With the comics industry slowly returning from the pandemic, Brendan Allen and I are taking the opportunity to introduce each other to comics that the other might not have read. I’m more of a capes, laser guns and swords guy, while Brendan loves dark magic, criminals and things that go bump in the night. This time around we take a look at a series that gives a Saturday morning favorite a total facelift.
In the fall of 2015, Boom! Studios announced a surprising new license- cheesy Saturday morning staple, Power Rangers. However, it was immediately clear that this wasn’t the Power Rangers most readers had grown up with. The series was an immediate hit, thanks to the modern update by Kyle Higgins, Hendry Prasetya, Matt Herms, and Ed Dukeshire. And for this edition, we welcome back our esteemed editor James Ferguson to talk about the Morphinominal action!
In the wake of Tommy Oliver joining the Rangers, the team has to adjust to a new member. However, Rita Repulsa’s influence may not be entirely gone. Can the Rangers stop their greatest enemy and keep her away from the Green Ranger and his power?
Tony Thornley: We talked about this one for a long time. This is largely a reboot of the classic Power Rangers series. I think you were probably just a touch too old when it premiered. And let’s be honest- it doesn’t age well. But this series takes the basic ideas and gives it a modern spin. It’s exactly what the Power Rangers needed, showing the series could be done as a serious superhero story, more like Ultimate Spider-Man than Saturday morning cartoons.
Brendan Allen: You knew going in that I really don’t like the television series. Never have. I was in, like, 9th grade when it came out, so it wasn’t really aimed at me. I saw a few episodes, but I was 14, so it didn’t come close to grabbing me the way it did the kids a few years behind me. Old. I know. You wanna talk Ninja Turtles some time? I’m all over that shit.
I did read it though, begrudgingly. It wasn’t terrible.
James Ferguson: I was just on the cusp of the right age for this. I remember vividly when it came out, setting up the VCR to record the episodes as they aired RIGHT when I got home from school. That way I wouldn’t miss anything. This comic brought me back to that moment, excited for what these familiar characters would do next. I’ve also recently been rewatching them on Netflix and yes, they’re cheesy and super weird sometimes, but they’re fun. Like teen kaiju action.
And Brendan, if you want to do TMNT, the Power Rangers had a crossover comic with them not too long ago! Also, the IDW series is awesome.
TT: Here’s the thing for me. This series took a weird Americanization of a Japanese TV show. It updates it, takes out the weird teen drama and treats it like a mature sci-fi superhero series. With that approach, I think you can see that there’s a lot of cool stuff involved in the concept of Power Rangers.
BA: Right. I totally get where the concept came from. There are actually a LOT of kids’ shows that started off as (often mismatched) toy sets that distributors wanted to market. ROM, Transformers, Care Bears, Sectaurs, GI Joe, Masters of the Universe, My Little Pony…
The thing I think that killed the show for me was the cut and pasted Japanese action scenes. The Yellow Ranger clearly was a dude in the fight sequences, but was played by a female actor in the stateside version?
JF: Not to mention the horrible stereotypes it hit. The Yellow Ranger is Asian. The Black Ranger is Black. Come on, guys.
TT: Yeah no kidding, and trust me, outside of a couple episodes, the series holds up even worse. However, Higgins is smart and takes the best episodes of MMPR- the Green Ranger saga- and makes them the foundation of his story. Hell, when the companion series Go Go Power Rangers launched it was a clean break from the show, establishing the comics were clearly a complete reboot except for ‘Green with Evil.’
That’s to this series’ strength. Tommy Oliver’s journey here pushes the concept of the “teen heroes fighting kaiju” into a stronger footing because he’s trying to overcome not just a rough upbringing but also Rita’s evil influence.
JF: The story looks at the characters in a more meaningful way than the TV show ever did. The show only had the baseline features of the team without digging any deeper. Surface level stuff. Zack likes to dance. Jason does karate. Billy’s the nerd. Here you get a glimpse into who they are.
TT: Yeah exactly, which is the benefit of comic book serialization. You’re able to get into that stuff more.
BA: And to be fair, if I had no foreknowledge going in, I probably would have enjoyed this book more. Bias is real.
The storyline actually reminded me a little bit of one of your previous picks, Dark Phoenix. Same kind of head games and psychic influence on the one team member that everyone is a little scared of.
TT: I don’t disagree, except this is more of a redemption story while that was a fall from grace. If the story has a major fault though- not enough monsters. The entire basis of Power Rangers is Rangers encounter monster, defeat monster, it grows to building size and the Rangers fight it again with big ass mechs. The Tommy drama kind of dominates it to the point that the kaiju, while rad, are an afterthought in the climax of this arc.
But as the basis of the series to come, this was a solid introduction. It’s a little tropey in the plot with really solid and interesting characterization, but that leads into a huge twist of the concept in the second arc. If I’d thought of it before we went to press, I think we would have actually covered volume 1 and 2, because each of these early volumes of the series were only 4 issues each. This arc really was the foundation of “this isn’t the MMPR you remember” when the second arc says “and now we’re going to blow the concept wide open.”
JF: Not to mention a big bad that comes in, setting the stage for the rest of the series to date.
TT: On the LAST PAGE of this volume! One of the best villains of the 25 year plus franchise, and he only shows up for a page here! We’ll have to give volume 2 a shot eventually.
BA: Too late. This is your one MMPR gimme.
TT: Hah! All this talk about the story, and we haven’t even touched on the art. Prasetya really pushed the kids in a great modern direction, with thoughtful fashion choices. He doesn’t really rely on likenesses (yes, they’re vaguely Jason David Frank and Amy Jo Johnson but they’re not directly the actors), but I think that’s to the story’s betterment. But he also had a really solid grasp on the action.
JF: The artwork also helped the book stand on its own, separate from the show since it wasn’t too close to the likenesses.
BA: Now, the art, I actually liked, for the most part. The daikaiju were super hokey in the show. I liked that, while staying pretty true to character design, the monsters were cleaned up and slightly stylized to present a more realistic presentation. Even the baddies, while recognizable from their show roots, were better visual concepts.
TT: For sure. Straight up, Rita is actually threatening here, as were her minions (except Squat and Baboo, who will never be scary). That was a really solid synthesis of Higgins playing it straight while Prasetya drew the hell out of them. When the kaiju DO show up, they’re a mixture of the show’s design influences and a huge dash of Pacific Rim. They’re very very cool.
JF: There’s a special kind of excitement that comes in during any morphing sequence and this comic is no different. Prasetya (and every artist that’s worked on this book since) brings something to it that gets you pumped for what’s coming next. Unlike the show, it’s not wasting a ton of time with it either.
TT: Agreed. The entire series just has some top notch art.
So what’s our end verdict? I really enjoy this one, but I can see that it’s not for everyone.
BA: I did not like it, and that’s okay. Every comic is not my favorite, but I recognize that every comic is SOMEONE’S favorite. This is an incredibly faithful interpretation of a television series that loads of kids grew up watching. The creative team did an excellent job patching some of the holes that made me pretty much hate the show, and they deserve credit for that, but it’s never going to hold the same weight with me as it does for you.
JF: And that’s ok! Franchise work is tough because unless you have a pre-existing love for it, it’s tough to win you over. I’m never going to get into a G.I. Joe comic because I just don’t have that appreciation for the franchise.
Power Rangers is one of the first kids TV phenomenons to come out of the ‘90s. Where the ‘80s had Transformers, TMNT, Thundercats, and much more. The Power Rangers came out then, cementing themselves in the minds of generations. Now, the people that grew up watching it are in the position to make stories of their own and they’re building on what’s come before. It’s targeted nostalgia and it can work pretty well.
TT: Exactly. And I think James and I are right in the sweet spot for the nostalgia that this series hits. So what do we have next?
BA: We’ll be checking out a modern horror interpretation of an ancient Greek myth in Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment’s Kill the Minotaur, by Chris Pasetto, Christian Cantamessa, and Lukas Ketner.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Volume 1 is available now in single issues and collected editions from Boom! Studios, both in print and digital editions.
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