Editor’s Note: If you haven’t read the comic and like the element of surprise, STOP. Do not read any further! Spoilers are ahead!
The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers ongoing comic book series from BOOM! Studios is entering what could be deemed its second phase. Having dealt with Rita Repulsa’s dangerous new ally, Black Dragon, the series could have moved on to a new threat for our team. Instead, writer Kyle Higgins has pivoted slightly to the right and added a new layer of intrigue. It turns out the previous nine issues have only been the groundwork for a far more dystopian tale.
Before we get to the new direction, issue #10 provides its own character-building detour that is both sad and empowering. Much like with issue #5 that delved deeper into the makeup of Zack and his contentious nature with newcomer Tommy, this issue focuses on Billy his severe lack of self-worth. After Kimberly has to pick up Billy’s slack during a routine monster battle, the door to the boy genius’ psyche is unlocked for the reader and we dive into just how inadequate he feels compared to his teammates.
The rawest moment of the story is oh so relatable. Billy morphs before school and wears his clothes in such a way that his ranger suit isn’t visible. It doesn’t protect him in a physical sense because he’s probably not going to have to face down a Snizzard attack during third period social studies but it makes him feel strong. That’s what’s important to him. What child on the ‘90s didn’t dream of being a ranger? What nerdy kid who felt awkward and out of place didn’t want the ability to scream out the name of a dinosaur and suddenly feel like they were capable of taking on all forms of bullying and social anxiety?
Slices of Power Rangers life stories like this one work so well because they fill in the gaps that the television show didn’t address with the type of information that long time fans would glean through discussions on Rangerboard and the seediest corners of the fanfiction universe. We find out that Billy has been constantly running training simulations just to feel like he belongs with the others and it isn’t until a pep talk from Zack that he realizes there is no perfect, scientific formula to being a ranger. Not only does Billy decide to focus on contributing to the team in his own unique way but we also discover that this story takes place quite early in the rangers’ tenure as he adapts the communicators into allowing teleportation to places other than the Command Center.
Zack’s focus issue did a lot towards explaining his motivation and potentially hinting at future events for the series. Now that the main story has shifted its focus onto the duo of Tommy and Billy, does that mean that this issue was a glimpse into the Blue Ranger’s future motivations?
Also like Zack’s issue, this one featured a guest artist in Jonathan Lam whose sketchy style brings out the youth and innocence of a fledgling ranger team. The vibrant yet free form lines give off the early days feels of the team when they were still learning the ropes. This makes it quite easy for the readers to put themselves into Billy’s shoes. Having a guest artist also conveys the idea that the issue is a small break from the main story without being too out of the box that it would feel disjointed or out of place.
Issue #11 picks back up on the aftermath of the rangers’ battle with Black Dragon. One of the most fascinating, humanizing moments of the series takes place as the rangers reunite with their parents. It only last for two pages but it hits home just how raw and realistic this series can be without going the heavy handed route. Not only are we allowed to feel the gravity of the situation but we’re also reminded that when two rangers are left in the lurch, it affects those around them. This team doesn’t exist within a vacuum.
Meanwhile, Tommy and Billy are coming to terms with their new surroundings. They’re in Angel Grove but it’s nothing more than a broken down monolith to Rita complete with curfews and shock troopers that look like the Black Ranger if he had been conceptualized by mid-’90s Rob Liefeld. It’s a haunting image that again makes the mind wonder if this is a world where Zack gave into Rita’s machinations.
The duo flee when one of the troopers notices Tommy has the Dragon Dagger and they’re greeted by more disturbing imagery of this twisted world including the Finster Memorial Correctional Facility standing in place of what was once Angel Grove High School. But the most disturbing moment of the issue and where Hendry Prasetya’s art shines is in the rubble of the Command Center and the Thunderzords. It’s an interesting bit of devastation for these two to take in as in their timeline – or perhaps merely the past of this inevitable future – they have yet to encounter these zords. This fact is punctuated as inside the carnage they find Tommy’s future companion: the talking sword Saba. Soon after the newly formed trio finally comes face-to-face with their long term tormentor, Lord Drakkon, who is revealed to be none other than an aged and scarred version of Tommy.
It’s hard to gauge this revelation. Obviously, Tommy was the most likely face behind the twisted visor. Is that good, bad, or is that left to be judged by how the story plays out? Zack seemed like another fun contender given his recent leanings towards the dark side. Perhaps it should have been a character yet to make their comic book debut like a Rocky or Adam? Next issue promises to be a big one as we find out what led this version of Tommy to become Drakkon. Maybe then we can better assess the creative decision.
This issue also features a brief but interesting interlude. Goldar and Rita have a Cold War-esque standoff in the wake of the destruction of Black Dragon with the former asserting his innocence in Billy’s jailbreak while the latter hesitantly accepts that stance. Rita plans to press the attack on the rangers but perhaps the bigger battle ahead will involve Goldar becoming less and less steadfast in his devotion towards his empress. This bit of knowledge becomes even more intriguing when you read between the lines as there is an implication that Rita might not actually be around anymore in the wartorn future.
Finally, the rest of the ranger team is still on the case of the disappearing rangers as Trini makes the startling discovery that Black Dragon wasn’t just sharing a power source similar to that of the Dragonzord. In fact, it possessed the exact same processor as the Dragonzord; a seemingly impossible fact that further muddies the question of if Billy and Tommy are trapped in the future or merely a future.
Overall, these issues continue the mark of excellence that has been propelling this line for nearly a year: character development and both answering old and asking new questions with each installment. Hopefully, every fifth issue will continue to be a character focus for one of the rangers who is being pushed to the forefront of the main story. The storytelling in this series really feeds into itself to create a complete tale that is doing anything but slowing down. As the future looks bleak for our ranger team, the creative force behind this series shines even brighter.
Score: 5 out of 5
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