Reviews: Power Pack

The original 1980s series - unique and Too Good To Last

Call it an audience killer, or Too Good To Last, but the original 1980s Power Pack had a great premise going for it that ultimately was both what made it unique and unpopular: children who become superheroes and fight crime... except that they realistically act emotionally and mentally like the children they are, while dealing with serious threats. That's right, no overload of one-liners, no silly plots (well, very few silly plots), and generally believable characterization. Totally unheard of in a story that puts children in adventurous situations. Common in much children's adventure literature, but unheard of in comics.

It's not very surprising then that the letters to the editor came mostly from adult fans, some praising the comics for their realistic portrayal of child heroes. Occasionally a 12 year old kid would write in and express surprise that Power Pack turned out so well, when the kid was expecting it to be stupid because "it's about kids". Apparently the actual kids stayed far away from the series. Either they assumed it was too childish, or they checked it out and were dismayed that it was instead fairly serious.

For quite a while, Power Pack stayed in the "serious but not overdramatic or angsty" territory, until at one point, Marvel decided that maybe it would have more appeal if they made it Darker And Edgier. And did they ever. The last 7 issues of the comic's run angsted up the plot considerably, and had the oldest kid in the group slowly mutate into an alien. The fun was thrown out and replaced only with darkness. And the comic folded for a while.

The original creators came back a few years later and put out the Power Pack Holiday Special, which essentially Handwaved the inappropriate plot elements away and returned to the original "fun yet takes itself seriously" mood, in a glorious ~40 page story and several bonus short stories, ultimately allowing the original 1980s series to end on a bang, rather than the embarrassment of the end of its original run.

I recommend checking out the original 1980s Power Pack if you ever get a chance to. It did what few stories (outside of children's adventure lit) ever do: put child characters in serious danger and actually portray them (mostly) realistically, rather than dumbing down the action or story. It was a rare gem indeed.