No adult supervision? No problem. The preteen members of the Power Pack didn’t need grown-ups to tell them what to do or help them save the world. The first issue of the series about Alex, Julie, Jack, and Katie Power was released in 1984 and written by Louise Simonson and drawn by June Brigman. They created the series about the siblings, too. I was intrigued by the idea of kid heroes (the youngest was 5 years old and the oldest was 12 years old) and pleased to see gender equality on the team. The story isn’t dumbed down for kids, either. The members of the Power Pack definitely like act like kids – it would be silly for a 5-year-old not to cry about missing her parents – but they face serious and big problems. They’re not rescuing kittens from trees, they have to save the world.
The group’s story begins on an average evening in the Power household. Their father, Dr. James Power, is poring over blueprints for a converter that will generate energy from antimatter. He designed the machine, but he’s worried about it being tested before it’s ready. Meanwhile, a battle is happening above Earth between Aelfyre Whitemane – a.k.a. Whitey, a Kymellian, and Snarks. They know about Dr. Power’s plans (they tapped into Earth’s computers – duh), and Whitey wants to counsel him to stop and the Snarks want to steal the converter.
None of that happens exactly as planned. The curious Power children investigate when Whitey’s crashed ship appears in the ocean outside their home. While they’re getting to know the friendly alien, the Snarks attack and kidnap their parents. The Snarks still need the blueprints though, and their pursuit results in a dying Whitey transferring his powers to the Powers. He divides his abilities and leaves his smart ship named Friday in charge of the kids.
Whitey wasn’t around long, but his compassion and interest in Earth was apparent. Even though he saw humans were capable of inventing dangerous items like the converter (a similar machine and test destroyed his home world), he appreciated all that humans have created. We learn about his affinity for us in the first few pages:
I liked him instantly and was saddened when he died but understand that act pushed the Power children into their new roles. They were frightened, like any sane people would be, but their parents were in danger and before his death, Whitey tasked them with stopping the converter test. I wasn’t worried about the two girls being relegated to the back seat of the action, but this panel was a welcome reassurance and made me internally fist pump:
The kids jumped into action despite not being sure about whether the power transfer process worked. They fumbled, and the youngest girl bumped into enough of the right parts on the Snarks’ ship to accidentally destroy it. I could tell the kids had gotten to me because I was anxious on their behalf. Could they figure out their powers in time?
Fortunately, they did. Mostly. Alex realized he could control gravity, Julie could fly super fast, Katie could disintegrate matter and absorb its energy in order to expel it in explosive balls, and Jack could alter his body’s mass. They don’t master their skills from the get go and instead learn by trial and error. They’re funny and charming, and I’m not just saying that because of multiple references to Star Wars. This is exactly the kind of comic I wish we had more of today. It’s truly all ages, and if you know of kids who want to read and get into comics, hunt down single issues of the early run of Power Pack to pass along.