A Go Go Power Rangers #4 Review – The Mystery of Salad Girl

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #4
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
PENCILLER: Dan Mora
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: October 18, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Go Go Power Rangers #4 opens with a flashback to what I’ll call the “Salad Girl scene.” It’s a story from Kimberly and Zack’s recent past that’s been referenced a bunch of times in the series. Until now, when a character would mention “Salad Girl,” I had no idea if I was missing a joke or a plot detail. So if this issue accomplishes nothing else, it at least solves the mystery of Salad Girl.

Thankfully, there’s more to Go Go Power Rangers #4, as the book wraps up its first arc, while still leaving a plot thread hanging for next time. As Rita begins her second attack on Angel Grove, Kimberly is in a tough spot. She must choose between saving her boyfriend Matt, and protecting the city at large as the Pink Ranger. Meanwhile, Jason is also on the sidelines for fear of being exposed as the Red Ranger. Our heroes once again have their backs against the wall!

Dan Mora and colorist Raul Angulo have a very distinct energy they bring to the Power Rangers universe. Thus far, that’s been best exemplified in their sequences with the zords. They opened the series on a high note with their brief take on the climactic fight from “Day of the Dumpster.” They recapture that magic here, as we see the individual zords in action, followed by the Megazord. Mora somehow has a knack for drawing comic book style destruction on a grand scale. Part of it is that he’s awesome with action sequences (see the Jason/Trini sparring session from issue #2). But there’s something immensely satisfying about how these giant machines kick up debris when they’re summoned, or how the action lines wonderfully convey the speed and impact of certain blows. It also doesn’t hurt that this book has an almost regal take on the Megazord. One of the highlights of the issue is a splash page showing us the Megazord formation.

Incidentally, Mora and Angulo also give us a terrific version of our resident school principal, Mr. Caplan (shown above). His shtick on the show was that he wore a toupee. I think we can safely say they nailed that one.

On the writing front, things still look pretty good. Although late in the issue, we get a scene that seems to come out of nowhere. Zack shows up in the Command Center alone, and asks Zordon why he wasn’t chosen as team leader. He cites Jason’s absences from two recent conflicts, and in all fairness he does have a point given how early this is in their run as heroes. Parrott did plant a seed for this back in issue #2. But this still feels very sudden. Thankfully, Zordon gives him a good answer.

It’s not necessarily a good use of one’s time to apply logic to content created for young children two decades ago. But seeing as I’ve already made a habit of it, let’s go ahead. We get a trademark Rita Repulsa move here, as she uses her big wand to make her monster grow giant-sized. Standing at her side, her henchman and monster-maker Finster asks why she’d do this. This is what she says…

“We must see every skirmish to its conclusion. It’s been this way on countless worlds. Every move, every battle, every monster is a wound. Individually, each cut may miss the mark. But eventually, with enough cuts, one will strike the target…”

She’s essentially saying it’s a numbers game. If you throw the dart enough times, you’re bound to hit the bull’s eye sooner or later. I’m not in love with this approach. It almost makes it seem like Rita is resigned to a certain amount of failure from the start. Given how short-tempered she always was on the show, it feels like a contradiction. I will, however, credit the book for trying to make some kind of sense out of it. At least if you separate the strategy from the character, it works.

Nitpicks notwithstanding, we’re only four issues in, and I adore this series every bit as much as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, if not more. Part of this book’s concept is that we get to spend a little more personal time with Jason and the others. It’s a strategy that’s paying off, and that isn’t a surprise. It’s been 25 years, but people still remember these characters, and the qualities the actors were able to inject them with. As it turns out, Ryan Parrott, Dan Mora, and the BOOM! Studios crew are bringing some pretty Morphenominal stuff to the table as well.

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A Review of The Walking Dead, Vol. 28 – Time’s Up

TITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 28: A Certain Doom
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #173#178
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: 
September 27, 2017

***WARNING: MAJOR spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When you get right down to it, we’re really just waiting for all of these characters to die.

Consider the horrible things that happen to people in The Walking Dead. It’s not at all uncommon to see human beings ripped apart, disemboweled, and eaten alive. And that’s just by the zombies. Now look at everything the characters do to each other. They go to war with one another, cut each other up, bash each other’s brains in, and all manner of grotesque things. That’s the world they live in. Nobody in The Walking Dead dies of old age. Everyone in these stories is on a ticking clock.

In this volume, a major character’s time runs out. And it’s handled unconventionally, at least by Walking Dead standards.

When we open the book, the people of Alexandria are about to face the biggest zombie hoard of their lives. As the survivors rush into action, Rick and Negan struggle to survive amidst the undead. All the while, a group within the extended network of communities is preparing to rebel against Rick’s leadership. A group with a familiar name…

Let’s jump right in: This is the book where Andrea dies. Issue #165 ends with the discovery that she was bitten while helping fend off the giant hoard. Rick discovers what happened at the end of issue #166, and issue #167 is devoted entirely to her death.

We almost crack the fourth wall in #165. On the very first page, Negan is fighting off zombies, and says: “It’s funny how they keep trying to bite you, isn’t it? I mean, who’s getting bit these days–after knowing the rules this long?” And on the very last page? Andrea with a bite mark on her neck. I can’t decide whether Negan or Kirkman is the bigger jerk…

Kirkman seemed unexpectedly emotional about Andrea’s death, even including a personal message in lieu of a letters section in issue #167. He literally apologizes for killing Andrea, apparently anticipating how hard it would be for his more loyal readers. The message struck me as strange, and almost self celebratory to do that immediately after the story in question. The issue spoke for itself. The idea is that even after once again losing a woman he loves, Rick must continue on and draw strength from those around him.

Then again, Kirkman wasn’t wrong about the reaction. This story and this world can bring out a lot of emotion in its audience, and evidently its creator as well. Plus, it’s not like the message hampers the content itself. I just wouldn’t make a habit out of it.

Andrea is one of the few characters in The Walking Dead to die peacefully. Other longstanding characters like Glenn and Lori had their lives violently ripped away. But with Andrea, both the readers and the characters know it’s coming, and they’re left to agonize over it. My favorite page in the entire volume is a 16-panel montage of Andrea being visited by various characters, each saying goodbye in their own fashion. It’s a very honest way to look at a death. It’s simple, but extremely effective.

As one might expect, Rick can’t bring himself to put Andrea down so that she doesn’t become a zombie. Ergo, we get a scuffle between Rick and a zombified Andrea. An awkward physical transition and some repetitive dialogue notwithstanding, it’s a pretty good scene, centered around Rick’s inner turmoil over whether he can bear the battle any longer. Very empathetic, given everything we’ve seen.

This book also takes us a few more steps toward Negan’s redemption, as he and Rick are forced to fight side by side against the hoard. Negan even saves his life at one point, and subsequently opens up about what happened to his wife, Lucille.

The Negan redemption arc has been the most interesting thing about the series for awhile now. What makes it work so well is that Negan is an admitted psychopath. So while it seems like he’s come along way since we first met him, it’s not far fetched that this could all end up being a giant ruse. And with Andrea now gone, Rick is about to be extremely vulnerable. Seems like a hell of a good time to spring a trap. I’m not betting on a swerve turn, however. Negan trying to be a good guy is a lot more interesting than Negan reverting to his old ways.

Artistically, the book is strongest in issue #167, as that’s where the strongest subject matter is. Penciller Charlie Adlard, inker Stefano Gaudiano, and grayscale artist Cliff Rathburn turn in some absolutely beautiful imagery. There’s almost too much to mention. Virtually everything during Rick and Andrea’s final scene is awesome. The character acting is emotional and on point, particularly from Rick. There’s an absolutely gorgeous two-page spread of Rick at Andrea’s bedside during her dying moments. The tragic tenderness of that moment, coupled with how visually shaken Rick is, make Andrea’s transformation into a zombie that much more horrific. The scuffle itself isn’t perfect, but the turn itself is.

The talk between Negan and Rick in issue #164 is also artistically notable, as it’s the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen Negan be in front of another person. It’s one of the few moments in the entire series where we can tell he’s being honest. We don’t just get that from his dialogue. It’s also in his eyes, how he’s positioned in certain panels, the lighting/shading in the scene. It’s human connection, and it’s a pivotal scene in the relationship between these two characters. Now it’s just a question of how real it was on Negan’s end…

While they don’t have Negan with them any longer, the Saviors reassert themselves in this volume. It’s not remotely on the same scale as before. But it’s mildly compelling, and an alright source of tension. It takes something of a bizarre turn in issue #166, when Rick accidentally kills their new leader Sherry. During a physical confrontation, she gets pushed into a table at an awkward angle and her neck snaps. The Walking Dead isn’t exactly known for its unconvincing death sequences. But I didn’t buy this one. The physicality of it was strange. Oddly enough, it’s similar to the awkward transition we see in issue #167. Both involve an attacker being on top of Rick, and then being pushed backward. Perhaps we’ve finally found something in this series Charlie Adlard doesn’t draw perfectly.

Obviously, The Walking Dead is in no danger of…well, death. The series seems as healthy as it’s ever been. But from a creative standpoint, I often wonder about story patterns we see in the book, and whether a paradigm shift is in order.

I refer specifically to the use of big bad villains leading big bad groups to terrorize Rick and our heroes. We’ve had the Governor, we’ve had Negan, and to a lesser extent we’ve had the Whisperers. But Negan, the Saviors, and the All Out War storyline have been such a tough act to follow. It’s virtually exhausted the villain formula. Even when the Whisperers put a bunch of heads on pikes, it seemed to pale in comparison to the violent bullying we saw from the Saviors. And if we’re not fighting bad guys, we’re fighting zombies, which are essentially an environmental hazard at this point.

The book’s saving grace is that we still care about the characters, specifically the ones that have been with us a long time. Rick, Carl, Michonne, Negan, and Eugene all come to mind. But have we reached the point where we can’t break any new ground with them? In the long run, how healthy is a series where readers are just waiting for the clock to run out on the characters they love? What can be done to give The Walking Dead a creative jolt?

I don’t have the answer. I just hope Robert Kirkman does

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A Detective Comics #965 Review – Robin Resurrected

TITLE: Detective Comics #965
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Eddy Barrows
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 27, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Here’s something I don’t think I’ve ever shared: My first trade paperback was Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying. I picked it up during what might have been my first ever trip to a comic shop in the mid-90s. I had no idea what the story was about. Just that it had Batman and Robin on the cover. At this point they still looked pretty similar to Adam West and Burt Ward on the classic TV show. So I found myself pulled in. It remains in my library to this day. It’s easily the most tattered and worn trade I own. But it’s earned its spot up there. A Lonely Place of Dying introduced me to Batman’s current status quo. It’s how I learned about Jason Todd. It was my first Nightwing story. It also introduced me to Tim Drake, a character I would practically grow up alongside.

That’s what makes Detective Comics #965 a special issue for me. I’m sure it’s special for a lot of fans my age. It’s a love letter to A Lonely Place of Dying and much of the early Tim Drake material, bringing it into modern canon. We also see an intriguing component from Geoff Johns’ work with the character in Teen Titans. For those of us who hated what happened to Tim in the New 52 reboot, it’s fanboy nirvana. I imagine this is how die-hard Flash fans felt when Wally West came back in DC Universe Rebirth.

It’s been quite awhile since Tim was imprisoned by the mysterious Mister Oz. But what drew this ominous hooded figure to Red Robin in the first place? We get the answer to that question as Tim prepares to finally strike back. But in attempting to escape, our hero will come face with the last person he ever expected to see…

During our first seven pages, we alternate between present day and flashbacks to Tim’s early days with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. Most of this material is pulled from A Lonely Place of Dying. James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, and our creative team focus on very specific moments from that story. For the most part, they pull the exact dialogue written by Marv Wolfman, and take care to honor but not duplicate the work done by artists like Jim Aparo and George Perez. Clothing and hairstyles have been updated, and the classic Robin costume has been switched out for its New 52 counterpart (shown left). I think we can also assume certain specifics from Lonely haven’t translated into modern canon. But by and large, the spirit of that story is intact. That’s such a beautiful thing to see. For so long,the events of Lonely have, for whatever reason, been glossed over. Even before the New 52, writers would always allude to Tim deducing Batman’s identity on its own. But it would rarely go further than that, presumably because certain aspects (Tim seeing Batman and Robin on TV, for example) didn’t match current continuity. But this material deserves as much attention as any part of Batman’s history. In that respect, this is justice done.

Detective Comics #965, and Tynion’s run on the series as a whole, also resurrects an idea introduced in the mid to late-90s: That Tim Drake has no intention of being Robin forever. He certainly doesn’t want to be Batman. His superhero career has an expiration date, and that has weighed heavily on his actions as of late. One of the things that makes Tim distinct amongst his fellow Robins is his independence. He’s willing to disagree with Batman, even if it creates a conflict between them. That’s a trait that suits Tim well, and Tynion uses it to inject some really nice drama into the big reveal later in the issue.

Eddy Barrows compliments Tynion’s writing very well. So I’m always happy to see him on Detective. He hits all the right emotional notes for the retro Tim Drake material. He made me feel like I was actually flipping through A Lonely Place of Dying, which is above and beyond what they were going for here. Colorist Ariano Lucas also lends a very nice sepia tone to those flashback scenes.

There are, however, a pair of light stumbles in the issue. On the page at left, Barrows has the unenviable task of recreating the debut of Tim Drake’s Robin costume from Batman #457 (shown left). By and large, he does very well. But that face is a miss. Something about the simple white slits for the eyes combined with the smile, which is slightly too big. Two pages prior, Barrows and the artistic team hit another smile related stumble with Tim. They weren’t aiming for creepy. But creepy is what we got.

I called this issue a love letter to Tim Drake. But James Tynion’s entire run on Detective Comics seems like a tribute to beloved ’90s characters either tossed aside or gutted in recent years. We’re talking Tim Drake, Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and even Anarky. It’s very much in tune with what the DC Rebirth initiative has been about, in that it celebrates the legacy of these characters while continuing to tell new stories. If that’s not Detective Comics #965 in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

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A Go Go Power Rangers #2 Review – Jason and Trini?!?

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #2
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
PENCILLER: Dan Mora
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: August 30, 2017

***Check out the first issue of Go Go Power Rangers!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Monsters and morphers notwithstanding, thus far the teenagers in Go Go Power Rangers have been written fairly realistic. So it stands to reason that five hormonal high schoolers suddenly placed in a such a high pressure situation would feel…closer. While there was never a romantic link between any of our original five Rangers on the TV show, this series was bound to give us a crush, an unrequited love storyline, a fling, or something along those lines. Trini and Billy would have been my first guess, as they’re kindred spirits. Jason and Kimberly would be a little obvious, but not impossible. You’ve also got Trini and Zack, who were together in the Pink miniseries BOOM! put out last year.

But Jason and Trini? They might have been my last guess. Actually, in this case it’s Trini crushing on Jason. I won’t say I don’t get it. Even with his cutesy millennial haircut, the Red Ranger is still a stud.

Go Go Power Rangers #2 shows us the conclusion of the Rangers’ assault on Rita Repulsa’s palace, and clues us in on the long-term ramifications the fight has for them. We also get into some of the more personal ramifications that “Arrival Day” (i.e. the day Rita’s forces first attacked) has had on them. This includes Kimberly’s strained relationship with her boyfriend Matt.

Trini never had much in the way of romance on the show. Early in the second season, they created a character for her to fawn over. But that never went anywhere. Tommy and Kimberly filled most of the show’s romance quotient. So to see Trini trying to be romantic with anyone, let alone Jason, takes some getting used to. But thus far, it works. Jason is apparently oblivious at the moment. Considering Trini has been written very shy and soft-spoken, I’m curious if Ryan Parrott is going to make her someone attempting to come out of her shell and be noticed.

The issue highlights the fact that, after the fight at the palace, Rita has learned the Rangers’ first names. The Red Ranger is Jason, the Pink Ranger is Kimberly, etc. Zordon promises to do what he can to protect them. But what confuses me is, how does Rita knowing their names put them in any more danger than they were already in? I’d be more concerned that she saw their faces when they fought the putties on Arrival Day (cool name, by the way). On the show, she was always able to ambush the teens with putties, monsters, and what not. So she can clearly find them in Angel Grove. (Apparently that’s exactly what we’re going to see in issues to come.) How goes knowing their names make it worse? It’s not great, mind you. But it’s hardly the worst case scenario.

Considering the palace fight, this fear about Rita knowing their names and attacking them as civilians, and a few lines about the teens wanting to let their families in on their secret, Parrott seems to be going out of his way to explore new territory, and address certain things the show never did. Even more than Kyle Higgins has done in MMPR, he’s having fun bucking the show’s original structure.

Dan Mora’s pencils have been, by and large, excellent. I’ve praised his renderings of Goldar in the past, but I really noticed his work on Rita here. That giant headdress and Madonna-style pointed bra don’t exactly give her the most foreboding look. But despite his fairly animated style, Mora shows restraint when drawing Rita’s face. Particularly toward the middle of the issue. This makes her seem more cold and calculated, as opposed to angry and loud. Near the end, Mora draws her entering Finster’s lab clouded in shadow, so we merely see a silhouette. To say that costume casts a distinct shadow is an understatement. Then in the very next panel, the silhouette gives us a sinister grin. Throw in the use of additional black space to highlight the gears and gadgets in Finster’s lab, and it becomes the issue’s best page.

Mora is also very strong with Kimberly and Matt (shown above). Kim’s new boyfriend wears a letterman jacket, which given Mora’s style, almost gives those scenes a modern day Archie feel. (Think the Mark Waid/Fiona Staples run.) This poor kid. He has no idea who he’s dating…

The tone of Go Go Power Rangers compared to the MMPR book is becoming more apparent as we dive further into the lives of our heroes. There’s potential for some really, really good stuff here. Power Rangers fans should be very excited. I certainly am.

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An X-Men Gold, Vol. 1 Review – Noobs Enter Here

TITLE: X-Men Gold, Vol. 1: Back to Basics
AUTHOR: Marc Guggenheim
PENCILLERS: Ardian Syaf, R.B. Silva
COLLECTS: X-Men Gold #16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $15.99
RELEASED: August 23, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m a continuity buff. It’s a fool’s errand, considering how often timelines change in American superhero comics. But for me, half the fun of getting into superhero books was going back and reading all the major stories, seeing how things progressed, etc. That being said, I’ve long since given up on deciphering X-Men continuity. Between all the different characters that have come on and off the team, died and come back, travelled through time, the ones with dopplegangers from other time periods, and all such insanity, it’s just too much. Considering how amazing and iconic some of these characters are, getting tangled up in all the plot threads becomes horribly frustrating.

That’s why I’ve been waiting awhile for a series like X-Men Gold, a book that not only serves as a jumping on point for new readers, but as the title says, brings the concept “back to basics.” This title gives us heroes we recognize fighting for mutants and humans alike. In making Kitty Pryde the team leader, we’ve advanced to the next chapter in the story while remembering what so many loved about it in the first place. It acknowledges the X-Men mythology, but tells its own story. If you’re a new reader or someone looking to jump back into things (as I was), that’s what you want.

In addition to Kitty, our team consists of Old Man Logan, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Rachel Grey (now called Prestige), with Gambit being added in issue #4. The most glaring “Huh?” moment will likely involve Logan. The operative question being, “Why is Wolverine an old man?” The book lets us know this is a character from another world, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The dynamic between old flames Kitty and Peter (Colossus), which goes back decades, is also a focal point of the book. That’s obviously enhanced if you know their history. But what the book gives you is enough.

By making her the team leader, X-Men Gold shines a really nice spotlight on Kitty’s evolution as a character. In contrast to the younger version that more casual readers are familiar with. The Kity we see here is battle tested. She’s comfortable calling plays in the field. Her teammates, most of whom are older and more experienced, follow her lead without question. As the mutant community works to rebuild its image after the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men, we see her step up and serve as an ambassador. She’s as much a main character here as she’s ever been.

Guggenheim was wise to spend quality time on Rachel Grey here. She’s the one on this team that most casual fans won’t know about. We get a subplot in issues #4-6 about her being afraid to use her powers to their fullest extent, for fear of losing control like her mother Jean Grey. Or worse, going bad like her father Cyclops. She even gets little scenes with psychic projections of both. It’s a nice character snapshot that sets the table for stories to come.

The bad guys in this book are classic X-Men villains with a new coat of paint. We see the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, a group we’ve most notably seen led by Magneto. In the background, we have a political pundit trying to rally the public against mutants. She’s clearly an analogue for a Fox News type figure. Later on, Gambit is caught in the middle of an accident that sees a “smart swarm” of nanites mix with Sentinel tech. This creates an entirely new breed of mechanical menace for our heroes. None of this is terribly original or new. But it falls in line with the book’s “back to basics” approach. So it works.

Our penciller for the first three issues is Ardian Syaf. His art has a weight to it that fits the dramatic moments in this story very well. Whether it’s the two-page spread in issue #1 (shown above), or the understated “ra ra” moment at the end of issue #3 (partially shown below). Our opening action sequence with the team facing Terrax is also suitably epic.

I assume the plan was for Syaf to stick around after issue #3. One way or another, that didn’t happen. Subtle anti-Christian and anti-Semetic messages were found in the pencils for issue #1, and Syaf was fired. How ironic, in a series that’s ultimately meant to be about tolerance. I don’t want to dive into the politics of what Syaf did. But obviously this is the wrong forum, with the wrong audience.

R.B. Silva tags in for the remainder of the book. He and inker Adriano Di Benedetto give the book a softer aesthetic that objectively is fine. But being the second artist in a collection like this is always challenging. The tone has been set, and now you’re deviating from it. But Silva draws awesome Sentinels, and his Gambit isn’t too shabby either. Sadly, he doesn’t stick around for subsequent issues.

Occasionally someone will ask me, “Where should I start reading [insert character name]?” That’s always been a fairly hard question with the X-Men books. Historically, I’ve pointed people to Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men run. But X-Men Gold might just become my new answer. Or at least one of my answers. I won’t compare it to the Whedon/Cassaday stuff in terms of quality. But it’s about as accessible as any X-Men story I’ve read. It’s a great doorway into the saga’s modern era, while still advancing the characters for longtime readers.

Bottom line? Start here noobs.

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A Teen Titans: Damian Knows Best Review – A Return to Glory?

TITLE: Teen Titans, Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
PENCILLERS: Jonboy Meyers, Diogenes Nieves, Khoi Pham
COLLECTS: Teen Titans #15Teen Titans Rebirth #1
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
June 14, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Teen Titans have had a pretty awesome run on television over the last decade and a half. The comics, on the other hand? They’ve been a mixed bag. But this new Teen Titans series under the DC Rebirth banner offered yet another fresh start for one of the most iconic and prolific superhero teams in all of comics. A chance to make the Teen Titans great again!

I wouldn’t call Damian Knows Best a great book. But these still manage to be the best Teen Titans comics we’ve gotten in several years. Since 2011 at the very least.

In the wake of his 13th birthday, Damian Wayne, a.k.a. Robin, summons his own team of young heroes to combat a threat from his past. Damian’s grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul, has sent his own team of young assassins after the Boy Wonder. Their mission? Either bring Damian back into the League of Assassins or kill him. But as his new teammates are about to find out, Damian isn’t one to make things easy.

Damian should have been on the Teen Titans a long time ago. That last really good Teen Titans story I alluded to above? It sees Damian barge in and briefly anoint himself team leader. Why it took so long to get him back on the team is beyond me. Sticking a character as abrasive as Damian in a team environment is a natural source for tension and conflict. Making it a team of adolescents ups the ante even more. It’s an update this book has desperately needed since…well, 2011.

Perennial team members Starfire, Beast Boy, and Raven are back. I’ve lamented previously about how the series can’t move away from them, presumably because DC wants to match the cartoon show. Plus, they’re synonymous with the iconic Wolfman/Perez era. Swapping one or two of them out for newer characters might open the door for even more new possibilities. That’s what a relaunch is supposed to be about, after all. We at least get a little of that with the inclusion of Kid Flash.

However, Ben Percy does a commendable job turning up the teen angst with most of our heroes. The common theme among them is the feeling they don’t belong anywhere. Like so many young people, they feel isolated.. That commonality that makes them feel like they belong together, instead of being lumped together for no real reason (other than editorial mandate). The opening sequence with Beast Boy is one of the character’s best in quite some time. As he behaves in his typical animated and boisterous fashion, the narration captions highlight his inner turmoil, most notably over the “death” of Tim Drake. Throw in how wonderfully drawn and colored the whole thing is, and you’ve got a knock-out intro.

That’s one of the things DC has failed to do with Teen Titans for so many years: Really amp up the teen element effectively, making this book considerably different from Justice League and the other team books out there. Need an example? Look what Mark Waid is doing in Champions. All those characters feel like teenagers trying to find their way in the world and blaze a new trail that’s different from the previous generation’s. Teen Titans doesn’t have that rebellious streak to it. But having these characters feel young and a little less sure of themselves is damn sure a step in the right direction.

Most of the Demon’s Fist characters are forgettable. They’re led by Damian’s cousin Mara. Despite being fairly forgettable herself, she has a strong origin story. She trained alongside Damian growing up, competing with him but never quite besting him. Damian was intended to lead the Demon’s Fist, but Mara took over in his absence. If you subscribe to the idea that all of Batman’s villains represent a distorted mirror image of him, then Mara would be the equivalent for Robin.

Jonboy Meyers was supposed to be the regular artist for Teen Titans. He made it through issue #1 before leaving due to “creative differences.” That’s a damn shame. Meyers breathed so much new life into this series, giving us an Anime-inspired expressiveness, and thus a sense of fun the book has sorely lacked for a long time. Make no mistake about it, the guy knows his way around a superhero action sequence. I’ll specifically cite the Kid Flash pages from the Rebirth issue as evidence.

Diogenes Nieves has the unenviable job of tagging in for Meyers in issue #2. To his credit, the transition goes about as smooth as you could ask. He gives us a couple of gorgeous pages of a rainy rooftop scene between Damian and Talia al Ghul. Still, the little quirks in Meyers’ art are still sorely missed. The same, sadly, can be said for when Khoi Pham takes over on issues #3-5. Objectively, he’s a fine artist. When it’s time for our team to rise up in issue #5, Pham nails it. It’s just that Meyers has that certain flair. Starting with it and then taking it away doesn’t do the book any favors.

Thankfully, one constant in the book is colorist Jim Charalampidis, who brings a valuable consistency to the series despite the changing artists. These pages look a touch darker than I might have expected. But it’s still the beautiful blaze of color you’d hope to see from a superhero team book like this.

It’s been quite awhile since I picked up Teen Titans on a consistent basis. This new series changed that. Did Damian Knows Best make Teen Titans great again? No. But it made the series good again. That’s more than you can say for any other book to bear it’s name in the last several years. Now, here’s hoping things stay good for quite some time. These characters, and this series deserve at least that much.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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A Go Go Power Rangers #1 Review – Scaling the Palace Walls

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #1
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
PENCILLER: Dan Mora
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 26, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s a reason it’s taken 20 years for us to get quality Power Rangers comic books. So many of today’s creators grew up with the show and have a special fondness for it. As such, this campy TV show that so many have dismissed as mindless fluff is now being shown an unprecedented amount of love and respect. You can see it in both the broad strokes and the smaller details.

Case in point, the first few pages of Go Go Power Rangers #1 takes us back to the events of the show’s premiere episode, “Day of the Dumpster.” The climactic point in the episode sees the Megazord take on Rita Repulsa’s henchman Goldar for the first time. In the end, Goldar retreats. He insists, “This isn’t over! I’ll be back!” With that, he throws his forearm horizontally across his chest and vanishes.

There’s a panel on one of those early pages that depicts that same line and pose (shown below). As a lifelong PR fan, little things like that make me so happy. It shows me our creative team is as passionate about this as I am. You don’t always get that with a licensed book like this. But when you do, it can be a beautiful thing.

Spinning out of the success of BOOM’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers title, Go Go Power Rangers kicks off at the tail end of “Day of the Dumpster.” Our five young heroes are adjusting to their new lives as superheroes. But before the battle lines are completely drawn in this ongoing battle with Rita, the Rangers take the fight straight to her doorstep. To save the astronauts that accidentally freed the evil empress, our heroes storm her moon palace head on. They wanted a fight. Now they’ve got one.

Go Go Power Rangers is apparently aiming to be more character-focused than its sister series, with a stronger balance between teenage drama and superheroics. This issue has an extremely positive indicator in that respect. Unlike virtually every other PR story from BOOM!, Go Go Power Rangers gets Zack right.

For some reason, both MMPR and Justice League/MMPR have often portrayed the Black Ranger as a sort of introspective brooder. I understand tweaking these characters for a modern audience. But that approach is the polar opposite of the Zack character. He was always warm, fun-loving, and enthusiastic. Ryan Parrott is the first writer I’ve seen at BOOM! who really taps into the spirit of Zack. I give him credit for that. But I can’t help but wonder why it took this long…

We also get an early morning scene with Jason training before school. It’s designed to give us a little bit of Jason’s background, and that’s all well and good. But I just like seeing him be so tireless and hardworking. It’s similar to what Kyle Higgins and Rod Reis were so successful with on their portion of MMPR Annual 2016.

This issue introduces us to a character named Matt Cook (shown below). He’s in the circle of friends with Jason and the others. But he obviously has no idea they’re superheroes. Matt also happens to be Kimberly’s boyfriend. By all indications he’s a good egg like the others. I almost feel sorry for him. He’s clearly about to be boxed out of the group. Sorry, dude. We can’t all be Tommy Oliver.

As a kid, I always wondered why the Rangers never took the Wizard of Oz approach and attacked Rita at her palace. It looks like this opening story is going to show us why. Mind you, it’s not simply an ambush. They’re trying to rescue the two astronauts we saw in “Day of the Dumpster.” In over two decades, it never occurred to me that those two could have been captured. It seems really obvious in retrospect.

When the team teleports directly in front of the palace, they’re met by an army (literally an army) of Putties. And of course, they later have Rita and Goldar to contend with. Dan Mora, along with colorist Raul Angulo, show us both the interior and exterior of the palace from a bunch of different angles. This includes the gloriously ludicrous neon “Bandora Palace” sign.

I was very impressed with what Dan Mora showed us in MMPR Annual 2017, and I’m still impressed now. Mora’s teens are much more expressive and animated than we’re used to seeing in MMPR. But his action sequences also deliver that same epic, awe-inspiring feel we’re used to getting. He’s very balanced in that respect. And of course, he still draws an awesome Goldar. Also, his rendering of the Megazord is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

I’ve touched on this before, but it’s somewhat uncomfortable for me to see the teens “modernized.” Even in the continuity of the show, MMPR is set in the ’90s. So it’s always going to be weird seeing them use smartphones and sporting modern looks (shown below). I get that it comes with the territory, and I don’t place blame on anyone for it. But it still seems weird…

The only updated look I take a bit of exception to is Jason’s. Something about the longer hair and the jacket rub me the wrong way. I’m not in love with Trini’s new hairstyle either, but it’s somehow less grating. Also, I just noticed Trini’s wearing glasses in the image below. That’s different.

Nitpicking aside, I enjoyed Go Go Power Rangers #1 as much as I’ve enjoyed any issue of BOOM! Studios’ MMPR series. Maybe even a little more. I admit, as a reviewer I’m likely biased when it comes to these books. As a fan, I’m so proud of everybody at BOOM! for what they’ve given us. Proud and grateful.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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