One of my earliest memories of being taken to the cinema was to see a movie that would forever ingrain the lyrics “Go go Power Rangers” in my head. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers is nothing short of a cultural phenomenal that along with Pokemon provided a common language for people of my generation. For those who weren’t in the loop, you know a series was popular over here back then when the national broadcaster dubbed into Irish. So when Boom! Studios announced that there bringing the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers back for their own ongoing series; I’ll admit that I was skeptical. The Power Rangers are characters dear to my heart, but I understand what those original series were and what they weren’t. They were cheesy, fun superhero stories that often invoked the G.I. Joe school of morality lessons. In spite of that, it was the compelling characters that allowed the series to endure and last over twenty years with multiple seasons of albeit dubious quality. Could a modern comic series bring the classic rangers into the 21st-century method of storytelling or would it be one of those properties that should have remain nostalgia? Upon hearing that Kyle Higgins (Nightwing, Batman Beyond 2.0, C.O.W.L.) and Hendry Prasetya (Power Girl, Green Lantern) were to headline the series, and all those fears went away. This would be a series that mixed the modern sensibilities of its audience with the charm of the 90s. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #0 sets up a sincere character-driven narrative examined through the lens of six teenagers with attitude tasked with the near-impossible burden of defending the world from an intergalactic witch. What’s not to love?
Those familiar with Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers should know the premise, but for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, the series is about teenagers gifted with the ability to morph into brightly coloured superheroes and their never-ending battle against
Japanese stock footage Rita Repulsa and her forces of evil. This series picks up shortly after the “Green with Evil” story arc which saw the introduction of Tommy Oliver; the Green Ranger. Tommy, under Rita’s control, begins as an antagonist and nearly kills the Rangers on multiple occasions. The Power Rangers eventually break Rita’s hold over Tommy, and he joins the team, swiftly becoming a fan favourite character. As the longest-serving Ranger in the franchise, he would ultimately dawn the mantles of the White, Red and Black Rangers, but that’s a story for another time.
Tommy’s acts as our point of view character for the issue and rightly so. He is new to Angel Grove and doesn’t know the other characters overly well. He is learning how to work within a team, while also struggling to find his place within the group dynamic and trying to adjust to a role that was thrust upon him. He never choose the Ranger life, but given the opportunity to help people he rises to the challenge. Easier said then done, as Tommy suffers from the fallout of Rita’s mind control. He struggles to come to terms with what he did under her control and what he could have done had the Rangers not saved him. In many ways, he is dealing with a form of PTSD as he’s about to embark on another war. A part of Rita still exists within him and it eats at his confidence. This spectre, a metaphysical manifestation of his anxiety and depression prevents him from meaningfully engaging with the rest of the Rangers. This treats the violation of Tommy’s agency with the seriousness it deserves and allows us to empathise with the character in a way we haven’t in the past. Tommy was always the coolest Ranger, and now he is relatable. It is a natural extension of what has come before and takes his story to its next logical step. Higgins takes times to engage in some poignant character moments in the midst of action-fueled Megazord battles that prove why we should care about these characters even today. It lovingly captures the spirit of the original in its fight scenes, but the character drama is where the true action is.
This issue is an example of why Kyle Higgins is one of the best writers in comics at the moment. His ability to write young characters struggling through life is unparalleled by his contemporaries. He perfectly captures what it is like to struggle with anxiety, depression and not knowing your place in the world. His characterisation of Tommy, perfectly encapsulates that nagging feeling of never knowing whether you are good enough or if you friends are on your side. The last time someone was able to channel the experiences of young people, as both teenagers and young adults, this well and turn that into engaging stories was Marv Wolfman when he worked on New Teen Titans. That’s a comparison, not lightly made, but this series is an opportunity for Higgins to prove I’m right.
The artwork by Hendry Prasetya is quite impressive. It’s worth noting that the designs of the Power Rangers do not resemble their TV counterparts completely. Indeed, much effort has been made to update their clothing styles to a more modern aesthetic. While the characters are readily identifiable, their likeness to the original actors is suspect. Furthermore, they characters seem overly bulky in comparison to their TV counterparts which would seem to be inconsistent with their martial arts fighting styles, but these are minor issues at best. He manages to turn villains and monsters that looked cheap even by 90s standards and given them a more sinister twist. Rita Repulsa and her monsters are more fearsome than before, even if there are still questionable things going on with the Queen of Darkness’ outfit. Zordon, Alpha-5 and the Command Centre are only featured briefly, but what has been revealed is quite true to the fantastical source material. The highlight of the issue was the opening page, a nightmare realm in which the other Power Rangers lie lifeless at Tommy’s feet, is both harrowing and beautifully constructed. It is an accurate representation of the inner turmoil that Tommy faces throughout the issue, the fear of what he was and what he could become again. Towards the end of the issue, we are treated to a tense action scene featuring the Megazords. It manages to convey the energy and excitement of the original Megazord battles including the clunky movement of the Zords themselves, My eyes lit up when I saw his rendering of the Dragonzord, it takes a lot of talent to properly draw mechas of this calibre and Prasetya knocks it out of the park.
The issue also features two backup stories. One is a short two-page strip featuring Bulk and Skull, the series lovable comic relief and essentially the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Power Rangers. It’s an entertaining romp written by Steve Orlando and illustrated by Corin Howell; it’s Bulk and Skull being themselves with their crude exterior betraying kinder souls that long to be heroes. The second; “What Time is it?!” (written by Mairghread Scott and illustrated by Daniel Bayliss) is a short-story was originally released as part of a special preview given to those who attended San-Diego Comic Con is more evocative of the style of writing featured in the show than the main story. It is a charming piece, but very much is a classic representation of what 90’s cheese was all about, so measure your expectations accordingly.
This issue being a #0 is set-up, but if this is what we can expect from the rest of the series, then readers will be in for a treat. In a world, where the gritty reboot reigns supreme, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #0 strikes the perfect balance between remembering what made the original a success and updating it in line with modern storytelling techniques. Don’t expect something akin to Joseph Khan’s Power/Rangers, but rather a deep story that retains the original’s charm. There may be a temptation to pass this off as a cash-in on the upcoming movie or a nostalgia-fueled money grab, but the creative team have created a comic that stands on its on independent of a source material. Indeed, it does what a good licensed work should do and enhance our enjoyment of that material. It’ll be interesting to see how much they are beholden to the established canon and how much scope there is for deviation. The series begins in earnest in March and I can’t wait to return to the world of Angel Grove because this series does for Power Rangers what Mark Waid and Fiona Staples did for Archie. Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya have made it abundantly clear that after twenty years, “it’s Morphin’ Time”. Go go Power Rangers!
A review copy was kindly provided by Boom! Studios.