Every time I pick up a Marvel trade, I think of one word: disposable. Typically, this is wholly to do with their production quality, which, frankly, is dire. The paper is seemingly as thin as they can cut it, the binding feels like I could tear the cover off with a breath, and the spine is so thin it feels like they can barely print the title on it. Typically, the production value doesn’t matter all that much when I review something. Typically, it’s not something I think much of after I get to reading. But with Power Pack: The Powers That Be the disposable nature of these physical objects felt notable, for a few key reasons.
To its credit, there is a lot to like about this series. It took me until issue #2 to really warm up to it, but, in typical Ryan North fashion, once I got over the cleverness of the characters and found them charming rather than annoying, it became as fun as most anything I’ve read recently. Nico Leon’s art did much to help that along, particularly his skill with body language and acting. All around, it’s a well made and enjoyable comic that allowed me to spend time with characters that I’m fond of, but aren’t often seen in modern comics. However enjoyable it was, though, it’s hard to see this story having any kind of longevity between the context surrounding it and even my actual reaction to the story.
The problem isn’t just one problem, but a bunch of them overlapping in a terrible way, from the aforementioned physical quality, to Marvel’s focus on five-issue miniseries, to their weird current history with young/all-ages material, to their over-reliance on the monthly periodical format, to the story itself being somewhat forgettable, to the whole series being predicated on an event that kinda got swept under the rug and out of sight. All of this adds up to a book that, while enjoyable, I’m not sure I’ll ever read or think about again, to the degree that it’s deeply frustrating, and feels like everything about this series devalues itself.
And it’s the wider context that hurts this series so much, the feeling that there are so many Marvel minis that are being launched out to hopeful success but instead just kinda exist for a six month period of time before they just kinda expire. The shelf life of this comic feels like it’s done whenever I finish this review. So…I guess my lateness is a good thing?
What makes this even more frustrating is that Power Pack feels like it could be a successful title, both for older fans and newer ones, if it were given and put in a space where it could thrive, but this comic feels so disposable, why and how could anybody have latched onto it?
To reiterate, I don’t think this is a failure of a comic, or as a story. It’s fine, it’s enjoyable. But I think the format of this series held it back, by being delivered to the direct market, by being serialized monthly, and by being limited to only around 100 pages, all of which forced it into a more typical superhero narrative and hindered it from doing as well as it could have. But if it had been built as an OGN, even at 100 pages, it likely would have been better. If any one of the above problems didn’t exist, I likely wouldn’t be so focused on the disposable nature of the comic, because it likely would have been good enough to ignore all the wonkiness regarding format. Instead, the act of physically reading this series made me feel like it simply existed to be consumed and never thought about again.
Maybe if I had read it in a different mood or in a different format I would have felt the few strengths more than I did. Instead though, those few high points were overshadowed by the unimaginative way this story was told. This story just ended up serving as a reminder that it doesn’t feel like Marvel is really in the business of publishing meaningful content right now, and it feels more like they’re just flooding shops with the most content that’s reasonable to sell. Power Pack: The Powers The Be feels like a book that existed for the sake of existing, and that was all it ever was supposed to do.
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