Nitro Battlers, a new self published comic by Eric Kim, might bring back childhood memories. If you are of a certain age group, you grew up watching Power Rangers. Not this Samurai/Time Cop/Dino Warrior mess. the original Power Rangers. What kid doesn’t love martial artists taking on monsters and then combining vehicles to take down the Godzilla wannabe of the week? However, we grow up, our tastes change, and the garish battles don’t seem to be that bright anymore. This is the world we see in Nitro Battlers, where our heroes have been fighting the long battle perhaps for far too long.
WARNING: SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT
As our story begins, the last active Nitro Battler, Nitro Red, is taking on a monster by himself and is losing badly. According to a newscast, the others haven’t been seen in ten years, making Nitro Red, and the Battlers as a whole, a bit of a joke to the populace. As one remaining fan watches on the TV in a bar, the frat boy monster throws Nitro Red in and disappears. The fan offers Nitro Red, who tells the fan his name is Kyle, a lift back to his apartment. Here, we learn that the Battlers fell out after the death of one of their members, and Kyle has now decided to shut down the Battlers for good. His last stop with the fan is telling the Zordon like Go Machine to shut down. As the fan, who we learn is named Ben, tries to convince Kyle to reconsider, the villainous Lord Quasar sees that the Nitro Battlers are no more and prepares to invade. As it begins, and the former Battlers begin reconsidering their retirement, Ben is made into the new Nitro Gold by the reawakened Go Machine. But will he be able to follow in his heroes’ footsteps, or will he fail?
Well, read the rest of the story to find out!
Kim’s story triggers that sense of nostalgia that comes from memories of childhood television; but he also manages to ground it in reality and shows possible consequences to these battles. Kyle is definitely the worn-out warrior, having seen too much death and battle. So while our inner child screams at him for quitting, our older and wiser selves see his rationale. Ben, however, is the eternal optimist and in a sense is the side of ourselves that never truly grew up and still sees the potential for heroism. Lord Quasar and his monster-du-jour brilliantly chews up the scenery; there is something quite amusing at seeing a monster that acts like that annoying frat boy that you want to punch across the room. There is a quirky humor to the story that actually takes some of the cliches of the source material and pokes fun at them. While Kim takes on a concept that is pretty paint by the numbers (as anyone who has seen an episode or two of Power Rangers can attest), he turns it on its head and adds humor, darkness and even some greater heroics than anything the Saban Corporation can cook up. The characters are interesting and appealing, and definitely more three dimensional than our Saturday Morning heroes.
As for the art, given the original source material of the Power Rangers franchise (the super sentai genre of Japanese television), is a wonderfully done manga style. While some faces and shadows look a tad off, the art is great. The action is thrilling, the emotions of the characters reach you, and the various monsters have that cheesy Saturday morning feel combined with a darker edge. The armor of the Nitro Battlers is sleek and the final battle seems to have fireworks come off the page.
And in the end, this comic takes on our childhood memories, turns them on their heads, and in the end makes a tale that’s better than anything we would see on our TV screens all those years ago.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10