Marvel's Power Pack has mostly been off the grid as lead characters for years - but they've picked one heck of a time to return to action in a new limited series spinning out of recent one-shot Outlawed, which made being a teen vigilante illegal in the Marvel Universe.
But writer Ryan North and artist Nico Leon aren't letting that little roadblock deter them - they're bringing the Pack back in a new adventure that grows the young team up just slightly while honing in on the family dynamic and lighthearted superhero fun that make the Power Pack what they are.
Newsarama spoke to North ahead of Power Pack #1's November 25 debut, discussing why the team should stay kids, what they're gonna do when being a teen hero is illegal, and how their unique, youthful perspective sets the stage for a challenging ideological debate.
Newsarama: Ryan, you're bringing the Power family together in the wake of Outlawed, which creates some new challenges for a family of young heroes. What's the family's status quo going into this limited series?
Ryan North: Alex and Julie have been having their own adventures in other books, so this is the first time they're all back together in a while, and Katie is very happy about that (Jack's happy too, he's just less likely to admit it). So there's this sense of older siblings coming home from school for the summer and figuring out what's changed and what's stayed the same.
Nrama: Power Pack is a classic Marvel title, but it's been a while since they've been regularly in the spotlight. How is the modern Pack different from the team when they were kids?
North: They are all a bit older! I wouldn't want to see them age any more though - they're in this unique position in the Marvel Universe, where there's a lot of teen heroes but not that many preteens or even kid heroes, and the Power Pack cover that. So there are some changes that come with age, but I don't want to change too much - they're still the same Katie and Jack and Julie and Alex they've always been, with just a bit more experience under their belts.
Nrama: The solicitation for Power Pack #1 mentions "the fate of all New York is at stake". What are the Powers up against here?
North: The story starts with them fighting crime, not realizing that a new law has made that illegal. So it starts with some personal stakes (if they all go to jail they will be very grounded) but those quickly escalate into something much larger, which can't be solved by simply punching it until it stops doing crimes.
Nrama: The Power Pack is looking for a mentor in #2. Who are the candidates for the position?
North: I don't want to spoil it because we have a whole two-page spread of their experiences with the runners-up! But I'll say that Squirrel Girl isn't one of them. It felt like Doreen Green wouldn't want to leave the Power Pack to their own devices if all their problems were solved, and I just finished writing 58 issues of comics with her as the star! Time to let the Power Pack have their moment, Doreen!!
Okay, fine, I'll spoil one of them: Frog Thor.
Nrama: You're working with Nico Leon on Power Pack. What makes him the perfect artist for a whole team of super kids and teens?
North: Nico is incredible - he's got such a dynamic, exciting, visual style that when he started sending in the pencils for the pages, I rewrote the next issues to give more room for those visuals to shine. His art - along with Rachelle Rosenberg's colors - are the real stars of the book, and I'm doing all I can to get out of their way and let them go hog wild because they are knocking it out of the park.
Nico's character acting is next level too: even characters in the background all act in these really fun ways, telling their own little stories that weren't in the script but which just elevate the book. I don't want to oversell it but they're great and I'm really lucky to get to work with them!!
Nrama: You've done extended runs on titles in the past, notably Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. What different tools do you employ when looking at a definite beginning, middle, and end in a limited series like Power Pack?
North: The ending to Squirrel Girl was something I had in mind for a while, but I only came up with it once we were a year or two in. That meant I could at least keep it in my back pocket and gently steer the narrative towards it a little here and there over the five years of the book.
Of course, the advantage of doing a miniseries is that you get to have everything planned out in advance, so we can have fun with literary techniques such as foreshadowing and other things that 'Real Authors' use to really make this Power Pack story a standalone, complete work. It feels to me like the difference between a short story and a novel - where everything is tight, humming like a machine because we have the ability to focus on just these five issues and make them work together as best we can. I'm really happy with it!
Nrama: What makes this the perfect time to bring the Power Pack back in action?
North: Personally I think the Power Pack has been away for plenty long already! They have such a unique and fun family dynamic but also have historically actually engaged with the issues of the day, not shying away from issues that might not have an easy answer. That's really appealing to me, and hopefully, it's not contentious to say that we've still got issues like that today. I liked these kids before I started writing the book, but now I love them all.
[Editor's note: This interview was originally published in April 2020, and has been updated with the new release dates following the COVID-19-influenced delay in comic books.]