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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

X-amining Power Pack #27 & Daredevil #238

Power Pack #27
"Whose Power -- ?"
December 1986

In a Nutshell
Power Pack faces off against the Marauders

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Al Gordon
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Carl Potts
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Alerted to the massacre of the Morlocks thanks to Franklin Richards' power, and concerned about the welfare of their Morlock friends, Power Pack sneaks into the tunnels to investigate. They're quickly attacked by Sabretooth, but manage to escape by blasting the tunnel ceiling, collapsing it on top of him. They then run into Wolverine, who orders them out the tunnels before leaving to track down Sabretooth, but they decide to stay and keep searching for their friends. Meanwhile, X-Factor and a group of rescued Morlocks arrive at X-Factor headquarters, and though they are still dealing with a variety of injuries, the team decides to head back into the tunnels to find Angel and rescue more mutants, including the still-missing Artie. Back in the tunnels, Power Pack encounters Leech and the injured Caliban, just as they're attacked by a group of Marauders. Power Pack manages to hold them off until X-Factor arrives, prompting the Marauders to flee. Power Pack helps Leech deal with the loss of Annalee, and X-Factor promises to look after him. As Power Pack leave the tunnels, Beast and Iceman head back to their headquarters with Leech and Caliban as Cyclops and Marvel Girl continue to search for Angel and Artie.  

Firsts and Other Notables
At this point in their series, Power Pack recently had their powers swapped amongst them (so each sibling has a new power taken from another) and returned from a battle on an alien planet, and while their parents are aware of the aliens, they don't yet know about their children's powers or costumed activities. Also, Franklin Richards, who is probably around five years old at this point, is hanging out with the Power kids (this issue mentions that Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman are away at the moment, but I believe Franklin is a regular guest of the Powers).

Pencils come from Jon Bogdanove, who will fill-in on X-Factor during the "X-Tinction Agenda" crossover and continue his working relationship with Louise Simonson on DC's Man of Steel book during the "Death of Superman" event. 

The Chronology Corner
Wolverine appears between issues #211 and #212 of Uncanny X-Men, while Sabretooth appears between X-Factor #10 and X-Men #212. Curiously, Wolverine tells Power Pack he's hunting Sabretooth, yet acts as though he didn't know Sabretooth was in the tunnels when he encounters him in X-Men #212. Also, Wolverine's uniform is far more tattered here than in either X-Men issue.


X-Factor (sans Angel) appears between X-Factor #10 and #11, with Cyclops and Marvel Girl next appearing after this issue in Thor #374. Beast and Iceman end this issue escorting Leech and Caliban back to their headquarters, which is where they are heading at the start of X-Factor #11.

A Work in Progress
Katie Power briefly confuses Sabretooth with Wolverine, calling him "Mist' Wolverine".


Cyclops, who ended X-Factor #10 being telekinetically carried back to X-Factor HQ by Marvel Girl due to injuries he suffered at the hands of the Marauders, is shown in this issue arriving at HQ under his own power, though this is likely an art error, as the script later makes mention of his injury.


Jack Power doesn't like the mutant hunting X-Factor, and spends most of this issue wondering if they committed the massacre.

Scott Summers, Father of the YearWatching Leech react to the death of Annalee, whom he considered his mother, Cyclops sees firsthand the effect losing a parent can have on a child, finally realizing what he's put his son through via his absence, and chiding himself, after growing up an orphan, for not knowing better. Better late than never...


Teebore's Take
From the perspective of "Mutant Massacre", this issue is mostly concerned with filling in the gaps between X-Factor #10 and #11, delivering the Drain Dwellers to X-Factor HQ before sending the team back into the tunnels and into position for issue #11. But it's also infamous for having Power Pack fight the Marauders, and, theoretically, take the edge off the Marauders as a result. In practice, it's not quite as bad as its reputation: Power Pack, especially against Sabretooth, doesn't so much beat the Marauders as survive them. But there is no denying that the image of the barely-not-a-toddler Franklin Richards perched atop Arclight's head, stymieing her attack, takes some of the air out of the Marauders' unrelenting grimness and ferocity as established in the previous issues of the crossover.

I can see why Simonson, either creatively or commercially (or both) would want to bring her other title into the crossover, and given Power Pack's history with both the X-Men and the Morlocks, it makes sense in-universe as well, but for as much as Simonson wisely acknowledges the disconnect between the children characters and the reality of the massacre, there's no denying that the more all-ages and traditionally-heroic Power Pack characters fit in even less well to the increasingly dark world of the X-Men here than ever before. 

Daredevil #238
"It Comes With the Claws"
January 1987

In a Nutshell
Daredevil fights Sabretooth.

Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artists: Sal Buscema & Steve Leialoha
Letters: Joe Rosen
Colors: Max Scheele
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In the now-deserted Morlock Tunnels, Sabretooth attacks a street gang, taking one of their women as a mate. The next night, Butch and Darla of the Brat Pack are hanging out with a group of kids in the tunnels when they disturb Sabretooth. When Butch tells Sabretooth that New York is under the protection of Daredevil, Sabretooth decides to track Daredevil down and prove him wrong. On the surface, Sabretooth locates Daredevil and attacks him. Daredevil takes the fight into the tunnels, believing that his radar sense will give him an advantage, but Sabretooth's night vision levels the playing field. Their fight spills into the chamber where Sabretooth is keeping the woman he kidnapped, and in an animalistic fury, he attacks her, making Daredevil believe she's died. Furious, Daredevil asks Sabretooth why he killed her, and Sabretooth has no answer, saying only that the hunger made him do it before running off. Just then, the woman awakens, not dead after all, and Daredevil takes her to safety.   

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is not an official "Mutant Massacre" tie-in (it doesn't appear on the Mutant Massacre map), but the cover labels it as such, and is generally considered part of the story by fans (even though it really adds nothing to it).  

Butch and Darla, of the Little Rascals-esque Brat Pack that Nocenti introduced in Longshot, appear in this issue. I'm not terribly familiar with Nocenti's Daredevil run (aside from its reputation, like all Nocenti works, to be somewhat socially-conscious and message-y), but I believe some assortment of those characters are regular supporting characters in the book throughout it.


Art comes from Sal Buscema and Steve Leialoha, both of whom are familiar to X-readers at this point, but whose work in this issue, while perfectly competent, is nothing special.

The cover to this issue is drawn by Art Adams and inked by Frank Miller's longtime inker Klaus Janson, which gives Adam's pencils a darker, more raggedy look. 

The Chronology Corner
Sabretooth appears here between Uncanny X-Men #212 and #213, and the events of this issue take place after Thor has cleansed the tunnel of bodies in Thor #374. 

Teebore's Take
Of all the "Mutant Massacre" tie-ins, this issue is easily the weakest, both in terms of craft and its impact on the overall narrative. It's essentially a Daredevil/Sabretooth fight that pays lip service to "Mutant Massacre" by taking place in the recently-vacated Morlock Tunnels. Nocenti overlays their fight with two different turgid metaphors, comparing it first to a dog fight Daredevil witnesses and later to a parallel tale about a cat who hunts, but doesn't kill, a mouse. It's all terribly overwrought, and worse, there's nothing about the story that requires it to take place during the massacre, nor does it add anything to that story. Furthermore, Nocenti writes Sabretooth wildly out-of-character, turning him into an animalistic and near-monosyllabic beast at various times, which is pretty far from the snearing, taunting character we've already seen elsewhere. Bottom line, this issue reads like Nocenti wanted to get in on the fun, pulled an inventory story out of a drawer, dropped in Sabretooth, then called it good. It is in no way essential reading. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we look at Thor's contribution to "Mutant Massacre" in Thor #373-374, followed by the Mephisto Vs. limited series. Next week, Malice makes her move in Uncanny X-Men #214.

12 comments:

  1. Actually, Franklin hadn't seen his family since he left for the Power Pack's space adventure. And he had issues about seeing them.
    When he had his first prophetic dream about the Power Pack being in trouble, Franklin tried to tell his parents, but Sue- suffering trauma from the Malice experience- angrily told Reed (and Franklin) that her issues about the Psycho-Man were more important than her son's bad dream. Franklin decides to aid the Pack himself.
    Later, having another prophetic dream of Pack trouble, Franklin again tries to tell his family with similar results. Sue accidentally mentions (and Franklin accidentally overhears) her fears about her son's sometimes uncontrollable powers. Franklin had already felt neglected by his parents' constant adventures. Now he gets the idea that they don't love him because he's a freak. Franklin again goes to the Pack's aid alone (with help from Kofi Whitemane, who has father issues of his own. The resolution was memorably told in the preceeding issue). The Morlock Massacre convinces Franklin that he wants to be with his mommy and daddy. So the team go to Avengers Mansion, being guarded by Black Knight and Hercules (this is before the FF move to their new building, and the Masters of Evil's attack). Seems the FF are in another adventure again! In truth, the FF realize Franklin's disappearance, deduce his whereabouts by a drawing-message (of an alien), and head to space. They meet the Whitemanes, who tell them everything, especially Franklin's family issues. The FF return, Reed, Sue, and Franklin have their heartfelt reunion, and the Powers and Richards couples meet for the first time.

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  2. @angmc43: Actually, Franklin hadn't seen his family since he left for the Power Pack's space adventure. And he had issues about seeing them.

    Ah, thanks for the rundown on the FF stuff (outside of maybe Daredevil and some of the fringe titles, my FF-fu is probably the weakest, especially outside the highlights of the Lee/Kirby and Byrne runs, and some of the newer stuff. If I ever find a way to get paid for writing these posts, or more time, I'd love to do a series on FF).

    For whatever reasons, just from reading the scattered issues of Power Pack that tie-in with the X-Men events, I'd had the impression that the Powers and the Richards were just family friends or something. Good to know there's a story to Franklin's involvement in the book.

    (Though it is kind of weird that the Powers just let Franklin live with them without ever talking to his parents. Then again, I suppose they know the Richards are superheroes, so maybe they just assume their lives are different).

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  3. I'm surprised Sal Buscema didn't give this Daredevil issue a stronger effort, considering it's written by the editor who fired him off New Mutants due to unispired artwork there.

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  4. @Matt: 'm surprised Sal Buscema didn't give this Daredevil issue a stronger effort, considering it's written by the editor who fired him off New Mutants due to unispired artwork there.

    Heh. Good point. I wonder if Sal was the regular penciller of Daredevil at this point in Nocenti's run, or was he just filling in?

    ...checks internet...

    Yeah, it looks like it was just a fill-in. And, something I never knew, this issue is pretty much the *start* of Nocenti's run on the title (she'd written one issue prior to this one, #236, but this begins her continuous run). I'd always known this was early in her run, but I never knew it was *that* early.

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  5. " finally realizing what he's put his son through via his absence, and chiding himself, after growing up an orphan, for not knowing better. "

    I really dislike that Power Pack issue, but I thought the above bit was nicely done. I guess it was always implicit, the dramatic irony of Cyclops abandoning his child, when he himself grew up an orphan -- But I feel like this is the first instance of Simonson (or anyone) making that irony an explicit part of the text. I thought it was pretty striking, and nicely handled. (Funny that it had to happen in Power Pack rather than an issue of X-Factor ...)

    But as for the rest of the issue, god, I can't stand the thing. Once we get to what feels like the nine billionth variation on this dialogue in the space of about ten pages ... "I wish I still had my power, instead of your power!" ... I tap out.

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  6. @Jason: Once we get to what feels like the nine billionth variation on this dialogue in the space of about ten pages ... "I wish I still had my power, instead of your power!" ... I tap out.

    I'll be perfectly honest: while I've read this issue before, this time through, I pretty much skimmed most of the issue that didn't have Wolverine or X-Factor in a panel. All that Power Pack power switch stuff is pretty intolerable, but I just breezed right past it...

    Makes the whole thing go down a lot smoother. :)

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  7. "All that Power Pack power switch stuff is pretty intolerable, but I just breezed right past it..."

    Good call!

    Regarding the Daredevil issue, this one is in a weird place in my personal reading history. I read it years and years ago ... probably ten years before I ever finally read the actual Mutant Massacre storyline. And then when I DID finally read the Massacre, it was in the TPB that doesn't include the Daredevil issue, so I haven't read it since way back in my teens.

    So it occupies a weird place in my head. For example I didn't remember at all that Sabretooth's characterization doesn't sync up. And I remember the comparisons between Sabretooth and the housecat to be super-duper interesting.

    I didn't actually read it as a metaphor, and I'd argue (based on hazy memories) that it wasn't meant to be. I think it was actually meant to be a literal analogy to explain Sabretooth's characterization: i.e., that his murderous impulses are the result of being a feline creature with primordial instincts, accidentally born to the wrong species. (Almost like the creatures in "The Island of Dr. Moreau" or like Marv in "Sin City," identified at one point as a Roman gladiator born in the wrong place and time.)

    That aspect of the story always stayed with me ... it was only the fourth or fifth Sabretooth comic I'd ever read, and I still kind of view him through that lens, as I think it's a kind of cool, ironic take on the character. (Ironic in that he's a mutant, i.e., evolutionarily ahead of the game theoretically, but also a primordial throwback.) And the whole thing with the conflicting urges that cause him first to take the young girl prisoner but then later to kill her, it fit with one of the few other Sabretooth stories I'd read at the time, the "death of Silver Fox" flashback stuff from Wolverine #10.

    It just gave him a more interesting spin than "brute who kills people for fun."

    But of course, I haven't read it in 20 years, so who knows. I'm probably full of it. :)

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  8. // Pencils come from Jon Bogdanove //

    I liked the art quite a bit. Al Gordon's a favorite inker of mine on John Byrne and Jerry Ordway, so part of that could be his influence — not that I don't like Bodganove's stuff elsewhere, including his Superman, although it got a bit too exaggerated (and, come to think of it, unappealingly reminiscent of Mike Zeck's work to me) later in his Man of Steel days. He and Simonson were partnered on that title from the first issue, by the way, well over a year before "The Death of".

    Weirdly, Cyclops' eye-beams are consistently colored yellow, both in terms of the slit of his visor "at rest" and the couple of times we see them blasting out. His mask doesn't extend to under his visor when it's raised, either, which is different than the other admittedly rare times I've seen it depicted. Speaking of which, I was surprised to see not only no angst but no indication at all from Scott at how great it must have felt to be free from his Awesome and Terrible Power thanks to Leech's presence; if you looked at that panel without knowing Cyclops' deal, you'd just figure that he was raising his visor to show Leech, whom he'd picked up in his arms to reassure, that he was a normal guy.

    // making Daredevil believe she's died //

    Actually, Daredevil has determined that she's alive and will survive in the panel before he tells Sabretooth that she's dead. So it's probably meant to be a ruse, albeit a confusing one since we don't get any explicit indication as to why, meant I guess to keep Sabretooth from attacking her further and actually killing her. Given that Nocenti has been juxtaposing Daredevil's and Sabretooth's heightened senses the whole issue, it's also questionable that Sabretooth can't smell/hear/see from a few yards away that her blood is still pumping or whatever.

    You're right that Nocenti writes Sabretooth as far more animalistic than we've seen — also playing up that his namesake is reflected in his powers and personality to a degree that I've never read (or noticed anyway) it being referenced before.

    I'm not familiar with Nocenti's Daredevil run (or anything else she's written, really, Longshot aside) but for some isolated issues of the Typhoid Mary storyline I think I read in college. Whether it's representative of her run or not, I have to say that the captions and dialogue in this issue are atrocious from beginning to end.

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  9. @Jason: // I think it's a kind of cool, ironic take on the character. (Ironic in that he's a mutant, i.e., evolutionarily ahead of the game theoretically, but also a primordial throwback.) //

    While I appreciate that perspective — really cool insight — and I greatly respect the glow of nostalgia, I can attest having just read the issue not only that Sabretooth's characterization is at odds with contemporary depictions but that one would be forgiven for supposing that any aspect of the story that even approximates good writing is purely accidental.

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  10. @Jason: I didn't actually read it as a metaphor, and I'd argue (based on hazy memories) that it wasn't meant to be. I think it was actually meant to be a literal analogy to explain Sabretooth's characterization: i.e., that his murderous impulses are the result of being a feline creature with primordial instincts, accidentally born to the wrong species.

    You could very well be right in this reading - to be perfectly honest, I skimmed that stuff almost as much as I did the power swap stuff in Power Pack.

    And while I'll agree that it's an ironic take on the character, and one potentially more interesting than "brute who kills for fun" in a vacuum, it definitely sticks out in relation to the rest of his characterization through the years.

    @Blam: I liked the art quite a bit.

    I like it here (and on Man of Steel) much, much more than I will when he eventually fills in on X-Factor during "X-Tinction Agenda". I'm curious to see how it holds up when I revisit it, whether it really is as bad as I remember or if it simply suffered in comparison to the Image art in the other books (Jim Lee moreso than Rob Liefeld).

    He and Simonson were partnered on that title from the first issue, by the way, well over a year before "The Death of".

    I think (?) I knew that, though "Death" is my point of reference for their collaboration simply because it's when I started reading it.

    Whether it's representative of her run or not, I have to say that the captions and dialogue in this issue are atrocious from beginning to end.

    I've heard her run generally praised, albeit being somewhat atypical for a mainstream superhero book (which can be both a plus or a minus) and loaded to the gills with Nocenti's trademark political and social commentary, but man, I have to think the captions and dialogue improved from this issue (which is, as I was surprised to run, the very start of her run).

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  11. Ok I'll be the "lone voice in the wilderness" in saying that I kinda like the Power Pack issue. To give a bit of rebuttal to some of the criticisms of that issue, let's remember that the Power kids have abilities that are mostly defensive in nature, so it's more like they "survived" the Marauders rather than "made fools of them" ("They're big enough to cream us without powers!") Outside of Jack, most of the team were just dodging Marauder attacks. (And not very long either. The calvary comes pretty soon.) This also ties into the "power switch" thing. Besides displaying some of the books trademark sibling rivalry, it also serves as a bit of irony, as one of the recurring themes of the book was Alex badgering a reluctant Katie to use her rather desctructive power, yet now Alex finds it's easier said than done. I do acknowledge that I might be grading this issue on a curve since I know going in that Power Pack will always be the lighter and softer version of any book they crossover with.

    More importantly I thought it handled the "darker" aspects of the Massacre well, particularly when they're confronted with the slaughter of their friends (incidentally, I always thought Simonson did a better job of fleshing out the Morlocks as a proper subculture in her books than Claremont did, who seemed to treat all the Non-Calisto members as barely-tolerable nuisances only suitable for X-Men angsting points.) The scene were the Power children break the news to Leech was particularly heartwarming.

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  12. @Jonathan: let's remember that the Power kids have abilities that are mostly defensive in nature, so it's more like they "survived" the Marauders rather than "made fools of them"

    I definitely think it's more a case of Power Pack surviving the Marauders than actually defeating them - I just think that, nevertheless, the ferocity of the Marauders gets diminished as a result.

    The scene were the Power children break the news to Leech was particularly heartwarming.

    Yeah, I thought that was handled pretty well. Very gut-wrenching.

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