Between a cold and a project I was working on for my cousin (which was delayed by the aforementioned cold) I didn’t do any cleaning this week. So I’m grabbing this week’s Scanning My Collection article from last week to have something to post.


 

Saban’s Masked Rider had the potential to be a good show. Using footage from Kamen Rider Black RX, with a few scenes from the movies Kamen Rider ZO and Kamen Rider J to make up the space in the final, syndicated season, the tale of an alien prince who comes to Earth to stop his evil uncle from doing to Earth what he did to their home planet of Edenoi using the powers of a insect-like superhero could have been a good show. So why did it fall flat? That’s a review for another time.

Like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and VR Troopers, Marvel had the chance to play with Masked Rider but instead of its own comic, or joining together like the VR Troopers, Marvel only gave Dex and his friends a one-shot special. In some ways it may be better than the television show it adapted, but like other Marvel attempts to adapt Saban’s work it got a number of facts wrong. But how good is the story when they actually have a full comic length to write instead of half a comic like the Power Ranger/VR Trooper comics we’ve spent the past few Fridays going over?

Masked Rider #1

“Big deal. OUR cycles look like sharks now. Not that Marvel ever used them!”

Masked Rider

Marvel (April, 1996)

WRITER: Frank Lovece
ARTISTS: Rurik Tyler & Todd Smith
INKERS: Jim Sanders, Mark McKenna, Vince Russel, & Don Hudson
COLORIST: Tom Smith
LETTERER: Dave Sharpe
EDITOR: Mariano Nicieza

Nicieza edited all of the Marvel Saban comics. Show accuracy wasn’t on his agenda, was it?

The story opens with Masked Rider fighting the Exo-Skeletron (I have to hand it to Count Dregon, he could name a monster) at an observatory outside of Leawood, In attendence are Tommy, Billy, and Aisha , who can’t morph to help Dex due to all the cameras in attendance. This makes me wonder if the writer thought Angel Grove was close to Leawood, even though after backdoor pilot Mighty Morphin Power Rangers appearance Masked Rider was treated as a separate continuity. Also, Aisha gets a sexy makeover with a waist that just barely misses being Liefeldian in design, if only because I actually believe Aisha has internal organs and bones in that panel. Also there are Dex’s human adoptive family, the Stewarts. Barbara’s catering service is hosting the events, but the only reason they seem to be here in the story is to remind us they exist. Oddly, the Bulk & Skull stand-ins Patsy (who has a one panel appearance) and Herbie (who doesn’t even get that) have even less to do. But I have to ask…why is Ferbus here? Aren’t they trying to keep his existence a secret from everyone, including their nosy brat of a neighbor Patsy?

Karan Ashley is cute and all, but no way does she have this body.

Karan Ashley is cute and all, but no way does she have this body.

Hal provides exposition as to why everyone is here. The observatory discovered three galaxies in syzygy (which Mr. Caption is happy to let us know means they are in “a temporary, perfect line-up”. Granted, my astronomy knowledge is limited, but do galaxies move around? If not, how could this be temporary? Anyway, the light from this billions of years old event is just now reaching this event and since light is a form of energy the scientists believe this will have some impact on Earth. That’s dumb, but also a plot point.

Masked Rider goes into Super Gold form and breaks out his Electro-Sabre…with the right command surprisingly given Marvel’s track record and how little it happens in even this comic (they even screw up Dex’s usual transformation command into Masked Rider, “ectophase activate”, which may be lame but still the right command) but it still earns the screw-up point because that’s the weapon Dex uses in his normal mode. Later he breaks out Super Gold’s laser gun in his base form, the one on the cover. I’m guessing they either weren’t aware of Super Blue (they didn’t get Kaitlyn Star’s last name right until the last issue and none of the season 2 additions to VR Troopers appeared except for Ryan’s new armor) or it hadn’t been introduced into the show while this was being written. During the fight Cyclopter, one of Dregon’s minions, appears and destroys Exo-Skeletron…which makes Dex mad why? Ignoring the fact that he shakes it by the next scene, blowing up Dregon’s Insectivores is par for the course and yet Dex spends much of this fight trying to convince the monster to stop following Dregon. Forget Masked Rider, has Lovece even seen the Saban/Japanese superhero shows at all?

But Cyclopter had a good reason to stop the fight. Dregon is collecting the light energy from galactic alignment to somehow create the Bio-Spear, which somehow will cause a mini big bang, which will somehow create an entity called The End, which eats energy until it gorges itself and explodes, turning beings in surrounding solar systems into living crystal. Dregon’s goal is to send that creature to attack Edenoi, which I remind you Dregon is actually in control of in both the show and the backdoor pilot (although possibly not this comic) so that seems like an odd move.

It turns out that Cyclopter is supposed to be leading Dex into a trap so Dregon can make his nephew watch Edenoi get eaten and everything around it turn into crystal. Dex has a nice space battle with Cyclopter and a mechsuit-clad Nefaria and returns to Earth. Dex is torn between protecting Earth and saving Edenoi from The End, and it doesn’t help when Dregon drops the Rhinosaur on Leawood. This monster isn’t missing a few marbles, he’s missing most of the bag but he’s strong enough to even give Super Gold’s boost a challenge.

Um Dex, forget your outfit, I thought Edenites evolved from insects?

Um Dex, forget your outfit, I thought Edenites evolved from insects?

Luckily the Power Rangers arrive, oddly sporting their ninja forms instead of the more powerful Ranger suits, who offer to handle Rhinosaur so that Dex can race to Edenoi. I’d say it was a lot faster than in the show but Donais, Dex’s friend, seemed to have little trouble dropping in to give Dex his super modes. They don’t have time to evacuate the planet but Dex has an idea and is willing to sacrifice himself by collecting all of the loose energy between where The End is currently and Edenoi, forcing the entity to explode well before reaching the planet (although presumably still turning the people to crystal…remember when that was brought up because the writer didn’t). However, Dex is saved by Zordon and Alpha with the help of King Lexion, Dex’s grandfather, who shows up as a hologram which only serves to remind Dex that he’s still trapped between Earth and Edenoi. Then Dex arrives to assist the Ninja Rangers in defeating Rhinosaur, and by “assist” I mean drive around the now giant monster on Combat Chopper until the Rangers blow Rhinosaur up with the Ninja MegaFalconZord’s wing missiles before our heroes have a victory dinner with Dex’s family…and we’re going to assume the Stewarts keep the Rangers’ secret identities as well as Dex’s? The end…of the story that is.

Marvel’s adaptations of Saban shows aren’t very accurate but Masked Rider succeeds where few Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and none of the VR Troopers stories did by being good. The threat is given sufficient time to be a threat, and Dex’s plight works as drama as well, although the size of the comic and this being the 90s did compress that a bit. Dex might have had a better moment with his Earth parents if they hadn’t sped that up. Molly, Albie, Ferbus, and Patsy are only here to say “hey, these characters are in the show”, with Patsy’s tag along Herbie absent. Thankfully, the sitcom elements are also absent, which improves this story over the TV show. The art is good even if character’s aren’t spot-on. In addition to Aisha now having a supermodel’s body, Tommy’s ponytail is way too long, and Dex needs a haircut, while Nefaria is showing more cleavage than usual and Ferbus appears to be working out.

Overall, this is actually a good comic with minor (although extensive) nitpicks on the adaptation front and for a 90s Marvel comic not a story. It’s worth looking up if your curious about the Americanized version of Kamen Rider (Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is a better show, though) but if you come across it you might get a good read out of it. If you hated Saban’s take and read this comic I wonder what your thoughts are?

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