It’s safe to say that Tommy Oliver is the most well-known Power Ranger. He’s served on a number of teams over the years, from his early days as the original Green Ranger to the far reaches of Space in SPD. With all those adventures, where can you go from there? Power Rangers: Soul of the Dragon takes a look at Tommy’s life after he’s hung up the morpher, when he’s trying to figure out his next steps…but something pulls him back into those adventures.
The graphic novel is the perfect format for this story as we get to spend a lot of time with Tommy and who he is as a character. There’s some extra space for everything to breathe so we get some stunning moments of character development. You really understand the emotional weight that Tommy carries around. He’s experiencing a kind of mid-life crisis unique to the super hero space as it’s rare we get to see what happens when they leave the heroics behind.
The pacing of Soul of the Dragon plays up these moments perfectly. Artist Giuseppe Cafaro has these great images of reflection. When you see Tommy staring longingly at a picture of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers out of uniform, you instantly understand what’s going through his head. Letterer Ed Dukeshire does a great job in guiding us through the artwork, however some of the panels that pack the biggest punch are those with little to no dialogue at all.
Tommy has had a good life, but it’s far from perfect. He has a loving wife in Kat, but his relationship with his son, JJ is strained. They don’t talk enough and you can tell it bothers Tommy a great deal. Tommy also just lost his job as a professor and his body is feeling the effects of years of fighting monsters and aliens. When JJ goes missing, Tommy picks up his morpher for one more adventure.
Soul of the Dragon takes Tommy through a swan song of sorts. Writer Kyle Higgins worked out a way for the character to cycle through all of his Ranger powers that works incredibly well in the story. It’s a way for Tommy to relive his past to save his future. This coincides with the people he encounters that dredge up memories good and bad. It’s pretty awesome to see what came of some of these folks years down the line.
It’s awesome seeing these different incarnations of Power Rangers in action for one last time. Cafaro brings these to life in stunning fashion. Every time Tommy morphs, everything stops for a second, as if everyone around him is taking in the incredible power on display.
Higgins also writes in the future for a character that essentially disappeared from the show. This becomes a major factor in the book. It’s amazing to think about how some little plot hole could turn into the catalyst for much of this story.
The tone of Soul of the Dragon is gritty and dark, almost like a noir tale. This plays into the amateur detective work on display. Colorist Marcelo Costa plays up this feeling with some darker shades. While this is set in the future and we’ve achieved space travel and trade with all kinds of alien races, it’s far from a utopia. Tommy has a few moments of doubt where he wonders if he really did any good as a Power Rangers if this is what the world has become.
There are a variety of new and old enemies alike on display. Cafaro brings a slew of new designs into play. My only qualm with the artwork is that there are some areas that look more sketch-like with much looser pencils. This gives some pages an unfinished appearance. They could have been tightened up in the inking stage.
Power Rangers: Soul of the Dragon is an amazing graphic novel. It serves as a final goodbye for the fan-favorite character of Tommy Oliver. It’s easy to forget that the Power Rangers are people with normal lives and issues even after they put down their morphers. Imagine fighting alien monsters in a giant robot one day and then going to work in your day job the next. That’s got to be a crazy feeling. This book explores that and so much more.