The Only Constant Is Morphin: A Look At ‘Power Rangers’ #0
You'd think the Power Rangers would've had more luck with comic books. They are, after all, superheroes, and not only that, but they're superheroes in a story that brings in pretty much everything superhero fans love: Secret identities, star-crossed romance, giant robot dinosaurs, moon witches, a disembodied head floating in a tube. Admittedly, some of those might just be things I'd like to see in superhero stories, but the point stands. The show's coming up on 23 years of success on television, and while it seems like everything it needs to make a good comic is right there already, every attempt up to now has resulted in what you could charitably refer to as a mixed bag.
Now, it looks like that might finally change. This week, Boom Studios is launching an ongoing Power Rangers series with a zero issue, and I have to admit that for a first issue, it's got everything I want from a Power Rangers comic. And by that, I mostly mean that there's a Bulk and Skull solo story.
Before we go any further, I have to point out in the interest of full disclosure that I did do some work for Boom Studios last year. That said, as regular readers will already know, I have a pretty strong interest in Power Rangers that goes beyond my comics writing career. I'm a fan --- I've seen all 800+ episodes of the series in a row, watched from start to finish after the whole thing went up on Netflix a few years ago --- and that's how I'm approaching this series. I am, above all else, someone who wants more Power Rangers than I already have.
That said, there's something very specific that I want out of Power Rangers. Getting the voices of the characters is important, sure --- and probably not too difficult, considering that they tended to be built around descriptions that ranged from one word ("smart") to three words ("good at karate") --- but it's not really what I'm looking for the most. What I want more than anything else from a Power Rangers comic is to see things that I've never seen on the show. Things that I couldn't see on the show.
The Power Rangers Zeo comic from 1996 might not have been great, but it was definitely a lot of fun to see the Megazord flying off into space to do battle on other planets, fighting off armies of spaceships. It was a scene that just wouldn't have worked in the source material, if only because the poor guy in the Megazord suit tends to be confined to lumbering around a miniature Tokyo. I don't want that guy doing backflips, because I'm pretty sure there's zero visiblity in that suit, but when you take it to the comics page, freed from the kind of limitations that come from doing a live-action show? There's no reason not to do that stuff, and to make it as big and exciting as possible.
And that, more than anything else, is what this issue does best.
Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya provide the main story, and if you're the kind of person who keeps track of this sort of thing, it's set just after the events of "Green With Evil" --- which, coincidentally, is pretty close to where we're getting in CA's Ranger Station episode guide. It's an interesting place to set a story, because it deals with something that the show really glossed over: Tommy's transition from Rita's brainwashed Green Ranger to a full-fledged member of the team.
In the show, as soon as Rita's brainwashing was broken, Tommy fell into step with the rest of the Rangers. He was 100% good immediately, and the show never really explored any complications to his personality. Here, though, Higgins and Prasetya show him as someone who is haunted by the experience --- literally, in fact.
The idea of having a spectral Rita Repulsa floating behind Tommy as he goes through his life, chipping away at his self-confidence and reminding him that he was once used as a weapon against his only friends, is a really great idea --- especially since it's not really clear yet whether this is a lingering effect of Rita's magic or just an overactive imagination. Either way, it leads to an interesting aspect of his character that was never really explored.
But with that kind of premise, this is a story that could've very easily become a "dark and gritty" take on Power Rangers. That's something I have absolutely no interest in reading, and fortunately, that's not what's happening here. Instead, it's a story that has just enough drama to make it interesting and rewarding, which is exactly what it needed. After all, while comics can do all those big battles and dynamic action scenes that you could never pull off on the show, part of the inherent charm of Power Rangers and Super Sentai comes from those limitations. Losing that means that you have to bring something else to the table, and if that comes in the form of a deeper internal conflict for the Green Ranger, I say we have at it.
The only thing the lead story is missing is Bulk and Skull, but that's fine. They're getting their own backup from Steve Orlando and Corin Howell.
Yes: The same person who wrote the scene last week where a Batman analogue threw an engine block at an Elephant-Tiger is also writing a story where Bulk and Skull try to become Power Rangers. Sometimes, things go right, and we get a glimpse at the Best Timeline.
Much as I love those two, though, the issue's third and final story is the one that I'd really like to see more of: A six-page backup by Mairghread Scott and Daniel Bayliss.
Scott is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers thanks to her work on Transformers: Windblade and Toil and Trouble, and while the story that she and Bayliss tell is a very quick, very simple one --- it's basically just half of a fight scene with Goldar --- it's also the one that feels the most like the show. And by that, I mean that it's almost like it was lifted directly from television, right down to the note-perfect "voices" of the characters and the fact that Billy's brainy dialogue doesn't quite match up with his suit actor's skill in combat.
The other two stories are expanding on what's already there, and that's great --- it's absolutely the direction that a Power Rangers comic needs to take --- but if you're looking for something that reads like a tribute to the series, then this is the one to check out. I'm assuming that Power Rangers will follow the formula put in place by the Adventure Time comic and rotate through a cast of creators for backups, but I genuinely hope this isn't Scott's only shot at writing these characters, or Bayliss's at drawing them.
With that, we've got three solid pieces of the book, with each promising something that I'd genuinely want to see more of, even if I wasn't already in the tank for dinosaur robots and karate teens. Whether it'll keep that momentum for the launch of the ongoing series proper in March remains to be seen, but for now, it's off to a good start.
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