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Thursday, July 25, 2013

X-amining Power Pack #20

"Turning Point"
March 1986

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants help Power Pack stop a demonic invasion. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Artist: Bob McLeod
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Carl Potts
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In New York City, a group of demons, released from Limbo after the Beyonder removed Illyana's powers, gather ingredients to cast a spell to bring Manhattan to Limbo. Power Pack, visiting their dying mother in the hospital, encounter the demons as they attempt to kidnap a group of babies. Fighting them off and rescuing the infants, Power Pack discovers Kitty Pryde's library card amongst the items the demons dropped. At the X-Mansion, Dani gets a call from Power Pack, checking that Kitty is okay. Believing the demons to be the New Mutants' responsibility, Dani, Sam and Rahne head into the city to help. Before they arrive, the demons return and capture Katie, the youngest Katie, to use in their ritual.


The New Mutants rendezvous with Power Pack. After hearing about Katie's kidnapping and their mother's condition, the New Mutants split up, with Sam and Rahne going with the rest of Power Pack to rescue Katie while Dani stays behind to fight Death for their mother. Together, the New Mutants and Power Pack are able to rescue Katie and disrupt the demons' spell, sending them back to Limbo instead of the city. Meanwhile, Dani is able to save the life of Power Pack's mother, though Death warns her to be careful of how she affects the balance of things beyond her knowledge. The New Mutants head back to their school after inviting Power Pack to visit them, as Katie wishes them a Merry Christmas.  

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue picks up the thread from New Mutants #36 regarding the demons accidentally released into Manhattan by the Beyonder's manipulation of Illyana. It guest stars the New Mutants (or, at least, Sam, Rahne and Dani; the rest are said to be Christmas shopping) and ends with the demons defeated and sent back to Limbo.


The plot of this issue, involving demons from Limbo kidnapping infants and children in order to facilitate the transfer of Manhattan to Limbo is very similar to one of the plots from "Inferno", the 1989 linewide X-Men crossover. 

The issue opens with Power Pack's mother in the hospital as a result of an encounter with Kurse, a Thor villain, in Power Pack #18, which was a Secret Wars II crossover (I believe the Beyonder amped up Kurse's power for whatever reason).

As before, the issue is written by Power Pack co-creator and former X-Men editor Louise Simonson. As she will eventually replace Claremont as the writer of New Mutants, this issue represents her first work with the New Mutant characters. Former New Mutants penciller and co-creator Bob McLeod provides the pencils and inks. Coincidentally, as with the two Alpha Flight issues from yesterday, Mike Mignola provides the cover art (here inked by Terry Austin).

A Work in Progress
As Illyana was inadvertently responsible for loosing the demons, Dani believes it is the New Mutants' responsibility to help Power Pack corral them.


In what is perhaps a metatextual comment, Sam teases that Dani that, in reference to Dani's new status as a Valkyrie, apparently being a mutant just wasn't enough for her.


Inviting Power Pack to visit the mansion sometime, Dani refers to Magneto as their new principal.


This issue is specifically set at Christmas; I'll leave it to my X-blogging colleague SpaceSquid to determine whether or not that's accurate in the context of the X-Men's timeline.  

I Love the 80s
At the mansion, before leaving to help Power Pack, Dani is wearing some pretty stereotypical Native American garb.

Teebore's Take
This is an oddly prescient comic. Not only for featuring Louise Simonson writing the New Mutants for the first time, but also for some specific story beats. The whole "demons attempt to sacrifice children in order to bring Manhattan to Limbo" makes the issue read like an "Inferno" tie-in (where the plot the New Mutants end up most directly involved in deals with demons trying to bring Limbo to Earth) and for the second time (after facing down Hela in New Mutants Special Edition #1), we have Dani using her new Valkyrie powers to fight off an embodiment of death, a trope we haven't seen the last of. Add in the presence of Bob McLeod, the co-creator of the New Mutants, and the end result is an issue that, even though, as with the X-Men in Power Pack #12, the New Mutants are clearly guest stars, still feels like it could have been an issue of New Mutants proper.

Next Issue
Next week, we look at the one shot X-Men: Heroes for Hope #1, following by the return of a certain redhead in Avengers #263 & Fantastic Four #286

8 comments:

  1. Fighting off Death seems to work well when the person is slowly dying of a disease, curse, cancer, etc. But, could Dani fight off Death if my head gets chopped off? Would my head get reattached or would I just have to carry it everywhere? Or in that instance is Death faster or more powerful and she couldn't fight her off?

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  2. I don't think so, Dr. Bitz. Death would win (I think Death would win on terminal diseases too). Logan and Mrs. Power's injuries were physical and both had factors (healing factor for the former; modern medicine for the latter) that made the battle 50-50 on who would win.

    This story also gives Dani physical powers (a bow and arrow that can harm Death). Where's Illyana is all this?

    About Kurse, I think the Beyonder was in his 'good deed' phase in SECRET WARS II#7 (with every superhero chewing him out for his interventions). Later he would give Moondragon a power-up that would result in the deaths (for the time being) of the Defenders, save for the ex-X-Men, clearing the way for X-FACTOR.

    Teebore, relating this story to continuity is a problem: the future NEW MUTANTS#37 has Sam mentioning visiting his family for Thanksgiving (where the Power Pack had a unchaperoned Thanksgiving with Annalee, Leech, Logan, Kitty, etc. Adding to the twister is Kitty and Logan acknowledging the Summers separation!). NEW MUTANTS#38 has the traumatized team spending their depression during the Christmas season (an outside School party has people greeting 'Merry Christmas'). If POWER PACK only featured Dani, no problem (she recovers from her trauma), but fellow-guest stars Sam and Rahne look too cheerful for people traumatized by death.

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  3. @Dr. Bitz: Would my head get reattached or would I just have to carry it everywhere?

    Yes.

    Seriously though, I think the idea is, like angmc43 suggests, that people who are dying yet still have a fighting chance, for whatever reason, can be saved, as opposed to people who die instantly. But honestly, those are good questions to which I don't think anyone involved gave much thought.

    @angmc43: Where's Illyana is all this?

    Christmas shopping, apparently.

    I felt her absence as well - Dani pays lip service to the idea that this whole problem was her fault, but I would have liked to see her actually help clean it up.

    If POWER PACK only featured Dani, no problem (she recovers from her trauma), but fellow-guest stars Sam and Rahne look too cheerful for people traumatized by death.

    As I suspected, the Christmas here doesn't quite fit within the timeline of the X-narrative. I suppose this issue could be set during issue #37 (before everyone gets killed), with the idea being that it takes place in early December while the school party in #38 takes place later in December (with "Merry Christmas" being an acceptable exclamation at both times), but the mention of Sam leaving for Thanksgiving in #37 scuttles that idea.

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  4. @Teebore: You really sacrifice for your readers, reviewing a Power Pack issue and TWO Bill Mantlo Alpha Flight issues back-to-back for us.:)

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  5. @Leo H: Aw, it wasn't too bad. The Alpha Flight issues were helped by the novelty of the flashback/Lady Deathstrike stuff (and I skimmed most of the Alpha Flight-specific stuff).

    This issue, though, was a little rougher. I may have skipped it entirely but for the fact I needed something else to cover this week after the Alpha Flight stuff, and it does follow pretty directly from a plot in New Mutants proper.

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  6. @Teebore

    As I suspected, the Christmas here doesn't quite fit within the timeline of the X-narrative. I suppose this issue could be set during issue #37 (before everyone gets killed), with the idea being that it takes place in early December while the school party in #38 takes place later in December (with "Merry Christmas" being an acceptable exclamation at both times), but the mention of Sam leaving for Thanksgiving in #37 scuttles that idea.

    Welcome to my daily nightmare...

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  7. @SpaceSquid: Welcome to my daily nightmare...

    Ha! It's not a nightmare I envy you, I can tell you that.

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  8. If anyone's interested, I think New Mutants #65 gives a pretty good overview of how Dani's Valkyrie powers work.

    By the way, it's mentioned that this is a precursor to Simonson's New Mutants run. Note the depicted panel where Dani refers to Magneto as an "ogre." That pretty much sums up Simonson's take on the "Magneto as headmaster" subplot, doesn't it?

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