Justice League/Power Rangers #1
Art: Stephen Byrne
Letter: Deron Bennett
Cover: Karl Kerschl
Variants: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Carrie Strachan, Marcus To, Wendy Broome, Dan Hipp, Yasmine Putri, Marguerite Sauvage, Dustin Nguyen
Justice League of America created by Gardner Fox.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers created by Haim Saban, Shuki Levy.
Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger by Toei and Bandai.
Justice League/Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is the latest crossover between two intellectual properties who have no business being smooshed together. Two recent inter-company crossovers involving DC characters were Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and DC Universe Vs. Masters of The Universe. But this may be their most dissonant team-up on paper. On one hand is the current iteration of the Justice League, a collection of the world’s most recognizable superheroes, plus Cyborg. On the other hand are the Power Rangers from season one, six “teenagers with attitude” tasked with defending the planet from alien incursions. The Power Rangers TV show was (and continues to be) a weird mixture of American actors being grafted onto stock footage of older Japanese Super Sentai shows. The result was something hyperkinetic, very loud, brightly lit, and kinda dumb. The show was unabashedly designed to appeal to the sensibilities of preteens, although the mashup was a particularly surreal experience for people like me who actually grew up watching super sentai. That first season has receded far enough into the past to evoke its own form of nostalgia. But how would the optimistic spirit of the Power Rangers work with the relatively somber tone of the DC brand identity?
Judging from the first issue of the crossover, the answer involves shifting the Power Rangers to be more in line with DC. The story uses the trope of interdimensional travel to get one set of characters to visit the universe of the other. In this case, the Power Rangers are accidentally transported to the DC Multiverse after a battle with arch-nemesis Lord Zedd. Gotham City to be more exact. Naturally, they run into Batman. Hilarity ensues. And I do mean that there’s some real humor generated by the contrast between the two set of heroes. Of course, DC practically popularized the idea of interdimensional team-ups, so meeting a bunch of colorfully clad masked warriors from another universe is probably to the Justice League just another Wednesday night.
However, the real kicker is that the comic opens with a scene of extreme carnage which takes place 36 hours after the initial meeting. It’s the most unsettling scene in an otherwise conventional team-up story, and an event that would never have happened on the actual Power Rangers show.
The comic’s visual tone is also more suitably dark. Stephen Byrne employs a highly saturated palette of golds and deep browns, especially in the Gotham scenes. As everything in this installment takes place at night and features Batman prowling the city rooftops, the whole chapter can feel a little oppressive.
But there are certain elements that serve to remind us about the sillier origins of the Power Rangers. Byrne preserves their bright, disco-colored uniforms and how they stretch and drape over the body like real fabric. He also maintains the normal physiques of the actors who play them. The contrast is particularly telling when set next to the the hyper-defined musculature of their DC counterparts. Actually, the art is in certain ways more realistic than the original show since the characters were played by a bunch of twenty somethings trying to pass for teenagers. Byrne’s Power Rangers look more closer to their purported age. When they meet the Justice League, there’s a small hint of a generational divide as a bunch of rambunctious youths meet their stuffy, middle-aged counterparts. Score one for the Power Rangers.