As the movie Inside Out recently reminded us, the potent pairing of Joy and Sadness produces Nostalgia, as powerful and intense an emotion as its components combined. It is Sehnsucht in a minor key, a languished longing not for anything in itself but for the enormous serenities and sharp ecstasies we recall perceiving in the past in association with an object or idea.
I have an incredible amount of nostalgia for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The original series debuted when I was seven years old and entering the second grade. I had never been more excited for anything in my life. It was as if the Voltron cartoons I already loved had suddenly come to life, but even better. Here were superheroes whose secret identities were still stuck in school, rendering them relatable and immensely identifiable. Before the second episode aired my own friends and myself had already fashioned Power Coins and designated which among us was which ranger; I of course was the Red Ranger of our group. The Power Rangers conceptually spoke to a lifelong love I’ve harbored for primary color-coded paragons and elemental affinities. Before them came Captain Planet and Ninja Turtles, and afterwards Pokémon and Persona (the latter essentially being Pokémon meets Power Rangers for adults, and thus the best thing ever).
Now, in the midst of ‘90s nostalgia, the original State-side super sentai squad is once again at the cultural forefront. Adi Shankar’s Power/Rangers Unauthorized was the best fan film of the last year, and in exactly one year from now an official big budget reboot will be hitting cinema screens. But for now in 2016, the focus will be squarely centered on the new Boom Studios comic series.
Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya deliver beyond all expectations. I’d recently tried to rewatch the first season of the show on Netflix; I couldn’t make it through episode two. Powerful as it is, nostalgia alone would not have been sufficient to make this a comic worth reading. Nor would simply modernizing the clothes and culture of the students at Angel Grove High (though their update in this issue does indeed work well). Rather, Higgins’ greatest success is tonal, ridding the Rangers of their unintentional camp, delivering a series both brightly colored and yet clearly for the adults who grew up on such instead of their children or childhood selves. His is a depiction of high school life for those who’ve already undergone as much, rather than those anticipating their secondary schooling still. Too few franchises take this approach; the recent Ninja Turtles movie was made so clearly for a younger generation that it aggressively alienated older fans such as myself.
Moreover, Higgins’ script takes full advantage of medium, delivering set pieces that were simply not possible given the production budget of the television series and the special effects technology of the time, such as a scene in which the Pink Pterodactyl detaches from the Megazord, swooping swiftly to intercept vehicles falling off of a collapsing bridge. Such is rendered gorgeously by Presetya, who likewise takes advantage of the medium, drawing more muscular and heroic physiques on the Rangers than the cheap costumes of the show ever showed. And he illustrates the heroes equally well as high schoolers; his style is a significant step-up from Staples, what she was clearly going for with the Riverdale gang in Archie.
Daniel Bayliss likewise kills it on art in the back-up, channeling his inner Sean Murphy, albeit with less detailed backgrounds and less interesting camera angles, but the potential for greatness is clearly there. He’s given the opportunity to display the Ranger’s martial arts acumen, and his few brief panels are better than any fight scene seen on the series’ small screen incarnation. Never once do the Rangers pull their punches against the Putty Patrol here, actually engaging their opponents instead of dancing around them in the worst stage fighting since Adam West’s Batman.
I wanted to be excited for a new Power Rangers comic book, but kept my expectations in check. That I loved a franchise in my younger days does not mean a reboot’s creators understand how to grow a series alongside me. Yet clearly Higgins does, who in a single debut issue dispelled any and all doubts I’d harbored. Alongside Presetya and Bayliss he’s created what has immediately become one of my most anticipated new series of the year. Go Go Power Rangers!