Evil Machinations: Why I Love The Ultron Concept
An Editorial From Rafael Encinas
I have always liked robots. Robots are some of the coolest concepts in both science fiction and horror. Everywhere one may look, people can find a really interesting or horrific android, cyborg, or mechanical organism causing mayhem or becoming a central focal point to mainstream culture. Some examples include the Terminator, Hal 9000, Cylons, Sentinels, Johnny 5, or the Iron Giant. Therefore, because robots are so ingrained and customary to society’s ideas of collective mainstream entertainment and scientific culture, it is important to find the best and most unique robots in popular culture. Well, one of my favorite mechanized monstrosities would have to be Hank Pym’s megalomaniacal and genocidal sentient robot Ultron! Not only is Ultron a pretty sweet machine, but he is also a deadly super villain who has been more than the heroes could handle on more than one occasion in the Marvel Universe.
First of all, the origin of this villain is wild! Ultron is a criminally insane machine focused on destroying all human life. Built by Hank Pym to help the heroes and eventually replace the necessity of the Avengers, Ultron was meant to be a force for good and progress; a benevolent, sentient protector. Instead, what manifested was a self-replicating, highly intelligent artificial intelligence that created its own adamantium structured form to eradicate the human race; a race seen to be inferior, flawed, and unnecessary. He is a highly functional A.I. consciousness that can both reason and experience existential questioning. This leads to trouble for everyone!
What I like so much about Ultron is that he’s a fucking robot that is virtually unstoppable and unrelenting in his conquest. You destroy him, he’ll rebuild himself. You become too powerful; he’ll unleash an army of Ultrons on you. He is clever and practically immortal because of his adamantium shell and his insane power set (concussion blasts, radiation emitters, and the dreaded encephalo-ray), so it is very hard to physically damage him. And even if the heroes could destroy his body or fry his sentient-mainframe-consciousness, every time you destroy him, he’ll rebuild himself to be more efficient and that much more difficult to defeat. It is a matter of time; it is a game and a conflict that the heroes cannot practically win as time continues and Ultron evolves time and time again. This in itself is a horrifying thought. Imagine an immortal flying robot trying to kill you and all those you love, and not even earth’s mightiest heroes can save you. It is the dreams that science fiction entails!!
Practically, the most effective way to destroy him is to transport him to a parallel dimension to be someone else’s problem and hope he never comes back. THAT IS FUCKING CRAZY IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT! To jettison a homicidal, remorseless, computer program with an overpowered skill set into a neighboring dimensional existence is the most immoral thing I could possibly think of. You know this monster is going to kill everyone, and you can’t stop it. So you send it somewhere else, and it practically doesn’t exist to you anymore; but it does. And it is still killing. That’s fucked up on so many levels. God forbid he comes back. And this in essence is what exciting storytelling is all about.
Overall, Ultron is a fantastic super villain because he is basically unstoppable and is the manifestation of all the best parts of our collective popular-culture robots combined. Not to mention, his face is beautiful. Every time I look at my Marvel Legends: Marvel Iron Man Ultron toy, I see a nifty little robot with attitude and murderous intent. For real though, this Marvel Legends Ultron is highly posable with a sleek paint job and many practical points of articulation; seriously, it is way better than the Diamond Select version; I seriously recommend getting it; not the Diamond Select version though. That one is garbage.
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.