Like many millennials born from the mid-to-late 1980s, I had a Power Rangers phase. There was something exciting and strange about a group of teenagers — basically adults to eight-year-old me — trusted with immense power and getting to pilot gigantic robots that drew me and a ton of other kids into it; it had the mystique and charisma of superheroes, complete with secret identities and some truly vile villains, mixed with the kinds of action and adventure I had only seen in the worn VHS copies of my friends’ Godzilla movies. While my mind recognized a faint echo of the scattered Voltron reruns I had watched when I was younger, this looked real.
I kept up with Power Rangers past when it was “proper” for a young boy to do so; I remember making it through all of the Zeo seasons and then kind of trailing off, distracted by other things. I’ve always had a love for the series, but I’ve also had little interest in returning to it in any capacity. I know much of the show is stitched together shooting from the original series and what was shot for American audiences, that they were using costumes abandoned by the Japanese series, that the acting was no doubt awful, and that there was apparently a not insignificant homophobia behind the scenes. I was comfortable keeping the series in my memories until BOOM announced they would be creating Power Rangers comics, focusing the first arc on the Green Ranger.
This isn’t a review of that comics. BOOM’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers has been fine, but it’s not interesting enough for me to keep reading after the first story arc is finished. I suspect I’d feel similarly about the bulk of old episodes if I were to indulge my nostalgia and dive into them, but I seem to be in the minority of aged Power Rangers fans, as MMPR #0 was a massive sales success, so much so that BOOM had Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink announced right around the time that the first issue of the main series was released. As the first of who knows how many spinoffs, BOOM chooses to focus on the first Pink Ranger, Kimberly Hart, instead of more obvious fan favorites that might drive sales more heavily.
It was an interesting enough decision to get me to flip through the book at the comic shop this week, and seeing Daniele Di Nicuolo’s art convinced me to give the book a shot despite my interest in the main series waning. Before Pink, I hadn’t read any comics by Di Nicuolo, but it’s clear he is the perfect fit for a Power Rangers book. His art has a kineticism that is essential for a superhero/sci-fi action comic where a handful of punches and kicks could be more effective at moving the plot along than a conversation or some spoken revelation.
Di Nicuolo’s facial expressions bring more life to Kimberly on the page than I remember Amy Jo Johnson ever giving her on the show, rotating from a blank face as she’s interrupted from leaving a voicemail for her mom to what feels like a genuine smile at her gymnastic team’s success to worry over her mother and ending with a determination that’s accentuated by her throwing a leather jacket on and heading out the door to look into why her mom seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth.
Di Nicuolo’s art is only half of the picture, though, as Sarah Stern’s colors cause the panels to pop in a way that is reminiscent of Batman ’66 or of superhero comics from the same era. As action heightens, the backgrounds fall way to be replaced by bold colors, onomatopoeiae, and speed lines that put your focus where it should be. Di Nicuolo guides the eye from panel to panel while Stern’s colors force the eye to focus on the fight. Stern’s coloring brings a uniformity that a book like this — a book named after a color — needs.
When Kimberly enters St. Moineau, the entire city and indeed the skyline has a pink hue to it. As she explores her parents’ ominously vacant house, Kimberly ends up in room after room of darkness that could easily have been conveyed with heavy black inks and light blue hues; it’s what happens in most comics. Those hues are pink here. This uniformity of color causes the scenes with very 80s/90s green, orange, and blue backgrounds to stand out even more, it causes a virtual war on the page between purple and pink when Zordon, the being who granted the Rangers their powers, appears to reinstate Kimberly’s powers. The purple goes from dominating the panels to being forced to share it with pink in a way that says more about the tension between these two characters than words could. Di Nicuolo and Stern tell a story that doesn’t require much in the way of text, and that’s where the problems arise: Brenden Fletcher and Kelly Thompson are listed as co-writers for Pink, and boy do they seem to want to write.
I don’t know if it’s the unfortunate focus the comics industry has had on writers in the last decade or so, if it comes from a generation of young writers that perhaps spend more time reading Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman’s often verbose comics, or if it comes from a lack of awareness that good artists can and do tell the bulk of the story before the text is even layered on top of it, but there are a lot of up-and-coming writers who seem more eager to be penning a novel than writing a comic. Fletcher and Thompson aren’t alone in writing an action comic that’s overstuffed with text, it’s just incredibly disappointing that it happens in a book where Di Nicuolo and Stern are doing such a great job telling the story as it is. To be clear, even though the first three pages of Pink are absolutely loaded with text, I also think it’s necessary for setting up the character and the story. It’s the unfortunate number of panels later in the book where we get Kimberly’s inner monologue either describing or providing commentary for the panel it’s pasted over.
There’s a wonderful nine-panel “suit up” page that suffers from a Pollock-like splattering of caption boxes as Kimberly gets ready to head out and play the hero without any powers. It reminds me a bit of Barbara Gordon assembling her costume in Batgirl #35 (which Fletcher also co-wrote), but the difference to me is very much in the execution of this kind of scene. In Batgirl, the text is minimal, allowing the eye to follow the art and track the progression from the top left to bottom right of the page. In Pink, the nine panel grid does the work of guiding the eye, but every step of the way we have interjections that interrupt the flow. Yes, it’s necessary to know how/why she has a her Power Rangers communicator, but did it need to happen here in what would translate to film/TV as a fast series of cuts?
Often times the captions repeat work done by the panel they are captioning or explain something that’s present in the art that gets explained in a page or two. While extensive dialogue between Kimberly and another person found surviving in her parents’ deserted city does help to set the scene better, much of it reads as exposition. I get that this is a Power Rangers story and sometimes you just need to have the characters explain the situation to make more room for the fights and stuff, but it felt like a box that was ticked off to help with pacing the larger story. While I don’t enjoy that feeling, it points to a trajectory that I hope Pink is on.
As a six-issue miniseries produced in 2016, I expected a significant amount of decompression to go with the Bendis-level dialogue in the middle of the issue and was surprised to find that Kimberly getting her powers back and debuting a new (and awesome) Pink Ranger outfit wasn’t the last page but merely two thirds of the way in. If the exposition leads to a miniseries that actually wraps this first amphibious monster arc at the end of the second issue as it feels like it could, then it’s a sacrifice worth making. The way the first issue is set up, Fletcher, Thompson, Di Nicuolo, and Stern seem paced to tell a series of stories rather than an unnecessarily long six-issue story, giving Kimberly Hart the spotlight in multiple conflicts and bringing a dimensionality to the character in a way that the television series never really did. I just hope that as the series goes on that Fletcher/Thompson or their editor dials back the writing and lets the action do the talking.