cancelling out the medication — and he runs the risk of being killed by any serious head injury. Herc’s best friends are a robot and an elderly but mischievous Skrull, and his children and grandchildren rule the city of Port Anteris, but Prime Minister Spincor hates them all and plots to get rid of them by publicly embarrassing them all during a festival honoring Hercules. Is there any way to save Hercules’ reputation?

Verdict: Thumbs up, I think. A story about Greek demigods set in the far future in another galaxy is a bit unexpected, but the story seems fine. My biggest complaint is that Herc is generally depicted as not much more than a buffoon — though he’s a buffoon with a long and respected history, even here, as a leader and hero.

Secret Avengers #1

Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, has decided to put together a covert team of Avengers to take care of shadow-ops missions that are out of the public eye. He recruits Valkyrie, Black Widow, Beast, Moon Knight, War Machine, Nova, and Ant-Man, and they embark on an extended mission to track down the Serpent Crown. But it’s not the usual Serpent Crown, and that leads to the suggestion that there may be more than one of them out there. They come into conflict with the always-villainous Roxxon Oil Company and another organization dedicated to finding the Crown for themselves.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A lot of our time is taken up with introducing our lead characters and recounting how Steve recruited them, but we get a good amount of plot and action besides, and I’m gonna declare that a very good thing.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Thor and the Warriors Four #2

I’ve never really been into Power Pack. And I freely admit that the entire reason I started collecting this miniseries is because I saw a preview of this cover, which made me laugh like a hyena.

Oh, man, I’m gonna have to explain this for people who aren’t up on their Thor continuity, aren’t I? The big guy there is Beta Ray Bill, an alien who was the first non-Asgardian to be worthy enough of being able to pick up Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. Odin gave him powers like Thor’s, and both of them consider each other great friends, if not outright brothers. And yes, he really does look like a horsey.

Aaaaaanyway, in this issue, the Power Pack kids make their way to the Rainbow Bridge that leads from our world in Midgard to the home of the Norse gods in Asgard. They meet a kindly peddler who offers them some more appropriate, Viking-esque clothing to help them disguise themselves, then march into Asgard and start their own superheroic careers as the Warriors Four. In time, this gets them a meeting with Thor himself, and the heroes swap stories — Thor’s being properly mythological and heroic, and the Power kids’ being a bit less so. The Powers tell Thor and Bill that their grandmother is dying, and they want to take some of the gods’ Golden Apples to her to make her well. Before Thor can tell them that it can’t be done, a frost giant attacks, and the kids help defeat it. But it’s all part of someone else’s evil plot — the kindly peddler was really Loki in disguise and he uses the kids’ Norse costumes to… Well, that would be telling.

And then there’s the backup story by Colleen Coover, as Hercules and the Power Pack beat the stuffing out of HYDRA, all while Herc tells the kids stories about his Twelve Labors. But can they complete the greatest labor of all — cleaning up the house?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very funny, very awesome, and much like Mjolnir, very much worthy of being picked up. Outstanding cartooning all around, and great funny lines and situations. Yes, Katie Power drives Bill half crazy by wanting him to be a big magical pony, which is hilarious and adorable… as are the dreadful fates visited upon Thor, Bill, and Odin…

Batman and Robin #12

Damian’s mother has secretly implanted control devices into his new artificial spine, allowing Deathstroke to take control of his body and attack Dick Grayson. The good news is that the neural interface isn’t perfect, and it lets Batman hurt Slade by punching Robin. It takes Deathstroke out of the fight and gives Robin control of his body back. Batman and Robin travel to Talia’s hideout and beat up her goons. Damian tells her that he’s perfectly happy being Robin, and Talia tells him she respects his decision — but she’s disowning him, because she’s growing his clone, who’s going to be her new son. Returning to Gotham City, Batman, Robin, and Alfred discover evidence that Bruce Wayne is lost in time, Dr. Hurt prepares the forces of the Black Glove for more attacks, and Dick Grayson discovers that Oberon Sexton is really… Well, that would be telling.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s good. It’s really just fantastically good, every step of the way through.

Madame Xanadu #22

As Nimue and mysteriously superhuman detective John Jones hurry to stop Morgana’s schemes in 1950s America, Morgana is enjoying being worshiped by a bunch of mind-controlled cultists. Nimue and Mr. Jones have intercepted one of Morgana’s artifacts — the war helmet of Morgana’s son, Mordred — and her frustration with its loss leads her to gruesomely kill two of her cultists. When our heroes arrive, they have little trouble with Morgana’s cultists, but her spells prove to be a lot more difficult to shrug off.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Again, it’s great fun to see the Martian Manhunter in action here. Heck, even when Morgana is being her most rotten, it’s mainly an irritation that John Jones isn’t front and center, showing off…

Jonah Hex #55

So five years ago, a bunch of saloon robbers tore into a bar, killed the owner and his wife, and got captured by Jonah Hex, leaving little Billy, a explosives-obsessed toddler, orphaned. The kid steals Hex’s gun away and kills the surviving robbers himself, with four bullets and four perfect headshots. Years pass, and another bunch of banditos show up to rob the joint. Billy, now calling himself Billy Dynamite, owns the place now, and he stuffs an oversized firecracker in the leader’s mouth. The rest of the gang set the bar on fire, strap Billy with dynamite, and throw him inside. Hex gets persuaded to do something about it, so he catches the gang, ties ’em up, and leaves ’em suspended over multiple packs of explosives before blowing ’em all to kingdom come.

Verdict: Thumbs down. This story has some serious problems. First, Billy doesn’t really change in appearance over five years — he starts out looking like he’s five, and by the time he’s ten, he still looks like he’s five. And dangit, you don’t take a saloon-owning pre-teen, make him a pint-sized badass, give him a moniker like “Billy Dynamite,” and then just kill him off. That’s a character with some serious personality, and you keep him around so you can use him again in future stories. You do not just cast him aside like he ain’t awesome. And finally, the ending is just too abrupt. Hex captures and kills the gang in just three pages, and he doesn’t even use a gun to do it — just fifty sticks of dynamite. That don’t seem like the Jonah Hex way, sir. So yeah, a rare (hopefully) Gray-and-Palmiotti misstep here.

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One Froggy Evening

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed #2

We backtrack a bit from last issue to show where Frog Thor had vanished to — Asgard, to seek the counsel of Thor himself. The Thunder God welcomes Frog Thor — by his real name of Puddlegulp, no less — and acknowledges him as a brother, just as he considers the alien Beta Ray Bill as his brother because they both wield the same weapons. He encourages Frog Thor to seek out other mythological beings to find more of a sense of belonging, and Puddlegulp starts out in the Himalayas, running into a belligerent yeti. After a short battle, the yeti admits that he was playing at being an abominable snowman to scare off tourists and invites the amphibian into his cave. But they’re both soon unwillingly dragged into some sort of mythological afterlife, ruled by someone who’s decided to get rid of all mythological beings with a giant lizardy monster. They’re all being cast back into the earthly realm — and the giant monster is coming, too.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Frog Thor is turning out to be a really fun character, and the scenes of him walking the streets of Asgard are just great, as are the battle scenes with the yeti.

Thor and the Warriors Four #1

For those of you who aren’t up on your Marvel characters, this story focuses on the Power Pack, a group of four preteen siblings with superpowers. There’s Alex Power, levelheaded gravity controller, Julie, the brainy speedster, Jack, the hotheaded brawler, and Katie, the energy-blasting baby of the family. Their grandmother is dying, and the kids are at various degrees of upset about that. Julie has been reading a book on Norse mythology and decides that the way to save her is to travel to Asgard and get some of the magic golden apples that keep the Norse gods healthy and immortal. The kids see a nearby lightning strike and figure that must mean Thor is nearby — but what they find is Frog Thor and the Pet Avengers fighting a bunch of wolves in Central Park. Power Pack lends a hand, but the wolves are a lot tougher than expected. Turns out they’re really wargs — steeds of the Asgardians — and the best way to calm them down is for everyone to pick a warg and jump onto the saddles on their backs. Frog Thor agrees to help the kids, and the Power Pack rides the wargs back to Asgard.

And there’s a backup story, too, with story and art by Colleen Coover, about Hercules babysitting the Power family.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very fun story, with funny dialogue, characterization, and action. Katie Power certainly gets the best lines, and her background interactions with the Pet Avengers are really cute. The backup story is short, but very, very enjoyable.

The Super Hero Squad Show #4

Three separate stories in this one. First, Man-Wolf and Drax the Destroyer have been hired by the Collector to kidnap all the superheroes and supervillains to be part of his interstellar zoo. Can the remaining heroes turn the tables on the Collector by bringing an even bigger collector into the picture? Second, the Hulk is having nightmares and is trying to figure out a way to get rid of the things that go bump in the night. And finally, Reptil plans out this year’s April Fools jokes on his fellow superheroes, but will the joke be on him when he has to face the menace of… Chtylok, the Chicken-Cow?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very lightweight stories, but they’re still pretty fun. The Chicken-Cow is probably the standout of the whole issue. Come on, it’s a freakin’ chicken-cow!

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