Friday, October 4, 2019

REVIEW: Saban's Power Rangers: The Psycho Path

Power Rangers comics are pretty much everything Power Rangers fans could ask for: other sides of classic stories reimagined in a modernized setting that explore the deeper sides of previously underdeveloped characters while further expanding the lore in new directions. The comics also expanded upon fan favorite recurring characters: the Psycho Rangers. Now, the Psychos are back in their own original graphic novel.

DISCLAIMER: I received an advance copy of Saban's Power Rangers: The Psycho Path courtesy of BOOM! Studios.
Opinions are my own.

Some backstory here. The Psycho Rangers first hit comic pages 18 years after their last TV appearance in MMPR #20. Written by Kyle Higgins, this story saw the introduction of Psycho Green as a one and only enemy of the Power Rangers of 1969. A year later, Trey Moore expanded on Green's origin in a short story Psychotic, exclusive to the Year Two hardcover. Earlier in the year, Moore also penned a story of the 25th Anniversary special that saw Karone stand trial for Astronema's crimes.

The Psycho Path is rooted in these three stories which written by two of the comic writers who understand Power Rangers lore the most. Unfortunately, neither of them wrote this particular story. That's not inherently a bad thing and I'm probably just bitter that Trey Moore still hasn't been given the Power Rangers series he deserves.

With The Psycho Path, writer Paul Allor (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Clue) takes his first steps into the Power Rangers universe with fan-favorite artist Giuseppe Cafaro (Soul of the Dragon). I don't want to say that it's bad or that I didn't enjoy it - I would never review anything I couldn't recommend - but there was certainly something off about this series.

The word I kept thinking to myself while reading was "bizarre." Looking back, maybe it felt cornier than most of the comics but still more serious than the TV series? It's really hard to explain without getting into it... So let's get into it.

Psycho Green has revived the other Psychos and apparently, their key cards can be reprogrammed after their deaths so the next forms can be slightly different. But Green still wants his "family" to be whole and that includes the mother of the Psychos.

KO-35 is attacked by the Psychos right on the second page kickstarting a super fast beginning for what is otherwise kind of a slow story. Maybe not slow exactly - at less than 90 pages the whole thing toom about 40 minutes to read. It just didn't feel like a lot was happening. Karone hops aboard the Psycho's ship by choice and spends the rest of the book trying to redeem her creations.

Picking up where her trial left off, Karone has been doing some soul searching. She's come to terms with the fact that Astronema isn't an alternate personality that was brainwashed into her - it was just her. She did everything during that time - under some manipulation from Dark Specter - of her own free will. She's not just here to repent, she's here to prove that others can change just like she did.

So here comes the bulk of the story: the Psychos are literally the main characters. Karone, their creator, knows that there are real people buried inside of them. So her motivation to teach them morals and ethics and how to use non-lethal force to achieve their goals isn't totally misguided.

But. Like. They're still psychotic monsters who murdered thousands and even killed a Power Ranger. Andros eventually finds Karone and tells her this. "Psycho Pink killed Kendrix," he says. And then she hugs Psycho Pink a few pages later. There's a scene where she watches a movie with them and makes them popcorn. I'm dead serious. They have unmorphed "people" forms - I guess they've had those the whole time? - so it's not as ridiculous as the evil armored Rangers cuddling together on the couch for a movie night. Although I kinda want to see that.

It's not just bizarre that Karone is trying to redeem the Psychos, it's also bizarre that this is the entire main plot of the story. The initial cover seemed to imply that it was going to be a Karone/Andros story, but Andros is barely in it and when he is he is technically the antagonist. The other Space Rangers are in here as kind of an afterthought, framed like the villains in the Psycho's journey.

What is their journey toward, besides redemption? I don't know. Psycho Green wants to use lethal, brute force to raid old Dark Specter facilities and find his secret weapons lab. Karone wants to use stealth and non-lethal tactics to raid old Dark Specter facilities and find his secret weapons lab. What's in this secret weapons lab, you ask? Is it a cool Zord or a new space fortress? I don't know, because that story - which was kinda the whole plot - goes nowhere. They never find the lab.

The Psycho Path is bizarre in some of its choices that I ultimately believe fall on the writer's lack of experience with the universe. Some of the evilest villains in the franchise are given a redemption arc while one of the best-developed characters makes a bunch of confusing choices, all working against the Power Rangers.

All of this being said, I still recommend it. It's nice to see a full story about a team other than Mighty Morphin - even if they're kind of the bad guys - and I love the connected space opera stuff from the first seven seasons. It's always good to see elements of the Zordon Era brought into the Post Zordon Era. Maybe this wasn't the story the Psycho Rangers deserved, but it certainly opens the door wide open for more.

Power Rangers can be a thought-provoking series with interesting characters. It can also be weird and it's rarely perfect.

By the way I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else, but this also includes the aforementioned Psychotic short by Trey Moore. This was previously exclusive to the now hard to find Year Two hardcover and hyped for not only telling the origin of Psycho Green but also for providing a perfectly reasonable explanation for why Fiveman was adapted into the Supersonic Rangers.

Saban's Power Rangers: The Psycho Path hits your local comic shop on October 9th. Click here to pre-order it on Amazon.