It’s understandable why some misguided people would have been skeptical about Boom Studios’ Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers comic when it was first announced. It wasn’t the creative talent that raised eyebrows, indeed, writer; Kyle Higgins had an impressive history of writing young heroes and while artist; Hendry Prasetyo was a relative newcomer to the industry, he had proven himself on a number of DC and IDW titles. No, it was the licensed nature of the book that had many worried. Licensed comics are nothing new, of course, and the industry has proven on many occasions that such titles are capable of transcending the very products that inspired them. The Rangers, though perfectly suited to the world of comics, had never found their place within it. This series finally allows the Rangers to take their rightful place among the pantheon of great comic characters and demonstrated that the material, when treated with respect, could reach a depth and maturity that the original never could. With issue 3, the creative team continue to show that our trust has not been misplaced and deliver one of the more contemplative entries in the series thus far.
Following his sudden collapse in the Command Centre, Tommy; the Green Ranger reveals to rest of the team his continuing struggles with PTSD. The loss of autonomy he experienced isn’t something that can just be shook-off with a fancy new morpher, but something that Tommy continues to carry with him. The Rangers understand his plight, but are equally unable to fully trust him when Tommy, by his own admission, can no longer trust himself. There is a bleak reality to this plot point. Tommy is admitting to having lingering mental health issues and yet his friends, unable to truly appreciate his situation, make this about them. We are constantly told that talking about mental health is the best way to get better, but Higgins illustrates that it is never as simple as that. People worry about how they will be perceived by others and that, in itself, is a major challenge that we as a society have to overcome. This is where Trini is finally able to get some time in the spotlight as her family’s past allows her to connect with Tommy in a way that the others can’t. It’s a beautiful scene which demonstrates the importance of the understanding ear. There are hints of those moral messages that Power Rangers infused into each episodes, but instead of feeling preachy, Higgins makes it a natural element of the story and uses it as the basis for further character development. It may present some of the Rangers; Zack and Jason, in an unfavorable light, but in doing so, it demonstrates their fallibility. Zordon created a team of “teenagers with attitude” and for the first time, perhaps in the history of the franchise, they are portrayed as such. They aren’t perfect, nor should they be. The Power Rangers are kids, just trying to get by in life and hoping that their actions are the right thing to do. Their struggles are our own and this endears them to us.
The only lingering problem this series faces is Zordon who could do with providing a more firm mentor figure than the floating exposition box that he has been shown to be thus far. This is a character who has engaged in a conflict with Rita that has spanned millennia. We should feel the weight of that struggle. One of my lasting memories of the first Power Rangers feature film was the Rangers gathering around a dying Zordon and holding him up as a father-figure. The Rangers and readership should care about Zordon, he should act as a bastion of wisdom and the team’s moral compass. When his chosen champions are squabbling he needs to do more than float there disapprovingly.
There is very little traditional Power Rangers action on display here, but that is not to say the issue is boring in the least. Rather, it takes the time to allow its revelations to impact the character. The conflict here is emotional, rather than physical and it treats the Rangers as human beings rather than the walking caricatures they are often accused as being. The problem is that Prasetyo doesn’t get to do as much of a chance to show off, but his dynamic panel composition keeps the story flowing in a natural manner. The emotion that comes across in the characters is palpable, even if the models themselves feel somewhat off. Drawing giant robots is no easy task, but Prasetyo proves himself to be a master of scale giving the Zords the gravitas and enormity that they deserve. With Rita’s plan coming to fruition and the Dragon-Zord coming under her control, the Rangers are about to face their greatest challenge thus far and with it, a chance for Prasetyo to show off his action skills.
Kyle Higgins said at the most recent Power Morphicon that his goal when writing this series was to present the Power Rangers not as they were in reality, but what we as young fans remembered them to be. The TV series was, for the most part, a campy superhero romp featuring giant robots, but to us it was an epic about righteous heroes and their internal battles. That he and Prasetyo has done so without sacrificing the fundamental essence of what the Power Rangers are all about is something that deserves recognition. This not only a beautiful comic, but a gut-punching story that makes you want to raise your fist to the sky and shout “it’s morphin’ time!”.
A review copy was kindly provided by the publisher.