THOR AND THE WARRIORS FOUR, collecting #1-4 of the mini-series, actually features the latest Power Pack adventure by way of Marvel's All Ages imprint, meaning that what happens in these pages are pretty much outside of continuity with Marvel's mainstream 616 universe. But so what? Frankly, I'm just glad that Marvel is still publishing Power Pack, even if it's in a mini-series format once a year or so.
Alex Zalben writes the thing, and I've never heard of the guy but, oh boy, does he have a knack for showcasing what makes Power Pack so appealing. THOR AND THE WARRIORS FOUR is absolutely recommended for parents looking for appropriate reads for their young 'uns. It's fun and playful and I guarantee the kids will eat this up. The cool thing is, like the best Pixar films, this mini-series can also be savored on a more grown-up level. While keeping things on the light-hearted side, Zalben manages to explore how each of the Power children copes with the impending loss of a loved one, specifically their dying grandmother.
In the hospital, a kindly nurse hands a book on Norse mythology to Julie Power, the second oldest sibling. Poring thru the book, Julie learns of the Golden Apples of Idunn, fruit that, when eaten daily, allow the Norse gods to maintain immortality. So off the Power children go, costumes on, looking to finagle some apples from Thor, Norse god of thunder. Tracking the source of a lightning burst, they end up in Central Park and run into the Pet Avengers, a card-carrying member of which is Throg, the frog Thor (and, actually, frog Thor probably doesn't carry a card... 'cause he's a frog, yo). And from frog Thor and his mini-Mjolnir, it's only a short hop away to Asgard, home of the Norse gods and a name which the youngest kid, Katie, suspects is a swear word.
There's a certain impervious aura about these kids. You could have them hanging out with the grimmest character (Wolverine) or the most majestic (Thor), and they somehow lighten them up. I've never seen Thor smile so much than in this mini-series. Even Loki, god of mischief - and "mischief" in Norse mythology usually implies more sinister doings - tones down his shenanigans, even if he's still resolute in his goal of conquering Asgard. Even the threat of an early Ragnarok doesn't seem so ominous. Loki is abetted by the Enchantress who works a spell of which outcome had me doing one of those sickening "Awww, so cute!" exclamations.
Alex Zalben injects plenty of humor, most of it stemming from the kids' distinctive personalities. Katie, hands down, is the most adorable. I love that Katie obsesses over Beta Ray Bill as her pony and that she likes to wear her Viking helmet sideways because, as she says, "I'm a rhinoceroses!" She and a fleeing Beta Ray Bill are featured on the cover to issue #2, one of the funniest comic book covers I've ever laid eyes on. On a more serious note, I like the thought-provoking conflict that surfaces between Alex and Julie over whether it's okay to steal the Golden Apples even if it's for a good cause.
THOR AND THE WARRIORS FOUR are illustrated and colored by Gurihiru, the Japanese art studio that's more or less become the house artist for Power Pack. And Gurihiru is awesome thru and thru, from their clear storytelling - you're never confused as to what's going on in their panels - to their fantastic rendition of the Power kids. Also worth checking out is the back-up, four-part story "The Twelve Labors of the Babysitter!" which finds Hercules dropping by the Power household to mind the kids. Herc helps the Pack fend off an attack by Hydra and regales them with stories of his legendary twelve labors. Somewhere along the way, he even finds time to join Katie in a tea party. Colleen Coover handles the story and art.