Sunday, December 25, 2011

Power Pack Holiday Special (1992)

(Yea, I know it's been a while since I posted, and after the New Year I plan to resume my look at Firestorm as if nothing happened.  For now, here's a Christmas Day look at a holiday themed book from the House of Ideas.)
In 1991, one year after the end of the original Power Pack series, Marvel published the Power Pack Holiday Special.  For the most part, this was one of those "Holiday" comics that qualifies as a Christmas issue simply because it was published in December.  Of the three stories in this issue, only one really has anything to do with the holiday.
The lead story reunites series creators Louise Simonson and June Brigman for a story that  seems to serve mainly to tie up all the dangling plotlines left when the series ended. Thus, this is not a story for the uninitiated, like myself. Simonson does a pretty decent job of filling in the gaps for any new readers who might have picked this up by mistake.  However, I didn't really understand what was going on until I went back and read a couple of the older issues.
From what I can gather, when the series ended, the Power children's father had gained superpowers himself, the revelation of her children's powers had caused their mother to go into a catatonic stupor, and oldest child Alex had been transformed into one of the aliens who gave the children their powers in the first place. 
Or so it seemed.
The story opens with the family traveling to the home planet of those aliens, the Kyrellians, where the truth of these changes is revealed.  As they near the planet, the children discover that what they thought were their parents and older brother were actually duplicates made of something called pseudoplasm.  The doppelgangers were created by an evil Kyrellian called the Technocrat, who resents the Powers for leading his people to a new world where they no longer need his technological expertise.  Technocrat has allied himself with the Pack's old enemy, Maraud, queen mother of the Snarks.  The rest of the story follows the groups efforts to rescue their real parents and brother and defeat Technocrat and Maraud. 
During the course of the series, the kids' had switched superpowers a couple of times, and now they find that they can swap powers at will.  This effect proves to only temporary, and at story's end the children all have their original powers.  Also, despite all that has happened, the Power Pack's parents still don't know about their kids' super-heroic identities, thanks to a so-called "mind-lock" implanted by the Kyrellians which allows the adults to accept such strange events without question.
Thus, the story also effectively hits the reset button on the series, wiping out almost all of the changes that occurred during the course of the series and giving future writers a clean slate when the series would eventually be revived.
There is at least a mention of Christmas, as the family returns to Earth and sees the giant Christmas tree in New York City, and realize that they've arrived home in time for the holiday.
The second story, by Mindy Newell and Steve Buccellato, doesn't even make that much of a nod toward the season.  If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say this was an inventory story that Marvel decided to finally publish while they could. It's a pretty routine tale of teen angst with Julie Power pining over a boy who barely notices that she's alive.
The third story, featuring Jack Power and some of the earliest work by current Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, is the only one that could really be called a Christmas story.  Jack conspires to reunite his teacher with her family for Christmas in order to get out of a test.  It's a cute little story, but I can't really buy the basic premise.  I find it hard to believe that even the meanest, most embittered, old maid of a school teacher would make a student take a test on Christmas Day.
As a farewell to the original Power Pack series, this special works well.  As a Christmas themed comic book, and a stand alone issue, it fails to make the grade.