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.
Art: Russell Dauterman
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: Joe Sabino
Variants: Ryan Sook, Christian Ward, Mike Deodato, Frank Martin, Andrea Sorrentino
Thor created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby.
The Mighty Thor continues to be one of the best monthly titles coming out of Marvel. Artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson paint gorgeous set pieces full of the requisite magical elements and epic battles. This is compounded by the high stakes dramatic conflict provided by writer Jason Aaron. Entire worlds are threatened with annihilation while Thor/Jane Foster continues to fight a losing battle with cancer. But even more pertinent to current events, the series is about the main hero facing down a succession of powerful males who won’t hesitate to mansplain to her at every opportunity. Whether it’s the all-father Odin, who still can’t believe his son isn’t worthy of the hammer Mjölnir, the venal Roxxon CEO Dario Dagger, or the genocidal Dark Elf King Malekith. It helps that they strut around like the villains they’re mostly meant to be. In fact, Malekith is still on the loose and plotting the death of millions of innocents when with this installment, the series pivots to commence another arc called the Asgard/Shi’ar War.
The action is what readers would come to expect from such a title. Heimdall, guardian of the rainbow bridge Bifröst is suddenly attacked by Kallark, better known to fans as Gladiator. Unfortunately we don’t get to see the ensuing fight because the scene cuts to Jane being confronted by all-around nice guy Cul Borson, who wants to evict her from Asgardia. Is it amusingly defiant that Jane is wearing a Big Gay Ice Cream shirt, or is that too much New York-based humor? Their verbal sparring match is interrupted by the commotion outside. By the time Cul can witness it for himself, the rest of the Imperial Guard has entered the fray, commencing a battle royale with the entire population of Asgardia.
The rest of the issue is taken up with Thor joining the Asgardian defense. But if fans are dying to see how she fares against Super-douche bag Kallark in an emotionally satisfying extended beat down (The old Thor had already fought him twice), the action is cut short by a cliffhanger ending. I strongly suspect that question will be answered in future installments. But for now, the mystery of the Shi’ar Empire’s unexpected quarrel with Asgard is this story’s more immediately pressing quandary.
TCJ lists their best comics of 2016.
2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize awarded to landmark comix Maus. Women Write About Comics holds a roundtable about the work. Last year's article by Michael Cavna quotes several comics creators who were influenced by Maus, including Gene Yang, Chris Ware, and Jeff Smith.
March is the best selling book on Amazon, just in time for Martin Luther King Day.
Isaac Butler compares the story of John Lewis in March and the presidency of Barack Obama.
Who would have thought Superman's red shorts would have become a hot political issue? Comics, folks.
Barack Obama on the power of fiction and storytelling.
Chris Ware, Cosey and Larcenet are three finalists for Angoulême’s Grand Prix, while Alan Moore steps aside again.
The Winter Issue of the Martial Arts Studies is available for download.
Ben Judkins on the limits of authenticity in martial arts. Who would have thought these kinds of discussions would eventually include lightsaber combat?
Art: Elsa Charretier
Covers: Nicolas Bannister, Elizabeth Torque, Nelson Blake II, Guru eFX, Skottie Young, John Tyler Christopher, Andy Park
Colors: Megan Wilson
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Nadia Pym created by Mark Waid and Alan Davis.
Henry Pym has left the Marvel Universe a problematic legacy of homicidal robots, multiple identities, and generally terrible behavior. So it falls to his newly revealed, long-lost daughter Nadia to make superhero science fun again. The latest legacy character being utilized to add some much needed diversity to the Marvel lineup, her own title The Unstoppable Wasp is being written by Princeless creator Jeremy Whitley. The result is probably the most forthright statement yet from Marvel about the necessity for women to enter and lead the S.T.E.M. fields.
Nadia is a very different person from Henry or his socialite spouse Janet, the original bearer of the Wasp identity. She’s inherited her dad’s gift for science, but was hidden from him and raised by the same evil organization which moulded Natasha Romanova into the super spy Black Widow. Nadia escaped to America after successfully replicating Henry's shrinking technology and took up the mantle of the Wasp. Rather than growing into the typical brooding adolescent Marvel superhero, she embraces her newfound freedom with all the optimism of youth. Ready to discover the experiences she missed out on when she was still chained to her lab. Nadia is irrepressible. And her first important step: deciding what balushahi to pick out from the dessert counter.
The comic’s set piece is a downtown battle against a giant robot with the help of Kamala Khan and Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird, an antagonist drawn by Elsa Charretier like the clunky automatons superheroes are usually running into. But the fight is portrayed as a fun diversion in which Nadia gets to showcase her talents by hacking the robot and making it dance ballet. Nadia has a running inner monologue where she analyzes the robot’s joints for weaknesses which can be a little ungainly. But Whitley and Charretier are definitely having a ball with Nadia as she decides to science the s@*& out of this thing.
However, the heart of the story is revealed afterward in a conversation between Bobbi and Nadia. It’s a rare reminder that before Bobbi became a superhero, she actually started out as "Dr. Barbara Morse," a scientist. Bobbi mentions the S.H.I.E.L.D. list of the world’s smartest people, which has been dominated by men for decades until only very recently when Moon Girl shot right to the top.”There’s no way that’s right.” she intones about the paucity of females, and Nadia concurs. The meta commentary is further reinforced in a closing section profiling two real world scientists. Women scientists have always been here, they’ve just been ignored for so long. It’s now Nadia’s mission to point them out.
Go to: Tyrus the Movie
Tributes by Heidi MacDonald, Margalit Fox, Elaine Woo, Audie Cornish, Sean Rossman, Patrick Hipes, Halle Kiefer, Sam Barsanti, Jacob Bryant,
Wong has been the subject of a documentary, by Pamela Tom.
Images via Christopher Jobson