Black Mask Studios March 2018 cover
Credit: Black Mask Studios
Credit: BOOM! Studios

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #25
Written by Kyle Higgins and Ryan Ferrier
Art by Daniele Di Nicuolo, Simona Di Gianfelice, Walter Baiamonte, Bachan, and Jeremy Lawson
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire and Jim Campbell
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

“Shattered Grid” gets a substantial and fun opening chapter in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #25. Now that Lord Drakkon has escaped from the combined might of the Rangers and Promethea, our heroes are on high alert, turning to shore up their defenses and arm every weapon they have at their disposal. But as the issue’s expansive, time-bending cold open shows, this fight is much larger than the Power Rangers (of this dimension) could even imagine. Helmed by the focused voice of Kyle Higgins and given clean, emotive artwork by the team of Daniele Di Nicuolo, Simona Di Gianfelice, and Walter Baiamonte, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #25 is a great start to BOOM! Studios’ mega multi-Rangered crossover.

MMPR #25 feels like a real culmination of both its own series and spin-off title Go Go Power Rangers thus far. After establishing the stakes early with a cameo-laden cold open set in outer space, writer Kyle Higgins then sets about drawing all the loose threads from the series so far into a tight narrative knot. Higgins’ scripts for the series have always been pretty focused, doling out little clues and teasers throughout, but this 25th issue finally brings all that stuff into the foreground of the story. This makes the opening of “Shattered Grid” feel much more substantial, like the title is leveling up, instead of just going through the motions of a major crossover.

But amid the issue’s cameos and major twists, Higgins doesn’t lose that spark of teen dramatics and optimism that truly defines the Power Ranger comic books. By focusing mainly on the core team (and their alternate reality opposition) readying themselves for battle, Higgins is allowed more opportunities to flesh out the characters and support the pairings he’s developed since the debut issue, such as Trini and Billy’s relationship as the team’s “science division” and the budding romance between Kimberly and Tommy. But you’re probably thinking, who wants ships when there are new Zords and fan-favorite Rangers running around? Thankfully MMPR #25 gives us plenty of both as Kyle Higgins shores up his cast and their dynamics for the epic battle to come, making it matter all the more.

But if it is action you are wanting then the art team of Daniele Di Nicuolo, Simona Di Gianfelice, and Walter Baiamonte have you covered. Though the team’s delicate lines, expressive character models, and bold colors are mostly turned toward the issue’s plot establishing scenes, the trio still get to flex their super sentai muscles with the issue’s spectacular opening sequence and the panels following the evil Lord Drakkon.

In deep space, near Outpost One, the Time Force Rangers are dealing with a crack in spacetime spreading across dimensions. Though this scene comes and goes quickly, the trio really make their time with the Time Force matter, packing in a whole episode’s worth of action, emotion, and suspense into a tight page count, detailing what could be the last stand of the Time Force. Over on the evil side of the coin, Lord Drakkon is going on a fetch quest of sorts, seeking his lost power. Like the opening, these scenes crackle with lighting effects, sly character turns, and sleek costume design as Drakkon turns to another of the issue’s cameo appearances in order to reconnect to his power. Aside from the opening, MMPR #25 doesn’t really have an overabundance of just straight action set pieces, but Daniele Di Nicuolo, Simona Di Gianfelice, and Walter Baiamonte prove more than capable of handling it once morphin’ time finally does roll around on a larger scale.

Though a somewhat reserved start for an epic crossover Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #25 keeps what made the series work from the start and simply adds the spice of cameos and narrative payoffs to the overall flavor of the dish to great effect. Kyle Higgins, Daniele Di Nicuolo, Simona Di Gianfelice, and Walter Baiamonte, along with the back up team of Ryan Ferrier, Bachan, and Jeremy Lawson, keep things focused and moving, not allowing the pressure of the crossover upset the delicate balance of character and action they have settled into previously. The Morphin Grid may be shattering but Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #25 keeps the series from scattering as it heads into its headline-grabbing new event.

Credit: Black Mask Studios

Breathless #1
Written by Pat Shand
Art by Renzo Rodriguez and Mara Jayne Carpenter
Lettering by Jim Campbell
Published by Black Mask Studios
Review by Joey Edsall
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

The description for Black Mask Studios latest series Breathless reads like disparate influences and topics of interest for writer Pat Shand. Marketing makes frequent reference to Buffy, Big Pharma, and cryptozoology, and while that short but not exhaustive list might sound like throwing too much at a story, Shand’s highest points in Breathless #1 show that his narrative prowess is more than capable to guide those elements to something cohesive, rather than just as scattered topics du jour. Artist Renzo Rodriguez and colorist Mara Jayne Carpenter work in tandem to make this debut sleek and stylish in a way that enhances the tone of the story. Despite not always being the most graceful in its dialogue and an over-reliance on angled scenes, there is more good than bad in this comic, and the balance of intrigue and intensity that the beginning and end of the issue displays an intensity that can make this series special.

Breathless #1 follows Scout, a freelancer of cryptozoological autopsies, a position which likely includes a multitude of non-disclosure agreements, but, as readers learn, no insurance benefits. Despite the amount of time the comic book spends with the fantastical, it’s the grounded opening that makes Scout so instantly likable and familiar to readers. There’s a lot to unpack in the span of two pages - from the tonal shift of the pharmacist when they learn that Scout’s insurance plan won’t cover her inhaler, to the protagonist’s comment that this is a repeated issue with other pharmacists that work there, to the way that Rodriguez’s art focuses so intensely on the credit card and the receipt that displays coupons for seemingly everything but the medicine required to breathe.

If Shand’s wordless storytelling and characterization is his strength, it’s the dialogue that sometimes disrupts the flow of his narrative. The character of Grace-Eisley is the best representative of this. Her dialogue is largely what defines her for the first half of the comic, and the dialogue has a histrionic style that conveys every essential negative thing about Grace-Eisley while more positive traits, like her loyalty or her intelligence, are left to other character’s reactions or dialogue, respectively. To an extent, Grace-Eisley’s lexical onslaught feels intentionally designed to give readers the sense of anxiety and annoyance that Scout has, but the way it follows some of the latter’s more flippant comments makes it harder to buy these characters as working at the top-secret chupacabra morgue.

Rodriguez’s introduction of Grace-Eisley up to the moment when Scout inhales a cloud from the monstrous hisser’s innards are his highlight in the comic book. His balance between straight on and angled shots is most in sync with the tone of the story in those moments, and the cloud inhalation scene allows Carpenter to play with the gradual inclusion of pinks and purples into panels before they encompass nearly an entire page. The juxtaposition between the sterile operating room and the grotesque and disemboweled hisser is handled extremely well and is simultaneously unsettling and mesmerizing. A few pages later is when the angling of shots gets mildly distracting, as it stops corresponding to any narrative elements. The angled shots end up seeming arbitrarily added at best and jarring at worst. This happens in conjunction with a panel that seems to indicate that one of the only decorative elements of Scout’s home is a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which is an awkward beat that takes readers out of what was an immersive comic.

One of the greatest strengths of the comic book is just how handily Shand maneuvers the various moving parts. In this regard, tonally, and thematically, the comic bares similarities to The Beauty, but with even more players involved in the narrative and stronger protagonist. Between the strange instance of cryptids like hissers being within city limits, the clear corporate Big Pharma conspiracy mechanisms, and the immediate mystery of what happened to Scout and why her asthma is suddenly cured, Shand establishes more than enough mysteries to keep intrigue alive for several issues. Breathless #1 trusts readers enough to show rather than tell these important series cornerstones, which at once adds to the believability of the world and provokes interest in at least one of the different threads it dangles.

The strength of the comic book’s final moments helps melt away memories of the issue’s unevenness and occasional misstep. It compounds its long-term mysteries with a final page splash of Scout and Grace-Eisley in an immediate and horrifying crisis. That is a conflict that can be immediately resolved in a follow-up issue while the aforementioned larger mysteries get time to simmer and deepen. As a reader, it’s hard not to find something in this opening that you want to see resolved, and in that regard, it accomplishes everything a series debut needs.

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