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By Thomas Wheeler

There's always a Sixth Ranger. That should be one of the trademark lines of just about every Power Rangers concept that's come along over the years. There's always a Sixth Ranger.

The Power Rangers team of any given concept tends to consist of five similarly-outfitted youths, banded together to fight whatever evil forces exist within their universe. I think the one and only recent exception to that rule was a couple of years back, with the Ninja Storm series, when the storyline actually involved only three Rangers initially, with two more switching sides from the bad guys at one point. That's how we got such oddball uniform colors that year as "Crimson" and Navy", instead of the usual assortment that tends to include five of the following: Red, Blue, Green, Black, White, Yellow, and/or Pink. Just once I'd like to see them throw in a Purple or Orange Ranger.

But along the way, in just about every Power Rangers concept, there's a Sixth Ranger. He's generally more mysterious, maybe a little more powerful, sometimes not as much of a team player, and his uniform, while pretty much Power Rangerish, is generally somewhat different than the others, and usually more ornate.

This year's Power Rangers concept is called S.P.D., which is short for Space Patrol Delta. As the name implies, the concept has more sci-fi overtones than anything else, a fact I can appreciate. And I certainly liked the uniform designs of the basic five Rangers, which came in Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Pink this year. They not only had the color divisions, but large numbers, from 1 to 5, on one side of the uniform, in black with white trim. It was honestly one of the coolest uniform designs for Power Rangers I had ever seen.

While I may not be that much into the Power Rangers programs -- they're targeted at a distinctly younger audience than myself -- I like to think that I know good toys when I see them. And Bandai makes very good toys. The Power Rangers figures may look a little basic from a detail standpoint, but they're sturdy, well-made, and nicely articulated. I generally pick up the most basic assortment of figures in any given year. They're not terribly expensive as such. I'm not one for deluxe transforming figures or large Zords.

This year's Sixth Ranger certainly fills the usual bill. His uniform is certainly more ornate, although it fits in well enough with the format. He arrived in the toy stores, as is often the case, several months after the initial shipments, at least in the "basic" figure line. He has turned up in some of the deluxe formats. And I was very pleased to turn him up at the end of March at a Wal-Mart here in Tucson, even if I had some trouble paying for him since his UPC code was so new it hadn't been entered in the computer.

Anyway, the figure is called SHADOW RANGER. Not really sure how he got that name, although his uniform is mostly black. This basic figure is part of the "Light Patrol" Series, which are the most basic Rangers available this year. Their special feature is that if you press a button on their belt, their head lights up. Fortunately, this feature is no hindrance to articulation.

I have to say, that this figure is one of the coolest Power Rangers designs I've ever seen. I saw a picture of him as part of some Toy Fair coverage in February, and from that point on looked forward to getting him. From an appearance standpoint, he may be one of the coolest figures on the year.

The uniform is mostly black, with a blue-silver helmet, shoulder rings, gauntlets,and boots. There is some red trim around the cuffs and boots. The helmet has a black visor whose stark angles give the figure a distinct "no-nonsense" look about it despite the fact that you can't see his face. And in keeping with the uniform numbers on the other figures, the Shadow Ranger has a number "100" on his uniform.

The figure is very well articulated, at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, legs, leg swivel, and knees. It's no Marvel Legends figure, but it moves well and poses nicely.

The Shadow Ranger comes with two accessories. A very cool sword, and a preposterously large gun-like contraption. Interestingly, the sword in the prototype picture is molded in silver, while the sword that comes with the toy is done in black. Nothing a little silver acrylic paint can't remedy, though, if one so desires.

The back of the package card reveals some upcoming product. Apparently three of the basic Rangers -- Red, Green, and Blue (the three males) are being redone in a "Cyber-Arm" format. There's also someone called the Omega Ranger. A SEVENTH Ranger!? Terrific. Shoot the pattern all to heck, why don't you!? Oh, well, he looks pretty cool, too, and I'm sure I'll review him as such time as he turns up somewhere.

Meanwhile, I would definitely recommend the Power Rangers S.P.D. Light Patrol SHADOW RANGER! I'll readily admit that the concept is no Star Wars, and the toys are no Marvel Legends, and the name Power Rangers isn't one you hear in the collecting world all that much -- but they're still cool toys. And this one may be the coolest-looking Ranger yet!