Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: BOOM! Studios comic

   This may very well be the first time I've ever reviewed a comic series on my blog. Nevertheless, I've never felt so compelled to spread the word about one either. I'm a huge Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers fan. I have the whole show on DVD, I still have a bunch of MMPR VHS tapes even. Growing up, I had the trading cards, the pogs, the Sega Genesis games, the action figures, the picture books, the flash cards, the lunch box, the t-shirts, boxers, pool gear, happy meal toys, party napkins, and yes... even the comic books. Point is, if the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers logo was on it- I owned it.

   Fast forward some many years... and now there's a new Power Rangers theatrical movie on the horizon, and a fresh wave of nostalgia to go along with it. Some comic studio called Papercutz did a brief MMPR run, and it... was pretty boring. The artwork was nothing special, neither was the writing, or any of it. It felt recycled, like a non-improvement over the same comics I was reading as a little kid. I didn't bash it, or even dislike it, but it certainly wasn't for me. Not now, not when I'm 22 years old. But, then, as soon as Papercutz fizzled out, Boom! Studios picked up the license and not long after, word of mouth got back to me that I was missing right the hell out on some excellent stuff.

   I picked up Boom's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers issue 1, right off the new release rack at my local comic store and was halfway done reading it before I even left the store. I must've read it at least three or four times before returning the next day and promptly plunking down money for issues 2, 3 and 4. This was Power Rangers at it's finest. The comic managed to understand why the material appeals to fans, but also that most people picking this comic up... aren't 5 or 8 years old anymore. But instead of doing the obvious (and wrong) thing and updating it by sapping the color, campiness, and life out of the material, they just did what the show couldn't do. Provide legitimate stories.

   Such a basic concept that it's mindblowing. See, the show had to stick to a format. Every episode had to have a new baddie and he had to be defeated before the episode ended after 30 minutes. This is why multi-episode arcs like the fan favorite "Green With Evil" are so revered, because there was more story to it. Things happened that weren't neatly resolved by the end of thirty minutes. But, now, as an adult, it's easy to see that even GWE was only a mild departure from the regular business of the show. It was a little kid's show, and that's okay. But, adult me, reading a power rangers comic is going to want more from it than 'neat and tidy'.

   The comic delivers a story that doesn't end with every issue. It's ongoing. But, more than that, the comic also treats it's characters like... well... characters and not after-school PSA spokesteens. It doesn't saddle the teens with ho-hum glum like 'issues at home' or 'bad grades'. It deals more directly with the effects of being a power ranger has had on their lives. Tommy is suffering from what is apparently PTSD. I mean, afterall, he's a teenage who was brain washed into helping a vile space-witch try to conquer all of mankind. She was in his head, and now, even though Tommy's fighting for the good guys... he's not entirely sure she's not in his head still. There's also tension between Tommy, and Jason and Zack. They simply don't trust him, and they're entirely justified in that.

   Kimberly is written beyond the valley girl archetype, and Billy's low-key confidence issues are expanded on, as well as a budding friendship with Trini. Also, rather than drag the main story through the slapstick antics of Bulk and Skull, their 'adventures' are relegated to an extra funnies-style strip in the back of the comic. Such a smart move. They'd be sorely missed if excised altogether, but the humor clashes with the otherwise semi-serious nature of the material. Zord fights have weight and gravitas, the danger feels authentic, Rita feels actually evil and malicious, and the series so far has been peppered with novel ideas that the show simply never had the time to explore.

   Training sessions on the MMPR equivalent of a Star Trek Holodeck is one such example. But after reading just shy of ten issues (9 and 10 are not released yet) I realized something... the writers behind this are treating the Power Rangers like a legitimate superhero team. They're the Justice League or the X-Men. And, why not? They've got a headquarters, a massive rogue's gallery of villains, a bald and all-knowing mentor, and mythology RIPE to be expanded on. This series has all the colorful, swashbuckling fun of the show- with giant robots, monsters, lasers, explosions and martial arts... but on the page, none of it comes across as campy. It's serious, but not too serious. It's right in the sweet spot where they can tell compelling stories, and superman can still wear red briefs- so to speak.

   The cover art is phenom-no, the cover art is morphenomenal. But, Boom! doesn't stop there. Catering directly to collectors, there's a whole slew of variant covers for each issue. Not to mention, there's a parallel 6 issue series running called Mighty Morphin Power Rangers; Pink, and I thought, oh okay, well I can skip this. It's just going to be frilly non-essential fluff. Overt girl-power stuff. But, then, again... word of mouth got to me saying, dammit Joseph- give it a shot. And, knowing better by now, I totally did. Lo and be-frickin-hold, Pink is excellent. It follows Kimberly after her departure from the team, focusing on how the rush and thrill of being a ranger is something she sorely misses and has been trying to replicate with olympic competing, archery, motorcycles, but all is for naught apparently.

   Yet, what would the comic be if it didn't give her a shot to be a superhero again? You, find out for yourself. Both Pink and the regular series are fantastic. As a lifelong fan of Power Rangers, I've never seen it handled so understandingly and with such a deft hand as Boom! has brought to the material. The series is fun, exciting, compelling, and well-written. I'd argue that it's better than the show to be honest. I know that might sound like blasphemy, but let me just say that this comic is the bar the new movie will have to reach to impress me. I'm thoroughly pleased with what I've seen so far, and am incredibly eager to see more.

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