The chapter ends on one of the best licensed comics on shelves today.
“Well, no matter how bad it is, it’s probably worth a dollar.” This was my thinking as I grabbed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers vol 6, my first Power Rangers comic since I was a kid. See, this was back in Spring of 2020 and we were just learning about a global pandemic that was going to shut down non-essential businesses for an indeterminate amount of time. It was the last day before my local comic shop (shout-out to Carol & John’s Comics in Cleveland!) would be forced to close their doors and they had just put out a whole mess of random books in a dollar bin, presumably to grab a few extra dollars before being forced to close their doors. I didn’t have high hopes. I mean, how good could a licensed comic about a nineties “team of teenagers with attitude” be? With hopes set extremely low, I took it home and, after reading just the first issue, made a startling realization. This book wasn’t just good: this book was dope.
I mean it. I figured this book was going to be a standalone set of stories featuring colorfully costumed adolescents fighting monsters of the week and learning valuable life lessons (TM) along the way. What I got was an entirely new world of Rangers, one still featuring the teens I had loved watching 25 years ago but having just finished a major battle of an alternate-reality warlord who had used his power as a Ranger to subjugate the planet and install himself as Lord over everything. I saw a new version of Finster, still making putties and new monsters for Rita, but this time as an artist of his craft, constantly trying to perfect on previous designs instead of a silly voiced Muppet using his Easy Bake Oven to make Creepy Crawlers that would inevitably fail and give Rita a headache. Most importantly, I saw a group of teenagers who were written as real people, trying to figure out how you balance your personal relationships with your obligation to doing good in the world and what you have to sacrifice to accomplish that. Really what I found was a book that was way better than it had any need to be and one that was telling way too great of a story to just pick up at issue 21.
That was Spring of 2020. Flash forward to present-day September 2022 and this improbably good Mighty Morhpin’ Power Ranger series is about to celebrate its 100th issue (including Legacy numbering for Mighty Morphin’ and Power Rangers series) releasing on Wednesday, September 24. While not unheard of, making it an issue 100 is pretty rare these days for a non Big-2 title and is definitely something that should be celebrated. Perhaps even more amazing, this 100th issue is being written by someone who’s been on the series from the very beginning (well, kind of). If you’ll indulge me (and honestly, I’m the one writing the article, I’ve already been indulged), let’s see how the series got here.
Boom! Studios Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #1 came out all the way back in March 2016. Written by Kyle Higgins, (who would be responsible for much of the world-building for this new world of Power Rangers) with pencils and inks by Hendry Prasetya, and beautiful covers by Jamal Campbell, this series told the story of the Power Rangers right after Green Ranger Tommy (aka the best Ranger) broke free from the spell of Rita Repulsa (evil space witch) and joined in with Zordon’s (big floating blue disembodied head in a tube that leads the forces of good) team as a full Ranger. If you’re familiar with the show, figure it takes place right after the events of the Green With Evil episodes. Early issues focused on the uneasy relationship of a new Ranger team coming to grips with working together with a former villain, all while navigating both evil monsters routinely sent to destroy their city of Angel Grove and being normal High School students. It’s a familiar setting for any fan of the original series, but what may not be so familiar is the character depth that Higgins imbued into the teenagers with attitude.
Take Zach for instance. The show version of Zach was positive, goofy, did Hip Hop kido and . . . that’s about all we got. That’s really the same with all of the teens behind the mask, more a combination of tropes than actual characters. The comic version of Zach? We get to see how his trademark humor is used as a tool to help comfort people when they’re at their lowest point. We learn early on that Rita had offered him the Green Dragon Power Coin initially but he’d been able to rebuke her and how that leads to his distrust of Tommy, who couldn’t do the same. All the while, he stays confident, strong, and loved. Throughout the series, he’s always written as the same Zach we know from the series, just with more layers. Same with the rest of the Ranger team. The comic treats the teens as the same melodramatic Saved By The Bell rejects we loved from the original show but writes them as actual characters instead of their blockier on-screen selves. They’re still my same friends I grew up watching and the heroes I looked up to, but now we get to look behind the helmet at who they really are and it’s done so well.
And the world-building? DANG. Without trying to recap 6 years worth of a continuous storyline, suffice to say that the series did a great job of filling in pieces of the Power Rangers world and back-story. Heck, some of the ideas that came from this series become so fundamentally tied to the Power Rangers franchise that future installments of the Power Rangers shows included them in the on-screen versions. Turn on an episode of Dino Fury (the most recent series to air) and you might hear reference to the Morphin’ Grid or catch sight of the Green Morphin’ Master. These were all inventions that came directly from this series and to make such an impact on a franchise almost 30 years old is pretty incredible.
Kyle Higgins, the writer that started the current run, stayed on the title through the end of the Shattered Grid event at issue 30. Following a short space based storyline by Marguerite Bennett, Ryan Parrott took over the main title and never looked back. Having been previously writing the sister-series Go Go Power Rangers, (an excellent set of stories about the original Power Ranger team right after getting their powers) Parrott would see the end of the original numbering of the main title at issue 55 and split the franchise into two books, Mighty Morphin’ and Power Rangers. Each book told the story of a separate ranger team (with Mighty Morphin’ following the original team dealing with Earth problems in Angel Grove and Power Rangers following the Omega Rangers on a space adventure) dealing with separate threats and goals, sometimes at odds with each other. During this time, we get to see Zordon’s backstory on his planet of Eltar, a universe spanning threat, and reappearances of old characters thought to be long gone. Through all of the excellent action, Parrott never loses sight of the characters as the core of the series and writes a pretty perfect mix of teenage anxiety, personal growth, and awesome action scenes filled with all the KIEEYAHH!!!!s you can fill a page with. I fully expect issue 100 will be no exception.
With issue 100, Parrott will be stepping off the title, having finished his time with the Rangers and the conclusion of their confrontation against their newest threat, the Death Ranger. Including his time on Go Go Power Rangers, this will be Parrott’s 96th issue with the franchise (and that number doesn’t even factor in the one shots or side series he did!). Hitting issue 100 is an accomplishment enough, the fact it was done with only three writers on the title is downright incredible. Consistently maintaining the same quality and heart the series is known for? Well, that’s just morphenomenal. While we don’t know what’s next for the Power Rangers comic series, what came before was pretty darn special. Come Wednesday, I can’t wait to get to my comic shop to grab this accomplishment of comic book storytelling. Maybe you’ll be like I was and give it a shot like I did back in Spring of 2020. If so, I’ll see you there. Until then, may the Power protect you.