Best Shots Advance Reviews: POWER RANGERS #1, ANOTHER CASTLE #1, THE DISCIPLINE #1

Image Comics March 2016 cover
Credit: Image Comics
Credit: BOOM! Studios

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1
Written by Kyle Higgins and Steve Orlando
Art by Hendry Prasetya, Matt Herms, Corin Howell and Jeremy Lawson
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire and Jim Campbell
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The Power Rangers dominated the ‘90s. Plain and simple.

They were the Masters of the Universe for a generation, becoming a top-selling toy line of the’ 90s and were featured in video games, clothes, a movie... and that was just the first two years. To say they were a merchandising powerhouse would be an understatement. The Rangers did have their own comic book series, but nothing took off because by that time they were at the end of their initial relevancy. But through the power of nostalgia and a solid creative team, BOOM! brought the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers back to the forefront, and they've never looked better.

Writer Kyle Higgins makes Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1 about "team first" and that's what something like this needed. Very little time was actually explored on the show about how these kids interact actually on the field. With Jason being the leader and Zack as second-in-command, that was rarely explored. Add in the former villainous Green Ranger Tommy Oliver in the mix, and the drama practically writes itself.

Something they never explored on the show was how Tommy could really be trusted. Going back to the zero issue in January, we get elements of wariness from the rest of the team. How much does Rita still have a hold on Tommy? Can Tommy be forgiven? How does it fit into the rest of the team? Higgins takes time to explore these situations and through comic books can show off a few things that the show couldn't. The biggest of these is to have the Rangers do ground control during a monster attack. It's just a smart move, and works so well.

Newcomer artist Hendry Prasetya straight up owns this book. The anime-influenced style is so slick and has just the right amount of simplicity it reminds me in a way of Evan Shaner, but through an old school Humberto Ramos filter. Every member of the team has their distinct look and updated fashion. Some places, though, it's too simple and parts of characters seem unfinished or unrendered. It's not a bad look, but a pinch of something put in would make them look more complete. Colorist Matt Herms covers Prasetya perfectly, too, with Baboo and the Rangers’ uniforms conveying a sense of armor that isn’t overly metallic. Fun little Easter eggs are also thrown in for fans, too, like the fact that they kept the Bandora's Palace banner, Rita's original name in the Super Sentai Zyuranger series.

The action is gripping, but doesn't take itself too seriously and knows its audience. So while there's legitimate danger, you're not going to see anything like the dark Power Rangers fan film from a few years ago. That's the thing here that Higgins takes into consideration: the Power Rangers aren't "gritty" and don't need to be. It's a story of wish fulfillment, and Higgins treats the book like the show, but kicked up a notch. He's filtered out the cheese, but kept the heart of what the Rangers were about. Steve Orlando and Corin Howell, meanwhile, balance out the action and intensity of the series with a Bulk and Skull back-up that show's Angel Grove's biggest Power Ranger fans are not really bullies, but nonsensical goofballs that think they're the coolest. Bulk and Skull evolved over the series, eventually becoming police officers, and making them grade-A schoolyard bullies is just grand.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1 brings the Rangers back to action and if this is the true starting point of the series, die hard Ranger fans will get exactly what they've been clamoring for for years: a reboot that's smart, accessible, and doesn't let go of what made us fans in the first place.

Credit: Paulina Ganucheau (Oni Press)

Another Castle #1
Written by Andrew Wheeler
Art by Paulina Ganucheau
Published by Oni Press
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Hire Paulina Ganucheau for all of the books. Her charming style and rich color work make Another Castle #1 worth picking up almost for the art alone.

Ganucheau, also the illustrator of the recently-wrapped Zodiac Starforce, shines as the illustrator and colorist of Oni Press’ Another Castle. Penned by Andrew Wheeler, Another Castle #1 introduces the beautiful and headstrong princess Misty, whose father is in the midst of negotiations to marry her to a neighboring prince to protect their kingdom of Beldora. As many headstrong princesses are wont to do, Misty throws herself head-first into destroying once and for all the villainous king who’s been after her family’s kingdom for years.

Wheeler’s writing is solid, bolstered by Ganucheau’s beautiful artwork and character designs, but this premiere issue doesn’t necessarily dazzle until the very end. Misty is flat in her opening pages; her feisty nature out of place and almost forced when there’s nothing as interesting as her around to engage with. That Misty is the headstrong princess with a taste for combat is a plus, not a flaw, but the kingdom of Beldora as shown in the opening pages is bland enough to make Misty seem dull in comparison until she finds someplace to actually put her skills to use: the enemy kingdom of Grimoire.

This is where we find two standouts of Another Castle #1: Gorga and Fogmoth, two servants to Grimoire’s Lord Badlug. Gorga, a half-Gorgon, is utterly adorable, and Ganucheau illustrates her and her snake hair as so charming and playful you can’t help but feel bad when she don’t understand why Misty isn’t more enthusiastic about being forced to marry Gorga’s boss.

The introduction of Gorga and Fogmoth, a baking jailor on whom Ganucheau draws with the most endearingly nervous faces, immediately elevate the story, both thanks to how endearing they are and because you can’t help but wonder how they can be so chipper in a place as, well, grim as Grimoire. Misty’s attempt to escape is complicated by the revelation that her departure may save Beldora at the cost of destroying Gorga and Fogmoth’s home, and the prospect of Misty teaming up with them to try to both protect the innocents of Grimoire and save her own kingdom is what gives Another Castle promise for future issues.

Another Castle #1’s final pages hint at more interesting stories in future issues, and the promise of more interaction with Misty and her kind-hearted kind-of-captors Gorga and Fogmoth can undoubtedly bring a great deal of charm and wit to the story at large. Another Castle isn’t the strongest debut of the year, but it’s still a solid introduction to what could be a charming and witty take on traditional princess tales – especially if we get more of Gorga and her pastry-loving hair.

Credit: Image Comics

The Discipline #1
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Leandro Fernández and Cris Peter
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Image Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

The Discipline was originally slated as a Vertigo release for December 2013, and was put on hiatus for undetermined reasons as writer Peter Milligan and artist Leandro Fernández went on to work on The Names for the publisher. Now that it has resurfaced under Image Comics, it has has definitely found a more appropriate home, with the erotically charged thrillers and comedies such as Sex, Sex Criminals and Black Kiss II finding a successful home there over the last few years.

The Discipline has been accurately billed as a “dark, erotic thriller,” and off the bat the implication is that it won’t be for all audiences. It follows Melissa, who once came from a working-class family (effectively demonstrated by the appearance of a loud-mouthed and embittered sister), but has since found herself in the wealthier strata of New York thanks to her husband’s line of work. Bored and sexually frustrated, she is drawn into the sphere of the forthright Orlando, who promises to open up a world that she never knew before. While she thinks this is purely a sexual ploy, Orlando has much bigger schemes at play. How Milligan balances these narrative baubles makes all the difference in how accessible this book will be to a broader comic book audience.

Given the subject matter, it’s hard to escape the inevitable comparisons to 50 Shades of Grey, a bestseller in print and film that was rightly targeted for its questionable messages about gender roles in sexual relationships, and the inherent problems of a yarn that depicts an abusive relationship as a romantic aspiration. So maybe the The Discipline, being an edgy erotic thriller with a supernatural bent, has more in common with the Twilight series that inspired E.L. James’ fanfic. It’s certainly difficult to ignore the troubling implications of a violent sexual relationship that is initiated under false pretenses, and a number of scenes that are almost explicit sexual assault. This is not to imply that Milligan himself is necessarily being misogynistic, but his story is predominantly a one-sided power relationship where the woman is a passive actor to the machinations of enigmatic men and monsters. If Vertigo wasn’t confident publishing the material in 2013, the last few years of progress in the comic book world should have at least given more pause for thought before releasing it in a highly aware online environment.

The gorgeously rendered artwork is enveloping, on the other hand. Fernández opens with a series of thin horizontal panels that initially make it difficult to know whether the creatures are fighting or fornicating, and when it becomes clear which is which, the rug is pulled out from under us. Effectively using shadows and sparse colors, Fernández draws a clear point of comparison between Melissa’s clean world and the one she is entering. Yet at other moments, as the well-timed white sticky fluid of a monstrous attacker hits Melissa in the face mid-coitus, its reminiscent of the kinds of Japanese animated rape fantasies (such as the infamous Urotsukidoji) that were common in the late 1980s.

There is a lot to be intrigued by in The Discipline, the most tantalizing thred being the physical transformation that Melissa will seemingly undergo, one that is teased in the opening pages. Yet before we can get to this, we must wade through a darkness that is oftentimes more disturbing than erotic, and troubling in its implications. Milligan isn’t the first to use sex, magic and monsters as metaphorical playthings in the quest for fantasy, yet it must be recognized that The Discipline treads a very thin line between that and using the female lead as a plaything in the pursuit of story.

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