Comic Book of the Day: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TPB Vol. 1
With the release of the theatrical reboot of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers looming over the horizon like Rita Repulsa’s moon base, I thought it’d be a good time to go on a bit of a nostalgia trip and recall some past memories involving everybody’s favorite “team of teenagers with attitude.” Then it hit me—my Power Rangers fandom is still active to this day. In fact, I watched Power Rangers yesterday. I’ll probably watch Power Rangers tomorrow. Hell, I’ll probably listen to Power Rangers songs like “Fight!” and “5-4-1” while making dinner for my girlfriend at least twice in the coming week. Growing up as a geek, it’s obvious that many of my fictional heroes are consist of people in colorful spandex suits. However, how many of those heroes have their fight scenes interspersed with Japanese stock footage from the 80’s? It’s cringe-worthy, no doubt, but that shit is still so real for me. As kids my cousins and I pretended to be Power Rangers all the time. My female cousins had their own “fan club” to pay homage to Green/White Ranger Tommy, Adam the second Black Ranger and Rocky, the second Red Ranger.
Needless to say, I’m a bit biased when it comes to my love of MMPR, which is nearly 25-years. For some strange and wonderful reason, the past few years have seen a resurgence in popularity. Many a former actor from the series are making the rounds at countless comic book conventions and the aforementioned movie has been heavily marketed on social networking. This has garnered enough goodwill to see the Power Rangers resurface on the big screen, the first time since 1997’s Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. I was rather shocked that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers even managed to get another crack at an ongoing comic book, considering that the Marvel comics from the mid-90’s were about as cheesy as anything on TV. Don’t get me wrong—I ate that stuff up at every opportunity. I may have been an impressionable youth, but I wasn’t stupid. I knew even then that none of this was high art. It was a silly kids show that managed to be pretty inspirational and at times a little progressive even while clinging to some terrible tropes.
Not unlike fellow comic book company IDW, Boom Studios holds the license to quite a few popular properties like the WWE. I wasn’t expecting much from this new take on the Power Rangers, but this title might even give the classic series a run for its money. Writers Kyle Higgins (Detective Comics, Nightwing), Steve Orlando (Midnighter) and Mairghread Scott (Bravest Warriors) have crafted a story that can easily appeal to newcomers, but also pays homage with a genuine knowledge and respect for the original source material. What makes the writing so impressive is the fact that instead of regurgitating the tried-and-true format of Putty attacks and hokey monsters, he’s taken elements of The Avengers and Pacific Rim and imbued a true sense of drama into the mix.
The first major story arc begins at a place that most fans of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will no doubt recognize as the “Green Ranger Saga.” Tommy Oliver, a character portrayed by Jason David Frank in the TV show, was a newcomer to the fictional city of Angel Grove who seemed a bit rough around the edges, but genuinely liked by his peers. The villainess Rita Repulsa captures him and turns him into the evil Green Ranger, a one-man wrecking crew that wasn’t just the Rangers’ equal—he was perhaps their better. For five grueling episodes, our heroes battled Tommy and eventually broke him free of his spell. In an act of kindness and goodwill—virtues always at the forefront of the Power Rangers—Tommy joined the team as the sixth member. However, his powers were originally created by Rita. No matter how much Tommy attempted to redeem himself for his past actions, he was perhaps always one step away from either returning to his old ways or risk being destroyed by his creator.
The plotting finds some inventive ways to portray this and extends the scope of the story past the confines of the TV show. Tommy’s comic book counterpart is constantly conflicted and—dare I say—tormented by his conscience, which has taken the form of Rita herself. Tommy is constantly doubting his place on the team. He’s fully aware of the fact that he’s done a lot of damage during his tenure as Rita’s psychotic “pool boy” and his desire and need to prove himself often causes him to make more mistakes. Jason, the Red Ranger and team leader, also gets some much-needed depth. This version of Jason often resembles X-Men leader Cyclops during his more aggressive moments. The TV show version was no doubt a force to be reckoned with, but he often kept his cool, even in the face of battle. You almost forgot that these characters were supposed to be teenagers who are still figuring themselves out and struggling to get a grip on their emotions. Comic book Jason frequently butts heads with Tommy over failing to follow directions and even Zack seems to get in on it during one tense confrontation. Zordon has always managed to dispense nuggets of wisdom—dude’s probably the most sage-like disembodied head I’ve ever seen—but to see him legit scold the Power Rangers? That was wild, and he did it in that way that only Zordon can.
This series is perhaps so refreshingly jarring because I still hear the voices of the TV show actors in my head when I read their lines. Situations like the argument in the Power Chamber or Trini encouraging Billy who constantly doubts his abilities as a tech whiz in the face of so many fighters and martial arts experts—these moments are lovingly lifted from the iconic series but given a modern spin. Perhaps this is why the Power Rangers as a franchise has endured over the years: the themes of teamwork, friendship and rising up against insurmountable odds will never quite go out of style.
Speaking of style, the art team brings it in abundance. It’s a great-looking book. The art team includes: Hendry Prasetya (Green Lantern: New Guardians), Daniel Bayliss (Translucid), Corin Howell (Back to the Future) and Matt Herms (Sonic the Hedgehog). This team has created colorful, vivid artwork that is appropriate for an action series, but definitely plays with the “Saturday morning cartoon” vibe of the subject matter. On the subject of paying homage, it’s a smart move to model the characters out of the TV series’ version but making sure to give them a unique look simultaneously. Also, major props to letterer Ed Dukeshire (Big Trouble In Little China) for coming up big in this series so far, especially during the morphing sequences and Zord battles.
This is the Power Rangers many of you know and love, but beefed up to a slightly more realistic and modern level. The scenes involving the “un-morphed” teens are just as dynamic as the massive Zord fights. Non-fans can definitely jump in on this, but this book’s fan service may keep some away. Also, I understand that Tommy is no doubt the most popular character in the series’ history, but hopefully future issues move on to give other Rangers their own spotlight and story arcs. I’m not sure if the upcoming movie will help or hinder this fun nostalgia trip, but the comic series has done great things to remind me of why I fell in love with these characters as a kid.