It seems strange to declare that the Power Rangers are back, considering they never really went away. The original television show, a live-action kids show produced re-using footage from the Japanese show Super Sentai, debuted in 1993 on Fox. It mixed kid-friendly drama with martial arts battles, vehicles shaped like giant robot prehistoric beasts, and giant monsters, making for a weird but heady and, ultimately, winning blend.
In the past 20 years (yes grown-ups who watched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on TV, 20 years; you are old), the show has continued with almost as many variations, changing the cast, the premise and the title slightly almost every season but always adhering to the same basic formula.
But those other 16 sets of Power Rangers (so far!) weren’t the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, the original team that kicked off the franchise and are mostly fondly remembered by adult Power Rangers fans. So Papercutz, the publisher that’s been publishing Power Rangers Super Samurai and Power Rangers Megaforce comics, finally acceded to the constant demands they faced at conventions and are publishing a new series of comics based on the original TV series. Hence, the Power Rangers are back!
What is most immediately striking about their first offering, Rita Repulsa’s Attitude Adjustment, is how faithful it is to the TV show. Unlike many other nostalgia-driven comic book projects—your G.I. Joe and Transformers comics, your He-Man comics, almost all of DC and Marvel’s superhero comics—the publisher and the creator haven’t matured or darkened the material to match the maturing tastes of aging fans. Rather, this is essentially just an episode of the original TV show, in comic book form.
That approach certainly has its virtues. For one thing, it’s hard to imagine anyone who’s watched that show rejecting the work as inauthentic; writer Stefan Petrucha and artist PH Marcondes have kept every aspect of the show intact, even those one imagines would be most tempting to fix, like the aggressive insistence that the square heroes are cool teens “with attitude,” the cartoonish antics of bullies Bulk and Skull, and, most pressing of all, the early ’90s fashions of our heroes when they’re not suited up.
It also means the book is a kids comic, as is should be, and young fans of Papercutz’ other Power Rangers comics should enjoy this just as much as grown-up fans…if not more.
In this particular adventure, scientists discover a giant stone statue in the desert, and it suddenly rises up and attacks with a strange weapon. It is apparently a robot, which fires an unusual beam that mixes things up. The Power Rangers mightily morph and respond in their Zords, but the beam manages to scramble their weapons, vehicles and, most interestingly, their helmets, so for much of the adventure the characters defined by their theme colors are mismatched.
Rita Repulsa and her minions see an opportunity in the robot and, once the Rangers manage to limp through the battle to victory, she has the head of the robot installed on a new, monstrous body to attack the Rangers anew. But don’t worry; everything works out okay.
Now comics are at something of a disadvantage when it comes to replicating the greatest pleasures of the original series, mainly the jumping and kicking Ranger-on-Putty fighting action (of the sort that worried some of the parents of 1993’s little kids), the Zords in motion, and the beauty of actress Amy Jo Johnson (although I was a teenager when I watched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, so maybe that last one was more me than the actual target audience). While this particular effort can’t capture any of that, one definite advantage of the medium is that the often very cheap, very fake looking costumes worn by Rita’s minions and monster creations are here just as convincing as the human characters.
The first issue contains an editorial of sorts from Papercutz publisher Jim Salicrup in which he discusses the book and how it came to be—that is, because every time he or anyone at Papercutz mentioned Power Rangers comics, they were asked when they were doing one featuring the original Rangers. Salicrup seems a little concerned about the book’s prospects, as much of the piece stresses his worries that the fans the comic was created for—the adults who were kids when the show aired—might have trouble finding it, as it is a kids’ comic.
He shouldn’t worry too much. Certainly the book’s not going to sweep the Eisners or be on any comics critics’ top ten lists this December, but it’s a solid adaptation. If you liked the TV show as it was, warts and all, then you should like this—warts and all.