This is a golden age for comic book revivals of my childhood loves. Invader Zim is back, almost as if revived for another season. Transformers, on the other hand, has evolved and become one of the sharpest bits of serialized storytelling I’ve seen in years. And now, after twenty one years, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers have returned.
Technically MMPR already had a comics revival, courtesy of Papercutz Graphic Novels, but, while those were fun, the campy, cartoonish one-shot stories could not be more different from the approach that’s employed here. Kyle Higgins’ strategy on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers is actually kind of a fusion of the two other revivals I mentioned above. These stories are easily slotted into the original series, clearly taking place between “Green with Evil part V” and “The Trouble with Shellshock”, and they go to great lengths to channel the spirit of the originals, however there’s also a fair deal of the moral greyness and reinvention that’s defined the IDW Transformers as well. The series almost dares you to imagine the original episodes updated to fit with this new take on the property.
This mix of new and old is particularly effective. Kimberly’s got a little more ‘teenager with attitude’ about her than vague early 90s valley girl – or as Higgins puts it, a little more coffee than juice – but Jason often feels straight out of the show. But this strategy is most effective when both commingle, after all, some of Jason’s most traditional dialogue comes opposite Zach, who raises a number of particularly interesting ideas this issue.
Admittedly all of these moments slide a little over the line of show not tell at least once, but when your Power Rangers script is only a tiny bit heavy handed, I suppose you have to call that a win. Besides, the rest of the issue avoids this problem excellently.00
One of the strangest things about this issue is that it doesn’t necessarily feel like a #1. Sure, Bulk and Skull’s framing device is a fine way to launch a series and recaps the necessary details for new arrivals, but the events of issue #0 are central to the plot and the development of the story, far from the bonus story its numbering suggested.
While the backup features bear out the choice, in many ways it feels like the main stories from issues #1 and 0 should have been one extra-sized issue. The pacing would have worked perfectly and there are even call backs to throwaway lines from the last issue!
Supporting the feeling that this wasn’t really suited to being a first issue is the lack of a major action sequence. There is a brief rescue mission, but it’s fairly mundane, certainly not memorable the way that the Megazord/Dragonzord team-up from last month was. It feels like a little too much of the issue was devoted to Bulk and Skull, especially when much of our time is needed to check in on Tommy’s adjustment to Ranger life.
Still, while it’s lacking in action, Tommy’s inner struggle is fascinating and Higgins introduces a slew of interesting questions and wisely withholds the answers. Higgins does a fantastic job of utilizing the rarely implemented relationship between Zach and Jason and mines that relationship for the almost obvious drama that Tommy’s introduction adds to the mixture. The naturalism with which he introduces these plot points keeps them from feeling like teases but does nothing to diminish the reader’s curiosity about what’s going on and what will happen next.
While the dialogue heavy issue is understandable as a second chapter, it does hurt Hendry Prasetya. Every glimpse at the fantastic reminds you how much more Prasetya is capable of than talking heads. The designs are attractive – Tommy’s looking especially striking – but, while the school scenes aren’t by any means lacking, they don’t engage the way the morphed segments or moon sequences do and minor quirks and rare anatomical oddities carry more weight than usual in this environment.
Still, even if this isn’t the best spotlight for his talents, this is the kind of art that makes you wonder why you haven’t seen Prasetya’s name before. His use of body language is exceedingly natural but forceful in its presence on the page. And though the similarity of many panels can undermine it this time around, Prasetya’s eye for composition is sharp. Plus, as before, every glimpse of Rita’s Palace is an undeniable endorsement of Prasetya’s talents.
It also helps that this is one of those series that owes a huge amount to its colorist. Color is obviously a huge part of the Power Rangers brand, but Matt Herms’ level of dedication is a particularly vital component of this series. The palettes he choses are rather lovely – a little more pastel than one might imagine but all the stronger for it – and Prasetya’s lines come alive under the power of Herms’ compliments and shading. If I had one nitpick with Herms’ work, it’s that he tends towards the colors used in American marketing for the Rangers rather than the original footage, particularly noticeable in the lime Green he uses for Tommy rather than the darker, shinier look of the costume.
Steve Orlando and Corinn Howell are back again for more Bulk and Skull adventures. The brief two-page backup is fun, but none too memorable. The best element is seeing the pair and their inflated self-image play off of Ernie, but the physical comedy is a little broad. I mean, no, they’re not falling into cakes, as they often did, but, especially in a static medium, conveniently crashing cars into light poles to defeat evil is an unnecessary stretch of the imagination, if not an excessive one.
One thing that is odd is that this depiction of Bulk and Skull seems decidedly at odds with the one in the main story. I’m honestly ok with the idea that this is its own separate story and benefits from creative freedom from the primary story, however it is an odd choice.
Even so, a quick cameo from Rita seems to hint at bigger things for Angel Grove’s resident pranksters…
This may not be an issue to get excited over, but it’s clearly a calculated delay. Kyle Higgins’ character work is subtle but fascinating and practically beckons the reader to get on board before things really take off. The art is distinctive and engaging and the entire creative team is positively locked on to the story they want to tell. Combine that with a cute backup and a sense that Boom! is 100% behind this series and you’ve got a huge amount of promise waiting for a spark. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #1 may not honestly be the #1 issue of this series, but, despite its tempered pace, it remains an electrifying reinvention of a classic property.