Monday, 24 December 2012

Power Pack #27: The Mutant Massacre

Welcome to the latest post in my Power Pack readthrough! Power Pack #27 opens with the kids recovering from their recent abduction by aliens. Or rather, being totally fine with their recent abduction by aliens, but dealing with their parents being worried about them. Despite their concern about this aspect of their life, the Powers continue to demonstrate their legendary inattentiveness when it comes to the fact that their children are a superhero team.

They are watching the tellybox. There's a news report about a recent battle between the X-Terminators, a group of mutant freedom fighters, and X-Factor, a mutant investigation company. The kids of course immediately favour the X-Terminators. Power Pack aren't strictly speaking mutants, but mobs are not known for their discernment of subtleties.

Away from the 'rents' eyes, they play around with their powers - swapped around in #25. Let's remind ourselves of the new powers, in order of age: Alex (the eldest) has disintegration; Julie has density; Jack has gravity; and Katie has flight. Their friend Franklin Richards, son of Reed and Susan Richards of the Fantastic Four, you will remember, is also a member and has been staying with the group as the Four are in space or the Negative Zone or the Microverse or something like that. Franklin is a mutant, but his full reality-warping powers are in abeyance. Currently he has a dream power, and is using the codename Tattletale.

In the middle of the night, Franklin becomes aware that their friend Leech and another mutant are in trouble. Bearing in mind the recent news, the kids don their costumes and enter the sewers. Soon enough Power Pack find the trail of dead left by the Marauders (and an alligator!) These are a group of hired killers who, for whatever reason, have been engaged to wipe out sewer-mutants known as the Morlocks.

The first Marauder that the gang encounter they take for Wolverine, who last appeared in these pages in Power Pack #19. But they're wrong: it's the similar, but taller and nastier Sabretooth. After a brief fight, they get away, only to bump into the actual Wolverine, who is down there too, on the trail of Sabretooth. Wolverine is, even at this stage in his development (I'm sure that lots can be written about this) concerned about the welfare of children, and so makes them promise to go back to the surface.

Of course, Power Pack, pre-teen superheroes, do no such thing. They've still got Leech to save, after all. After some searching, they find Annalee, Leech's adopted mother (introduced in #12), who has been killed. They find Leech with Caliban (the mutant-locating Morlock), but are then attacked by a group of Marauders Arclight, Scrambler and Harpoon. Incidentally, I've complained about names of characters before, but this really takes the biscuit. Scrambler's real life name is apparently "Kim Il Sung". Fairly popular name in Korea, I hear. Sigh.

Our group of kid heroes keep these three Marauders at bay - driving them off, just as Marvel Girl and Cyclops, of X-Factor/X-Terminators (it turns out they're the same team: it's complicated) turn up. The kids break the news about his mother to Leech, Cyclops gets a moment of reflection about what it is for a child to lose a parent. I'm not sure what that's all about. Perhaps it would mean something to readers of X-Factor.

Beast and Iceman are dispatched back to X-Factor headquarters with Caliban and Leech, and Power Pack are now able to go home safely. The other two members of X-Factor: Cyclops and Marvel Girl, remain underground, looking for Artie and Angel.

This is the Mutant Massacre writ small, then. The Marauders go and kill the Morlocks, for no obvious reason. Faceless bodies are everywhere. It feels like disaster porn, or the aftermath of well, a massacre. But there's an underlying message of hope. Like the later Decimation, most of the named Morlocks we care about survive (Ape, Beautiful Dreamer, Caliban, Erg, Leech and Tar Baby escape in this issue, for example), with only a few characters taken off the table - the point of this is to reduce the size of the faceless crowd. When looked at in storytelling potential, this far from destroys the Morlocks, but instead brings the characters out of the sewers and integrates them with the larger Marvel universe.

The decision to cross Power Pack over into this story was an odd one. Mutant Massacre is proper grimdark, and not what I'd think would be natural fare for this title. Merely sharing an author (Louise Simonson) isn't a strong reason for doing this. But the Morlocks have been part of the Pack's reality for a while now. And after #19, with Annalee and Leech, this moment really did have to be here.

Fun though this entry was to write, this is not my final word on this storyline: I'm not quite that perverse. There will be two subsequent posts: one on Uncanny and one on X-Factor / Thor.

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