Friday, 3 November 2017

All our problems are solved apart from food, money, and somewhere to sleep

Welcome to what is apparently now my blog dedicated to posts about canceled comics from the 1980s, as today I am speaking about Marvel's Power Pack #63, a tie-in to whatever "Legacy" is - maybe it's a crossover, maybe it's a one-off event where Marvel drag their limbo properties out of the drawer to publish a copyright/trademark-affirming issue so they don't get sniped like Marvel sniped DC Comics on the Captain Marvel brand, who can really say?  I wasn't planning to buy this one as I've been repeatedly burned by the underwhelming modern appearances of the various characters, but my brother, bless his little cotton socks, took matters into his own hands and bought a copy for me, kind of like if an elderly relative hears you like Batman and buys you "that Hush comic", in that the sentiment is greatly appreciated regardless of the quality of the gift.
Power Pack, should you be unaware, are a kid superhero team pretty unique to Western comics in that they experienced largely straight-faced adventures in the dour and grimy Manhattan of the 1980s before Rudolf Guilliani cleaned the place up (not that this cleanup would stop the likes of Daredevil living in this specific time and place well into the 2000s), and weren't the bubbly, self-aware iconoclastic superhero youths we're more used to seeing in popular culture via the anime-inspired Teen Titans, the Franco-riffic Ladybug, or even other Marvel titles like Ms Marvel or Gwenpool: Power Pack were grim-faced poverty-line protagonists right out of a Steinbeck novel, though they were viewed with some bemusement by the comics-buying public of the time, who - unlike the tolerant, racially and gender-diverse open-minded metrosexual comic book readership of 2017 - were older straight white males who were a bit entitled about their hobby and didn't like characters who weren't straight white males, and preferably teenagers.  No, I don't understand that last bit, either.
Anyway, Power Pack weren't really a priority for a relaunch after their title folded with its 62nd issue, especially with their paltry hundred thousand readers (yes, I know), so apart from a miniseries in the early 2000s that was ignored by almost everyone (especially Marvel writers) they languished in comics limbo before the inevitable death blow for any comic book superteam: having the characters split off into co-starring/backing cast roles in other team books like New Warriors, Runaways, Loners, Fantastic Four, and Future Foundation.  This is a blow that comic book superteams can rarely recover from because now the characters are off acquiring continuity baggage that most editors and fans psychopathically resist disregarding, so if there's ever a reunion story down the line, all that baggage has to be incorporated or acknowledged and God help the poor comics writer who considers such things a trifling matter and not important in the greater scheme of telling an interesting or entertaining story - this is comics continuity, dammit and...
Ah, who am I kidding?  The dang thing has a big old #63 on the flipping cover, it's not like anyone can pretend continuity isn't an anchor dragging on this endevour and the story has any kind of mandate to hold up objectively AND YET... for some reason, the framing makes it clear that this is the doomed intention of writer Devin Greyson, here crafting an admittedly neat getaround for the continuity mess she's been saddled with by making the story an unreliable flashback related by Katie Power, one of the only characters from the original comic whose timeline isn't now a car crash of half-assed never-finished ideas and aimless sexual objectification.
As a fan of the comic, I of course realise that Katie is unreliable almost immediately through my encyclopedic knowledge of Power Pack, but mainly because a character in the story explicitly states she is an unreliable narrator.  Continuity-wise, she's unreliable because she seems to look up to her older brother Alex as a good superhero rather than one of the worst and most ineffective superheroes in the history of comics to the extent that his finest comics moment was when Doctor Doom backhand-slapped him until he bawled like a child, which was very, very funny to read, but, you know, probably not something you put in the scrapbook.
As an objective exercise in storytelling, I felt it suffered from none of the characters being distinctive, and even if you allow that this is because it's a tale told by a single character from their POV, we never actually establish what that narrator's character is.  What we get here is essentially an above-average inventory strip expanded to a full issue, and while there's plenty to recommend it between Marika Cresta's crisp art and Devin Greyson keeping things straight-faced and largely devoid of winks to the audience (though the aforementioned character talking about unreliable narrators briefly brings things into lampshade-hanging territory), I was ultimately disappointed in it as an addition to the characters' ongoing saga more than as a standalone.  In Greyson's defence, I totally rambled on about continuity for a few paragraphs for a reason: you need to have read a couple of dozen books just to have the full background on what's happening in this one ("Alex hasn't been seen since the reformation of the multiverse" is an actual line of exposition in this), and Marvel needed to have some confidence that someone with Greyson's experience could have told a tale worth reading that featured all the characters and could have springboarded the property into an ongoing series.
As it is, this feels like filler, and though if they ever get to a full reboot I am totally there, this has probably exhausted any lingering curiosity I might have had about where a contemporary take on the property might have gone.

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