A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #12 Review – The Day Evil Won

mighty-morphin-power-rangersTITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #12
AUTHOR: Kyle Higgins
PENCILLER: Hendry Prasetya. Cover by Jamal Campbell.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: February 15, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I just have to keep reminding myself: The story’s not over yet. The story’s not over yet. The story’s not over yet…

Everything I wrote about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11 still applies in this issue. Exposing Tommy and Billy to elements from their future, such as the White Ranger, the Tigerzord, and the Thunderzords, potentially taints the events that occur later in his timeline. Assuming, that is, we don’t get a mind wipe at the end of this story. But until we see how the story ends, there’s no use poo-pooing what Kyle Higgins, Hendry Prasetya, and the BOOM! Studios crew are giving us here. So we may as well enjoy this whole post-apocalyptic, alternate universe tale they’ve crafted for us.

MMPR #12 tells us quite a bit about said universe. In this timeline, Tommy remained with Rita and her forces after the events of “Green With Evil,” as opposed to teaming up with the other Rangers. As such, Rita eventually conquers the Earth. But not before Zordon creates the White Ranger powers, and attempts to give them to Jason. In the final battle between the forces of good and evil, Tommy steals the White Ranger powers, and merges them with the Green Ranger powers. But Saba, the talking saber that was to have served as the White Ranger’s partner, has survived. And for the Tommy and Billy we know, he’s the only ally in sight.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #12, Hendry Prasetya, big fightOn the pages that show is the final days of this great war we see Lokar (who shows up later in season one) the Alien Rangers and Ninjor (season three), and even the Phantom Ranger (Power Rangers Turbo)! Strangely enough, we also have the Pumpkin Rapper, a random monster from season one. I don’t mind him being there. But out of all the monsters you could have picked, why the Pumpkin Rapper?

The battle itself really does look like a doomsday scenario where our heroes have their last hope snuffed out. I gripe about Tommy and Billy “knowing too much about their own destiny,” as Doc Brown would say. But I do appreciate the fan service that comes with having the Thunderzords, the Alien Rangers, etc. If you’re a Power Rangers fan, it has an undeniably epic feel.

On the subject of fan service…um, hi Aisha Campbell? The issue ends with the character that eventually takes Trini’s place as the Yellow Ranger showing up as part of a rebellion of sorts, next to Trini herself! Trini and, of all people, Bulk. Again, Tommy and Billy meeting Aisha in this alternate realty potentially spoils the emotional impact of them meeting later in life. But I’ll wait ’til the story’s over…. *clenches fists*

As I’ve said previously, Prasetya’s main strength on this book is drawing all the extravagant sci-fi stuff. He proves that yet again with a gorgeous splash page of the Tigerzord (shown below). It’s very reminiscent of the footage we always used to see on the show, with the crushing of the rocks and the big roar. It’s the strongest page in the issue, by far. Of course, the battle stuff is awesome. We get a very strong two-page spread of all the Rangers and baddies in front of the Command Center. It feels every bit as epic as it needs to be.

mmpr #12, Tigerzord, Hendry PrasetyaQuestion: Does merging the Green and White Ranger powers take a toll on the body of Lord Drekkon? I keep coming back to that weird vascularity we see on his face. If you remember from the “White Light” episodes, the Green Ranger powers were created by the forces of evil, while the White Ranger powers were created from “the light of goodness.” So in theory, it would be unnatural to combine them.

My assumption has been that Drekkon was the one to reach out to Rita across the space time continuum. But why? Perhaps to find a younger version of himself to give the power to, and then inhabit? Just a guess…

We also get a brief scene in this issue where we see Rita and her forces have taken over the Command Center. She tells Goldar that she and Finster are working on “a better you.” That’s damn intriguing, considering how Higgins has written Goldar in this book. He tended to have his own agenda on the show, and that’s very much the case here. I’d be surprised if he didn’t have a major role in the outcome of this story.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers remains near the top of my stack each time it comes out. But with each passing month, I get more and more nervous about how this story is going to end…

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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
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
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 #11 Review – Lord Drakkon Revealed

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11, 2017, Jamal CampbellTITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Steve Orlando
PENCILLERS: Hendry Prasetya, Corin Howell. Jamal Campbell.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 18, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is more or less what I imagined we’d get from this follow-up to the big reveal in issue #9. They threw in a little extra garnish. But it’s essentially what I expected.

For the most part, that’s a good thing.

After the big battle in issue #9, Tommy and Billy have been transported elsewhere in time. A time when Earth has been decimated, and ruled by a mysterious White Ranger called Lord Drakkon. But who is Lord Drakkon? What’s become of our heroes? And how do Tommy and Billy get home?

Lord Drakkon is in fact an alternate version of Tommy (shown below). Though in all fairness, that’s a pretty easy prediction. The costume is clearly an amalgamation of the Green and White Ranger suits, with some extra stuff thrown in. It’s unclear how old Tommy is supposed to be. He’s got some gray in his hair, and some odd purple vasculature going on. But I assume this Tommy has been doing weird things with the Morphin Grid. So perhaps his body is feeling the effects.

Lord Drakkon, MMPR #11, Hendry PrasetyaTo create this alternate timeline, Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya are plucking things from subsequent seasons of the show. As our heroes make their way to the wrecked Command Center, we see the remains of the Thunderzords. Tommy eventually makes his way down to what would become the Power Chamber in Power Rangers Zeo. There he finds Saba, the White Ranger’s talking sword from seasons two and three.

Normally I don’t like when creators get cute like this. Having Tommy and Billy see things from their future taints the emotional intensity of what happens later in the show. But I’m holding off on judging too harshly until they’re done. Stories like this tend to come with mindwipes anyway.

As Billy alludes to, it’s unclear at this point whether this is an alternate timeline, or the timeline we know with an altered future. Given Tommy’s gray hair, it’s entirely possible this takes place decades in the future.

We get another tweaked costume here, in the form of the Mastadon Sentries (shown below), designed by Prasetya. According to Higgins, Drakkon has warped the Power Coins to create an army for himself. As such, we get this sort of Black Ranger S.W.A.T. team outfit. Note the lining on the gun barrel, which resembles the handle of the Power Axe. It’s a fun design. I can’t help but wonder if Drakkon has an elite guard that has the Red Ranger design. Sort of like Palpatine’s guards in Return of the Jedi.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11, Hendry Prasetya, Mastadon SentiesThe capitol building in Angel Grove has some cool design elements from Rita’s castle, most notably the orb on top. What used to be Angel Grove high is now called the Finster Memorial Correction Facility, which is a riot.

I also love the Planet of the Apes homage cover by Jamal Campbell. We don’t see anything like that in the issue, but you get the idea.

We’ve got a little bit more parent drama in this issue, as Billy’s parents and Tommy’s mother talk to the police about their missing kids. I always appreciate that in my teenage superhero dramas.

“The Ongoing Adventures of Bulk and Skull” continue, as Steve Orlando and Corin Howell tell a tale about the boys controlling a two-headed monster. This still doesn’t do much for me. The highlight was Bulk calling Rita “that nice lady with the wicker rabbit hat.”

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers continues to be at or near the top of my stack each time it comes out. We’ve reached the point where Higgins, Prasetya, and the team are really sinking their teeth in, and starting to forge their own ground. For this ’90s kid, it makes for supremely interesting comics.

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A Justice League/Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1 Review – Wrong Zord!!!!

Justice League/Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1, coverTITLE: Justice League/Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
PENCILLER: Stephen Byrne. Cover by Karl Kerschl.
PUBLISHERS: DC Comics/BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 11, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As someone who grew up in the ’90s with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, this is one of the most surreal comic books I’ve ever read. Seriously. Not necessarily in a bad way. It’s just friggin’ weird to see the Rangers next to the Justice League.

Justice League/Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is the latest inter-brand crossover from DC Comics that I’m not sure anyone asked for. But since they’re willing to try it, why the hell not? Think Green Lantern/Star TrekBatman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the upcoming Green Lantern/Planet of the Apes, etc. Now, thanks to the Command Center’s teleportation system malfunctioning, the Rangers (along with Lord Zedd), find themselves in the DC Universe.

While I hate to be one of these people, as a Power Rangers die-hard, it must be said: There’s a giant continuity error in this issue. Our villain on the PR side of things is Lord Zedd. A wise creative choice, as he’s the coolest villain to ever come out of the series. But then at the end of the issue, the Pink Ranger calls the Pterodactyl Dinozord. As I’m sure many fans remember, Lord Zedd did away with the Dinozords very early in his tenure. In fact, most of the Dinozords never saw combat against Zedd’s forces.

Justice League/Mighty Morphin Power Ragners #1, Zack, SupermanLook, I get it. The appeal of these crossovers usually isn’t a well-crafted story. It’s about the characters meeting. In that spirit, this book gives us a bunch of cool variant covers, each with a different Ranger and Justice Leaguer. (I went with the Batman/Pink Ranger one myself.) But who is this book’s intended audience? Comic book readers that grew up with MMPR! At some point, a good percentage of the audience is going to go: “Hey, didn’t Zedd destroy the Dinozords?”

Alright, alright. Puttin’ it back in the holster now. But I’m not wrong…

Zack plays a central role in this issue, which I appreciate. It would have been easy to put the beloved Green Ranger in that spot. What I don’t understand is why the crew at BOOM! have been so intent on making Zack a more grim character than he ever was on the show. Kyle Higgins has dropped a hint or two about Zack having problems at home, and we even saw Rita come after Zack to be the evil Green Ranger. This issue builds on that. We kick off with a scene in which Angel Grove has been destroyed, and Zack blames himself. We then learn that he’d had a fight with his parents about “disappearing too often.” Naturally, he can’t tell them he’s doing it because he’s a superhero.

There’s nothing wrong with this teenage superhero vs. civilian parents stuff. I actually wish more teen superhero books would go into it. But to those of us who watched the show, Zack is an awkward fit for it. He was always the fun-loving and energetic dancer. That’s not to say he has to be one-dimensional. But a more natural fit would have been Kimberly, the Pink Ranger. It was established on the show that her parents were divorced, and she now has a stepfather. That could be a fine source of drama.

Justice League/MMPR #1, Lord Zedd, John ByrneOne thing I can’t complain about is Stephen Byrne’s art and colors. This guy needs to stay in the Power Rangers universe for awhile. He’s tremendous with all the costumes, and his colors are wonderfully vibrant. There’s a splash page of all the Rangers, minus Zack, teleporting into Gotham City that’s just gorgeous. I enjoy Hendry Prasetya’s work on the main MMPR series. But if he ever needs to step aside, Byrne could jump in and not miss a beat.

This side of the issue is obviously pretty heavy on the Power Rangers side. With the Rangers in Gotham, we’ll naturally see more Justice League stuff next issue. We do, however, get a decent amount of Superman and Batman. That page where Superman floats next to Zack is, again, so damn surreal. As is seeing Batman block a blow from the Black Ranger’s Power Axe.

I don’t imagine we’ll see great things from this book going forward. But I admit, I’m curious to see what they do. Stephen Byrne’s art may be worth the price of admission on its own. But as I think is often the case with these crossovers, after the novelty of the first encounter is gone, the story sort of fizzles out. I can only assume that’ll be the case here. Still, they’ve got me coming back for issue #2. That’s a start.

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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9 Review – A New Room in an Old House

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9, 2016TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Steve Orlando
PENCILLERS: Hendry Prasetya, Corin Howell. Cover by Jamal Campbell.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: November 30, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Can we talk about the Power Rangers movie for a second?

They’ve started showing the trailer in theaters, and a few days ago we got our first look at the movie’s Alpha 5 (yuck). For better or worse, it looks very much in the same vein as the darkened, CGI overhauls that franchises like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got. As such, it looks big, epic, mostly serious, and only slightly like the show I watched as a kid. As a longtime Power Rangers fan, that’s disappointing.

I bring this up because, like the movie, this Mighty Morphin Power Rangers book from BOOM! Studios is also big, epic, and serious. At one point in this new issue, the Tommy character finds himself in a life-threatening scenario. Thinking these are his final moments, he starts to ask the other Rangers to tell his mother that he loves her. That’d be a pretty intense moment for a Saturday morning kids show. But it works here. In fact, most of what we’ve seen in this series works. So why does MMPR work, but the Power Rangers movie looks so contrived?

power-rangers-movieI think a lot of it has to do with what seems to be an affection for the source material. Kyle Higgins, Hendry Prasetya, and this team are looking at this world through a different lens. But it still feels like the world and characters that we know. Everyone is in the same role, everyone looks and talks (mostly) the same, and the suits and zords are the same. But it feels like we’re breaking new ground. This series almost feels like magically finding a new room in a house you’ve lived in for years. Whereas the Power Rangers movie feels like a different house, built to vaguely look like the old one.

Even when we’re introduced to an element exclusive to the book, it feels like it’s cut from the same cloth as the show. Case in point, Black Dragon, and the mysterious new Ranger we meet at the end of issue #9.

By splitting Tommy’s powers, Jason, Kimberly, Zack, and Trini have regained access to the Morphin Grid. They once again have their powers and words, albeit with a green tint. Now they must rescue Billy from Dark Dimension and defeat Black Dragon. But during the battle, they learn this new enemy is not all that he seems. This new revelation will lead two Rangers to discover a new world of peril. Literally, a new world.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9, Black DragonThe big news from this issue is the introduction of our comfy friend on the right. He’s obviously a mix of the Green and White Ranger (designed by Jamal Campbell), with some nice little additions thrown in. The Black Dragon we’ve seen previously is apparently an empty vessel. We find this mysterious Ranger in another plane of reality, which is dark and decimated, and features big statues of Rita and the Green Ranger. My guess is this is alternate-Earth Tommy, who was somehow victorious with Rita as the evil Green Ranger, and then turned on her to rule the world on his own.

This has been treated as a big reveal, with BOOM! advertising it as the first new Ranger introduced to the MMPR world in over two decades. Indeed, it’s pretty damn cool. With this new Ranger comes a new sandbox for writers and artists to play in, and a boat-load of new story possibilities. I’m guessing (and hoping) this is what Higgins was referring to when he talked publicly about not sticking to the show’s continuity.

Turning the other Ranger costumes green is a neat gimmick. Power Rangers fans like little tweaks like that. Colorist Matt Herms pulls it off very well, and Campbell even gives it a certain grandeur on the cover.

The superhero action stuff is where Prasetya really excels, as opposed to the quieter moments with the teens. So this is a big issue for him. There’s a fantastic splash page (shown below) where the Red-turned-Green Ranger teleports in, with the Tyrannosaurus Dinozord and the Eiffel Tower in the background. There’s a great shot where Black Dragon has his back to the camera as the zords advance. There are also a lot of great little things, like a rubble effect around the Dragonzord’s face when it takes a punch.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9, 2016Higgins also has a nice handle on Goldar. Via some convincing, he actually releases Billy from the Dark Dimension so he can help the Rangers destroy Black Dragon. When it’s revealed Black Dragon is a robot, the idea is to let Billy dismantle him so that Goldar can take his spot back at Rita’s side. It’s shades of the dynamic he had with Tommy during “Green With Evil.” What made Goldar so intriguing was that while he worked for Rita, and was ultimately loyal to Lord Zedd, he had his own agenda. In this series, and the Pink miniseries, we’re seeing him act on that agenda. The only hole I can poke in the Dark Dimension stuff is why Goldar is so transparent with Billy. Agenda or no agenda, Billy is still his enemy.

Steve Orlando and Corin Howell are also back with more Bulk and Skull. While these back-ups haven’t done much at all for me, But the inclusion of Rita in this one offers a little more intrigue. And this story about Rita wanting the boys to control a monster does seem like something that might have happened on the show.

I admit, I’ve been nervous about this book since Higgins said that continuity stuff to Newsarama. We’ve got such a good thing going. So when the writer says something like that about the continuity that everybody knows and loves, I get antsy. With this alternate reality stuff, he’s found a nice way to have some fun and sell a lot of comics. I’m just hoping the fun continues.

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

A SLAM! #1 Review – Bring on the Bruises!

Slam #1, 2016, Veronica FishTITLE: SLAM! #1
AUTHOR: Pamela Ribon
PENCILLER: Veronica Fish
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Box
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: November 16, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Now feels like an appropriate time to be reading about women in strong, aggressive roles. That’s one of the reasons I picked up SLAM! #1. The other is that blaze of color on the right. That’s attitude, right there.

 This freshman issue introduces us to Jennifer Chu and Maisie Huff, two newcomers to the East Side Roller Girls who become fast friends. We see them learns the ins and outs of roller derby, and watch their anxiety over whether they’ll be drafted to a team. The end results pleasantly surprise them, but also threaten to dissolve their new friendship.

Full disclosure: I know less than nothing about roller derby. I don’t know the rules, why they’re skating in a circle, or why they knock each other down. Pamela Ribon doesn’t go to great lengths to explain them, which turns out to be smart. Not everyone understands roller derby. But most people understand bonding with a new person over a shared experience. Ribon stays focused on the emotional and physical journey the characters are on, while at the same time drawing you into the derby world via the smaller details.

SLAM! #1, Veronica Fish, 2016, interior 1

Case in point: The page at left, which I love. The grease under the fierce eye, the wedgie, the bandages. Ribon and Veronica Fish pull you in with images you can understand and connect to. We also get pre-derby and after-derby shots of Jennifer and Maisie’s rooms, which instantly tells us how their lives and priorities have changed. Later on, we get my favorite image in the issue: Maisie flopping down on her bed smiling and content, but with two giant bruises from practice. Visual storytelling, ladies and gentlemen. This is how its done.

I was pleasantly surprised at how real both Jennifer and Maisie seemed, in spite of how little time we’ve had with them thus far. The former is a brainy loner, the latter is anxious and fresh off a break up. Their friendship feels very natural, and you’re rooting for them quickly. Each gets a one-page dossier-like spotlight, which fleshes them out a bit more.

Colorist Brittany Peer gives SLAM! a loud and impactful vibe to compliment Fish’s animated pencils. Like it or not, the neon pink, yellow and green on the cover will reach out and grab you. When you get inside, it’s a lot of deep purples, bright pinks, and blues. There’s a happy energy to it all, even when what we’re seeing isn’t happy (i.e. the last page). It’s very much in the same ball park as one of it’s BOOM! Box peers, Giant Days.

I didn’t expect to be slapping down cash for a roller derby comic. But I’m not sorry I did. SLAM! has me coming back next month. This feels like a comic we should be reading these days. So bring on the bruises!

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

A WWE: Then. Now. Forever. #1 Review – A Labor of Love

WWE: Then Now Forever #1, Seth Rollins, CoverTITLE: WWE: Then Now Forever #1
AUTHOR: Dennis Hopeless, Ross Thibodeaux, Rob Schamberger, Derek Fridolfs, Daniel Bayliss.
PENCILLERS: Dan Mora, Rob Guillory, Schamberger, Fridolfs, Bayliss. Cover by Mora.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: $3.99

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Wouldn’t be much of a pro wrestling/comic book web site if I didn’t talk about this one. While most WWE/comic book crossovers are fairly cringeworthy, this one is pretty damn good. It may be the best one that’s ever been done, save the epically campy Ultimate Warrior book from the ’90s.

Usually, licensed WWE comic books try to make the characters work outside their own environment. In 2010, Titan Comics started publishing WWE stories involving immortals, cultists, time travel, etc. Papercutz also published strange crime-noirish stories involving WWE stars in the fictitious “Titan City.” Then of course, you had the stuff Chaos Comics put out in the early 2000s. Now that was weird.

BOOM! Studios does venture into the outlandish and bizarre. But our main story is character driven, and very grounded…at least by WWE comic book standards. It also does something that, to my knowledge, has never been done before. It’s in-continuity with WWE television.

WWE Then Now Forever #1, 2016Written by Dennis Hopeless, the story takes place in the days prior to the Shield breaking up. Our main character is Seth Rollins, who WWE fans know will turn on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. We look at the brotherly dynamic between the three as they have a high-stakes confrontation with the Wyatt Family. But this brotherly bond will soon come to an end, as Rollins strikes out on his own at the expense of his Shield brothers.

What impressed me the most about this issue was how Hopeless handled Dean Ambrose. He’s not the main character, but the authenticity in his voice gives credibility to the story. Ambrose is an interesting blend of coolness and instability, with just a touch of goofiness. If you go overboard with any one of those, it’s not Dean Ambrose. For the most part, Hopeless nails it. Some of the dialogue is shaky, but it’s still some of the best I’ve seen in a wrestling comic book.

Dan Mora’s art is very expressive and animated. Very fitting for a world like this, with characters this flamboyant and colorful. Not to harp on Ambrose, but there’s a shot of Ambrose’s face right after Seth’s betrayal that actually tugs at the heartstrings. It’s all pretty highly muscled, but that’s hardly a sin.

We’ve got a lot of back up content here. First up is a story about the New Day using their time machine (Remember that?) to “bring hope and cheer to those cynical and despairing times” in WWE history. This is the kind of stuff I expected. As a five-page back up, it’s harmless enough. But if this had been the main story, I wouldn’t have brought this one home. Not my thing.

WWE Then Now Forever #1, Rob Schamberger, Eddie Guerrero, Sasha BanksWWE artist Rob Schamberger has a four-pager showing us a young Sasha Banks watching Eddie Guerrero on television, and then flashing forward to some of her career highlights. We play up the idea of her being a role model for girls, and her being a part of Eddie’s legacy, as Mick Foley mentioned a few weeks ago. In many ways, these are beautiful pages. Especially as someone who watched Eddie when he was alive.

We then go to a two-page cartoon featuring ’80s stars Tugboat and Earthquake. It looks very “Steamboat Willie” inspired. An unexpected, and very creative surprise.

The issue closes with some one-page tributes to stars like Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, and Dusty Rhodes, courtesy of Daniel Bayliss. Not a huge fan of how ‘Taker was rendered. But most of this is good stuff.

WWE is in good hands with Dennis Hopeless and the crew at BOOM! Studios. This feels like a labor of love, whereas before it often felt like a labor of…obligation. This could be a lot of fun.

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