Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Power Pack Iron Man and Jellaby

Iron Man Power Pack by Marc Sumerak, Marcelo Dichiara, Gurihiru (Marvel)

So far in this series, the Power Pack has teamed up with Spidey, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Hulk. This time it’s Tony Stark’s turn to guest star in this wonderful all-ages comic. Kids love Power Pack because the kids are heroes, not sidekicks, and the stories and art appeal to girls as well as boys. The art is clean and colorful, with a bit of an animation feel to it, which I know old-school comics fan lament, but I think it’s a smart choice in the effort to get kids to read these comics. I preferred the art when Gurihiru Studios were doing the pencils as well as the colors – Dicheria’s work just isn’t quite as good – but Sumerak’s writing is always great.

Power Pack always has the right balance of humor and adventure and, unlike some of Marvel’s other “all-ages” comics, Power Pack is always appropriate for younger kids. Even when Venom took over little Katie Power, it all managed to be good fun. It’s a superhero comic so fighting is a big part of the story, but they keep it down to a kid-friendly level – it’s about stopping the bad guys, not hurting them. My favorite part was in Iron Man Power Pack issue #4 when Tony and the kids have to neutralize a phalanx of re-animated Iron Man tech. It gave them license to unleash total destruction without hurting anyone – smart thinking in a kids’ comic. I think adult superhero fans can enjoy these books if they let go of the continuity issues and just read them the way they did when they were kids – there’s plenty of action, surprises and laughs for everyone.

You get a bonus in the back of each comic with Chris Giarrusso’s awesome Mini Marvels. They always make me laugh, but I’m sure I’m missing half of the jokes because I’m not a True Believer. (Oh, and Chris Giarrusso has the best website in the known universe.) However, with the comics you also get several pages of ads, some of which are not very kid-friendly. I’d say buy the trades for libraries and classrooms (available in library bound editions) to avoid the advertising, but then you don’t get the Mini Marvels, which is a bummer.

Sarah says: Power Pack are these four kids, they’re brothers and sisters, and they have superpowers. One of them can defy gravity, one of them can fly real fast and run real fast, one of them can turn bigger or smaller or into, like, a cloud or something, and the youngest one, which is a girl, can shoot out energy from her hands. They have these yellow rings around their bodies that are like floating in the air and they go zzzzhhhhht and put their costumes on for them. In the Iron Man Power Pack series they meet Iron Man and have to help him with the Puppet Master. It was really good and basically anybody would like this. My favorite character is probably Katie because she is the youngest one in the Power Pack and she has strongest power. I like the part when Iron Man has to attack his own suits at a museum. It’s kind of scary for four-year-olds, but it wouldn’t scare the poop out of them or anything, it would just be a little scary because there’s lots of fighting and a girl gets kidnapped. But there’s no blood or gore or anything like that. I like the little Mini Marvels at the end because they’re always really funny. It was an Iron Man Mini Marvel this time and he gave everybody Iron Mani-ish suits, and there was an elephant named Steve. I like Steve.

Links to previews of all the Power Pack comics are on Marc Sumerak’s site.

Jellaby by Kean Soo (Hyperion)

Having read the Jellaby story in Flight 3, I was prepared for this book to be a festival of cuteness, and most of it is certainly adorable. Jellaby is the most loveable monster since Cookie, and the heroine, Portia, and her little friend Jason are cute as the dickens as well. The only small complaint I have about the art is the Tylenol caplet-shaped eyes on the human characters – humans without pupils feel a little creepy to me. Even so, the characters are all likeable and the relationship between the two kids feels realistic, complete with squabbling and bickering.

So I’m enjoying this totally adorable story of a girl and her monster friend when suddenly I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. In a flashback, little Portia is sitting on a bench in a police station, waiting for her mom, when the rather scruffy man next to her tries to strike up a conversation. I don’t want to give away any more, but I must tell you that this scene really made my skin crawl. I think that in another book it might not have had the same impact, but when dropped into the middle of this cuddly-wuddly story, it was really unsettling. The man shows up again toward the end of the story briefly as well. Personally, I think this juxtaposition of sweet and evil makes the book more interesting, but parents should be aware that it might scare very young or easily frightened kids. Oh, and there is one use of the word “friggin” by a bully, just so you know. I’d say Jellaby is best for 8 and up because of the fright factor. You could certainly read the book to your very little ones and surreptitiously skip those pages and they’d still enjoy the story.

Sarah says: Jellaby is about a giant purple monster that meets this girl. She takes care of it and it’s really cute and I don’t want to say much more because I would give it all away, but it’s really cool and one kid likes carrots who is her best friend. And they, like, try to get the purple monster, Jellaby, back home. And Jellaby’s learning English and it’s really cute. I think anybody would really like this book but some of it is kinda freaky – the tiniest fraction of it is scary because there’s this evil crow dude who shows up in her dreams all the time and he scares me. The whole book is purple and red and black and white, with a little bit of orange, but I didn’t even notice because the story was so good.

Shelby says: Jellaby is about a little girl named Portia who finds a big, purple monster outside of her bedroom window, so she takes it inside and feeds it and then she finds out that he’s from this weird place behind a weird door. The drawings and the colors are really cute and everything is in a shade of purple or red except for Jason, Portia’s friend, because he has an orange shirt with a carrot on it. I like this book because it’s very cute and it’s a good storyline. I would say this book is for little kids or even older kids except there are a couple of things that aren’t exactly children-ish; the word “friggin” and this guy says, “I know where your daddy’s bones are buried” while he’s handcuffed to a bench and it’s really creepy. If they made a doll or a stuffed animal Jellaby I would totally buy one.

Click to check out some Jellaby short comics and the first couple chapters of the book.


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