Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always Review

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always
David Yost, Walter Emanuel Jones, Steve Cardenas, Catherine Sutherland, Charlie Kersh
Becca Barnes, Alwyn Dale
DIRECTOR: Charlie Haskell
April 19, 2023
Tragedy strikes when Rita Repulsa returns in robot form.

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By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Let’s, first and foremost, come at Once & Always with gratitude. We’ve had anniversary episodes featuring past Rangers before. Super Megaforce was even an entire season dedicated to the history of the Power Rangers franchise (albeit one that was ill-executed). But this is the first time we’ve gotten an extended anniversary special dedicated to the characters and lore of Power Rangers. The folks at Hasbro and Power Rangers were by no means obligated to give us something like this. But they cared enough about the show and the fans to give us something that’s never been done before. For that, they deserve our thanks and appreciation.

Let’s also be thankful for the actors and performers who not only agreed to return, but in most cases agreed to fly out to New Zealand (where the show is filmed) for an extended period of time. It’s been well documented that, despite quickly becoming the biggest kids show in the world, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers wasn’t always kind to its actors. Relatively minuscule pay mixed with grueling filming schedules (and in David Yost’s case, something far worse) meant the actors weren’t left with memories nearly as positive as those of us watching at home. But again, for the fans, they agreed to come back.

Nevertheless, conspicuous by their absence are Austin St. John (who played Jason, the original Red Ranger) and Amy Jo Johnson (Kimberly, the original Pink Ranger). I can only assume St. John would have been involved if not for the legal trouble he wound up in, which would have prevented him from traveling to New Zealand for filming. He did, after all, just come back for an episode a few years ago. I’ll reserve my judgment about his legal situation for after he has his day in court. But regardless, it sucks he’s not involved here. He was arguably the face of the show during its first season.

Johnson, unfortunately, got flack from some in the fanbase for not coming back. The accusation was that her decision came down to money. She eventually went on Twitter and addressed it. Again, it sucks that she’s not here. Johnson is as responsible for the show’s popularity as anyone else. She is, however, writing a Power Rangers comic book for BOOM! Studios this year. I’m very interested to see what she turns in.

Once & Always is dedicated to the memory of Thuy Trang and Jason David Frank. Trang played Trini, the original Yellow Ranger. She was tragically killed in a car crash in 2001. The episode is largely centered around her character, as we’ll dive into shortly. It’s beautiful that the show is paying tribute to her this way. It’s overdue, quite frankly. She was, by all accounts, a kind and gentle soul who was taken from us too soon.

Jason David Frank, who played Tommy Oliver on the show for a number of years and different incarnations, tragically took his own life last November. His is a loss that many fans, my self included, are still trying to process. Frank had apparently opted out of participating in this 30th anniversary special. But his presence is inevitably felt when you go back and look at the early years of Power Rangers. In truth, this special makes me miss him that much more.

The redux version of Ron Wasserman’s “Go Go Power Rangers” plays during the episode’s opening fight sequence. Wasserman, of course, did the music in the early days of MMPR, and composed the show’s iconic theme song. He doesn’t compose any more rock songs. But having him work on this special still brings it extremely valuable credibility. To say we’re lucky to have him back is an understatement.

Hearing characters use the word “kill” in a Power Rangers show takes some getting used to. “She killed mom,” etc. Historically, the show has always used words like “destroy” instead of kill.

We see Trini take a blast from Robo-Rita that was meant for Billy. As a result, she falls off a nearby cliff to her death. My initial impulse was to be turned off by this. We didn’t need to actually see Trini die, after all. But I’ve come around on it. She goes out like a hero, saving Billy, who she always had a special bond with on the show. This is as good a way as any to write the character off.

It sounds like they used archived dialogue from MMPR to lend voices to Trini, Kimberly, and Tommy in their morphed forms. A wise move. Mysteriously, the only one who doesn’t sound like himself is Jason.

Billy: “It’s always just been [Minh] and Trini. She doesn’t have anybody else.” I wondered how they were going to handle the question of Minh’s father. Fitting for a special aimed at adult Power Rangers fans, they went a slightly more mature route and made Trini a single mom. We can probably presume that Minh’s father didn’t want to be in the picture. What’s more, perhaps Trini’s family disowned her after she got pregnant out of wedlock. Thus, the idea that it’s always been just the two of them.

We quickly see that Zack took over raising Minh after Trini’s death. I love that. It adds a whole new dimension to Zack’s character. Minh even alludes to Zack being a former congressman! Well that’s a move I didn’t see coming. Apparently he’s been back from Aquitar for awhile now…

One year after Trini’s death, Robo-Rita returns with robotic versions of her old monsters the Minotaur and Snizzard. I’m a little curious as to why they went with those two monsters specifically. I can only assume they picked Snizzard because he was famously voiced by Bryan Cranston. But why the Minotaur? There are plenty of monsters more famous and synonymous with the show. Pudgy Pig, Eye Guy, and King Sphinx come to mind immediately.

Actually, had they not just used a version of Goldar in Beast Morphers, I’d have had them use robotic versions of Goldar and Rito Revolto.

It quickly becomes apparent that Once & Always isn’t here to impress us with dramatic acting chops. Which, at least to me, is fine. Power Rangers has had some really good actors. But it’s never been what I’d call an actor’s show. Plus, let’s remember that most of our stars haven’t done a lot of acting since their days on Power Rangers. The acting is a flaw in the special. But it doesn’t doom it.

Robo-Minotaur smashes a tombstone that says “Harvey Garvey.” That’s an Easter egg referring to the Rangers appearing on “The Harvey Garvey” show back in season two. Cute.

Robo-Rita refers to Billy by his last name, Cranston. It’s always been generally accepted by fans that Cranston is Billy’s last name. But to my knowledge, this is the first time the name has actually been used in the show.

We go to Cranston Tech, a building that’s clearly modeled after the old Command Center/Power Chamber. On a lower level, we see a large room designed similarly to the Rangers’ original home base. We also meet Alpha 9. Not Alpha 5, as the casting of Richard Horvitz, Alpha’s original voice actor, seemed to suggest. I suppose we can finally take this as confirmation that Alpha 5 has been destroyed. If they were ever going to bring him back, now was the time.

We learn that prior to Trini’s death, it was Billy (along with Alpha 8) who accidentally created Robo-Rita by reassembling her evil energy while attempting to bring back Zordon. They specifically use the phrase “Z-Wave” when referring to Zordon’s sacrifice. Like the Cranston name, I think this marks the first time that phrase has been used in an official capacity.

I like the idea of Billy trying to bring Zordon back. He, as much as anyone, had an emotional attachment to the character. And by standards, it makes enough sense as a way to bring Rita back.

Katherine’s first line in the episode is a reference to “JJ’s junior karate camp.” We know from Ninja Steel that Tommy has a son named JJ. Then later, Kat directly references Tommy as JJ’s father. Thus, we get official in-show confirmation that Tommy and Kat have a son together. We can probably assume they’re married, as Kat is wearing a wedding ring. (Though that might simply be a matter of Catherine Sutherland not taking her wedding ring off.)

As she’s taking her proxy Power Coin, Katherine says: “I don’t care how dangerous too much pink energy is.” That’s a reference to a famously silly line Zordon has in “Wild West Rangers, Part II.” Nice little fandom hat-tip there.

We don’t get a Bulk and Skull appearance in Once & Always. But we do get a blatant reference to them, complete with pictures, in the “Skullovitch & Bulkmeyer Bulk Food Co.” sign. A nice allusion to the show’s classic comedic duo. If we weren’t going to actually see Bulk and Skull in the special, they had to do something to at least acknowledge them.

The recreation of the old juice bar set is glorious. I’m sure it’s not a perfect one. But it’s good enough to get high marks from this MMPR buff. Amazing work.

In a neat little trivia note for fans, they clearly used Lightning Collection action figures to represent the captured Rangers in Robo-Rita’s machine. Based on what the special shows us, in addition to the three Mighty Morphin Rangers, she’s captured…

  • Tanya, the Yellow Ranger from Zeo.
  • The Phantom Ranger from Turbo.
  • Ashley and Carlos, the Yellow and Black Rangers from in Space.
  • Leo (Red) Damon (Green), and Kai (Blue) from Lost Galaxy.
  • Merrick, the Lunar Wolf Ranger from Wild Force.
  • Conner and Trent, the Red and White Rangers from Dino Thunder.
  • Ravi (Blue), Devon (Red), and Nate (Gold) from Beast Morphers.

Barbara Goodson returns as the voice of Rita Repulsa. As expected, she’s pitch-perfect. For my money, if they couldn’t get her, there was no point in even using the Rita Repulsa character. Goodson is that important, and that good.

Much like its acting chops, Once & Always clearly isn’t here to impress us with special effects. I refer specifically to how the Megazord and giant Snizzard look. I’d have preferred to see them use physical costumes. That’s how the show did it, after all. That being said, the CGI Dinozord unearthing sequence looked pretty amazing, as did the transformation into the Megazord. Clearly done with a lot of care, and definitely a step up from what we usually get on the show.

Adam and Aisha’s roles in this episode are fairly small. Apparently the characters are now part of a group called SPA, an offshoot of SPD. Apparently they oversee other Ranger teams throughout the galaxy…? It’s never made quite clear. But it’s still great to see Johnny Yong Bosch and Karan Ashley return to the franchise.

The use of old Trini footage just before Minh morphed into the Yellow Ranger for the first time was very effective. As was the use of the season two footage of Amy Jo singing to the team. Honestly? Both nearly brought a tear to my eye…

There are a few unanswered questions here, not the least of which being when the Rangers got their powers back and became an active team again. But all in all, Once & Always was exactly what I wanted it to be. The nostalgia hand was definitely played. But the characters were also advanced, and the use of Power Rangers lore was in full effect. Is it perfect? No. But neither is Power Rangers itself. Once & Always has a beautiful soul to it. More than anything, that’s what I came away thinking about.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #6 Review – The Feminist Ranger

MMPR: Pink #6, Daniele Di Nicuolo, coverTITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #6
AUTHOR: Brenden Fletcher and Kelly Thompson (story), Tini Howard (script)
PENCILLER: Daniele Di NIcuolo
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 25, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ah, the letter. Given when this story is set, I didn’t think we’d get to address that. But here it is.

During Power Rangers Zeo, the season that succeeded Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Tommy gets a letter from Kimberly. It’s essentially a Dear John letter, as she ends their long-distance relationship, saying she’s met someone else. This left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of fans. Kim was rarely mentioned after actress Amy Jo Johnson left the series. When she returned for the Turbo movie, her relationship with Tommy was barely touched on. Thus, the long-standing relationship between two of the show’s most popular characters ended on a pretty sour note.

That letter turned out to be a piece of what MMPR: Pink is all about. In the end, it became about Kim being her own person and letting go of her old life. About moving on, and becoming a new kind of hero. Fans who’ve dreamt of seeing Kim and Tommy end up together may not be thrilled by that idea. But in the end, it’s pretty damn cool.

MMPR: Pink #6, 2017, Rangers arriveThe issue starts with Kimberly’s makeshift team of Rangers (Zack, Trini, and two civilians she enlisted in France) arriving to save Tommy and the active Rangers on a faraway planet. They arrive in Typhonis, a giant battle machine Goldar constructed using pieces of the destroyed Thunderzords. They also have Titanus and Tor the Shuttle Zord, which the Rangers have used previously. The use of words from previous seasons is cool fan service, though admittedly a little hokey. There’s an epic feel to seeing those old zords next to the Ninja Megazord in the final battle.

Last issue we learned Zack and Trini have become a couple. That’s completely out of the blue, considering how the characters were on the show. But it’s fine. It’s even intriguing in an opposites-attract sort of way. The only sad thing is I’m not sure we’ll ever see this explored more.

As far as I’m concerned, Daniele Di Nicuolo is welcome back in the Power Rangers sandbox any time. He’s a tremendous fit for the PR universe. His work is clean, dynamic, and compliments what we saw on the show very well. He also got pave some of his own ground with the makeshift Ranger suits, Kim’s Katniss Everdeen wardrobe, and the inner workings of the zords. Mind you, I still don’t understand why Zack’s costume has a hood. He’s already got a helmet! What does he need a damn hood for?

Nagging questions: We’re led to believe that Tommy and the active Rangers don’t know who came to their rescue. But Kim communicates with them through the cockpit of her zord, and there’s no indication that her voice is disguised. How do they not recognize her voice? Also, Zordon obviously sent them Titanus and Tor. Couldn’t they have just asked him who the mystery rescuers were?

mmpr-pink-6-motorcycleThere’s been a “life after the Power Rangers” vibe to Pink, which comes full circle at the end. Kim meets Zack and Trini at a cafe, and they talk about their next move, promising to do a better job of staying in touch. When we jump to a year later, we see she’s done just that, including Jason in the mix as well. I like that. Even with as deep a connection as they have, they drift in and out of contact like real people.

There’s obviously a strong feminist angle to Pink, and they hammer that home at the end. A year after the rescue, as Kim is writing the famous letter, she recognizes she and Tommy have very different lives. Not content to “be the woman in pink, at his side,” she sets out to forge her path independently and be her own hero. That ending does a lot of justice to the Kimberly character. It’s really remarkable how, without necessarily intending to, Amy Jo Johnson and the crew on MMPR created this strong female character that resonated with so many viewers. This whole story is essentially a love letter to that character and that performance.

Perhaps the most surprising element of Pink is that Kim and Tommy never speak. He’s never even aware she’s nearby. That’s a hell of a thread to leave hanging, and would make for a hell of a moment in a sequel. Just saying…

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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #2 Review – An Unexpected Reunion

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #2, cover, Elsa CharretierTITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #2
AUTHORS: Brenden Fletcher, Kelly Thompson
PENCILLER: Daniele Di Nicuolo. Cover by Elsa Charretier.
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 27, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Well this was unexpected. To not only get the return of Kimberly Hart as the Pink Ranger, but two additional returns! The intrigue level just went up. But at what cost (if any) to our main character?

Kimberly is in trouble. Goldar has captured her mother and turned her into a ghastly monster. Though her powers have been temporarily returned to her thanks to Zordon, the Pink Ranger needs help. It comes in the form of two old friends: Zack and Trini. But will they be enough to save her mother and defeat Goldar?

Zack and Trini came completely out of left field, and I’m not sure their presence is a good thing. We spend a large portion of this issue catching up, giving them their powers, etc. But isn’t this book supposed to be about Kimberly? At what point does the novelty of having these heroes back distract from Kim’s story? That’s not to say they aren’t important. But how about a book featuring Jason, Zack, and Trini as a trio? They all went to the same peace conference, after all.

SMMPR: Pink #2, opening page, Daniele Di Nicuolopeaking of which, in this issue we hear Jason “has his own mission to attend to.” Uh…what? I assume they wanted a reason to keep Jason out of the book, for fear of even more focus shifting away from Kim. But with a line like that, you’ve got to assume they’ll tell us where he is eventually. Either that, or they’re wetting our appetites for a future MMPR: Red story.

Kimberly gives Zack and Trini their powers back by sharing her temporary power from Zordon. They both get makeshift costumes as well. Only instead of having strictly black accents, their suits come with traces of pink as well. It’s a nice representation of their power coming from Kim’s “pink energy.” Also, for whatever reason, Zack’s has a hood.

The past rears its head yet again when Goldar debuts Typhonis, a new war zord made from the hacked up limbs of the Thunder Megazord and Tigerzord. It conjures up memories of the zords falling apart on the show, which was somehow hysterical. So intentional or not, Typhonis is funny by association.

This issue also gives us our first in-story appearance of the White Ranger. Kim has a very brief exchange with Tommy, reaffirming the necessity for them to have a reunion by the end of this story. After Amy Jo Johnson left the show, the only closure we got on the relationship was a Dear John letter received by Tommy during the events of Power Rangers Zeo. It wasn’t even addressed when Johnson returned for Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. What I’d like is a scene that helps bridge the gap between MMPR and Zeo. Give us some insight we didn’t have before. Show us where their relationship is. Perhaps this is the last time they’re together before the break up…

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #2, Daniele Di Nicuolo, interiorDaniele Di Nicuolo gets to flex her “acting” muscles more in this issue. Much of it is very animated, i.e. Trini’s face exploding with jubilation at the sight of her old friend. That’s something we wouldn’t see in one of Hendry Prasetya’s issues over in the main series. That’s not a knock, just a difference. This book should look different than MMPR proper. Both books are fun, which is what matters. I look forward to seeing another of Di Nicuolo’s explosive, high energy action sequences next issue.

The return of Zack and Trini is a pleasant surprise. But Fletcher and Thompson need to be careful. The book isn’t about the dynamic between Kimberly, Zack, and Trini. It’s about Kimberly. Yes, the Power Rangers have their foundation in teamwork and camaraderie. But let’s remember where our focus should be. This is the Pink Ranger’s much-deserved spotlight. Let her shine.

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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #1 Review – Ranger Recharged

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1, Elsa Charretier, coverTITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #1
AUTHOR: Brenden Fletcher, Kelly Thompson
PENCILLER: Danielle Di Nicuolo. Cover by Elsa Charretier.
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 1, 2016

By  Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It makes sense that Kimberly is the first Power Ranger to get a solo story from BOOM! Studios. That character had a special connection with the audience. She was spunky, athletic, strong, and feminine. On a show that was primarily for boys, she gave young girls someone to look up to. In many ways, she was the most interesting character on the show. So it’s all the more natural that Brenden Fletcher, renowned author of books like BatgirlGotham Academy, and Black Canary, would find his way to her. He obviously knows his way around strong female characters, which bodes well for Kimberly’s fans.

Some time after Kimberly left her Power Ranger days behind her to compete at the Pan Global Games, she finds herself in St. Moineau, France. Her mother and stepfather, along with all the town’s residents, have mysteriously gone missing. Suspecting foul play, she contacts Zordon. While she may be a bit rusty, Kim is about to dust off her helmet and bow for another round as the Pink Ranger!

MMPR Pink #1, Ranger suitIn contrast to the ongoing series, Pink arguably appeals to an older audience that’s more familiar with the TV show. This issue is full of fan service. We get very specific callbacks to names and events from the show, not the least of which are the Pan Global Games, and a magic sword Zordon uses to give Kim her powers back. It would have been very easy to simply separate the Pink Ranger from the rest of the team, somehow. For instance, perhaps the other Rangers get sent to another planet, and she’s left to defend Earth herself. The fact they didn’t do that says a lot about this team’s respect for the character and her world. While those less familiar with the show may be left in the dark a bit, it’s worth it for those of us who watched all those years ago.

The Kimberly we meet here has a bad ass streak that the one we knew did not have. She wears a leather jacket, rides a motorcycle, and has a bow and arrows if needed. It’s a bit like Arrow meets The Hunger Games. But Fletcher and Thompson make sure there’s enough of the bubbly Kimberly that we remember. You can believably hear Amy Jo Johnson’s voice in her dialogue.

Power Rangers Pink, motorcycleOur villain winds up being someone we know from the show, who has long deserved a crack at being a solo villain. Seeing how he and Kimberly match up one-on-one should prove intriguing for (again) long time fans of the show.

Danielle Di Nicuolo draws a hell of a Pink Ranger. Though the costume she wears in this issue (shown above) is slightly different than the one we’re familiar with. Most conspicuous are the traces of black, which I interpret as a mark of Kim’s experience and veteran standing. I imagine if there were to be a Power Rangers version of Marvel’s X-Factor, reuniting the original team members, these are the kind of costumes they’d wear.

Di Nicuolo’s strengths lie with action scenes. Her Kimberly is best when she’s kicking, flipping, or using her bow and arrow. She show’s us a fighting style that makes sense for Kimberly. Her inclusion of a classic Pink Ranger pose toward the end of the issue was much appreciated.

I never imagined we’d have two Power Ranger comics on the stands at the same time. Much less two that seem to value and appreciate the source material so much. It’s a testament to how much of an impact Power Rangers had on ’90s kids, that they’d grow up and create such awesome comics featuring those heroes. I, for one, can’t wait to see more.

 Images from readcomics.net. 

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