Imagine If… – Episode 139 The Main Man In Marvel

Chris and Mitch talk about the spinner rack for this Wednesday, then they create stories set in the Marvel Universe with Lobo as a guest star for #NewComicBookDay. So if you ever wonder”What If?”, or utter the words “Just Imagine”, or love to argue “Who Would Win?” then this is the podcast for you. Let Chris and Mitch take you to another world, another time, and instruct you to “Imagine If…”.

Comic Culture With Rafa: #010

Organic and Detailed Storytelling in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #40” and “Go Go Power Rangers: Forever Rangers”

A Review From Raphael Encinas

Storytelling is all around us. So much so, that stories are told and retold again and again for new audiences. Some stories are adapted from old stories, and fandoms are created to add more depth, detail, and passion to specific narratives. However, this does not mean that all stories are treated with the utmost care and affection. If the lore is not written with love and respect in mind, people can go absolutely insane. This is a double-edged sword though because on one side, it exposes an underbelly of toxic fandom entitlement, but on the other, it showcases the strong passion people have toward narration, no matter how misguided. Therefore, when a team is able to creatively care and respect source material while at the same time build upon a world that is rich with new ideas, and then works in tandem with already established lore, the final product becomes an absolute joy for fans worldwide. 

I believe we have reached absolute joy this week with the release of both BOOM! Studios’ wonderful Power Rangers titles, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #40” and “Go Go Power Rangers: Forever Rangers”. The release of these two different comics this week showcases exactly how a company can release powerful, energetic, respectful, new, and exciting material that both ends the current arc of the Power Rangers mythos while simultaneously opening a new chapter in the Power Rangers franchise. Spoilers Ahead. 

First and foremost, BOOM Studios! has gone to great lengths in giving us three years of awesome Power Ranger content in comic book form. We got to see the rangers updated and modernized for a present audience that both catered to old and new fans alike. Gone was the campiness of the 90’s television program in order to better fit a post “Avengers” and “CW Superhero Programming” world. Writers like Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott, Steve Orlando, Mairghread Scott, Brenden Fletcher, Kelly Thompson, and now Marguerite Bennett gave us new stories in familiar lore with familiar characters that explored the everyday and mundane to truly epic cross-dimensional adventures. 

We got to see the scale of Rita and Zordon’s origins and alien universe; we got to see the rangers cope with real feelings both at the highschool and cosmic level; we were introduced to exciting new characters like Grace, Matt, and Lord Drakkon; we even got to see the rangers experience prom. Whether big or small, each narrative plot point felt fully-realized and organic. The world felt like it was fully fleshed out, especially when certain events set-up in earlier issues would be revisited or expanded upon in later issues (I will get to this in greater detail soon).    

Furthermore, the fact that Power Rangers was adapted into comic format was awesome because they were now in a medium of publication among other superhero teams like The Avengers and The Justice League (whom the Power Rangers actually teamed up with in a dope crossover event). 

Moreover, the fact that the Power Rangers have been illustrated and colored by true titans of industry makes the series that much more exceptional. The art is always a highlight to these stories, and talented artists like Hendry Prasetya, Dan Mora, and Daniele Di Nicuolo (to name a few) bring the characters to life. It easily makes the experience of Power Rangers that much more impactful.

So basically, BOOM! Studios decided to give the fans a product that respected and cared for the fandom’s love of the Power Rangers. And I am so thankful for this. As a fan of comics and superheroes in general, I am no stranger to editorial having their way and completely butchering or destroying characters and story plots just on a whim with no thought of the fandom. This unapologetic disregard for lore and world building happens way too often.

However, the MMPR comic series has been dealt with the utmost care, and that is something rare. Of course, I also understand that not everyone sees the story as perfect. After all, there are many who were not fans of the recently concluded “Beyond The Grid” storyline, and I myself have been adamant about not wanting a Tommy centric narrative to drive the story moving forward (don’t worry; I’ll get to that). However, at its core, the creative team have handled this franchise with just the right amount of nostalgia and creative freedom to develop awesome storytelling. And it comes full circle with this week’s new releases. 

What is so special about these two comics is that they attempt to end one era of Power Rangers while making way for a new one. And it is done in a truly special and fun way that respects everything that has happened up to this point. 

First, Ryan Parrott’s “Go Go Power Rangers: Forever Rangers” is an immensely satisfying conclusion to the Rangers’ first year as heroes. And it is done in such a thematic way. Not only does it include a well-paced and earned final battle with this story’s antagonist, but it also sets the stage for what’s to come, specifically a new teammate in Tommy Oliver. The final pages are a call back to the first issue where we are introduced to each character with infographics and answers to specific criteria reminiscent of graduation questions. However, in this issue, the answers to these questions have evolved and grown like the rangers themselves.

We also get closure to many plot points, and we see closure to specific character arcs and characterizations. We get resolution to Rita’s internal struggles with her mother and the creation of the Dragon Ranger Coin. We get a glimpse into the creation of “Ranger Station” (which is a staple of Higgins’ MMPR Series). We see Kimberly start to accept and cope with her parents’ divorce as well as make amends with new character Matt. Hell, we even get a cool little call back to a memory in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Series (Issue #5) where we see Zack get kidnapped by Rita, but in this issue, it happens in real time. 

It is such a small moment that speaks volumes to the work that this team has done with the series. They care about the little details! And this is why it is important. The story is aware of all its finer details. Details that the writers and artists know Power Ranger fans find important. It is all connected, and it all feels special.

The issue ultimately ends with Jason, surrounded by his friends, as he gets ready for the Karate Expo. This is a wonderful homage to the original television episode where Tommy is introduced.  It ends with the addition of the sixth Ranger, and it is a thematic way to close this series because fans of the show all know what happens next. 

Furthermore, as this story ends, a new one begins. A new and exciting chapter for the franchise begins with the Necessary Evil storyline beginning with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #40. In this issue we have a time jump with a White Ranger Tommy taking over leadership of the Power Rangers. We get a fun opening scene of Tommy leading the rangers against Putties in London, but it feels different. The team dynamics are off. And this is due to the introduction of new red, yellow, and black ranger teammates. 

This is familiar due to its source material: the infamous “Power Transfer” episode in the television program. Jason, Trini, and Zack go to Switzerland for a Peace Conference, and so they transfer their powers to three newcomers: Rocky, Aisha, and Adam. This was a turning point for me in the franchise as I was always resentful for the change in characters, especially considering that Jason was my favorite ranger. So, I was naturally wary of this new and continued storyline in comic book form.  

At first glance, I was not down to read a new chapter of my beloved comic series by reexperiencing Tommy’s golden years where the team became less about team dynamics and more about how awesome and special Tommy is. I also was not looking forward to these new characters after loving the original team so much. 

However, as I read the issue, I realized that Tommy also didn’t like this new change. I realized that Billy didn’t really care for the new dynamic either. And I read Kimberly as being openly hostile to the whole situation. Even the three new rangers felt misplaced and pressured. They felt like outsiders, and this felt tense; it felt real. I was pleasantly surprised to see that writer Marguerite Bennett was giving us the familiar story of the new Ranger team, but gone were the rose-tinted glasses. This was not a seamless change to the team like in the show. Instead, this change feels much more centered with deeper motivations, feelings, and consequences. And this is amazing. It adds so much weight and rich characterization for all those involved.

No longer was I seeing a charismatic and de facto leader in Tommy Oliver. One that was created from behind-the-scenes drama and favoritism as showcased in the television program. Instead, we get a more organic approach in that Tommy is put into a situation where he has no control. With these new powers come new responsibilities, and with Jason leaving to the peace conference, Tommy is left to fill that void of leadership; something that creates anger and frustration in the character. After all, he feels like his friends have left to “play peace” while he has to stay to save the world. This makes Tommy’s character arc moving forward much more interesting and human, and I am so excited to see it unfold. Bennett is able to make me feel for Tommy in the comics like I never did in the television show. She makes him relatable. 

But even with these new dynamics thrown in, the comic still delivers one last punch with its shocking and exciting reveal at the end of the issue. Jason, Trini, and Zack are not gone, like they were unceremoniously written off in the show. Instead we get a scene where they are video chatting with Billy and Kimberly. The three old rangers ask how things are going, they ask how the NEW them are doing.

Kimberly and Billy do their best to feign encouragement, but they do make note that the video chat has poor signal and they can barely see anything. This leads to the crazy reveal in a one-shot panel where we have Jason, Trini, and Zack in new Power Ranger gear on a different planet, somewhere “off the grid”. 

And with this one shot, we have so much set up to a whole new plethora of narrative options. Looks like these three rangers might be off on a super, secret covert mission. One that they must even keep from their closest friends. Consider me jacked, internet.

Like so many other people, I absolutely love the Power Rangers. These heroes showcase not only what happens when you taste the rainbow, but they also embody the very spirit in coordinated, family-team dynamics. What these writers continue to do after all these years is continue to add depth, maturity, brevity, and scale to a silly show about spandex wearing karate heroes. And it is all showcased with the love and detail inputted into these two new stories!

I am very much looking forward to what comes next, and I highly recommend this series. It is really good. 

Hit the Throttle Hard as the Challenge of the Ghost Riders begins!

Lets recap what has been happening to the Hell Riding Spirit of Vengeance

The Many Ghost Riders of the Marvel Universe

     So if you’re a fan of badasses and vengeance then I’m sure you’re a fan of Ghost Rider.  Now with any legacy character the question is who is your favorite rider?  Is it the classic Johnny Blaze, radical 90’s Danny Ketch, lady rider Alejandra Jones, car driven Robbie Reyes, or even cosmic Frank Castle?  Well this July get ready to watch them either come together or face each other in “The Challenge of the Ghost Riders” by Jason Aaron happening in the Avengers book.

So let us go back to last year and revisit the Doctor Strange Damnation event.  Steven Strange tried to fix Las Vegas after the destruction that was visited upon it by Evil Hydra Steve Rogers (Stevil) and when Strange did that it caused Hell on Earth, literally as Mephisto creates Hotel Inferno with all kinds of havoc unleashed.  Now this story by Nick Spencer and Donny Cates brought together all kinds of heroes and Johnny Blaze answered the call.  While taking on Mephisto, Johnny took advantage of Mephisto’s absence in Hell and became the new King of Hell.  Great story and highly recommended, Mitch and I did a podcast over it during our Halloween Heroics and the story is available in trade paperback.  Now if you just want some quick reads then I would recommend Damnation: Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider #1 (released 3/29/18 and written by Christopher Sebela) and Doctor Strange: Damnation #4 (released 4/25/18) for Johnny’s main parts in the story.  Here are some SPOILERS from that story:

Damnation: Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider #1, art by Phil Noto
Damnation: Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider #1, art by Phil Noto
Doctor Strange: Damnation #4, art by Rod Reis
Doctor Strange: Damnation #4, art by Rod Reis

     As you can see from those images, Johnny means business; so what has he been doing since becoming the King of Hell?  It took a while but in the current volume of Avengers by Jason Aaron he has put out some teasing images for us; with issue 16 we see that Robbie Reyes (the current Ghost Rider) is trapped in Hell with a traffic jam, so a guiding voice has been helping him escape and at the end of the issue we discover it was Johnny Blaze and there will be some business between the two as well.  The tease continues in the issue 17 with a panel as well.

Avengers #16, art by David Marquez
Avengers #16, art by David Marquez
Avengers #17, art by David Marquez

     The War of the Realms has been happening as the main Marvel event but has finally come to a conclusion and Daredevil with his newfound vision has let us in on some of the upcoming events that will be happening such as the Hell Race, as shown in Avengers issue 20; now I’m guessing this is referring to the Challenge of the Ghost Riders as both are by Jason Aaron.

Avengers #20, art by Ed McGuinness

     Now Johnny has been very active and has started showing up in other books.  Donny Cates had Blaze come and offer the Cosmic Ghost Rider (a future Frank Castle with the Spirit of Vengeance and Power Cosmic) a chance to race, in the current volume of Guardians of the Galaxy issue 6.  We were also treated to the return of Danny Ketch, who was the big Ghost Rider of the 90’s; over in Marvel Comics Presents issue 6 by Ed Brisson.  Now don’t worry about getting that issue since it will be crazy expensive with the introduction of another Wolverine daughter, just get the second print which has a great Ghost Rider cover anyways.  Johnny made an appearance in that Marvel Comics Presents issue as well and told the villain of the story that he probably won’t like the new management of Hell, right on Johnny!  The second printing of MCP #6 will have Diamond code MAY198638 and be available in comic shops on July 24th.

Guardians of the Galaxy #6, art by Geoff Shaw
Marvel Comics Presents #6, art by Juan Frigeri
Marvel Comics Presents #6, art by Juan Frigeri
Marvel Comics Presents #6, art by Juan Frigeri
Marvel Comics Presents #6 2nd printing cover, art by Juan Frigeri

     Now let us check out some related comics that will be tie-in issues with the Challenge event and also featuring a Ghost Rider:

  • From the June 2019 solicts

Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider, makes his Marvel Masterworks debut! In 1972, one of the most iconic characters in comics history — the flame-skulled Ghost Rider — burned his demonic presence into readers’ minds! A legion of fans found themselves addicted to the Rider’s combination of hell-on-wheels drama and action-horror adventure. And it all begins here, when Johnny Blaze makes a deal with the devil to save his friend’s life. The payment? Transformation into the Ghost Rider! The stories that follow take the horror hero to Hell to battle Satan, pit him against the tempting Witch-Woman and team him with Daimon Hellstrom, Son of Satan. Written by Gary Friedrich and gloriously illustrated by Mike Ploog, Tom Sutton and Jim Mooney, this iconic series is beautifully restored for this Marvel Masterworks edition! Collecting MARVEL SPOTLIGHT (1971) #5-12 and GHOST RIDER (1973) #1-5.
328 PGS./Rated T …$75.00
ISBN: 978-1-302-91817-0

     Now this is important as we will finally for the first time be getting a collection of the early adventures of Johnny Blaze printed in color with a hardcover edition that will be in comic shops this October.  There are plenty of back issues and also reprints of those as well, but this will be part of the Masterworks series and these are top shelf collections.  With this publication there just might be something happening to the Rider(s) in October that merit this being available to readers. 

  • From the July 2019 solicts

The war is over, and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are looking to celebrate. That’s right, there’s a party at Avengers Mountain! But who invited the Squadron Supreme of America?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Avengers #21, art by Stefano Caselli

Robbie Reyes wants to get rid of the flame-headed monster inside him. So it’s time to do the common sense thing: perform an exorcism on his car. Only problem is, Johnny Blaze, the king of Hell, has some plans of his own for the newest Ghost Rider and his Avengers friends.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Avengers #22, art by Stefano Caselli

     From those covers you can see there will be a demonic theme with the Avengers as Mephisto and Johnny grace those covers.  So it looks like the official Challenge will begin and we have Johnny, Danny, and Frank in place.  How will they all tie in with the Avengers and will they all be together or against each other?  Will Robbie have to worry about Johnny since his Spirit of Vengeance is Eli Morrow and was a Satanic Serial Killer; so the Riders might not take a liking to his influence on Robbie and need to get rid of Eli. 

  • From the August 2019 solicts

Bring on the Bad Guys Variant Cover by MIKE MCKONE
It’s Ghost Rider vs. Ghost Rider in a wild race through hell, while the Avengers have to fight for their lives against their own Celestial headquarters, which is now possessed by a rather shocking, rather murderous hell-damned soul!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

     From that solicit we now know the Riders will be taking each other on, so how will this Civil War play out?  Are the Riders okay with Johnny being the King of Hell?  Is he using his power for good or evil?  What will Danny Ketch be thinking of all this madness?  Is it Eli Marrow who has possessed Avengers Mountain?  Has Robbie been changed?  Does Cosmic Frank even care?  

  • From the September 2019 solicts

Carnage is hunting down previous symbiote hosts for codices that will unlock a direct link to the symbiote god Knull! And he’s not asking nicely…he’s taking them by force! Which means former Ghost Rider Alejandra Jones is next on his hit list!
With Johnny Blaze preoccupied as Hell’s king, it’s up to Danny Ketch to ride again and keep Alejandra out of Carnage’s clutches!!!
40 PGS./One-Shot/Rated T+ …$4.99

Absolute Carnage: Spirit of Vengeance #1, art by Phillip Tan

If the Avengers thought one Ghost Rider was tough to deal with, wait’ll they see how many Spirits of Vengeance have just been unleashed by the King of Hell, Johnny Blaze! Including the craziest, most powerful Rider of them all…That’s right, it’s the Avengers vs. Cosmic Ghost Rider!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Avengers #24, art by Stefano Caselli

MATTHEW ROSENBERG (W) • Szymon Kudranski (A) • Cover by GREG SMALLWOOD
• You can’t fight City Hall…unless, of course, you’re Frank Castle.
• But he won’t fight alone!
• Unfortunately, Zemo’s got his new Thunderbolts, and they’re ready for war.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

The Punisher #15, art by Greg Smallwood

     Now this month’s set of comics are really exciting…Danny goes to save Alejandra, but did he go on his own or did someone send him?  Will Alejandra be joining in on the Challenge as well?  Cosmic Frank will be fighting the Avengers, so which side will Robbie be taking or is he the reason why they are fighting?  Then a Ghost Rider appears in the Punisher book but we don’t know who it is…and trust me I asked the writer, Matthew Rosenberg.


     So at the time of this publication that is how far the solicits can take us, so who knows what will happen outside of the conclusion of the Challenge of the Ghost Riders in issue 25 of the Avengers; I know the conclusion will happen here as I checked Amazon for the trade paperbacks and they reported the Avengers by Jason Aaron volume 4 tpb will contain issues 21-25.  Now something else interesting that will be happening as we have heard in other news, the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider will be appearing on the small screen again with a new show on HULU.  Here is the official press release:

Per Marvel and HULU press release: (show will air sometime in 2020)

“Marvel’s Ghost Rider, also known as Robbie Reyes, is a quintessential antihero, consumed by hellfire and supernaturally bound to a demon. Reyes lives on the Texas/Mexico border and when he unleashes the Rider, Robbie brings vengeance for the innocents he encounters, but struggles to control the power he wields. Marvel’s Ghost Rider is executive produced by Ingrid Escajeda, who will serve as showrunner, Paul Zbyszewski and Marvel’s Jeph Loeb.”

     Now it has also been reported that Gabriel Luna will reprise his role as Robbie, which is great and he was awesome in the role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so why this entire hubbub about Ghost Rider?  Well he will start becoming a hot commodity again and I’m also predicting that we will be getting a comic book series again…how do I think this?  Well in October some participating comic shops will be handing out comics as treats as part of Halloween Comic Fest and Marvel will be re-releasing the Johnny Blaze Damnation issue as a new titled book:

Ghost Rider King of Hell #1

(W) Christopher Sebela (A) Phil Noto Johnny Blaze takes the fight to a different devil than he usually faces – Mephisto!  But Mephisto will show Johnny his own brand of suffering – and give Johnny PLENTY of reasons for vengeance.
Rating: Teen

Ghost Rider King of Hell #1, art by Clayton Crain

     Those should be out just in time for the Masterwork and (hopefully) a release of a new Ghost Rider comic title, but how many Riders will it feature?  Who should it feature?  If I had my say I would say call it Ghost Riders and feature Johnny, Danny, Alejandra, and Robbie.  What do you think?  Chime in on our social media and let us know, as always GEEK OUT!