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Ghost of Van Lente Past: Fantastic Four/Power Pack

Probably the best compliment I can pay Fred Van Lente on his Fantastic Four/Power Pack mini-series is that, without checking the credits, I thought that Marc Sumerak had written it, and that says a lot, because Sumerak has practically mastered writing the Pack.


Working with regular Power Pack artist, Gurihiru, Van Lente re-introduces (for the first time – as this is not the same continuity as regular Marvel) Franklin Richards into the title, and it works very well.

Initially, we see how hard it must be for the son of celebrities, but we also see (and this theme runs throughout the series) about how keeping secrets can be hard on families, so while it may be tough for Franklin’s identity to be so well-known, it is not much better for the Power boys and girls to have SECRET identities.

The theme of “parent relationships” also comes up in an early issue, as we see what happens when supervillains have kids – they become, shockingly, bullies. Van Lente especially shined in this sense, showing us the motivations for these bullies, and showing how their actions have a clear, definable reason behind them.

Franklin and Jack Power make for a very fun pair, especially as the two end up running away from home (Franklin’s street smarts serve him well – he’s quite the little operator), ultimately leading to a confrontation with none other than Dr. Doom himself, and Van Lente even manages to throw in a bit of a twist on the old “Doom and Richards switch body” story.

There is enough action for the comic to be fulfilling in that area, but the main hook of this series is on the character work, as it was when Louise Simonson originally created the characters (man, was that a good comic book series), and that is a Van Lente specialty (as is it a Sumerak specialty), so the book is quite enjoyable in that regard.

I would recommend ALL the Power Pack and _____ mini-series, and that includes this one.


Bells will be ringing, the glad, glad news;
Oh, what a Van Lente Day, to have the blues;
My baby’s gone;
I have no friends;
To wish me greetings, once again;
Choirs will be singing, Silent Night
Oh, Van Lente Day Carols, by candlelight;

Please come home for Van Lente Day;
Please come home for Van Lente Day;
If not for Van Lente Day, by New Year’s Day


Cheap shot of the moment:

So has Iron Man tried to draft the Power Pack yet, or sicced the Thunderbolts on them?

I read so much praise for Sumerak’s Pack that I went out and got the first two digests. I was hoping to enjoy them (as Power Pack was really what drew me into comics in 1985) and then pass them on to my wife’s students.

Thing was: while I enjoyed the slick art, the stories were trite. It was like reading an adaptation of an afternoon cartoon series from the ’80s. Lots of little stories that require no set-up and so can be resolved in a page. And not very memorable. The only thing that sticks is that there was a Halloween episode and Jack dressed as Wolverine along with tons of other people. A cute moment, but not enough to make the series a win.

Simonson had these kids and their lives nailed. She created interesting stories and evolved their lives and personalities through those stories. Sumerak’s version seems to be pandering to a vision of young readers who I just don’t see out there.

I did end up giving the two volumes to the class. And they read them very quickly and instead of saying whether they liked the books, they asked when volume 21 of Usagi Yojimbo would be coming out. These are fifth graders and in the end, it turns out that they found Sumerak’s Power Pack to be a book “for kids.”

I’m just not sure which kids.

To be honest, while I myself love the ______ & Power Pack series, I don’t think Sumerak’s stories really started to hit their stride until the Avengers mini; and the one with Spider-Man was just insane.

Van Lente’s mini was pretty good, too. There’s a priceless scene in the last issue where Katie blows up. . . ah, but that would be telling.

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