Nitro Battlers #1
As a kid, I was (for a window of time) obsessed with the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. As it evolved into other incarnations of the show my attention faded, but when those first five teenagers (with attitude) were chosen to defend the world from Rita Repulsa and her putty patrols, I was entranced. The one thing that never sank in (and really they were wise to avoid this for the tone of the show) was the mortality of the Rangers and whether it was the sort of thing they would DO for the rest of their lives. Eric Kim’s Nitro Battlers surrounds the plight of Nitro Red, the last of the Nitro Battlers after all the others had ceased to perform their Nitro-ly duties, and with great depth and empathy explores those overlooked trends from Super Sentai series long past. Nitro Battlers is long-overdue depth in a genre that refused to age with its audience.
Aesthetically, the tone of the work matches with the overall gritty and macabre leaning of the piece without veering too far from the familiar Super Sentai vibe. I got the impression there were inspirational elements from Eastman and Laird in the work. Pay close attention and there’s a few Easter eggs in both plot and artistic choices that you can pick out, as well, presumably nods to similar content to the original subject matter. Overall, the tone of the art fit the tone of the script and you can’t really ask for much more than that. Nothing distracts from the overall quality of a piece like a mismatch between art and script. The only thing I’d have liked would have been to see the overall piece colorized. I really found myself missing that in a piece about multi-colored Nitro Battlers.
So let’s talk script, then, shall we? Frankly, I loved it. With nods to the Power Rangers of old, in more ways than you might expect, I felt like I had followed them into the foreseeable future. While it might not have been them, spiritually the piece was cathartic. It was a weird and welcomed sense of closure seeing the genre I outgrew suddenly grow up. The “villain of the week” in the piece by the name of Brozar is just as campy in theme and dialogue as you’d expect, only missing a noticeably bouncy foam-latex body to nail the classic Super Sentai villain hat trick. The story had the emotional weight you’d expect of a story taking such a naive and fun base premise onward into adulthood the way it does – cynicism, frustration, and depression with just enough hope to keep things moving ahead. The juxtaposition of these emotional values in a genre that’s fundamentally light-hearted and almost goofy when not laden with action makes for fantastic reading.
More-than-capably written, with surprising levels of depth for what on the surface might just seem like a Super Sentai story having a midlife crisis, Nitro Battlers hits all my marks for a great read. The only complaints I can register on any level were the almost distracting lack of color in a series that makes regular references to it, and the fact this was only a one-shot. Might actual color have made the story campy? It’s entirely possible, but I can’t help but feel like I’d have liked to see that for myself. Despite this one distraction, I couldn’t speak more highly of the script and aesthetic tone. I’d love to keep reading this as a series, but maybe it’ more powerful as a one-shot. I’ll let you decide, because I highly recommend buying a copy as soon as it releases.