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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 2017 Annual Review – Growing Up

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 2017 Annual
AUTHOR: Kyle Higgins, Tom Taylor, Jamal Campbell, Trey Moore, Caitlin Kittredge
PENCILLERS: Goni Montes, Dan Mora, Campbell, Frazer Irving, Da Jung Lee. Cover by Montes.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $7.99
RELEASED: May 31, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I read a review not long ago, entitled: “You can’t force the things you loved as a kid to grow up with you.” It was in reference to the new Power Rangers movie. But the same idea can obviously apply to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series from BOOM! Studios.

But perhaps certain things grow up better than others.

Last its predecessor last yearMighty Morphin Power Rangers 2017 Annual contains several short stories. What stuck with me after I closed this issue was how relatively mature it felt. Certainly by Power Rangers standards. Mind you, as a ’90s kid I’m inevitably biased here. I make no bones about that. But I think what this annual highlights more than anything is that MMPR can indeed work when played straight as a teenage superhero book. And it can work in a number of ways. You can go the moody teen angst route. You can approach it like a young adult novel. You can even go flat out dark. There’s something to be said for looking at these characters and this world through different lenses. Especially when you’re trying to play to readers that grew up with the show. The BOOM! that way before. This story also makes Rita look delightfully cunning, manipulative, and that much more wicked. I didn’t recognize Goni Montes’ work at first. I’d never seen him work in this style before. Those amazing helmet variant covers for MMPR #1 are still plastered into my brain. I have yet to get tired of his work on this book.

The next story, focused on the Yellow Ranger’s day off being interrupted by Goldar, is a preview of sorts for a second monthly MMPR title called Go Go Power Rangers. Series artist Dan Mora has a manga-influenced, animated style that should be a lot of fun. Author Tom Taylor (InjusticeAll-New Wolverine) isn’t on Go Go Power Rangers, but he’s perfectly serviceable here. Much better than his work on Justice League/Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, that’s for sure.

The clumsily titled “Forever Mighty Morpin Black” is next, written and illustrated by MMPR‘s regular cover artist Jamal Campbell. As both a continuity buff and a Power Rangers geek, this was a real treat. In the distant future, Adam Park, who succeeded Zack as the Black Ranger, returns to the ruins of the Command Center. He calls for help across time and space from other incarnations of the Black Ranger. What follows is a feast for the eyes, as variations of Zack and Adam arrive to fight off a monster. It’s essentially an Easter egg hunt for PR fans, as you spot all the little details and nods Campbell has sprinkled in.

But having heaped all this praise upon this issue,  it’s Trey Moore (Rachel Rising) and Frazer Irving that really steal the show. Seeing Irving doing PR is surreal to begin with. But in this context, it works. In last year’s annual, Moore gave us Goldar’s origin story. This year we get Finster’s. Moore and Irving give us what is essentially the first Power Rangers horror story. We see that at his core he’s an artist longing for inspiration, but he finds it and justifies it in the worst way imaginable. When he later is recruited by Rita to make monsters using a mystical, life-granting clay, he searches for vindication by attempting to resurrect someone he lost to his own selfishness.

There’s a haunting quality to this story that’s brilliant. I’m hesitant to say much more, for fear of taunting the big pay-off. But these eight-pages are among the creative highlights of BOOM’s run with the PR license. It’s that good. If you’re an older fan, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

My one nitpick with it? Finster’s line (shown above): “I’m not a bad person!” That struck me as awkward. It feels like it should have been “I’m not evil” or something.

The issue ends with a more cartoony tale about Goldar and Scorpina getting a day off. It’s more akin to a Bulk and Skull story. Goldar is able to disguise himself with human clothes and a baseball cap. It’s a hard swerve to go from the Finster story to this one. But it’s fine. This kind of stuff obviously has it’s place. Heck, this material is arguably more faithful to the tone of the television show.

A year later, I still have really fond memories of last year’s MMPR Annual. I don’t doubt that a year from now, I’ll still have fond memories of this one. It’s no accident that we’ve gotten things like a spin-off miniseries, and a second series in Go Go Power Rangers. BOOM! is producing quality. Not just quality nostalgia, either. Pure and simple quality.

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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #4 Review – Easy, Red Ranger…

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #4, cover, 2016TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #4
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Steve Orlando
PENCILLERS: Hendry Prasetya, Corin Howell. Cover by Jamal Campbell.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 22, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #4.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

If you dare to think of the Power Rangers from a semi-realistic standpoint, you come to the conclusion that in some ways, they’d operate like a military operation. What you basically have here are soldiers fighting in an interplanetary war with space-age weapons and giant robots. So logic dictates that you’d have your leader, in the case the Red Ranger, dictate your battle plans while the other Rangers fall in line. Makes sense, right?

Of course, logic and realism weren’t the strong points of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. (I think the my first clue was seeing that blue sky on the moon.) On the show, the Rangers didn’t really operate like that, at least not in the era this book takes place in. Jason was indeed the leader, but it seemed like more of an honorary title. He took on the role, but the Rangers were a team. We never heard lines like: “Jason gave you an order.” That’s not the case in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #4, and it’s a turn-off.

The team’s trust in Tommy has been shaken, as he’s revealed he’s having visions of his former master Rita Repulsa. The Green Ranger is benched for the Rangers’ battle against Scorpina and the Dragonzord, which is once again under Rita’s control. But Tommy isn’t one to sit idly by when he knows he can help. The resulting argument will lead to disaster for the Rangers.

MMPR #4, Tommy and Zordon, Hendry PrasetyaEarly in the issue, Jason tells Tommy not to come into the field. As the battle progresses, he tells Zordon he wants to go in, as he’s seemingly rid himself of the visions and can help. Zordon advises him not to, as “Jason has given you an order.” That line by itself is weird. Especially because Zordon says it. He’s the boss, isn’t he?

But after the fight, which they win thanks to the Green Ranger’s help, Jason gets indignant. He actually says: “I don’t know how I could have been any more clear. You were not to come into the field.”

I don’t have a problem with what Jason is saying. It’s how he’s saying it. He almost comes off like a parent disciplining a child. Jason and Tommy, even when they were at each other’s throats, never talked to one another like that on the show. As such, Jason looks like a condescending jerk. I’m wondering if this is being done to establish Jason feeling threatened by Tommy. One might gather that from things he’s said in previous issues. I’m trying to give Higgins the benefit of the doubt on this one. Either way, I don’t like this side of Jason.

As we’ve seen in previous issues, Higgins, Prasetya, and the team show us things we never could have see on the show. In the zord fight, we see Green Ranger crash through the eye of the Dragonzord, which is spectacular. We also learn that the Triceratops zord has an underwater mode. We also see Scorpina in the Command Center. The Rangers restrain her by tying her to a chair, which is downright comical. We’ve seen characters trapped in force fields numerous times on the show, but for some reason Scorpina gets tied down like a damsel in distress.

Blue Ranger, MMPR #4, Hendry PrasetyaHendry Prasetya’s performances have been consistent in the five issues he’s done. His take on the Power Rangers and their world hasn’t gotten old. Even simple things, like a shot of Dragonzord walking away from camera and rising out of the sea, manage to be extremely cool. Ditto for a handful of panels where we see the words powering up. My favorite panel in the issue is pretty basic shot of the Blue Ranger in the cockpit of the Triceratops Dinozord (shown right.) We’d never seen it from that angle before, and it’s panels like this that make this book so fun for longtime fans like yours truly.

We have yet another edition of our back-up feature, “The Ongoing Adventures of Bulk & Skull.” I hate to say it, but I’m officially turned off by this. Not because the writing or the art are bad, but because we’ve been on this story since issue #1. Bulk & Skull manage to capture a putty, and use it to try and make themselves look like superheroes. They could have done this in one, maybe two installments. This issue gives us our fourth. If they’re going to keep doing this we need a new story, and we need to quicken the pace.

This Jason thing is the biggest hiccup the series has seen so far, but by no means is it a reason to drop the book. Higgins, Prasetya, and the team have got something special, and it’s been consistently good. PR fans have been given a great gift with this series. And by and large, it keeps on giving.

Images from readcomics.net

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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #2 Review – This Time, It’s Personal…

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #2, coverTITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #2
AUTHOR: Kyle Higgins, Steve Orlando
PENCILLER: Hendry Prasetya, Corin Howell. Cover by Jamal Campbell.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 6, 2016

***Miss the first two issues? Check out issues #0 and #1.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s quite obvious that Kyle Higgins was an MMPR fan growing up, and as such is a perfect fit to write this series. How can you tell? Because he’s showing us things we always wanted to see on the show, and taking us places we’ve always wondered about. Case in point, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1 shows is the inner workings of the Dragonzord, and then gives us a confrontation inside Tommy’s home.

It’s not easy being the Green Ranger. Tommy continues to be plagued by visions of his former master, Rita Repulsa. What’s more, he’s having trouble getting the Dragonzord to respond to his commands, tensions are rising between he and his teammates, and now Rita’s minion Scorpina has invaded his home. Something’s got to give. Unfortunately, it may be Tommy himself.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #2, 2016, Hendry PrasetyaLast issue ended with Scorpina appearing in Tommy’s room. In this issue she ups the ante, threatening his oblivious mother. This was one of those logic holes in the TV series. “Why doesn’t Rita just go after them at home and attack their families?” While it’s unclear why Rita hasn’t tried this before, it’s clear she’s crossed a line. Tommy neutralizes the threat to his family quickly by simply hitting his communicator and grabbing Scorpina, teleporting them somewhere isolated, presumably in Angel Grove Park. I’d enjoy knowing how he did that. Did he just have to think of the park?

Our opening scene also expands on the events of the show, as we see Billy and Trini working inside the Dragonzord. We also get an exchange in which Billy self consciously refers to Tommy as “another fighter,” clearly feeling left out and inadequate by comparison. This leads to Trini giving him a pep talk, in which she calls him “the most amazing person I’ve ever met.” If you watch the old shows, there always seems to be a touch of romantic tension between Billy and Trini, even through I suspect it’s not intentional. Are we finally going to see that addressed here? If Higgins and Prasetya are game, I’m game.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #2, Hendry Prasetya, Dragonzord

Prasetya continues to excel at drawing Power Ranger style action sequences, and Power Rangers stuff fin general. His rendering of a sleeping Dragonzord (shown right) is absolutely gorgeous. The quieter dialogue scenes also come off better in this issue. The character acting hasn’t been Prasetya’s strong point thus far. He seems more comfortable when he’s allowed to be more cartoony, i.e. Bulk & Skull scenes. But with characters that have to play it straight, like the teens, Prasetya struggles. But the exchange between Trini and Billy is strong. There’s also a two-page scene that simply consists of Kimberly meeting up with Jason after a karate class, which is well done. Naturally, I suspect as Prasetya spends more time with these characters, the better he’ll get at this sort of thing. Higgins understands their personalities (or at least what the show established of them) to a T. So the pressure is on him to keep up.

As expected, we also get more of “The Ongoing Adventures of Bulk & Skull” from Steve Orlando and Corin Howell. I can’t say I’m in love with this stuff, but it’s harmless fun.

Higgins’ writing style for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers definitely evokes memories of Chris Claremont’s work on Uncanny X-Men, and Marv Wolfman’s work on The New Teen Titans, both monumentally successful teenage superhero books. The presence of a “danger room” last issue not withstanding, Higgins has established a surrogate family dynamic among the Rangers, which has been an integral ingredient to the story he’s telling. Given the tone of the TV show, that’s a great way to play things. As history indicates, it opens some great storytelling doors.

Hopefully, this is only the beginning.

Image 1 from snappow.com. Image 2 from tokunation.com.

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