Monday, April 2, 2007

Marvel: Power Pack & Spiderman Loves Mary Jane

Many adults, whether they are comic fans or not, will tell you that they remember reading Marvel comics when they were small. Under the covers with a flashlight, behind a school book, or up in a treehouse, Spidey, Hulk, and Captain America were a wonderful part of childhood for a lot of people, so the girls and I wanted to be sure to read and review a whole bunch of Marvel comics.

Marvel has definitely made an effort to reach a younger audience. I’m amazed at the number of Spiderman sandals, Hulk sippy cups, and Wolverine sugar-laden juice drinks out there. Pajamas and t-shirts, bedsheets and curtains, dishes and silverware, cereal and popsicles, and lots and lots and lots of toys – the number of Marvel licensed products aimed at little kids is unbelievable. There are coloring, and sticker books, “easy reader” books, and picture books, but I would expect there to be more comics!

When I went looking at my local comic shop, I found that most of the Marvel comics aimed at youngsters are available in paperback trades, which makes sense since these are more likely to be sold in book stores and big retail chains than single issue comics. There are many titles, including Runaways, Emma Frost, Human Torch, and Arana, that are rated “Ages 12 and up,” but fewer titles rated “All Ages.” I found a few trades, such as Hulk and X-Men Evolution, that bear the All Ages rating, but most of them were published several years ago. The All Ages Marvel Adventures line, currently being released in single issues, includes the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and Spiderman. I found a few other single issue titles rated “A” for All Ages, but, honestly, the level of violence in most of them is beyond what I would feel comfortable handing to young kids.

Today we’ll review two current Marvel single issue comics for kids that are not under the Marvel Adventures banner; Spiderman Loves Mary Jane and Power Pack.

Power Pack
Power Pack is a revived and reworked comic from the eighties about four young, superpowered siblings. It’s great to see a team of superpowered kids who aren’t sidekicks – young readers love seeing someone their age as the hero of a story. Each issue touches on a theme that kids can relate to, from sibling rivalry to age discrimination to facing fears, without being too heavy-handed about teaching a lesson. Gurihiru is one of my favorite artists at the moment – they can make the kids look adorable but still tough, their action scenes are clear and inventive, and I dig those yummy jelly bean colors. Power Pack has had a cross-over run with the X-Men and is now assembling with the Avengers. With guest stars like Wolverine, Iron Man, and Nightcrawler (at the circus!), this is a comic book kid’s dream come true. Power Pack is as appealing to girls as it is to boys and the writers manage to keep the story within reach of even the youngest readers while not dumbing it down, none of which is easy to pull off. I can’t recommend Power Pack enough – tons of action and humor for kids and grown ups alike. I really hope Marvel makes money on this so it can continue. If they can get it into places where kids or parents are likely to pick it up (book stores, school libraries, Target), they will hook a whole lot of new readers on comics.

Shelby says: I like Power Pack because four kids kick grown-up bad guy butts. I liked the one with the Fantastic Four when the Power Pack kids go camping. Jack goes to Dr. Doom’s castle and gets trapped along with Johnny Storm. The rest of the Power Pack and the Fantastic Four come and rescue them. Then the parents are all confused and they roast marshmallows on Johnny Storm. And you get extra bonus in the back – Franklin Richards. It’s about the child of the Invisible Woman and the leader of the Fantastic Four. You get one in the back of every Power Pack comic. They are very funny because Franklin gets in lots of trouble with his little butler robot. If you like kids who kick butt then this is good for you. It’s funny, too.

Sarah says: I like Power Pack because it is very cool, awesome, and absolutely fantastically cool. I like it so much because it has so many different stories that have a good basic story and it tells you something that you’ve never figured out about the characters before. You also get to meet new villains and heroes. I like the episodes where the Power Pack gets to meet Nightcrawler and the Fantastic Four. I like Nightcrawler because he can teleport anywhere, does cool tricks, and is blue! I think it would be good for all ages over 3. But I think the people who would like it the most are comic book freaks because it is very, um…comic-y!

Spiderman Loves Mary Jane
This is squarely aimed at pre-teen and teen girls. There’s a lot of talking about relationships and plenty of soap-opera moments, but I have to say they capture the hormone-addled, teen angst thing very well. Issue five, in which Spidey takes M.J. on a swingin’ date, was the most fun for me. At least the date part. M.J. spends the next two pages sitting in a diner booth whining to Liz about how she really likes Peter, blah, blah, blah. I don’t really look back with fondness on myself at that age, and the looming prospect of my own girls becoming hormonal, emo, boy-crazy creatures frightens me, so maybe I’m having trouble relating. Takeshi Miyazawa’s art on the first five issues is first-rate – hopefully the change of artists for Issue 6 is temporary. It’s really not for little ones, mostly because they won’t be interested, but there’s also some mild sexuality – boys and girls playing “tonsil hockey” and guys saying things like, “she really does it for me.” The storylines and dialogue are solid, though, so if you like teen drama and lots of dialogue, you’ll probably like this.

Shelby says: I like Mary Jane Loves Spiderman because Mary Jane likes Spiderman and Spiderman likes Mary Jane. But, they don’t know that they like each other. The thing is, M.J. likes Peter as a friend and Spiderman as a boyfriend, even though he’s the same dude. This situation is heartbreaking in one of the comics. M.J. has friends like Liz, and Harry Osborne, and Flash, just like in the Spiderman comics. It’s different, though, because it’s all about M.J. and her friends and Spidey is only in it a little bit. Only girls will probably like this comic because it’s about girly stuff.

Sarah says: I like Spiderman Loves Mary Jane because it is a book about teenage romance. I am not a teenager but I want to know what it will be like when I grow up. I think it is good for boys, girls, and even grown ups. I think boys would like it because there is a little fighting and things about Spiderman. I think girls would like it because it is about how they should deal with their future problems. I think grown ups would like it because they can compare their old lives to Mary Jane’s life. But, I think some people wouldn’t enjoy too much of the kissing. The people who I think would not enjoy it would be children that don’t like long conversations that they don’t understand.


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