Marvel’s Power Pack continuity is out of whack with their mainstream universe. For the past several years, the team of super-powered small-fries has appeared in a bunch of four-issue miniseries, clearly targeted at a younger audience and free from the bounds of the darker Marvel Universe comics. But even the Power Pack can’t escape “Secret Invasion” and thus we get the first issue of “Skrulls vs. Power Pack.” Why shouldn’t the little ones (the characters and the targeted readers) join in on the shape-shifting fun?
Like the last few “Power Pack” series, this one is written by Fred Van Lente who, like a Skrull, is infiltrating the Marvel Universe more and more each day. Van Lente still manages to stay true to his indy roots with the infotainment of Evil Twin’s “Comic Book Comics,” but more and more of his comic writing work is popping up at Marvel. And he’s been consistently good, bringing a light-hearted (but intelligent) sensibility to everything he works on. His work on the “Power Pack” has only gotten stronger over the past year. When he first began working with these characters, his pacing was a bit looser and his exposition and bit lengthier, but now he’s writing swift-moving stories with just the right mix of humor and peril.
The two overarching questions you might want to ask when thinking about buying this comic are (1) is it a good comic for a child? And (2) is it a good comic for everyone else? I say yes to both.
The Skrull connection is well-handled, connecting this storyline to the events of “Secret Invasion” without tying in directly. It’s the same notion of a Skrull invasion, but without the baggage of the Bendis-driven crossover event. And this issue opens with a great scene, in which the Power children seem to be acting too nice and helpful, so their mom says the old cliche, “who are you kids and what have you done with my real children?” It’s the kind of corny joke only a soccer mom would use, but when the kids are, in fact, Skrull agents in disguise, it leads to all kinds of misunderstanding. Not the least of which is a hastily-pulled blaster pistol and an explanation of figurative language. It’s clever and amusing and it’s the perfect way to establish the Skrull infiltration and yet make them seem not-all-that-threatening.
And, really, the Power Pack children don’t even face off against the Skrulls in the first issue. They’ve been abducted by alien bounty hunters and taken into space to pay for crimes they didn’t commit. The Skrull prosecutor is menacing as he accuses the kids of things they couldn’t possibly have done, but it all seems to be part of a ruse to get the Power Pack off planet for ease of Skrull duplication. The plot mechanism doesn’t really matter all that much, though; it’s all about the execution, and it’s well done. The dialogue between the Powers children shows their affection for one another (and an appropriate amount of sibling frustration) and the story structure, which cuts between the space trouble and Franklin Richards, on Earth, trying to help the abducted Power Pack, provides excitement and tension.
There’s a lot for kids to enjoy about this book, and adults can appreciate it as a clear, engaging story that’s about youngsters but doesn’t treat them like simpletons.
The art by Cory Hamscher is my least favorite art on all of the “Power Pack” series thus far, owing more to Erik Larsen than to the Manga influence of other recent “Power Pack” artists. Hamscher’s good at gesture and dramatic moments, though, and he provides artwork that’s less elegant than it could be, but it does the job.
This issue also features a Chris Giarrusso “Mini-Marvels” story, one that’s longer than normal. It deals with a group of young Skrulls planning to duplicate the Fantastic Four. It’s basically a retelling of the original Skrull story from the pages of Lee and Kirby’s “Fantastic Four,” but from the point of view of the Skrulls. And it’s quite funny.
“Skrulls vs. Power Pack” #1 is the kind of comic that we should see more often. It’s a lot of fun, no matter your age.