To long time fans of both the Power Rangers franchise and comic books in general it comes as no surprise that their married history has been somewhat tumultuous. Like any other kid tested, soccer mom disapproved pop culture phenomenon, Power Rangers attempted to crossover from the small screen to the magazine rack. There was the good (an all too brief Power Rangers ZEO adaptation), the bad (a serviceable but ultimately forgettable Mighty Morphin’ take), and the downright ugly (the already uninspired Megaforce series having life breathed into it like a fish receiving CPR).
That’s why I was cautiously optimistic when I heard that acclaimed writer Kyle Higgins (Nightwing, Deathstroke, my personal favorite: Batman Beyond 2.0, and his creator-owned C.O.W.L.) was tackling the franchise for a new series from BOOM! Studios set in a contemporary version of the Mighty Morphin’ universe. Could early nineties concepts play in 2016? Would the series simply add short stories to the mythos or would it forge its own path?
I’m glad to say that two issues in it looks like Higgins is doing a fantastic job of tiptoeing between honoring history and making some of his own. One of the biggest criticisms of MMPR has been that very little interpersonal conflict exists between the individual rangers that isn’t the direct result of one of Rita Repulsa’s spells. (Who can ever forget the classic “Don’t Vote for Dummy” poster?) The main storyline looks to rectify that by tackling what would theoretically be one of the most divisive times for the rangers: the period right after Tommy joins the team following his indentured servitude to his Empress.
Tommy displays an appropriate level of self-doubt without spiraling into an Emo Ranger. Jason questions how much trust should exist between the team and their enemy-turned-ally in the way that any true leader worth his salt should do. All is not copacetic as the team feels more human on paper than they often did on screen. Ironically, when the team runs imaginary, Danger Room-esque scenarios the consequences feel incredibly real. The struggle between good and evil didn’t end the moment the Sword of Darkness was destroyed.
Trappings of the present day show up in natural, unobtrusive fashion. Billy utilizes social media in order to help his team balance their school load with their ranger duties. In the most interesting usage of the information age, school bullies Bulk and Skull are now budding Youtube personalities (“Ranger Station” boasts over 400K subscribers) who take advantage of their love for the rangers and the fact that they live in a city known for experiencing monster attacks more frequently than most people go to the bathroom. However, the duo doesn’t just go all “Cloverfield” by filming the underside of Pythor’s descending foot. Instead they give a voice to the everyday people of Angel Grove. Do they trust the Green Ranger? Should the rangers trust the Green Ranger? Does the fact that the rangers seemingly do trust the Green Ranger shake the people’s faith in the rangers as a whole?
Higgins puts himself in the shoes of a fan who readily accepted the show for what it was in their state of childhood wonder but upon reflection might rub their chin and wonder what exactly was going on in between Monday’s credits blur and Tuesday’s “Today on Power Rangers…” Coupled with Hendry Prasetya’s anime-inspired but still bold and gritty art style, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers promises to answer questions that some only recently may have realized they should’ve been asking for years.
Steve Orlando also provides a backup story that furthers the adventures of Bulk and Skull. While the main story sets a more modern tone to the series, Orlando does an exquisite job of capturing the iconic tone of the beloved bumblers. I found myself reading each panel with Paul Schrier’s brutish tambour and Jason Narvy’s echoing squeals in my head.
Illustrated by Corin Howell in an appropriately more cartoonish, slapstick style, the duo continue their never-ending quest to jockey for Kimberly and Trini’s affection only to have a happenstantial run in with a Putty Patroller. As a viewer who found Bulk and Skull to be at their absolute best when they fumbled their way into close encounters with the series’ villains, this is the sort of story that scratches the perfect comedic itch. While only taking up a few pages of each issues, it will be interesting to see how well Howell can continue to provide a nice juxtaposition to the more dramatic main story.
Overall, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers feels like a major step in the right direction that the entire franchise has been craving for years. If Saban’s trust in Higgins is an indication towards the tone they’re catering to more mainstream publications including the 2017 movie reboot then Power Rangers could be poised to reassert its multi-colored domination among both the nostalgic children of yesteryear and the kids they’ve had since that time. Between issue #0 already going through three print runs and the announcement of the new mini-series Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Pink by Brenden Fletcher and Kelly Thompson, it appears that the original teenagers behind the helmets will only become richer and deeper characters in the coming years.
Score: 5 out of 5