I’m not a big Power Rangers guy anymore. But when I was a kid, that was my jam (along with the Batman: The Animated Series VHS tapes we owned). The show was loud and zany and appealing to a four year old who couldn’t sit still for five minutes.
With the recent release of the new Power Rangers movie, I’ve been reminded of my enjoyment of the classic show. Despite the lukewarm reviews of the film – which I haven’t seen, so I can’t say anything bad about it – I’m reminded again of how fun the show was, and how the Green Ranger was my favorite character (obviously the coolest Ranger of them all). In light of this, I’ve decided to talk a little bit about an update to the series that retains the fun feel of the show while bringing a more “grown-up” dynamic to the narrative, all while taking place in the same universe as the original: Boom! Studio’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, by Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya.
The first volume takes place a short time after the “Green with Evil” saga from the show and deals mainly with Tommy’s integration into the team after being freed from the control of Rita Repulsa. While things begins well enough for the now six-Ranger team, cracks soon begin to form as some of the Rangers question whether Tommy is really on their side and if he can be trusted after being in Rita’s thrall for so long. Making matters worse is Tommy’s self-doubt at belonging, fueled by visions of Rita feeding into his self-consciousness. By the time Rita beings her next master plan, the team finds itself in a precarious place.
When I speak to the “grown up” sensibilities of this series, I’m not talking about the HBO meaning of “grown up” that features nudity, rampant swearing, and excess violence. The book still feels like classic Power Rangers, complete with hokey banter during the fight scenes and silly comedic beats provided by Bulk and Skull (who have their own backup stories, written by Steve Orlando and cartoonishly drawn by Corin Howell). It’s the overarching narrative, digging into the doubt Tommy feels and the reluctance not only the other Rangers have, but also the citizens of Angel Grove, towards seeing a villain now acting as a hero, that adds a depth to the arc that the show partly only skimmed over.
Writer Kyle Higgins manages to blend the classic with the new just enough to make it feel like a part of the original series while also not presenting a watered down, childish story meant to entertain kids. He shows that the Rangers aren’t just fighting in abandoned mines and secluded fields – their actions have weighty, life and death consequences for Angel Grove, something never addressed when the Zords were smashing through models on the TV show. Add in the melding of straightforward, single-issues stories (like Tommy having to fight Scorpina in issue two) with the larger narrative, and the series feels deserving of being in your to read pile.
Higgins has said that his approach to this series has been “Green Ranger: Year One,” and that’s exactly what you get when you read this first collection. Higgins takes his time getting into the shifting dynamics Tommy’s addition presents the team, as the Rangers are a tightly-knit clique being told to accept the “new kid” as one of their own. There’s a reluctance on the part of Jason and Zack to accept Tommy, while Kimberly is willing to give him a chance. The dynamics among the Rangers, specifically Tommy with both Jason and Kimberly, add a strong teen-drama angle to the high-flying action.
But while the challenge of being the new kid in the group is the external challenge for Tommy, it’s his internal struggle with seeing Rita’s shade lurking in his mind that becomes the more intriguing story. Higgins doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel when it comes to this plotline (it’s been done before plenty of times), but it does hit the necessary beats to get the reader invested in Tommy’s struggles as he wonders if he’s meant to be a part of the Rangers. Anyone who, like me, thought the Green Ranger was the best part of Power Rangers should check out this book for this storyline that, for some reason, hadn’t been mined until now.
It is unfortunate that some of the other Rangers don’t get the same treatment as these three. Billy feels underused most of the time, except for a seemingly-random crisis of faith where he says he, too, feels ostracized because of his intellect, as does Trini, who feels like a mix of Billy’s smarts and a high schooler filled with wanderlust that seems to loosely set up her departure from the team (which was detailed in the TV show). It is the albatross of team books that a few characters get shortchanged, but it is disheartening that there isn’t more done to make all the characters feel fully unique.
The art, by Hendry Prasetya, is a good fit for the look and feel of the book. Not only does he capture the wildness that comes with Power Rangers, including the multicolored fight scenes and titanic Zord battles, but he isn’t beholden to being completely faithful to the looks of the actors who played these characters. His Tommy looks like how you remember him, but has enough differences from Jason David Frank (the actor who played Tommy) to not be a photo reference. This is the make-it-or-break-it aspect when it comes to comic adaptations of TV shows – does the artist try too hard making the characters look like their actor counterparts? Prasetya doesn’t, and – to me, at least – the book works all the better for it.
The only other flaw in the presentation of this story is the construction of the zero issue. Released several months before the series debuted, it began the story arc and sewed the seeds for the long narrative focusing on Tommy. Issue one, however, takes the first few pages to rehash the origins of the Power Rangers and the Green Ranger. Reading the series in a collection, this moment slows down the narrative and makes it feel like it should have come before the action kicked up. A minor issue, to be sure, but still one that hampers the overall flow of the story.
The second collection works in tandem with the first, telling one long story that shows Tommy eventually coming to terms with his place among the Rangers and the others accepting him as one of their own. Both are worthy of your time (with an ending that’ll have the little kid in you screaming about how cool it is), but it’s really this first collection that blends together fun moments that won’t feel like they’re playing for children. For an adult sensibility, Boom!’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is the way to go to get in touch with your inner child.
The first volume of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which collects issues zero through four, is available now in comic book shops and digital retailers. Volume two, completing the story arc, is also available.