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Thursday, March 27, 2014

X-amining Power Pack #35 & Fantastic Four #312

Power Pack #35
"Life or Death!"
February 1988

In a Nutshell
Power Pack helps X-Factor battle Apocalypse and his Horsemen. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Hilary Barta
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Carl Potts
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
With their father away at a conference, the grounded Power children are waiting for their mother to come home from work when the power goes out. After hearing on the radio that the blackout was caused by The Horsemen of Apocalypse, Katie, the only one not grounded, flies off to find their mother on the subway to make sure she's alright. In one of the subway tunnels she encounters Pestilence and is able to escape, but not before getting sick. When Katie doesn't return, the rest of Power Pack track her down and help her heal. They then see Apocalypse's ship crash into the Empire State Building and try stop it, only to encounter Cyclops and Marvel Girl. Pestilence attacks again, but she's hit by debris and Power Pack is unable to save her. After Cyclops and Marvel Girl leave to stop Apocalypse, Power Pack works together to prevent the ship from crashing into the Statute of Liberty, triggering an explosion that blows off enough to ship's tail pipe to save the statute and the tourists inside. After seeing X-Factor emerge triumphant from the ship, they race home, getting there just ahead of their mother. They admit they left the house, but she is too grateful they're okay to punish them further.  
 
Firsts and Other Notables
This issue occurs in and around the events of X-Factor #25, showing what Power Pack was up to between the scenes they shared with X-Factor in that issue.

Power Pack learns the truth about X-Factor this issue, when they overhear their confession to the media.

A Work in Progress
We see what happened to Pestilence after she entered the subway tunnels.


Then, we see the scene at the Empire State Building from Power Pack's perspective...


...followed by Pestilence's death.


Finally, this issue shows what Power Pack did to trigger the explosion observed by X-Factor.


I Love the 80s
I've never ridden the subway in New York, but I suspect the tunnels are somehow less elaborate than their depiction in that image up above.

Human/Mutant Relations
Speculation that the blackout and attack on New York is being carried out by mutants sparks some to opine that the government should do more than register mutants. 


Teebore's Take
Of all the "Fall of the Mutants" tie-in issues, this one ties in most directly, weaving its way in and around the events of X-Factor #25 (not surprisingly, given the shared writer), showing the events from that issue in which Power Pack appeared from their perspective, as well the connective tissue between those events. Beyond that, it's standard Power Pack fare, though it benefits from that fact that, while the Horsemen have a greater effect on the city at large, they don't represent the same kind of homicidal menace the Marauders did, thus helping Power Pack's presence in this story feel less incongruous than it did in the their previous X-Men crossover tie-in issue.

Fantastic Four #312
"The Turning Point"
March 1988

In a Nutshell
X-Factor and the Fantastic Four battle Dr. Doom.

Writer: Steve Englehart
Pencils: Keith Pollard
Finishes: Joe Sinnott  
Letterer: John Workman
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
The Fantastic Four arrive back in New York City, accompanied by Black Panther and the usurped Dr. Doom, who is under Black Panther's protection as a courtesy to a fellow monarch. The Fantastic Four watch the parade in which X-Factor is participating, with Crystal pointing out to the newest FF member, the recently-mutated Sharon Ventura, how much people love heroes. Suddenly, the parade is attacked by stormtroopers sent by Kristoff Vernard, the usurper of Doom's throne. After the two teams defeat the troops, Doom asks X-Factor for their help restoring him to his throne. When they refuse, he captures Beast and Sharon, and tells X-Factor they have one hour to level the Latverian Embassy before he kills the captive heroes. Doom escapes to Reed Richard's lab in FF headquarters and imprisons Beast and Sharon, but seeing the sad state of Beast's mind prompts Sharon to action, and she manages to free them both just as the rest of the FF and X-Factor arrive. However, during the ensuing fight Doom captures Crystal and barters her life for his, and he escapes. In the wake of her encounter with Beast, a reinvigorated Sharon asserts her commitment to the Fantastic Four.  

Firsts and Other Notables
The big "Fall of the Mutants" tie-in in this issue involves the Fantastic Four observing the parade in which X-Factor participated in X-Factor #26, which is promptly attacked by some of Kristoff's goons. 


This issue takes place during a curious time for the Fantastic Four, as Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman have both left the team to focus on their family (they'll eventually return to the team after a short stint as members of the Avengers, their forced return by editorial pissing off Englehart enough to leave the book in protest), leaving a further-mutated Thing in charge of a team that consists of himself, Human Torch, Crystal of the Inhumans (Quicksilver's ex-wife) and the second Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura, who took the name after Carol Danvers gave it up in the wake of Rogue's attack and her transformation into Binary), who has recently mutated into a Thing-like creature herself.

Meanwhile, Dr. Doom has lost his throne, and Latveria is being ruled by Kristoff, his adopted son, who at the time believed himself to be the real Dr. Doom. 

Hilariously (and awfully), Crystal declares that the FF stayed out of the X-Factor/Apocalypse battle because after dealing with Quicksilver, she tries to stay clear of mutants. So innocents probably died and millions in property damage occurred because Crystal married a jerk once. That explains where the FF was during "Fall of the Mutants"; maybe the Avengers passed on helping because Beast hadn't called them recently?


A Work in Progress
Iceman notes that the name "Marvel" has become popular, and suggest that Jean may have something to do with that.


Ms. Marvel spends this issue bemoaning her condition as a Thing, until she spends some time with the increasingly-dumb Beast and realizes that while her physical condition may be less than ideal, at least she still possess her mind. 


Teebore's Take
This, then, is the least of the "FotM" tie-ins, remaining very much a Fantastic Four story in which X-Factor guest stars, the only real "FotM" element being the ticker tape parade from X-Factor #26 getting interrupted by Fake Doom's goons. Englehart uses Beast's current condition to move Sharon's story forward (in a somewhat dubious way for Beast ie "jeez, this might suck for me but at least I'm not as awful as that guy!"), but beyond that, X-Factor's presence is largely superfluous to the plot. There's definitely some charm in this offbeat era of Fantastic Four history, but this is hardly required reading for any X-fans, and it adds very little to "Fall of the Mutants".

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Excalibur debuts in Excalibur Special Edition #1. Next week, it's time for some fill-in stories, in Uncanny X-Men #228 and New Mutants #62.

15 comments:

  1. I was just moaning about the 90's separation of X-titles from the rest of Marvel Universe on a comment on the other post, but I realize now it's Crystal's and Pietro's divorce settlement that caused it.

    Apparently they got over it at some point because I remember reading Lorna pulling her rank as the sister of Crystal, a member of Inhuman Royal Family on some Krees, which I love. I like to heckle the wife about the contrived family relations of her The Bold and the Beautiful, it's just good she don't know anything of comics.

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  2. Wow, between Crystal's decision to not get involved because of anti-mutant prejudice and Sharon deciding to compare herself favorably to a man with what's basically brain damage, that sounds like one mean-spirited issue of Fantastic Four there. That doesn't sound inessential so much as designed to actively annoy any readers of the crossover hoping to see X-Factor get some more screentime & team up with the FF.

    I think I'm adding "SKWUDGE" to my onomatopoeia vocabulary for something getting squished. That is probably the best comic book sound effect since "splorp", IMO.

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  3. That's some very nice Bogdanove artwork in the Power Pack issue. I'm really only familiar with him from a few scattered glances at his Superman run with Simonson, by which point his work had become way too exaggerated and cartoony.

    I have never read all of Englehart's Fantastic Four. But the smattering of issues I have looked at are more than enough. It seems pretty terrible. I remember picking up an issue once when I was like 10 or so, because the cover intrigued me, but the story was impenetrable, the Thing looked like a pineapple, and Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman were nowhere to be seen. I never read another issue until "Heroes Reborn". So good job there, Steve Englehart.

    (I'm not a fan of Englehart's much praised Avengers run from the seventies either, though, so make of that what you will.)

    Mela -- Along the lines of "SKWUDGE", For years, my friends and I used to love the sound effect "RUNK", which, per a Bob Harras Avengers issue, is the sound of a person being slammed onto the hood of a car. I still think of it from time to time under appropriate circumstances.

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    1. Steve Englehart's run is the best since Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, imo.
      Englehart, Peter David and Jim Starlin are the only Bronze Age superhero writers that still hold up today.

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  4. @Teemu: I like to heckle the wife about the contrived family relations of her The Bold and the Beautiful, it's just good she don't know anything of comics.

    Heh. They are eerily similar in some ways.

    @Mela: That doesn't sound inessential so much as designed to actively annoy any readers of the crossover hoping to see X-Factor get some more screentime & team up with the FF.

    Yeah, there's "propping up the main characters at the expense of the guest characters", and then there's this.

    @Matt: That's some very nice Bogdanove artwork in the Power Pack issue.

    Indeed. I'm surprised how much I've enjoyed it in these random Power Pack issues, considering how much I hate it in his three X-Factor fill-ins during "X-Tinction Agenda".

    I remember picking up an issue once when I was like 10 or so, because the cover intrigued me, but the story was impenetrable, the Thing looked like a pineapple, and Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman were nowhere to be seen.

    Heh. I also have limited exposure to Englehart's FF (I remember reading a Kang and Mantis (of course) story at some point when I was a kid), but I had the exact opposite reaction to it than you did: I liked it BECAUSE Thing looked weird and it was a different team than the usual Mr. Fantastic/Invisible Woman/Human Torch/Thing combo - I felt like I'd stumbled on something new and unique, compared to the hundreds of blah blah issues featuring the same four characters over and over(then again, it took me a long time to really get into the FF).

    I'm not a fan of Englehart's much praised Avengers run from the seventies either, though, so make of that what you will.

    I love the time-traveling/Kang elements of that run. I cannot stand the Mantis stuff.

    But I much prefer his West Coast Avengers run, despite the awful, awful Al Milgrom art, so make of that what you will. :)

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  5. "I used to love the sound effect "RUNK", which, per a Bob Harras Avengers issue ... "

    Oh, HERE we go again with the Harras. :)

    "That's some very nice Bogdanove artwork in the Power Pack issue. /Indeed. I'm surprised how much I've enjoyed it in these random Power Pack issues .. "

    And we all like Bogdanove on X-Men/FF, right? That's my favorite stuff by him.

    In addition to his not-good stuff in X-Tinction Agenda, did he also draw the X-Factor annual from that year as well, for "Future Present"? Because that was also pretty dreadful. Same with the his Weezie collaborations on Superman.

    I wonder what made him change his style so extremely? (And to something so much less appealing.)

    I had the same reaction to Matt when I first read a couple Englehart FF issues. I don't know that I minded so much that there was no Reed and Sue, but the presence of a She-Thing seemed stupid to me. Maybe I'd appreciate it more in the larger context as -- like you say, Teebore -- a weird and novel shakeup of the classic formula. (I stumbled upon a fascinating website recently that is basically a large, multi-part essay, called "Fantastic Four is the Great American Novel," which suggests that Englehart's fun work great as the closing chapters of a complete arc going all the way back to FF #1. (He calls FF 319 the final chapter and FF 320 the epilogue ... Oddly enough those were the very two issues I read as a kid. So I guess it makes sense I wouldn't like them, since it would be like reading the final 25 pages of War and Peace, or something.)

    Anyway, it's a pretty cool and well-thought out website.

    Later, I read those "Laughing Fish" issues of Batman by Englehart, and thought those were terrible and terribly overrated too (despite awesome art). So I was all, "Yep, I definitely don't like this Englehart guy."

    But then I read the two issues of Avengers where Beast joins the team, and was surprised at how much I liked them. So I guess I like 70s Marvel Steve, but no other ones.


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  6. Oh, also:

    "Iceman notes that the name "Marvel" has become popular, and suggest that Jean may have something to do with that."

    That's kind of cute. :)

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  7. Jason, I know that site. I found it a few years back and read most of it. It's fascinating, even if the guy's theories aren't my cup of tea. If I recall correctly, he posits that Marvel ran in real time all the way up to the point when Jim Shooter left, which I don't buy. But there's definitely some interesting stuff there.

    Also, I had already forgotten that Bogdanove drew X-Men vs. Fantastic Four. Yes, I do really like him there. Terry Austin is a great pairing. I had also forgotten, until Teebore's comment, that he drew those "X-Tinction Agenda" chapters. They are indeed pretty awful, and a precursor to his Superman work.

    I'm really not much of a fan of Englehart at all, but I love his Batman issues. I think Englehart himself thinks far too highly of them -- he considers them the direct and indisputible inspiration for the Burton films and The Animated Series -- but I do think they make for a great run of "Marvel-style" DC comics at a time where such a thing was practically unheard of. It helps to read the full run, though, rather than just "The Laughing Fish" and "Sign of the Joker".

    I do have a couple issues with the stories, however, most notably that Silver St. Cloud figures out Batman's identity way too easily, thus making everyone else Batman has ever interacted with regularly in both identities -- including the police commissioner -- look like complete idiots.

    (Side note: In general I believe Englehart thinks far, far too highly of himself. The man's ego rivals that of John Byrne. Check out his website for some examples. I rarely see professionals, even online, with such an overblown opinion of their own work.)

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  8. @Jason: And we all like Bogdanove on X-Men/FF, right? That's my favorite stuff by him.

    Yeah, that's probably my favorite as well.

    did he also draw the X-Factor annual from that year as well, for "Future Present"?

    He did, and yeah, it's awful too.

    I stumbled upon a fascinating website recently that is basically a large, multi-part essay, called "Fantastic Four is the Great American Novel

    I may have to check that out.

    That's kind of cute. :)

    I think so, though I'd argue with Iceman that in the context of the Marvel Universe, it was popular long before the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel showed up. :)

    @Matt: In general I believe Englehart thinks far, far too highly of himself.

    He does strike me as being very Byrne-ian in that regard, but for what it's worth, I'll say that I met him at my local con once, and he was tremendously nice, to me and the people around me when we were talking/waiting to talk. So that's always good.

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  9. "I think so, though I'd argue with Iceman that in the context of the Marvel Universe, it was popular long before the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel showed up. :)"

    Reading only that single panel you posted, I thought that was his point. That Jean was the first of many, and Sharon was the latest of many.

    "for what it's worth, I'll say that I met him at my local con once, and he was tremendously nice, to me and the people around me when we were talking/waiting to talk."

    That's neat to hear. I was going to chime in and say that I was really amazed at his ego when reading his website too.

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  10. @Jason: That Jean was the first of many, and Sharon was the latest of many.

    That is why I was watching with a chagrin all the hype about the new muslim Ms. Marvel roll out.

    It's a kind of terrible implication really that when they deliberately set out to have a non-Caucasian protagonist (Kamala Khan, Miles Morales) and make implied noise about how cool they are for it, they still feel the said protagonist has to don the mantel and appropriate the code name and ethos of an established character that originally was Caucasian. And don't have chance to live up with the competition because it's Carol and Peter they're against and not just any somebody in Marvel/Spider costume.

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    1. In any case, the new Ms. Marvel is the best comic Marvel currently publishes.

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  11. Teemu -- Since you brought it up, I have to say that, while I have no problem with a new Ms. Marvel -- Carol graduating to the name of "Captain Marvel" makes a lot of sense -- I mourn for the loss of the Dave Cockrum Ms. Marvel costume. I see no reason why Carol couldn't have become Captain Marvel but still retained one of the greatest female superhero costumes ever designed.

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  12. @Matt: Teemu -- Since you brought it up, I have to say that, while I have no problem with a new Ms. Marvel -- Carol graduating to the name of "Captain Marvel" makes a lot of sense -- I mourn for the loss of the Dave Cockrum Ms. Marvel costume. I see no reason why Carol couldn't have become Captain Marvel but still retained one of the greatest female superhero costumes ever designed.

    Please let's not dwell on the fact that I seem to have been bringing Carol Ms. Marvel up a lot lately.

    Carol finally becoming Captain Marvel is a great direction for the character after finding such a vision for her heroics from the alternative universe of House of M, but it gets somewhat hampered for me by the fact that Monica Rambeau landed on the moniker after not becoming a captain in the police force whereas Carol who is a freaking Air Force colonel has to take the long route.

    And when you're Captain Marvel of course you have to wear the uniform of the cursed Krees with the iconic star emblem.

    Naturally there has to be an active Ms. Marvel for the same reasons there must be active Captain Marvel in publication, and a Spider-Woman with couple of spares just in case. We're well past the point of complaining who's being the trademark holder for the name some given time.

    It's a bit peculiar IMO that they chose to model the headlining muslim heroine so closely, uniform and all, after their most prominent women's liberation character, but idon'tknow.

    What I'm trying to say is that the lightning Ms. Marvel uniform is perhaps the most iconic Marvel heroine uniform there ever was and I expect we'll see Carol sporting it again in not so distant future.

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  13. I was happy to be reminded of how nice Bogdanove's art on Power Pack was (inked here by the versatile Hilary Barta). I'm not fond of his later work on The Man of Steel either, all the more disappointing because he did a really nice Superman piece for Action Comics #600 before that and I know he's a big enough fan of the character to have named his son Kal-El.

    I have never made fun of friends and family who get caught up in soap operas exactly because my favorite superhero sagas have so much in common with them.

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