Review: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Vol. 1 trade paperback (BOOM! Studios)

Friday, February 03, 2017

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

The idea of a genuinely good Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic is still something I'm getting used to. While the IDW Transformers comics demonstrated that licensed books could truly be art, Power Rangers has its own issues as a franchise and a concept that have interfered with a decent adaptation. If you've seen a few episodes of any Power Rangers series, you can tell how formulaic they are: a monster attacks, the Rangers fight it and blow it up with their weapons, then the monster gets brought back as a giant. Cue the assembly of their giant Megazord robot and a final victory. It's the same reason why Voltron has hit so many stumbling blocks in all the attempts to adapt it to comics.

The ongoing Boom! Comics Mighty Morphin Power Rangers sidesteps this issue by delving into the character dynamics of the original Ranger team. Kyle Higgins has explicitly set the opening arc immediately after the end of the "Green with Evil" saga, wherein the Green Ranger, a.k.a. Tommy Oliver, is introduced as a villain but changes sides at the end. Not only was that era the high point of Power Rangers popularity and the most memorable story from the series, but there's an open time gap for the comic to fill in. Tommy goes from an aloof loner to an eager part of the team between episodes despite spending almost the entire story arc under heavy mind control.

As the opening story from issue #0 reveals, Tommy's post-traumatic stress is being reinforced by visions of Rita Repulsa, his former master, taunting him to draw him back in. This direct link between Tommy and Rita is something used several times in the show during her attempts to take his powers away. To no one's surprise, Tommy gets the most characterization and focus in this trade, with Kimberly the Pink Ranger being a close second. What is surprising is how much focus is devoted to the Black Ranger, Zack, who bears a strong resentment towards Tommy and is not as forgiving as his comrades. This subplot reaches its zenith in the next trade but it's worth noting because Zack is one of the most underdeveloped characters from the television show.

Issues #0 and #1 primarily serve to set up the comic book incarnation of the Power Rangers' world. It's very close to the 1990s original, but the fashion has been updated -- a good thing considering how horrendous fashion could be back then. There's a noticeable lack of Bulk and Skull, the show's memorable comedic supporting characters, but Boom! arranged for them to have their own comedy back-up feature in each issue. The cartoony serial by Midnighter's Steve Orlando should satisfy fans of the characters. I was never big on Bulk and Skull as a kid; every scene with them delayed the fights between the giant monsters and the Megazord. But the duo has their own legion of fans so it's nice to see that everyone's needs are being met.

Issue #2 primarily follows a duel between Tommy and Scorpina, Rita Repulsa's more skilled but less utilized general introduced during "Green With Evil." Like the show would usually do, Tommy fights her for far too long before morphing, and unfortunately his issue with post-traumatic stress leads to Scorpina getting away. A seemingly throwaway moment where Tommy gets trapped by the bodies of Putty Patrollers is revisited in issue #3 as a ploy to get a mold of the Green Ranger's Dragon Dagger. This in turn allows Rita and Scorpina to control the Dragonzord and use it to wreak havoc.

There's an epic fight in issue #4 between the renegade Zord and all five Dinozords, which is a fight they never could do on the television show. This five-on-one fight is what truly convinced me that Kyle Higgins, Hendry Prasetya, and the rest of the creative team are fans of the source material. I've seen this exact type of fight play out numerous times in fan fiction (including some that I've written) since the individual Zords are always underutilized. There are some great visual details, such as the "Bandora's Palace" sign on Rita Repulsa's moon castle just like in the show, or a direct panel-for-shot match of Finster's monster-making machine at work that they used on occasion.

This is an interesting time to look back on a franchise that had incredible ups and downs over the years. There's a new season, Power Rangers Ninja Steel, which just began on Nickelodeon, and the big-budget film version is coming out in March. In between, a new incarnation of Power Rangers' predecessor franchise, Super Sentai, is debuting, and Uchuu Sentai Kyuuranger is likely to be the next show adapted for American audiences. A little over five years ago, Disney nearly ran the franchise into the ground; in retrospect, Disney seems to have learned from those mistakes when it comes to Star Wars and Marvel Comics. Boom! Comics looks to be a solid home for the Power Rangers franchise; it's already released a spinoff about the Pink Ranger and is crossing over with the Justice League. I'm not entirely sure that the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comics will work as well for brand new readers, but if you're familiar with the concept it's a lot of fun, and if you're interested in the nostalgia factor then you won't be disappointed.

It's nice to be back, and next week I'll start my look at the Avengers: Standoff crossover.
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3 comments:

  1. Glad to have you back, Doug! I missed reading your takes on a lot of the indie comics.

    As for this book, I have nothing, but good things to say about it. I love the way that Kyle Higgins actually addressed the fact that Tommy had been possessed by giving him PTSD (if I remember correctly, in the series he basically just joined the team and that was that), and the added layer of nuance that he's given the entire series. Essentially, what Higgins has done is take something that was incredibly fun and enjoyable and added a great deal of depth to it. That said, to truly appreciate this book, you need to already have been a fan of Power Rangers (or at least watched MMPR up to "Green With Evil"). As you say, I'm not sure how far this will go with new readers, but this is a great book for anyone with fond memories of the franchise.

    On a more personal (and slightly unrelated) note, I enjoyed this comic so much that, on a whim, I started watching Power Rangers again. At this point, I've watched three of series (Dino Charge, Jungle Fury, and Dino Thunder, all of which I enjoyed) and am watching Ninja Steel as it airs. I have no interest in watching every single episode of Power Rangers, but the comic certainly revived a certain level of interest in me. Considering that I started watching at 6, fell off at 8, and had never even considered revisiting in the 20 years that followed, the fact that I was inspired this much by Boom's work speaks to its quality.

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  2. I always wanted to try the IDW Transformers comics. How are they?

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    1. Doug is a certified IDW Transformers expert.

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