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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Vol. 4 Review – When Zordon Steals the Show

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Vol. 4
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Ryan Ferrier
PENCILLERS: Hendry Prasetya, Bachan, Daniel Bayliss. Cover by Goni Montes.
COLLECTS: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #13-16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: 
October 25, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The first act in the larger story of Lord Drakkon comes to an end in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Vol. 4. Tommy’s evil doppleganger looks great here, and we also get an awesome character spotlight. Overall, this MMPR series still has a big up side. But once we get into issue #16, particularly the last few pages, things start to get rocky.

When we open the book, Tommy and Billy are still trapped in an alternate universe where the Green Ranger remained with Rita Repulsa after the events of “Green With Evil.” This turn of events led to the destruction of the Power Rangers, and Tommy’s rise as the evil Lord Drakkon. Now the Tommy and Billy that we know must join up with a resistance force (led  by familiar faces) to bring Drakkon down. Meanwhile, Jason and the others face Rita and her minions with reduced powers, and without Zordon. And where is Zordon anyway?

We get the answer to that last question in issue #15, and it’s the creative highlight of the book. Zordon has been absent for several issues at this point, so it’s obviously good to check in with him. But this issue goes above and beyond, following him into a rift between the dimensions. We see him meet his counterpart from Drakkon’s world, and how Zordon has continued to play a role in the conflict despite current predicament. More importantly, after witnessing how events have unfolded in this alternate reality, we see him speak from a place of uncertainty. We aren’t always shown that perspective from a wise old sage character like this. It’s an intriguing change up, which in the end cuts to the very heart of who Zordon is.

Daniel Bayliss hits a home run with the pencils, inks, and colors. His renderings of a full-bodied Zordon interacting with the time warp around him, and later his other self, are compelling, gorgeous, and hit the mark emotionally. He also gets to play around with some of the the war sequences we’ve seen in previous issues. We get some familiar images of Rita’s forces in Washington, Drakkon holding the Red Ranger helmet, and a few glorious shots of the Thunderzords. Bayliss can’t come back to the Rangers soon enough.

We closed the previous volume with the reveal of Trini, Bulk, and Aisha (who we know as the future Yellow Ranger) as members of the resistance. Having Aisha show up is a nice bit of fan service. But that’s all it amounts to. I won’t complain about that, considering how much griping I’ve already done about Tommy and Billy seeing things from their future.

For whatever reason, this series is bound and determined to cast the fun-loving Zack as a brooder. We get more of that here. But it’s an alternate version of Zack, who has lost nearly everything and become the leader of the resistance. Given how dark the world around him has grown, I’m alright with this version of Zack being more dour. It even makes for a cool little moment with the canonical Zack toward the end.

This volume also sees Finster create Goldar clones of all builds and sizes to fight against the Rangers. I love this idea. It makes sense. Goldar has failed Rita time and again, so she has Finster “improve” on him. This might have worked as an idea for the show, time and costumes permitting. We even get to see Goldar without his armor on the very first page. I didn’t even know he could take the armor off.

Kyle Higgins deserves a lot of the credit for the more sinister Finster we’ve gotten from the BOOM! books. The crowning example is what we got from Trey Moore and Frazer Irving in the 2017 annual. But the Finster we get in this book has a nice underlying creepiness to him. By comparison, the Finster we got on the show was almost a kind old man at times.

One of the subplots we get in this book involves the Trini of Drakkon’s world coming to grips with seeing Billy, as the Billy of her world died saving her life. If Higgins and Hendry Prasetya are playing at an eventual Billy/Trini romance, they’re doing it in a very subtle manner. The potential romance between Billy and Trini thing is something some of us have been talking about since we were kids. They almost have to address it at some point. Even if it’s just an issue about how they don’t have those kind of feelings for each other. Matters aren’t helped when you consider Prasetya’s strengths are the super-powered action scenes, and not the quiet interpersonal stuff. So one can argue that material isn’t fully maximized.

On the flip side, Prasetya’s fight sequences with a morphed Lord Drakkon are epic in the inevitable good Tommy vs. evil Tommy fight. This is obviously the first time we’ve gotten to see that costume in action. It’s very evocative of classic Power Rangers. The costume is obviously visually similar to the White Ranger suit. Darken is even holding Saba for much of the battle. You can easily hear Jason David Frank’s cheesy “evil” voice when reading some of Drakkon’s dialogue. (“Hello again, Tommy.”)  There’s also a teamwork theme in effect here, which is something that’s remained present for the entire series.

The Yellow Ranger also gets a Battlizer of sorts in issue #16. It comes out of nowhere, but looks cool enough. I also appreciate that it’s Trini who gets it. She was always the most underdeveloped character on the show, and remains that way in the comics. So this is a cool moment for her.

At this point we’ve built this Lord Drakkon story up for four books. Everything has built to this confrontation between the two Tommys, and the Power Rangers finally striking back against Rita’s forces. The ending makes sense. But when I read issue #16 during it’s initial release, I was disappointed. We’d built to those big showdowns for so long, only for them to pass fairly quickly. This felt like it should have been a big, epic finale. The Megazord makes a big comeback against the Goldar clones, and Tommy and Drakkon make some kind of startling discovery about each other that leads into the next phase of the story. Instead the resolution, particularly the bit with the teens back at school, feels very rushed and slapped together. All the right ingredients are there. But we aren’t given enough time with them.

However, I will say that what happens to Drakkon at the very end has the potential to be very interesting…

Our Bulk and Skull back-up stories are no more, now replaced by “The Ongoing Misadventures of Squatt & Baboo.” Like their predecessors, these stories were fairly benign additions to each single issue that are now collected long form. Ryan Ferrier and Bachan set a similar goofy tone. But while the Bulk and Skull stories got old after just a few issues, I somehow find Squatt and Baboo’s adventures a little more palatable. Perhaps it’s because they got a fraction of the screen time Bulk and Skull did, so there’s a refreshing quality to them getting the spotlight here. The collective story is about them visiting an alternate dimension and running into Goldar. It’s mildly amusing, and Bachan has a cool take on our “heroes.”

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Vol. 4 has a few more problems than the previous volumes do. But all the elements that make the series great are still there. Namely, Higgins’ willingness to write an objectively silly concept in a more serious and dramatic voice, Hendry Prasetya’s awesome work on the words and costumes, and the added depth injected into the characters. For Power Rangers fans young and old, this series remains a must-read.

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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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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #0 Review – Kid Tested, Adult Approved

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #0, Red Ranger coverTITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #0
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Steve Orlando, Mairghread Scott.
PENCILLERS: Hendry Prasetya, Corin Howell, Daniel Bayliss. Cover by Goni Montes.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 13, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Getting attention with nostalgia is easy. Keeping that attention is hard. This certainly isn’t the first Power Rangers comic book to get my attention. The folks over at Papercutz got it, and did a decent job with the license. But in terms of keeping that attention, this BOOM! Studios series has more potential than any comic book take on Power Rangers ever has. That’s how interesting the main story in this issue is.

Will it have that effect on everyone? No. But as a life long Power Rangers geek (Power Geek?), they’ve got me lassoed pretty hard. The formula? Keep the stories kid-friendly, but tell stories that also appeal to grown-up fans with money in their pockets. On paper, that’s not easy. But Higgins and Prasetya pull it off here.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #0, openingThe issue doesn’t give us anything in the way of backstory. So you’re expected to know who’s who, and what’s happened previously. One might consider that a flaw, but it doesn’t effect this book’s core audience. The story centers around Tommy, the Green Ranger. While the spell that made him do Rita Repulsa’s bidding has been broken, Tommy is still feeling residual effects. He’s having disturbing visions of Rita speaking to him in his daily life. Naturally, this effects his duties as a Power Ranger, and may even cause a rift between he and his new teammates. Meanwhile Rita, as always, is up to something…

The opening (shown left) is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in Power Rangers, and it’s an incredibly smart scene to begin with. All of our heroes are down (Dead?), and we see what I assume are the remains of the Command Center in the background. For a variety of reasons, this is something we never could have seen on the old show. But the one that comes to mind immediately is that it’s too dark for a kids show. But not for a comic book like this. With only one page, Higgins, Prasetya, and the creative team have immediately sold the adult fans on what this book can offer.

Kyle Higgins is about 30, which means he was likely a Power Rangers fan growing up, and it shows. The Rangers all feel like the characters we remember from the show, even down to their dialogue quirks. Jason, for instance, ends three of his lines in this book with the word “man.” Case in point: “You okay, man?” “You didn’t listen, man.” This seems trivial.  But it’s how he talked on the show, and it goes a long way toward making this book feel like a return to the old show.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #0, morph sceneA show like Power Rangers lends itself to the comic book medium in a lot of ways. It’s a low-budget action adventure series about superheroes who use giant robots to fight aliens. The scope is almost unlimited. You can do so much on the page that they couldn’t do on the screen, especially when you consider this show was made in the early ’90s. For instance, there’s a moment where the Pink Ranger detaches her Pterodactyl Dinozord from the Megazord, and uses it to catch some cars falling from a nearby bridge. That kind of thing was really rare in the show, and again, it serves as a selling point for this series.

Hendry Prasetya delivers big time on the artwork, giving us the kind of dynamic action we’re used to from these characters and this world. It’s almost like watching a new episode of the show, but from a different angle than we’re used to seeing things. The teenagers don’t necessarily look like the actors did, outside of superficial qualities. But that’s forgivable, as it’s more important that Prasetya captures the vibe and spirit of the show.

But as good as Prasetya is in this environment, it’s cover artist Goni Montes that Power Rangers fans are truly in debt to. Rarely, if ever, have the Rangers had the sense of grandeur they have on his variant covers. The one shown above is simply the one I got at my local shop. If you’re a Power Geek, you owe it to yourself to check them all out.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #0, teensThe biggest complaint I can lob at this issue is something rather subjective. Higgins brings Mighty Morphin Power Rangers into 2016 by giving the teens cell phones, and some talk about how Billy “posted review notes to the server and sent a push notification.” That’s basically extremely vague social media language. It’s not an unforgivable sin, but these are the only moments that take you out of the issue. It’s a new element to this world, which was created in the ’90s, that we have to adjust to. And it’s a curious one. This stuff doesn’t add anything significant, good or bad, to the story. So why have it? A similar thing was done in Ghostbusters: Legion, then Venkman and the guys had cell phones. You don’t need them. So why have them?

We have two back-up stories in this issue. The first stars our old friends Bulk & Skull. It’s fittingly cartoony, and sees them torturing their school principal. It ends with them setting a goal, fittingly involving the Power Rangers. We then get another follow up, where the Rangers duke it out with Goldar in what unfortunately comes off as a pretty generic fight sequence. There’s nothing wrong with the writing or the art in the second back up. But given the depth of what Higgins and Prasetya had already given us, it pales in comparison.  I almost wish they’d just given us a few more pages of Bulk & Skull.

This issue is a prelude to a story being billed as “The Untold Epic of the Green Ranger.” Considering the quality of this issue, I’m already sold on it. Considering what we got with this issue, we may be in store for the best MMPR comics we’ve ever seen. That’s a bold prediction, but it’s merited. This issue is morphenomenal!

Images courtesy of craveonline.com.

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