Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

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: 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 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: 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.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
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 #5 Review – Where Is Walter Jones?

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #5, 2016, Jamal CampbellTITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #5
AUTHOR: Kyle Higgins, Steve Orlando
PENCILLERS: Thony Silas, Corin Howell. Cover by Jamal Campbell.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 20, 2016

***Miss last issue? Check out Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #4.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As a writer, you look at stories like this one and say: “Damn, why didn’t I think of that?” I certainly didn’t expect to say that about an interlude issue. But Kyle Higgins takes this opportunity to add a bit more depth to his Green Ranger storyline, and the overall mythology around the character. The execution isn’t perfect. But the idea is so interesting it almost doesn’t matter. Almost

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #5 tells us that before Tommy became Rita Repulsa’s evil Green Ranger, she made a play for Zack, the Black Ranger. After being “upstaged” by Jason during a fight, Goldar and the putties abduct Zack so Rita can make her pitch. Obviously, Zack doesn’t accept. But how do the events of this issue impact Zack’s relationship to the team? And what happens when Zack tells Zordon?

Rita tempting one of the Rangers toward the dark side is such a simple, classic tale. It’s perfect for this series. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have gone with Billy instead of Zack, especially considering the scene we saw in issue #2. He was comparing himself to the others, and he seemed to become self conscious and bitter. If Rita could have seen that, she might have exploited it. On the other hand, we’ve seen some curious behavior from Zack in this series. He’s been very suspicious and apprehensive about Tommy. This issue seems to explain why. This experience gives him a negative connection to the Green Ranger that we never knew about.

MMPR #5, Zack, Green RangerThe Zack we’ve seen in this series isn’t the one I expected. On the show, Walter Jones played a fun-loving dancer. Zack is in love with life, and he’s not afraid to show it. That’s not the character we’ve seen in this series. For the most part he’s been very straight faced. I understand he’s in a very tense storyline. But flashes of personality aren’t going to hurt anything, are they?

In essence, what we need in this book is a little more Walter Jones.

Fussy Fanboy Moment: After Zack is abducted, he wakes up in Rita’s Dark Dimension, which we saw in the show. But in one of the “Green Candle” episodes, which these events obviously predate, Jason says he and Tommy are the only Rangers that have been there.

Then again, maybe in Higgins’ mind, Jason never finds out about this. Near the end of the issue, Zordon asks Zack to keep this incident hidden from the others for now. He says it’s so he can “assess the situation and Rita’s capabilities.” But with everything that’s happened, why don’t the Rangers know by now? At least I assume they don’t know…

On the plus side, Higgins sneaks in what seems to be a hint at Zack going to the Peace Conference later in the series. He tells Zordon, “I need to do more … I don’t care about leading. It’s not like that.” I like that second line. It speaks to why Rita’s plan for Zack doesn’t work. He’s imperfect like anyone else, but in the end he’s selfless. It’s more about the good that’s being done, as opposed to the glory you get from it.

MMPR #5, MegazordThe opening sequence, set in Italy, is a lot of fun. The Rangers face Rita’s monstrous take on The Vitruvian Man, who can apparently only speak in da Vinci quotes. Afterward, they receive some fanfare on the ground. We even have the prime minister in the middle of the action. This is yet another example of Higgins doing something that never could have happened on the show.

Thony Silas tags in on pencils for this issue. His style isn’t dramatically different from Hendry Prasetya’s, though his characters are slightly better at emoting. His Rita is particularly sinister. Again, his Zack seems very reserved and stoic, which is not the character we’re used to.

“The Ongoing Adventures of Bulk & Skull” still doesn’t do much for me. Though we do get a surprise in this issue: The BOOM! Studios debut of Lieutenant Stone, Bulk & Skull’s foil from seasons 3 and 4. I’d always been under the impression they’d never met before. Either way, I’m glad to see the putty patroller story is over. On to (hopefully) better things.

Higgins pleasantly surprised me with this Zack story, by following up on a plot seed he’d planted as far back as issue #1. It makes you wonder what else he might come back to in future issues. Whether it’s how Billy sees his role on the team, Jason feeling threatened by Tommy, or something else fans may have wondered about. There’s so much fertile ground to cover, and I’m hopeful that we’ve only scratched the surface.

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