Ah, the Phantom Ranger. An ally to the Power Rangers during the Turbo season, and one of the American tokusatsu franchise’s longest running mysteries. To this day, the Phantom Ranger’s identity remains unknown. Who might he be? The long-lost father of one of the Rangers? An old friend, back in the fight for justice with new powers? A gestalt entity born from the spirits of fallen Rangers? Adlai Stevenson?
In the real world, according to this 2011 interview with long-time Power Rangers creative Judd Lynn, the creative team just plain ran out of time before they could fully develop the character’s story. Now, as part of BOOM! Studios’ ongoing Power Rangers comics, artist Simone Ragazzoni, colorists Igor Monti and Sabrina Del Grosso, letterer Ed Dukeshire and writer Frank Gogol delve into the enigmatic hero’s story with Power Rangers Unlimited: Edge of Darkness (No relation to the seminal BBC miniseries of the same name).
Ragazzoni illustrates Power Rangers marvelously, taking full advantage of comics as a medium to tell a story that carries the show’s action-filled spirit into a realm beyond what its budget would often allow. The Phantom Ranger wanders alien worlds and brawls with flying crow monsters, one brave soul in a vast universe. In Edge of Darkness‘s opening and closing sequences, Ragazzoni invokes the Phantom Ranger’s famous isolation. While he’s a steadfast ally of justice and a friend to his fellow Rangers, the Phantom Ranger operates alone first and foremost. Investigating a ruined world is very much of a piece with his iconography. This extends to his body language — when he’s not directly on mission or in a fight, the Phantom Ranger is not terribly comfortable interacting with others.
Monti and Del Grosso’s color work similarly builds on the Phantom Ranger’s lonesomeness. Where the mother and daughter he allies with wear white robes and the murder of evil crow-men goons after them opt for silver and red, the Phantom Ranger is decked out in all-concealing black armor. Whether on the molten plains of a maimed world or against the cool blues and greens of a high-tech space station, he stands out — and apart.
Ragazzoni’s action is generally solid, particularly during the Phantom Ranger’s brawl with the crow goons. He takes full advantage of his stealth abilities to lay waste his foes, plowing through them with relentless, acrobatic precision.
That being said, a few of Edge of Darkness‘ action beats wobble. Key moments feel like they’re missing, cut off too abruptly, or juxtaposed awkwardly with the book’s quieter moments. It’s disappointing, given the high quality of their choreography.
Script-wise, Edge of Darkness is both interesting and frustrating. Gogol conceives of the Phantom Ranger as a world-weary champion who has been fighting the good fight for a very, very long time. He’s devoted to doing good and accomplishing his mission, but he either has not made or simply does not have the space for much else besides that mission during the time Edge of Darkness is set. He is heroic, and he’s been heroic for a very long time. He’s not about to abandon his mission, but he is very, very tired.
The Phantom Ranger’s exhaustion and total dedication to his mission make him an intriguing foil to the little girl he tries to protect in Edge of Darkness‘ lengthy flashback — a little girl who will one day grow to become the evil sorceress Rita Repulsa, before ultimately being redeemed by the endgame events of Power Rangers in Space. A man who has hollowed himself out in the name of a just cause does his damndest to save a little girl from being hollowed out against her will. It’s a neat bit of character work for both the Phantom Ranger and Rita, and good writing from Gogol.
Less successful is Edge of Darkness‘ dialogue, which is frequently clunky and turns on a narrative engine (Young Rita being told stories and telling stories to help herself and others face something big and scary) that aims for sweet and unfortunately lands on saccharine.
Power Rangers Unlimited: Edge of Darkness has some striking artwork and solid storytelling, and the work it does to build on one of the series’ longstanding question marks is neat. But its shortcomings are significant, and the final result is uneven. This is a comic that will play best for folks who are invested in the BOOM! Power Rangers books or Power Rangers in general.
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