A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Vol. 3 Review – Lord Drakkon’s Wrath

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Vol. 3
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Steve Orlando
PENCILLERS: Hendry Prasetya, Jonathan Lam, Corin Howell.
COLLECTS: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #912
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: June 7, 2017

***Need further detail? Check out our reviews of issues #9, #11, and #12.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

For my own finicky reasons, I’ve been enjoying BOOM! Studios’ Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series with a strong sense of caution. I’m very wary of how this story about a dystopian alternate reality is going to end. But even with that caution, as a Power Rangers geek it’s impossible to deny the quality of what we see on these pages. These are easily the best MMPR stories ever seen on the comic book page.

Picking up where Vol. 2 left off, the Rangers are as close as they’ve ever been to a doomsday scenario. With help from the mysterious Black Dragon, Rita Repulsa has destroyed the Command Center, cut the teens off from both Zordon and their powers, gained control of the zords, and imprisoned Billy in her Dark Dimension. In a last ditch effort, the teens have regained access to the Morphin Grid using Tommy’s Power Coin. In the ensuing battle, Tommy and Billy are transported to an alternate universe. A decimated reality where Tommy did not join Zordon’s team of Rangers. Needless to say, both Tommy and the world at large look very, very different.

The big moment from issue #9, and perhaps this volume overall, is the introduction of Lord Drakkon. As one might surmise given the costume is an amalgamation of the Green and White Ranger suits, it turns out to be an evil version of Tommy. Drakkon’s world is darker than almost anything we’ve ever seen in Power Rangers lore, both literally and thematically. Angel Grove is in ruins, with destroyed zords laying out in the open. Giant statues of Rita and the Green Ranger stand in the city. Then in issue #12, one of the Rangers actually dies. It’s off panel, but still a pretty big deal considering this is all based on a kids show.

And yet, it’s impactful and it works. That’s a testament to this team taking the source material more seriously. To the uninitiated, I’m sure it seems silly. But if you grew up with Power Rangers, and still have a deep affection for it, there’s real value in showing respect to these characters and this world. The proof is in the sales receipts. Now we’re getting a second ongoing series and a Justice League team up.

Obviously, this story takes place pretty early into Tommy’s run as a Power Ranger, a la season one of the show. But Higgins, Prasetya, and the team go a little wild in this volume, taking advantage of the alternate timeline and throwing in elements from later in the series. We see Saba, the Thunderzords, the Tigerzord, the Falconzord, and even catch a glimpse of characters like Ninjor and the Phantom Ranger. It all looks tremendous, as Prasetya is far more in his element when he’s drawing the superhero action stuff. There’s a splash page of the Tigerzord in issue #12 (shown below) that’s particularly morphenomenal.

But these future elements are where my caution comes into play. Tommy and Billy are seeing all these things from their future. People have told me I’m being too picky about this, and maybe they’re right. But I stand firm in the idea that from Tommy and Billy’s perspective, seeing things like this taints the impact of events that happen to them later. Take the famous sequence in “White Light, Part 2” when Tommy is revealed as the White Ranger, and he’s told he will work alongside Saba and command the Tigerzord. This story implies that he’ll recognize both of them. It’s almost like he’s a kid who snuck a peak at his Christmas presents. He knows what he’s getting, so that moment of genuine surprise and discovery is tainted. I’m hoping a mind wipe is forthcoming for Tommy and Billy.

That being said, I take my hat off to Higgins and the BOOM! Studios team for caring enough about the Power Rangers universe to incorporate things like this. It’s part of why, tainted impact or not, these are the best PR comics ever created.

Issue #10 is an interlude focusing on Billy, with Jonathan Lam takes over the pencil, and Joana Lafuente on the colors. It zooms in on Billy’s anxiety and insecurities. It’s a natural direction to take, considering what the character was like on the show. It also serves as a nice follow-up to the scene we saw between Billy and Trini in issue #2. Lam’s pencils are sketchier, and a little more “Americanized” than Prasetya’s. But the transition isn’t as jarring as it might have been with a different artist.

The volume wraps up “The Ongoing Adventures of Bulk & Skull,” as Rita dupes the duo into controlling her latest monster. I’ve been a little tough on these in past reviews. The reality of it is, they’re hardly the highlight of the series. But they’re fine for what they are. Going forward, these backup stories shift to “The Ongoing Misadventures of Squatt and Baboo.” Ironic, considering Rita once called Bulk and Skull “a human Squatt and Baboo.”

Despite the apprehensions I have about this Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series, which admittedly are a little bit silly, the book is a great testament to the impact the show had on so many of us. Higgins, Prasetya, and everyone working on it has done great justice to it. I’m thankful we have so much more to look forward to.

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A Ninja Turtles, Vol. 5: Krang War Review – The Battle For Dimension X

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 5: Krang WarTITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 5: Krang War

AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz

PENCILLER: Ben Bates
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #17-20
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: May 8, 2013

By Rob Siebert

Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Ninja Turtles have always had their share of cosmic adventures, dating back to the original books Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird did. It’s as much a part of their mythology as anything else. That being said, I’ve always preferred my TMNT stories to be more on the Frank Miller side of things. I like my Turtles to be stealthy, rooftop hopping shadow dwellers, as opposed to laser dodging, spaceship flying, alien-fighting adventurers. But even if you come in with that mind set, Krang War is a pretty good Ninja Turtles story.

When the Turtles, April O’Neil and Casey Jones decide to investigate Stockgen further, they shockingly discover that April’s former co-worker Chet is actually the Fugitoid, a robot from Dimension X. Fugitoid contains the consciousness of Honeycutt, a scientist who once warned the high council of the planet Utrominon of their world’s imminent destruction due to their overuse of one of it’s natural resources. But the council refused to heed his warning, and the planet was doomed. Thus, the Utrom warlord Krang is determined to manipulate Earth’s atmosphere to make it a new Utrominon. In the meantime, Krang’s forces have invaded the planet Neutrino. When forces from Neutrino come to Earth and retrieve Chet/Fugitoid/Honeycutt to help them build a weapon, the Turtles are drawn into their war. But how does all this, and the ensuing battle, involve the Shredder’s daughter Karai?

Neutrinos-TMNTI have very little complaining to do about how well Waltz and his various collaborators have brought elements from the original cartoon show into the modern era for this series. Krang War is no exception. Children of the ’80s will recognize the Neutrinos, Kala, Zak and Dask. King Zenter and Queen Gizzla are also there, though in name only. Eastman, Waltz and Bates do a fine job of re-interpreting them for a universe that’s a bit more mature (though not too mature of course). The high-registered, lingo spewing teenagers driving souped up flying cars, replaced with battle-hardened soldiers with familiar hairdos. Krang’s rock soldiers from Dimension X look good too.

Ben Bates’ art is a definite improvement over Andy Kuhn’s in the last volume. Kuhn’s art is fine in it’s own right, but Bates is a much better fit for the Ninja Turtles. He does a great job giving us the cartoony expressions and humor, in addition to the more serious drama and action. In a way it’s a meld of a lot of the great TMNT incarnations through the years. I can see Eastman and Laird, the 4Kids animated series, as well as traces of the current animated series. He brings the pencilling back up to the level it was when Dan Duncan was on the book. Sadly, this book contains his entire four-issue run.

Ben Bates, Ninja Turtles #18I liked the way Karai was worked into this story. Although, there was a weird scene between she and the Shredder in issue #19 where they’re sitting at a table eating while they’re in full combat gear. But on the whole, her presence in the story was a nice way to keep the Foot Clan involved in the proceedings without actually making the story about them. By the time we close the book, we also have something that could finally prompt a meeting between Shredder and Krang. I don’t necessarily see that happening until autumn at the soonest. But I’m guessing it’s in the near future.

IDW’s Ninja Turtles series has had a fairly hit-or-miss existence. They didn’t pay off Raphael’s early separation from his brothers in the first book, and things took a tumble in the third book with the team’s first confrontation with the Shredder. But things have gradually been on the uprise since then. In truth, this is the best the series has been so far. Perhaps it’s a matter of Eastman, Waltz and the creative team finally getting comfortable in their skin as far as this new continuity is concerned. Either way, my hopes aren’t high that things will stay this good. But after 20 issues, at least our creators have a little more experience on their side.

RATING: 7.5/10

Image 1 from teenagemutantninjaturtles.com. Image 2 from 4thletter.net.

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A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 Review – A New Chapter

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtes, Vol. 1: Change is ConstantTITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtes, Vol. 1: Change is Constant
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
PENCILLER: Dan Duncan
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1-4
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER:
IDW Publishing
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: February 23, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Like most children of the ’80s, I love me some Ninja Turtles. My fondness for these four green guys has only grown as I’ve gotten older, and they’ve continued to be interpreted by different writers, artists, animators, etc.  They’re not quite as renowned in the 21st century as they used to be, but the boys in green still have a legacy that’s very, very special.

The next chapter in that legacy is IDW Publishing’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ongoing, which is overseen by TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman. It marks Eastman’s first involvement with the franchise in a number of years, as he sold all his rights to the franchise to his co-creator Peter Laird in 2000. The series has tweaked the Turtles’ status quo a bit, but for the most part the characters still ring true.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, IDW, cover spreadThe big twist for this new series is that Raphael has been separated from Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Splinter since the accident that turned them into humanoid mutants. Moments after they were all doused in radioactive ooze (per the classic origin story), a cat leapt in and snatched Raph from the group. Splinter is bound and determined to find his lost surrogate son. Meanwhile, Raphael has been wandering homeless through the streets. Nevertheless, his sense of morality is intact. He comes across a father attacking his teenage son, and saves the day. The young man’s name is Casey Jones (sound familiar?) and the two strike up a fast friendship. Our villain here is Old Hob, the mutated version of the cat who swiped Raphael. Somehow, this humanoid cat with an eye patch started a street gang, and has been feuding with the Turtles and Splinter since their mutation.

Raphael, Old Hob, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1I’m not completely sold on this Raphael thing yet. These first four issues did a nice job of setting everything up, but the true test will lay with what Eastman and this team do with this new angle as time goes on. Raphael has always been the hot-headed rebel of the group, and this separation story is an interesting way to set him up as such. Because he’s been away from Splinter and the others his whole life, Raph has never received the training his brothers have. Thus, he could potentially stand out like a sore thumb when he inevitably is placed with his brothers. If this new dynamic can be capitalized on, it could make for some really cool stories.

TMNT purists will scoff at this, but I’m disappointed the Turtles kept their red bandanas for this series, as opposed to going with the color scheme they typically have in TV shows and movies. Yes, when the Turtles were created they all had red bandanas. But the problem I’ve always had with that setup is that it can be difficult to tell them apart. If you take the weapons and the dialogue away, and stand them up side by side, you should ideally still be able to tell who is who. That’s not the case here. The fact that this is a full-color book as opposed to black-and-white, which the Turtles were always published in back at Mirage Studios, makes this choice even less sensical.

Conspicuous by his absence in this story is the Turtles’ arch nemesis, The Shredder, though there is one scene that features a sword-bearing ninja who may turn out to be him. We also see a shadow-shrouded villain named General Krang, who shares a name with one of the main TMNT villains from the ’80s animated show. April O’Neil and Baxter Stockman also play major roles.

Ninja Turtles, IDW, originDan Dunan’s pencils are a strong selling point for this series. He’s great with injecting emotion into his art, which I love. During the scene where the un-mutated Raphael gets snatched away from Splinter and the others, surrogate father and son lock eyes, and we can see the fear and desperation between them. He’s also great at working with the Turtle faces, which there’s certainly something to be said for, as they obviously don’t exist in the real world.

For a few years now, I’ve been craving a Ninja Turtles series that takes the best ingredients from just about every version of the TMNT, and brings it all together to create something that adds on to classic elements, while still keeping things fresh with vibrant storytelling and stunning visuals. This series seems like it has the right attitude to pull that off. Will it happen? Probably not. That’s a pretty high standard to set for any book. But the Turtles deserve no less, so I’ll hold out a bit of hope.

RATING: 7/10

Image 1 from turtlepedia.wikia.com. Image 2 from comixology.com. Image 3 from dreamwidth.org.

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A Nightwing & Flamebird, Vol. 2 Review – Rao Lives Again!

Nightwing & Flamebird, Vol. 2TITLE: Superman: Nightwing & Flamebird, Vol. 2
AUTHORS: James Robinson, Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann.
PENCILLERS: Pere Perez, Bernard Chang, Pier Gallo. Cover by Alex Garner.
COLLECTS: Action Comics #883-889, Superman #696, Adventure Comics #8-10
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Of all places to wage war against a Kryptonian god, Iran is probably in my bottom five. I imagine that’s how Nightwing & Flamebird feel in this book.

In the second of two volumes collecting their adventures, the duo of Nightwing (Chris Kent, Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s adopted son, and General Zod’s biological son) & Flamebird (Kryptonian Thara Ak Var) are still fugitives. They must quietly consult with Dr. Light and S.T.A.R. Labs when Nightwing suddenly begins to age rapidly. They meet a renowned geneticist, who turns out to be Jax-Ur, a Kryptonian sleeper General Zod has planted on Earth. Jax Ur creates a bastardized version of Rao, the Kryptonian god, and unleashes it in Iran. Nightwing & Flamebird are forced into the center of a battle that also attracts Wonder Woman, and members of the Justice Society. All the while, Lois Lane covers the fight and reports the truth, much to the chagrin of her own government.

Adventure Comics #9, Pier GalloAfter that story, we switch gears completely. In a short story, we meet Car-Vex, another Kryptonian sleeper tasked by General Zod with penetrating General Lane’s organization. We feel her inner turmoil as she’s forced to betray members of her own species in attempt to win a larger battle. Written by Eric Trautmann and drawn by Pier Gallo, it’s actually the strongest material in the book.

The Nightwing & Flamebird section of DC’s New Krypton storyline may have been the weakest one. Thara Ak Var fell a little flat with me as Flamebird. That’s not entirely Greg Rucka’s fault. We knew who Chris Kent was from the Geoff Johns/Richard Donner run on Action Comics. We were already invested in him because of his relationship to Superman, Lois Lane, and General Zod. Thara didn’t have that advantage. She had some great moments with Supergirl, but I still don’t feel like I know her as a character. We know she’s a passionate person, who loves Chris and believes the spirit of the Flamebird is with her. With all that was happening in the single issues, as well as the over-arcing New Krypton storyline, Rucka didn’t necessarily have time to distinguish her from DC’s other young female heroes. The stories still work, but I wasn’t as invested in them as I was in say, Mon El’s in Superman.

Action Comics #887, RaoMidway through the story, Rucka has to get a lot of exposition out, in the form of the Nightwing & Flamebird myth from Kryptonian mythology. He devotes about half an issue to it. It’s not thrilling reading. But it’s not terrible either, and it’s necessary to set up the fight against Jax-Ur and Rao. Unfortunately, the finale felt stale to me. It’s essentially a bunch of heroes against a hundred-foot-tall invincible giant. It’s not that exciting. Plus, the end comes as a result of something established in the exposition, and not necessarily a result of Chris and Thara’s efforts. It’s a logical ending, and it fits. But in terms of storytelling, it’s strictly okay.

Also, a hundred-foot god showing up in the middle of Iran certainly warrants the presence of multiple heroes. But I can’t help but feel Wonder Woman and the JSA were thrown in strictly to add star power to a stale story.

There’s a bit of foreshadowing for Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton in this book, but it’s not  integral to the overall story. Like James Robinson in Mon El, Vol. 2: Man of Valor, it seems like Rucka had to fit a story very large in scope into a limited number of issues. While necessary, it’s ultimately a little sad. We’ve all seen Rucka do better than this, and I wish he could’ve gotten that chance.

RATING: 5.5/10

Image 1 from comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com. Image 2 from babblingaboutdccomics3.wordpress.com.

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