Power Pack #27, written by Louise Simonson, pencils by Jon Bogdanove, inks by Al Gordon, colours by Glynis Oliver, edits by Carl Potts, editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, published in 1986.
I don’t want to use the phrase ‘Holy Grail’ to describe something rare and long sought because (a) I grew up Catholic and I don’t want to associate a positive thing with the religion I no longer practise, (b) I don’t want to use an inaccurate term to describe a comic book and (c) I don’t believe that a comic book really qualifies because I haven’t ‘eagerly pursued’ it and it was never a ‘quest’ to fill a hole in my comic book collection. I mean, it’s just a comic book, after all – it’s not symbolic of something meaningful or anything …
For me, Power Pack #27 represents all the missing issues in my runs of comic book series throughout my more than 25 years of collecting floppy pamphlets containing pictures and words. This sensation, common in all collectors of different stripes, of a hole, a black mark in the list, a gap, the incomplete series, is perhaps not as normal nowadays due to the boom in the trade paperback programme of comic book publishers and the legal digital comic book availability. However, having started this hobby in the analogue, hard-copy days, I still hang on to the notion of possessing the physical version. I don’t have Doom Patrol #26 or Hellstorm #15 or Chase #4 (although that has been replaced by recent purchase of the trade paperback collecting the entire appearances of Cameron Chase), to list a few examples, but these all came under the heading of ‘Power Pack #27’ in the list of missing issues.
I started collecting comic books when Power Pack was first published, although I had no idea about it at the time because I started out slowly, just collecting The Uncanny X-Men and The New Mutants to begin with before expanding to other X-books, and then the Marvel zombie gene kicked in where I started to buy as many back issues as possible. When I discovered Power Pack through an appearance in a back issue of The Uncanny X-Men, I loved the concept and had to have all the issues I could find, rooting around the boxes of Gosh! and Comics Showcase and Forbidden Planet to complete the series. Except I couldn’t, because of Power Pack #27.
Power Pack #27 is an issue in the Mutant Massacre crossover, which included The Uncanny X-Men, The New Mutants, X-Factor and The Mighty Thor, but this one was the rarest of the lot and became a ‘hot’ book, hard to find and more expensive because of the fact that Wolverine and Sabretooth are in it (as you can see on the cover). For over 20 years, I might have seen this book once or twice, but only on the wall of someone selling it at a vastly inflated price, and that was only in those early years of collecting in the 1990s. It came to become the emblem of all the books that were eluding me and standing out by their absence. It was elusive, mysterious, unknown, a nagging blot on my spreadsheet.
I never thought I’d find it – I’d become accustomed to its absence from my collection and its mythical status – so it was a genuine shock when I happened across it at the London Comic Mart. In the sort of outrageous circumstance that occurs in real life but would not seem believable if it was in fiction, I was telling my girlfriend that very morning specifically about Power Pack #27 and its totemic status as all the missing issues in my collection, and how it was the comic at the top of my list of books to find when I attended the comic mart. That made it even more bizarre when it magically appeared in a comic book box I was looking through … To hold it in my hands, give the nice man a shiny pound coin, to put it in my bag – such a simple climax to such a long quest.
Reading it now, it takes me back to when I first read the surrounding issues – the bubbly cartoony style of Bog’s, the warm family interactions of the Power family, the boys hassling each other and arguing. It’s also strange to read because it’s one of the jarring issues: the Power Pack tales were mostly light but this one juxtaposes that with the massacre of the Morlocks in the tunnels. Scalphunter is happily shooting people and Sabretooth jumps the team in a typically threatening and frightening fashion (Franklin Richards, honorary member of the Pack, had one of his special dreams about their friends, Artie and Leech, so the team went to the tunnels in the middle of the night because this is a superhero comic book where that’s a normal response), and there are dead bodies lying around. There are guest stars – Wolverine (as in the cover), the X-Factor team of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman and Beast (back when they were pretending to be mutant hunters) makes an appearance – and Franklin is very funny (‘What would Unca Benjy say? Umm … Go back to Yancy Street, ya yahoo!’ he says, and sticks his tongue out in a great face drawn by Bog as his dream-self disappears; Bog always did great facial expressions on the kids), but there is nothing about the contents of the book that is related to the high price the book once had. But that’s comic books for you.
Am I happy that I have Power Pack #27? Yes, I am. Is it the greatest thing since slice bread? No, of course it isn’t, but that’s not the point. The reality was never going to match the Platonic ideal of the comic book that existed in my head. The important thing is the feeling of (and I hate using this word but I can’t think of another) ‘closure’ – there was a hole that has been filled and now a small part of my world is complete. It sounds silly, but it’s my silly.