The first issue of Boom! Studio’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was simply “morphenominal”. We were enamored with the premiere outing when it was released back in January and couldn’t wait to get our hands on this one.There is always the worry that these licensed titles will be offer a product akin to a putty patroller rather than the Goldar standard, but Higgins and Prasetya proved their dedication to producing a comic that stood on its own merits. With over 100,000 copies sold, I think it’s safe to say that they’ve managed to do just that and exalt the source material in the process. Can the momentum be maintained, however, or will the series go the way of the Dino-zord?
Don’t let the numbering confuse you, this is really the second issue of the series and reading what came before is central to your understanding of the context of character moments. Luckily, for those of you who missed out last time, Higgins provides a nice cliff-notes version of the Power Rangers TV series and the previous issue to get you up to speed. Following on from the Ranger’s collateral damage caused by the Rangers’ fight with one of Rita’s monsters, questions are raised regarding Tommy: the Green Ranger’s loyalty and competency. The framing for the issue is quite clever with Bulk and Skull are recording a Power Rangers-themed web show as they interview our heroes along with a number of Angel Grove denizens about what the Rangers mean to them. It’s always been unclear in the show just how much the public are aware of us the intricacies of the conflict between the Rangers and Rita, but this issue reveals that they know much more than we have might thought.The advantage of a comic like this is that it provides the opportunity for exploring those quieter moments that the show normally skimmed over. We get a better sense of the world the Ranger’s inhabit and how the general public react to them. This is an area that is worth delving into more and the comic gives them the opportunity to do that, If Higgins was inclined to throw in a reference to the UN or military creating their own team of Rangers in response to global threats, I wouldn’t complain.
Tommy’s inner conflict is still very much at the forefront, but Higgins takes the time to learn more about the rest of the Rangers. In particular, Kimberley’s relationship with Tommy is given room to cultivate. Interestingly, she takes the initiative to ask him out, even if Tommy doesn’t necessarily take the hint. It’s a small touch, but one that is demonstrates Kimberley’s agency over her love-life and her willingness to pursue what she wants. This Pink Ranger’s very much in the vein of Fletcher’s Batgirl, understandable given he is co-writing her solo spin-off with Kelly Thompson. Jason is given some room to show-off his natural leadership, but it’s main a vehicle for discussing how the other Rangers, Zack in particular, feel towards Tommy. Billy: the Blue Ranger and Trini: the Yellow Ranger still remain underdeveloped and have yet to receive substantial attention. This was also true for the show for it’s first bunch of episodes, but that’s hardly an excuse. It’s quite a slow-paced edition, reminiscent of the show’s pre-morph second acts, allowing for much needed character development as the villains plot in the background. The action is played down this issue, but we are rewarded instead with a quite introspective piece that has each of the characters examining. What action is offered is merely a forum for Tommy to work out his own frustration. The spectre of Rita still haunts our beloved Green Ranger throughout the issue as she weaves a web of insecurity in his mind. It is still ambiguous enough to leave us questioning whether or not she is an actual remnant of the evil witch’s programming or a mere representation of the PTSD that Tommy is suffering from. Most of this issue sees the Rangers out of their cheap spandex, potentially a risk move so early in the series, but it’s all the better for it. It gives us time to really come to understand these characters better. Higgins has an ensemble cast to juggle and he has done so admirably to date.
One small issue, and this is especially nick-picky, is one of continuity. In one scene, the Red and Black Rangers are discussing Tommy becoming a member of the team and express their unease with Zordon bringing him into the fold without consulting the others. In light of his Tommy’s inability to control his Zord and their initial interactions with him, it’s not an unreasonable comment. The problem is that it was Jason and not Zordon that invited him to join the team to begin with. If anyone is to blame then surely it is the Red Ranger? The strength of the writing and this retcon’s substantial contribution to the cast’s character development is such that I’m more than happy to over look that hiccup, but it’s worth bearing in mind nonetheless. What some writers and commentators fail to understand is that continuity isn’t an end onto itself. Continuity is useful to the extent it provides us a basis from which to tell good stories. Retcons and tweaks to continuity are welcome where they better establish that basis for story-telling. Dogmatic reverence to continuity is unhealthy for the industry and for a creative team’s potential to spell-binder you with new and interesting ideas. In this respect, having the team doubt Tommy’s role as a Power Ranger and question their leader’s wisdom is a solid foundation from which new narrative possibilities emerge. Higgins shouldn’t be afraid to deviate where the story would benefit from it, but he’ll have to thread careful lest the purists emerge from the woodwork.
Prasetya’s interior artwork continues to leave up to the high standards he has set for himself. The characters are animated throughout. Bulk and Skull continuing to reflect their comic relief role in both design and execution. Some proportion issues remain, but it is a noted improvement from the first issue. The characters look more like teenagers than they did before and seem to possess the more appropriately lean physique of the martial artists they are meant to be. I’m still quite uncomfortable with Rita’s outfit, with all the redesigns to make some of the villains look more threatened, we could have done with seeing the ice-cream cone bra taken out of the equation. Power Rangers has always been campy, but it doesn’t seem to meld where with the more sincere interpretation offered by the team over at Boom! Studios.
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers deserves to be one of the breakout hits of the year. The art presents a dynamism rarely seen in today’s comics. Higgins has a grasp of the characters that only really comes from someone who has lovingly embraced the material and ingrained it into their psyche. Some more effective balancing of the ensemble would be nice, so as to give Trini and Billy time to shine outside of their traditional roles, but that is sure to come with time. The comic dares to challenge a lot of the assumptions we make about our beloved characters.The TV series never really had the chance or the desire to ask how working alongside someone who once tried to kill you would affect the Ranger’s morale. Such a nuance was unsurprisingly excluded from syndicated programming but we are presented with those questions here. With Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, we are given the gift of viewing a childhood favourite with a more mature and refined palette. It’s as satisfying now as it was back then.
A review copy was kindly provided by Boom! Studios.