Friday, March 31, 2017

Kid Stuff, Part XXVIII: Might Morphing Power Rangers #4

Go-going exactly like I remember the TV show…with maybe a smidge more plot

"Issue 4"
Writer – Kyle Higgins
Illustrator – Hendry Prasetya
Letters – Ed Dukeshire
Colors – Matt Herms
Assistant Editors – Matthew Levine & Alex Galer
Editor – Dafna Pleban
June 2016

I think I already said my piece about the Power Rangers way back when I brought up Battle of the Planets.

Drawn at first from action footage pulled from the Japanese TV series Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger and added scenes with American actors, the show debuted on Fox Kids in August of 1993. The following seasons were a Frankenstein's monster of Zyuranger footage sewn together with stock footage from two other Japanese series stapled to the American plots.

So far, the Mighty Morphers have spawned two feature films and numerous reboots, remakes, add-ons and copycats. As well, the show filled toy shelves with tons of merchandising and a burning desire for kids to own a certain color Ranger. I think it was the green one, but what the heck would I know. I was starting my first full-time job at that moment this fad started. Go-go Power Paycheck!

However Power Rangers were a HUGE business for toy manufacturers and you can tell because there are tremendous amounts of party decorations out there…I can't confirm that discount however.

Of course there are the standard things like action figures…

…kitchen utensils shaped like action figures (I think the green ranger is a corkscrew. Not sure about the others.)…

…to their combinable mega-zoid thing-a-mabob…

…to whatever the heck this giant piece of plastic is:

I mean look at the size of that. It doesn't look like it would stand up without you holding it. Soon as you let go, that giant thing is gonna smash into the pavement.

For those of you collecting toys, HERE is a great site that goes into which ones are most sought after today. I'm going to confess, none of these ring bells with me.

What did ring bells was the (2017) movie, which looked interesting since they were taking a "We aren't going to do a Power Rangers movie, but more of a social-outcasts-become-superheroes movie." I say that based on the trailer, which as usual gives too much of the movie away, and reviews I've read. Sadly the new flick didn't appeal to me, the old-school movie geek looking for a weekend action fix, nor to my twelve year old, a lover of video games and superhero movies but not of angst-ridden Breakfast Club wannabes who get martial arts powers and robot dino-rides. I think this one missed the mark, but box office so far is pretty strong, although it was unable to top Disney's ode to live action bestiality in its first weekend.

Is there a sequel?…that remains to be seen.

Right now, however, I hold in my hot little hand a comic from last year (2016) that goes all the way back to the first series of Rangers and extends their story. It is kind of a fun read with a bit more maturity than what I expected from a book retreading this ground. We begin already three issues behind, and from the looks of things we have lots of catching up to do.

First off there's this little chippy, driving what I first mistook for an enemy mecha-monster. It handily breaks a cruise liner while the young lady speaks to Rita Repulsa about how some glowing sword thing awakens some evil portal thing-a-majig and yadda-yadda-yadda…

Turns out the lady is the tramp Scorpina and she's controlling Green Ranger Tommy's Dragonzoid. We get this info via four quick panels, which I'm incredibly glad for as I would have been lost otherwise.

We all know what this will lead to…
(Looks for Zach's finger placement)

That's not right. Anyway, Dinozords they get.

Scorpina is stepping on San Fran cable cars in typical bad girl fashion, when all of a sudden she gets chained up to a triceratops.

And with a whole host of megazoids standing her down, Billy starts pulling her Dragonzoid out to sea. My giant monster battle inner-child woke up during this and, unlike the days of cardboard city-buildings shooting sparklers when stepped on, I really got into the groove of the book, moreso than I ever did with the TV show. Go-go Underwater Mode, Yeah!

It's about this point that Rita Repulsa steps in to lend a magical assist. For that she turns to Finsteride…, FINSTER to aid her. Sorry, I got my meds order mixed up with my comic book review.

And aid her he does, fashioning up some giant monster man-sharks with his magic clay…

…who swoop in, distract and occupy the Zoids, allowing Scorpina to get free.

Which starts the monster stomp all over again with dino-rockets and tyrano-tail twirling action sequences as Scorpina tries to get that rift portal open so something bad can happen. These panels speak to my very soul. Tussle you Titans! Rip up that expensive scenery.

And because the book can't be filled with too much awesome, we turn back to Tommy, the Green Ranger, who has ghost Rita stuck in his head for some reason. I have no idea if this is an original concept or if he was haunted by a similar problem in the show, all I know is I'm missing a page of giant robot fighting. He resolves his issue by (gasp!) overcoming his fears…and he decides to teleport onto the runaway Dragonzoid and confront Scorpina.

I'm pretty sure it was the green ranger that every kid wanted and it was directly because of stuff like this.

Pretty bad-ass, Tommy.

Now back to our giant robot battle!

Tommy 'ports in and everyone freaks out. Scopina flicks him off the Dragonzoid with one blonde hair toss. Looks like Tommy's falling to his death…

…when he's saved by Kimberly flying her Pteradactyl Dinozoid. This bit is important because the book has to show that everyone will come together, trusting each other in true teammate fashion. Quaint and it works here.

Tommy kung-fu's Dragonzoid's front windshield in and puts the hurt on Scorpina. Or at least tries to. Seems she's more entrenched than he expected.

So while the rest of the team takes care of the giant shark horrors…

…Tommy gets punched in the face quite a bit, until…

…he takes out Scorpina's sword thing, returning control of the Dragonzoid to his own special dagger. 

Meanwhile the rest of the team has taken care of business, hanging the sharknado rejects out as bait. Primarily this victory came gift-wrapped via teamwork since they didn't have to fight both the Dragonzoid and the shark-baddies.

And although things look like they are back on the right track for the group, all of that falls apart as soon as they are behind closed doors of their headquarters. Jason has words with Tommy about ignoring orders, Tommy gets upset at his contribution to winning the fight being discarded, Zach steps in to get Tommy to see reason…

…And just like that, the crystal gets charged off their negative energy, causing the very rift to open that they were fighting so hard to stop.

And this isn't just a little thing, oh no.

It blows up their entire base.

That's right Power Rangers, all your base belong to rubble. Ha-ha-ha! (okay, maybe I should work on that evil villain impression a bit more)

Way to work together guys. (sarcasm off) Looks like this will be a continuing theme of these books. How they need to work as a team to accomplish their goals and stop evil.

And they better do it fast, as a giant robo-monster thing rises from the ruins. 

Anyone recognize this guy? Is he new? I don't know, but that's par for course for me and the Power Rangers franchise. I'm not up with the lingo or the lore. It just came too late and I was not at an age to enjoy the mindless battle sequences or the toy mecha montages. Kinda sad, as this book proves there are plenty of great giant robo-battles to be had there.

Hope that movie gets to cable soon.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Prime #1


A Superman-clone book that's lite on story, heavy on mystery

"Prime Time"
Writers – Len Strazewski and Gerald Jones
Artist – Norm Breyfogle
Letters – Tim Eldred
Colors – Paul Mounts
Editor – Chris Ulm
June 1993

For the space it occupies in the Crapbox, I really haven't given the Ultraverse its due yet.

Created mid 1993 during the boom in superhero comics, the Ultraverse was fledging publishers Malibu Comics foray into the genre of shared superhero universes. They followed the successes of Image and Valiant comics, the latter's tight continuity becoming a model that the Ultraverse attempted to emulate.

The titles attracted many top tier talents from the big two but the storylines of the books were tightly integrated, leading to many crossovers and little autonomy for each creative team. This continual storyline was a bit much for some readers who balked at having to read titles they had no interest in to find out the rest of the story. However the books became popular and shortly after inception, the line came to dominate Malibu's catalogue.

As the mid-90's decline came about, Malibu was bought out by Marvel comics, mostly to prevent DC from doing the same. The Ultraverse as a line of books saw cancellation. Only a few titles and some one-shot crossovers were issued after that, most of them not lasting very long. Of note, the book Ultraforce did last long enough to have a short lived cartoon.

Prime was one of the initial books Malibu, released alongside titles Mantra and Hardcase. I immediately thought "Superman-clone" when I looked at the cover and I was really a smidge off in that regard. See if you can figure out what Prime's real architype is from this issue.

We begin with a giant splash page of Prime threatening a guy in a manner VERY un-Superman like. In fact this reminds me of Supreme at his most violent. The fact that we never see Prime kill anyone is the book's saving grace of not having him go that dark, however. We do get a "bully" sort of vibe to the character. Let's hope that gets better.

On the next page is sort of does. By the way, check our Breyfogle muscling Prime all up in that over-the-top Bane manner. I dig it.

I'm stating it gets better and you probably aren't seeing it. It gets better because the story moves into first person accounts by the victims of Prime's assaults. Not only that, this first account by a coach that Prime accuses of molesting several high school girls, recounts how poorly prepared for this the super hero is.

Prime is so new to this he doesn’t know his own strength nor what he can endure. The coach is a martial arts expert and he comments that Prime knows nothing at all about fighting. This is a costly thing, because Prime is much like a bull in a china shop.

OUCH! That's a pretty serious oopsie there.

Prime freaks out the very girls he is try to shield from this guy. Not too swift at following his own "Prime Directive" of "protecting the innocent and exposing the guilty." Only thing he's exposed here is this guy's radius and ulna to open air. Note how upset Prime is by the accident. You can tell he didn't mean for this to happen.

The account ends there, with Prime trying very hard to reassure one of the girls that she needn't ever be afraid of him, while at the same time looming over her like a monster from a 50's creature feature.

And where exactly is the account coming to us from?
Why they are in some vault-like shadowy government interrogation chamber. Coach Meyer has already exposed his sleazier side here, bemoaning that the girls in his class would probably give Prime "whatever he wanted." Then he proceeds to wrap up his tale.

I am going to give these unseen gentlemen a little latitude before marking them off as "bad" guys. That lower left panel where the state that they've basically hidden laser sterilized that pedo wins some points however I'm not completely convinced.

Moving on to our next Prime encounter, we get introduced to this repugnant drug dealer. He's not happy about Prime's little visit as the man shut him down for a couple of days. Let himself in without invitation too.

And then proceeds to bust up the place. Which would be worrying our pal in the chair if he didn't just so happen to have a few spare Uzis laying around the place.

With possibly the worst sound, Prime's oozing wounds heal up. Since that did no good, the dealer is forced to pull out the bigger guns...

…which turns out to be not a gun at all, but instead is a flamethrower. For all the good that does him. Prime isn't even singed. Next he spins like a top and demolishes the house with the wind gusts it generates.

And then flies off. However he's left a little bit of himself behind. And Mr. Drug Dealer has it in a vial around his neck.

First he tries to auction it off to the men in the shadows. Just when that looks like it will work, the chair comes to life and locks him down. Looks like he isn't going to survive much longer after all.

I'm right, too. They fry the dealer and then this heavy-set gentleman relieves him of that vial of Prime puss.

After those words we skip over to a newscast in progress talking about the "Ultras," superhumans that live among us, the most notable being Hardcase.

This is that "interconnected universe" that people were talking about. How the story from one book would end up with one page in a completely different book. Hardcase had his own magazine, starting around the same time, so while this looks like namedropping it isn't. What it is doing is setting the stage for these characters to appear in each other's mags on a reoccurring basis for marketing purposes.

Need more proof of this? The next news story is on Prototype. Guess who had a series starting right after this?

If you guessed Prototype, you would not be wrong. The newscast moves on to the story our government agents want to see, a report on Prime. What they hear seems to bring up some concerns.

And that special report is from Somilia, where Prime appears to be assisting a special UN troop delivering food while fending off rebels. We jump from the report to just watching as Prime addresses those troops, admonishing them to follow him.

Prime rushes in head first to battle the rebels, tearing through their forces heedless to the danger. His body appears to take a pounding from shells, gunfire, explosives and you name it. None of it appears to cause him any physical pain. He shrugs it off and keeps going.

However, after the battle is won there appears to be something dramatically wrong with him. 

His hand is melting and he is oozing goo from several large holes in his body. He still doesn't appear to be in pain, he just appears worried about this condition. Before the troops can thank him, Prime flies off back to America.

He loses control of his flight ability shortly before reaching the building he was aiming for, crashing through a window. Once inside a startling transformation begins.

Prime's body melts like candle wax to reveal a figure of a young teenage boy inside. The boy punches his way out of the exterior to crawl away covered in the goo from inside what was the superhero's body.

And that is where we end. With a mystery of WHAT exactly Prime is.

The answer of course is that Prime IS that thirteen year old boy and that the government knows all about this process he is undergoing to become the newbie superhero. At the beginning of this I called him a Superman clone, but that isn't really accurate. The template in play here is clearly Captain Marvel (the Fawcett/DC one) only his method of switching back and forth is much messier than saying the word "Shazam!"

It's an enjoyable first issue. A little thin on actual story, but it builds interest in the character well and I found myself intrigued enough to search the Crapbox for issue number 2 (not there yet, but likely will be once I run across it). The art is oddly garish at times, but defies looking like every other 90's book by not aping Todd McFarland. If you're wondering half as much about the mystery presented, you'll want to check out future issues to see what becomes of our teen wonder, his government investigators and the gooey powerhouse he can become when he suits up as Prime.