Deadshirt is Reading: Power Rangers, A-Force, and Spider-Man!

Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more. 

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Sarah Register is reading…

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1

Written by Kyle Higgins

Illustrated by Hendry Prasetya

Color by Matt Herms

Letters by Ed Dukeshire

BOOM! Studios

“You’re not going to break me. You know that, right? I’m stronger than you, Rita…”

 

While BOOM! Studios’ newest foray into comic book adaptations is reasonably accessible to readers unfamiliar with the source material, you can tell that, at its core, this is a story written for nostalgic fans of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers show. Part of that feeling is evident just from the plot, which picks up right after the Green Ranger, a.k.a. everyone’s favorite Ranger, a.k.a. the Ranger everyone wants to kiss on the face, defects from Rita Repulsa and joins the team. Tommy Oliver seems like he’s holding it together on the side of good, but the shadow of Rita and his own self-doubts spell trouble for the fate of Angel Grove.

Besides the modern clothing and the fact that Bulk and Skull (local bullies/superfans) say the word “podcast,” nothing about the look of the world of MMPR has been updated, which is actually perfect. The original costumes and Zord designs look fantastic in splash pages vibrantly colored by Matt Herms. Hendry Presetya’s character designs feel inspired by the actors who played them without attempting to take the resemblance to the point of stiffness, meaning the Rangers can emote on the page.

The accompanying Bulk and Skull mini adventures at the back of each issue (tackled by a different creative team) remind readers that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is about having fun first (with a dash of teenage angst in there somewhere). This series is sure to be a hit with any fans of the franchise or any children or younger siblings of fans of the franchise who will more than likely be forced to read it by their overly excited predecessors.

Joe Stando is reading…

A-Force #3

Written by Kelly Thompson and G. Willow Wilson

Art by Jorge Molina and Matt Milla (colors)

Lettered by Cory Petit

Marvel

“So much for science.”

A-Force is so weird. It began as a Secret Wars tie-in, with a cast of all-star superheroines from across the Marvel U thrown together to protect an idyllic island society. There wasn’t a ton of background, but it was … satisfactory, as SW books went. The relaunch in the core universe had an interesting set-up, as new character Singularity sought out the regular versions of her friends, only to find they didn’t know her or particularly care about each other. It was a good hook, and since then, nothing has happened, and the book is treading water.

It’s not that the story is without its charms. Molina draws great, expressive faces, so when the erstwhile teammates bicker or band together, it really pops. Singularity and her counterpart, Antimatter, are rendered with gorgeous color palettes by Milla, and Singularity herself is an ideal focus for the story, both wide-eyed and naïve as well as brave and caring.

But at this point, A-Force has been around in one form or another for eight issues. It still doesn’t feel like any kind of cohesive story, and this is a long time to wait for a payoff. I like the characters involved, I like the talent behind the book, and I like the idea of a new powerhouse Avengers team that’s female-oriented. But this book feels like a series of missteps and miscalculations almost from the beginning. A third-act serious injury to a character raises the stakes a little bit, but everything still feels disjointed, and the general structure (the team bickers, comes together, and still gets beaten by Antimatter) is already stale. Maybe once the table-setting is over, things will pick up, but this book needs a serious shot in the arm.

 

Spider-Man #2

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Sara Pichelli, Gaetano Carlucci (inks), and Justin Ponsor (colors)

Lettered by Cory Petit

Marvel

“You know exactly who he is—he’s Spider-Man.”

I’m going to begin by saying nice things about this issue. Pichelli, Carlucci, and Ponsor’s art is wonderful. Their take on the current Peter Parker costume is very cool and distinct from what we’ve seen before, and Pichelli’s Blackheart redesign is appropriately creepy and less ’90s. Parker sticking up for Miles is also a cool little moment that captures what I’d like to see about their mentor/trainee dynamic.

These, unfortunately, are all the nice things I have to say about this issue.

Spider-Man #2 is terrible in a uniquely Bendis way. It has plenty of his signature problems, both in large and small scales, and it suffers heavily for it. Snarky, David Mamet by way of Aaron Sorkin dialogue pervades the issue, and nearly every page has some too-cute quip or other bullshit. Iron Man’s winking “demon in a bottle” reference is the most egregious, but the Ganke/Miles interactions are also pretty tiring, as are the bits with new characters (more on that in a sec). Assuming Parker shows up again in this arc (and he will), I half-expect a page of “Who’s on first” style nonsense.

Parker’s presence and attitude is another source of irritation. I get that with the folding of Miles into the main Marvel Universe, things get a little clunky. I’m sure a revised origin and backstory for him is coming, and “this stuff all REALLY happened because Miles gave a magic man a cheeseburger in the center of a magical planet” isn’t a good place to work from. But this version of their relationship is grating and disappointing, compared to Miles’s awe of a living Parker and Parker’s protectiveness and respect for a young, learning Spider-Man. The actual flashback is cleverly drawn cartoonishly to indicate it’s Miles’s recollection of the events, and hopefully we’ll get an arc or a mini soon that elaborates on the actual events. When that rolls around, I hope it’s more of Parker sticking up for Miles to the cop and less of “I dunno, why do I have a dumb outfit.”

The subplot of Miles’s race being revealed to the public is an interesting concept, but with pretty awful execution. Bendis is clearly going for a level of internal conflict in Miles, which is understandable and in keeping with the character. But in his effort to provide examples of extreme responses, he writes an embarrassing, tone-deaf YouTube star praising Spider-Man’s blackness with twee happy-dance shtick. Awareness of the overwhelming majority of white superheroes and excitement at better representation in new characters is a common thing online. Bendis knows this—he created Miles Morales partially as a response to it. I have to hope that there’s a better payoff coming, but as it stands, it feels like a disingenuous shot at the growing number of vocal women and people of color who criticize the status quo.

And finally, there’s the showstopping final panel, where Miles’ sassy Latina grandmother shows up to give him “a big ol’ kick in the culo” over his bad grades. It’s stereotyped and awkward, and just generally a bad sign for the book. It might read differently coming from a Hispanic creator, but from Bendis, it feels like a bad sitcom trope.

I love Miles Morales, and I love the genuine affection that Bendis, Pichelli, and legions of fans have for him. With Parker off on globe-trotting adventures, Spider-Man is a perfect opportunity to get back to basics: webslinging across New York City and balancing superheroics with school and girlfriends. But the sheer amount of face-palm moments in this issue makes me hesitant to bother giving this book my money again.

Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!

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