Best Shots Advance Reviews: MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: PINK #1, DARK SOULS #2

"Dark Souls #2" variant cover
Credit: Titans Comics
Credit: BOOM! Studios

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #1
Written by Brenden Fletcher and Kelly Thompson
Art by Daniele Di Nicuolo and Sarah Stern
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

BOOM! Studios has had a hit on their hands with Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ ongoing, and smartly chose to strike while the iron was hot, almost immediately announcing writers Brenden Fletcher and Kelly Thompson’s six-issue miniseries focused on the original Pink Ranger, Kimberly Hart. This week’s first issue of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink proves Fletcher and Thompson are a dream team for a Hart solo title: they capture the confident and capable Kimberly fans loved from the original television show, giving her a chance to shine outside the confines of a six-person team as she attempts to discover why all the residents of the small town her mother and stepfather call home have disappeared.

Fletcher and Thompson’s tale is well-paced, with Daniele Di Nicuolo’s art and Sarah Stern’s colors lending an air of unnatural quiet and emptiness to the unexpectedly abandoned town of St. Moineau. Wide shots of empty streets and alleys will make you shiver as Kimberly investigates, and you can’t help but share the feeling there her feeling that she’s being watched from some unknowable creature lurking in the shadows.

The monsters of the issue aren’t particularly horrifying, visually, but the air of suspense Di Nuciolo captures with her use of empty space and the straightforward rhythm of the action sequences helps build the story to a strong emotional peak. The cliffhanger ending feels less effective in a Power Rangers story — it’s hard to entertain the idea that Kim won’t save the day — but the MMPR: Pink team makes it easy to invest in Kim’s emotional journey even if we think we might know the final outcome of her battles.

However, it’s that sense of predictability that serves as the issue’s biggest stumbling block. This is a Power Rangers story, so we expect Kim will win. More than that, we’re told this is a story about a Kimberly who’s already won several battles with the Power Rangers that haven’t happened yet in the original ongoing title. Where BOOM! Studios’ current Mighty Morphin ongoing is new reader friendly, MMPR: Pink appears to be geared more towards fans of the TV show, joining Kimberly in the aftermath of the global gymnastics competition that featured heavily in much later episodes of the first two seasons of the show. The creative team has been up front about this in interviews, but it may still be jarring for those picking up MMPR: Pink #1 who don't read interviews regularly. There's no way to know for sure if this is definitely the future of the ongoing or just a self-contained one-shot, and it's still worth a read. But can a spin-off spoil its own source material, if the source material is a reboot of an existing property?

Curious timeline aside, Fletcher and Thompson do an excellent job of establishing Kimberly’s current path in life without getting bogged down in exposition. They made a smart decision on focusing on Kim’s emotional journey, using her adventures here as a backdrop for exploring her character rather than putting the fighting at the forefront, but your emotional investment will definitely vary depending on your familiarity with Power Rangers history. Though lapsed fans or folks whose first experience with the Rangers is the ongoing might find themselves a little lost for a page or two, MMPR: Pink #1 is a solid and slightly spooky first issue that’s sure to hook you in for what promises to be a great solo story about a fan-favorite ranger.

Credit: Titan Comics

Dark Souls #2
Written by George Mann
Art by Alan Quah, Komikaki Studio and Sean Lee
Lettering by Rob Steen
Published by Titan Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Death comes for us all, and nowhere is that more true than in the world of Dark Souls. Making full use of the tension as well as the creature-feature aspects of the critically acclaimed franchise, writer George Mann, along with artist Alan Quah and the colors of Komikaki Studio and Sean Lee, deliver a rousing second issue of Titan Comics’ latest foray into video game adaptations. As the Undead Curse slowly eats away at her memories, wandering knight Fira along with the scryer Aldrich make their way into the dreaded Weeping Forest where they seek the next relic in their quest to relight the First Flame and restore the land to its former glory, and in doing so, reclaim Fira’s lost memories. Dark Souls #2 succeeds not because of its slavish devotion to the notoriously confounding lore of the game, but by filtering its best aspects through the lens of monthly comic storytelling, accompanied by some thrilling set pieces and palpable dread found throughout. Though this may be the most straightforward Dark Souls story to date, this second issue proves that that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Haunted by fragments of her former life before the Undead Curse, Fira and her magical companion, venture deep into the Weeping Forest in search of the dreaded Everlord and his sword made of dragon bone; the second of three relics of Andolus needed for the ritual to relight the First Light, thus resurrecting the ancient dragon and resorting Fira’s homeland to its former glory. Though this may all sound like a overly complicated RPG module, writer George Mann treads carefully with his script, never overwhelming the reader with too much exposition or backstory, though fans of this franchise are used to working hard for even the smallest hints of narrative.

As Fira and Aldrich venture deeper into the woods, Mann carefully threads the history of Andolus and his bone relics into Fira’s own history, making this quest all the more personal for her, beyond the recovery of her lost memories. Fira is now fighting for her order and her homeland in addition to her former self, making this not only a fight for her mind, but her very existence in a world that has long since moved on. But, as narratively rich as this is, Dark Souls #2 isn’t just character building alone. Mann also fully leans into the horror elements of this series, making each step into the Weeping Forest feel dangerous, much like every step players take in the games themselves. Aided by the flowing pencils of Alan Quah and the darkly rich colors of Komikaki Studio and Sean Lee, after laying his groundwork, Mann brings the monsters and the pain in equal measure, kicking this second issue into bloody, monster filled overdrive.

Quickly becoming overwhelmed by monstrous spiders who kidnap Aldrich and take him deep within their cavernous lair, Fira is forced to backtrack in order to save the scryer and keep her quest alive. Of course, this being Dark Souls things quickly go from bad to zombie infested as she is not only facing the spiders, but the living dead they have trapped in their webs as well as the gnarled wood form of the Everlord himself. Though Mann presents a situation that game players has faced time and time again through numerous play throughs, he knows full well when to get out of the way and allow the art team to take the reigns and run with the rest of this second issue, and boy, do they run.

Quah, along with Komikaki Studio and Sean Lee, fill the page with horrors as well as deep purples, luminescent blues, and sickly greens, presenting each stage of the fight in sprawling two page splashes, containing multiple panels within in order to allow the action to flow smoothly and highlighting Fira’s skill in combat. Like most seasoned players, Fira fights smart, never allowing herself to be flanked or overtaken by sheer numbers, and the art team beautifully renders that in a nice bit of visual character building to go along with Mann’s text at the start of the issue. Quah also does a fantastic job with the trademark scale of Dark Souls creatures, rendering the spiders as slightly larger than our lead, much like the games myriad mini-bosses, only to make the fearsome Everlord tower over our hero, making it feel and look like a true Dark Souls boss battle as she parries, dodge rolls, and two-handed slashes her way through another tense two page splash to victory. This franchise made its name on pitting players against overwhelming odds along with huge creatures that seem insurmountable and now Dark Souls #2 shows that it can make great use of the game’s tropes in order to deliver harrowing action sequences.

Though its namesake purposefully hides its story and character development from even the most astute gamers, Dark Souls #2 shows that there is no shame in streamlining and straight forward storytelling. George Mann, Alan Quah, Komikaki Studio, and Sean Lee, though working in a notoriously difficult world, don’t allow themselves to be chained to the franchise’s lore and obscure character building. Instead they use it as a springboard to tell a thrilling sword and sorcery tale, strengthened by the game’s most recognizable aspects and penchant for fantastic monster design, sidestepping what would surely be a slog where it a literal translation of the game to the page. Though I never could have guessed that From Software’s dark and broody trilogy would be rife for adaptation, Dark Souls #2 defies expectations and shows that you can take what makes a game great and present it in a new accessible light without losing what made it great in the process.

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