Power Rangers has been having something of resurgence of late, and in our big superhero movie world they fit in rather nicely. The brand just had a semi-successful reboot movie and huge amounts of traction were gained from their game Legacy Wars and a near Internet breaking twitch stream. Power Rangers’ basic premise of weirdo teens gain superpowers and fight evil space monsters is almost timeless. The same tropes recur constantly with the monsters growing big and the rangers have to fight them in big robot things that are controlled with team power.
Power Rangers is an odd beast. The show uses repurposed footage from Japan’s Super Sentai series, spliced with new original footage. This causes the show to have a unique feel and you also end up with well-documented inconsistencies. These include the fact that the original yellow ranger was played by a woman (Thuy Trang) in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but when morphed the footage, from Zyuranger, was a male ranger. The main villain of the early seasons, Rita Repulsa, was actually singing in the original footage– hence her awful lip syncing. You also end up with strange plots, sometimes awful dubbing and characters turning up in episodes whenever the recycled fight footage needs them to. All of this should add up to a complete mess, and yet Power Rangers has always managed to have heart. Hell, it’s even managed some pretty great plotlines; the “Green with Evil” serial is a classic and with good reason; it’s still watchable even now.
BOOM Studios! Power Rangers titles have managed to show love to the 1993 Saban show whilst improving on it immensely. The books still have fun, the soul of the show and all the characters you know and love, but with more room for character development and the ability for a larger scope.
In the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers the episodes were only 20 minutes, which meant, put bluntly, character work was pretty thin on the ground. However one character got more than most, and became a fan favorite. That was Tommy Oliver.
He was the first “extra” ranger (a now-established ranger tradition that adds another ranger to the core cast during the body of the series), and the first to turn from evil to join the rangers in what would become a recurring pattern throughout the American franchise. He also changed colors! Tommy began as the Green Ranger but after his powers were taken he was brought back by popular demand and became the White Ranger. He is one of the longest serving rangers and not only that but also has had the most Ranger color changes of all time and been a Red ranger (the typical leader ranger) twice. Colour changes tend to be quite big deals in the series, so for Tommy to have made it through this many shows his sticking power. All this for a guy whose special ability was to play the flute that made a big dragonzord destroys things!
Tommy’ switch from good to evil is one of the most famous parts of his story. He begins as the brainwashed minion of the infamous Rita Repulsa but is freed from Rita’s evil spell and gets the choice to either be evil, as before, or choose good and join the rangers. This being a kids’ show of course he chooses good and with no time for character work the show lets everyone forgive him for attempted murder and move on. The comic, however, has other ideas. It takes a good look at how the other rangers felt about suddenly having someone who tried to kill them join their team.
The plotline the comic began with envisioned a world where Tommy becomes aware of Rita’s power over him decides to stay with Rita and rule with her. This version becomes Lord Drakkon, a heartless despot who, alongside Rita, and the other fighters Goldar and Scorpina, work to “liberate” the earth by destroying cities and ruling with an iron fist.
His costume is a mix between his Green Ranger uniform and the White Ranger power uniform that he later possesses. In this timeline the “Green Candle” events never took place, so Tommy would still have these initial powers. In this timeline Zordon tried, in the middle of battle, to give the still-being-made White Ranger powers (that Tommy acquires in the White Light episode) to Jason (Read Ranger)–only for them to be interrupted and Tommy to steal them for his own evil means.
In comic format, Drakkon is given more time to be developed and far more room to be a good villain. His sentries aren’t plastic-y costumes and his ravaged world doesn’t feel like a quarry–it feels far more threatening. His sentries’ powers can be explained far better than they could in live action with restricted footage, as the idea of redistributing the power of the power coins on vast groups of people is clever and messes with the original ideas of choice in the original series. The pages where Drakkon surveys his army of sentries would look terrible with cheap CGI and Lycra but in the pages of the comic it’s a chilling rise to power.
Like his predecessor, Drakkon has already become a fan favorite character and with Power Rangers’ 25th anniversary coming rumors have been rife about Drakkon making a live action appearance. Jason David Frank, who plays Tommy, has already said in an interview with the Hashtag show “It’s amazing… you guys gave me another character to play”. It would be quite a feather in BOOM’s cap if Drakkon did make the transition to the actual show… not to mention really cool, because Drakkon is a fantastic villain.
The comics give the Power Rangers universe far more scope and room to have more complicated stories whilst staying loyal to the series’ themes and ideas. They update the series a little bit; series regulars Bulk and Skull have a sort of vlog/podcast thing, they have mobile phones now, but apart from that it’s pretty much the same show you remember. At the back of each issue you even get a two page mini story that connects together of some of the B-characters; the first 12 issues has Bulk and Skull in their own adventure series, and now we’ve moved on to Squatt and Babboo.
Recently BOOM! released another title, Go Go Power Rangers. This one examines the rest of the characters more starting from when the Rangers (sans Tommy) just get their powers and how they interact. It’s less big robots and explosions than it is character work– the character work that is mainly missing from the original show because they only had 20 minutes an episode and half of that was given to costumed footage shot to tell other stories. It’s a ballsy premise, and the first few issues have been good– I remain intrigued as to where they are going to take it before it catches up with the Drakkon plot.
Overall BOOM! has improved the Power Rangers, keeping to it’s original guidelines and keeping its spirit. Each comic is fun, gripping and very compelling. Both titles are currently the top of my pull list and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic may be one of the most consistent in quality available now. They are currently beginning, after teasing it, a plotline about the people who took the ranger mantels before the Angel Grove kids which will apparently take us to the sixties. And I can’t wait!