Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fun times at the Alamo City Comic Con in San Antonio


 
There weren't any updates this weekend, as I was out in San Antonio working the Ninjaink booth at the Alamo City Comic Con.


Lots of fun!  There were plenty of TMNT personalities there, though alas, my work schedule didn't permit me time to meet any of them (they had the LONGEST lines and the Ninjaink booth was very busy).  In fact, most of the folks I DID get to meet I did so at the hotel (apparently, we were booked in the same joint the celebs were staying at).  Met some great people...

Sat on the bus next to John Kassir (voice of the Crypt Keeper!) without even knowing it.  He was cool to take a picture with me after we got off and my friends told me who he was.  I actually talked to him for 10 minutes at the con when I had time to get to his booth, but I was so zonked out at the end of the day I didn't even realize he was right next to me the whole way back to the hotel.


Met Paul Eiding (Perceptor from Transformers, Grandpa Max from Ben 10) at dinner, too.  A real great guy and lots of fun to talk to!  We've done work for Transformers via We Love Fine and that led to a long chat with Paul and his wife (whose a published author).  Food was good, too!


And here I am wearing some dude's Matt Trakker helmet (it didn't smell very good in there):


Anyway, fun's over.  I'll get back to reviewing.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #29


Publication date: November, 2006

Story and art: Dave White
Additional creative input: Peter Laird
Lettering: Eric Talbot
Frontispiece: Ross Campbell

“Soul Survivor”

Summary:

Frontispiece: Donatello is in the midst of battling a Misochun Nightcrawler from the planet Nadaman and even though the tentacled creature is trying to eat him, he can’t help but be fascinated by it.  As he attempts to inflict the minimum amount of pain, he’s reminded of a story…


Donatello has joined his Utrom friend Bydex and a Styracodon liason, Sellis, on a good will mission to a planet on the disputed border between Styracodon and Triceraton space.  The trio is to peacefully investigate some strange happenings on the lush jungle world.  Upon landing, they happen upon some ancient ruins from a culture that predates both the Styracodons and Triceratons.  In fact, according to a pictograph carving, both of the alien civilizations stem from this culture, linking their histories (Sellis finds this concept repulsive).  While investigating the ruins, Don happens upon some modern equipment and grows suspicious.

Over the nearest ridge, they find their suspicions correct, as a unit of Triceratons are busy excavating what looks like a huge, ancient space craft.  Sellis attempts to contact the other Styracodons on the Incisor, but the Triceratons are blocking all transmissions with the equipment aboard their nearby spaceship.  One Triceraton cuts a hole into the ancient ship and enters.  His presence causes the ancient ship to rise from the mountainside and begin hovering in the air.


With no time to lose, Don and co. storm the excavation site and begin beating up Triceratons.  Don throws down with Major Tritan and, after cracking a few ribs, finally defeats the behemoth.  Bydex then gives Don a boost and launches him into the air, where he latches onto the side of the ancient ship and crawls in.

Inside, the Triceraton finds the body of a Triceraton/Styracodon-like creature in the pilot’s seat.  He touches it and the body disintegrates, but his mere presence causes the ancient ship to begin discharging weapons.  The weapons blow up the Triceraton spaceship, allowing Sellis to call for backup from the Incisor.  Don, meanwhile, attacks the Triceraton and, defeated, the Triceraton attempts to take control of the ancient ship by sitting in the pilot's seat.  The energies of the ancient ship kill him.


The ghost of the alien pilot then speaks to Don, explaining that the ancient ship was the ultimate weapon of its people and is powered by something called a “Soul Capacitor”.  The Capacitor traps the essence of the pilot when they lose control of their emotions and both it and the Triceraton are now trapped in the ancient ship.  It asks Don to aligns his spirit with the ship, focus and use that strength to destroy the Capacitor.  Reluctantly, Don agrees and after recalling some words of encouragement from Splinter, he destroys the Capacitor, frees the spirits held within and escapes as the ship disintegrates.

Later, onboard the Incisor, Donatello and co. are debriefed.  The Styracodon Commander remarks that Donatello seems accustomed to such crazy adventures.  Don and Bydex share a smile and remark that this was nothing compared to their last outing.


Turtle Tips:

*This story takes place during the six month time gap in TMNT (Vol. 4) #5.

*The story of Donatello’s and Bydex’s first adventure together has, thus far, never been told.


Review:

“Soul Survivor” is another in the long line of Donatello/Utrom space adventures that dotted the first half of Tales of the TMNT Volume 2.  I think it’s among the better of them, though, and continues the theme inherent in almost all of those stories: Secret Origins.  “Sins of the Past” looked into the origin of the Utroms, “The Blue Hole” investigated the source of all turtle life on Earth, and “Soul Survivor” now takes a gander at where the Triceratons came from (while also giving us our first look, chronologically, at the Styracodons).  While the Donatello space adventure stuff might not be my favorite recurring setup in Tales, I appreciate that each installment kept a consistent theme that worked toward some excellent world-building.

Donatello also receives another Utrom partner in the form of Bydex.  Funny how Glurin stuck around, but none of these other guys did.  They’re all pretty indistinguishable from one another, so I guess it just made more sense to give Don a dedicated Utrom sidekick instead of four of five nigh-identical ones.  The ending hints at some greater partnership between them predating this experience and is another of those “In a Tales of the TMNT yet to be told” situations.  And like many of those “as yet to be told” teasers, it was never followed up on.

I enjoyed this tale quite a bit, though the ending feels rushed and spontaneous.  White devotes 6 pages to Don’s battle with Major Tritan, but when we finally get to the climax, we have all of 4 pages to accept the concept of alien ghosts, a dissertation on the “Soul Capacitor”, the history of the alien’s people, and the resolution to the conflict.  The pacing is way off and more time is offered to a meaningless battle with a minor inconvenience than the big finish which contains all the exposition to tie the tale together.

It’s just… suddenly… GHOSTS!  Deal with it!

Shortcomings in the script pacing aside, White’s layouts and action staging are very nice.  His lines are very crisp and the art reads especially well.  While the extended fight with Tritan was gratuitous, it did look lovely (especially that two-page spread) and I dug all the little details on the Triceratons and Styracodons.  White makes an effort to distinguish them from one another, so they don’t all wind up looking like doppelgangers (as many artists who draw the Triceratons are guilty of doing).  I do wish he’d employed some shading or toning, as the stark blacks and whites leave the pages looking kind of empty.  Like I said, the art reads well, but without any sort of grey tones it actually looks unfinished; like it was supposed to be colored.

Anyhow, I’d say this was the best of the Donatello space adventures.  The theme of secret origins is present, but it doesn’t overwhelm the actual adventure aspect and this is an action-packed tale.  Perhaps a little *too* action-packed for its own good, but when everything else is put together so well I find I can let the rushed conclusion slide.

Grade: B (as in, “But all the type-os are kind of annoying”.)


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TMNT: Turtles in Time #4


 Publication date: September 17, 2014

Writer: Paul Allor
Artist: Dan Duncan
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow

“Turtles in Time, Part 4”

Summary:

The Turtles blip into a futuristic Manhattan populated entirely by mutants.  Intrigued, they decide to get some sushi and reflect on how swell this world is.  A fish-girl at the restaurant fawns over them, explaining how she always wanted to be a ninja but her master wouldn’t let her.  Donatello tells her that she needs a new master and should follow her own path, but his words arouse the suspicions of a nearby gang.  Apparently, that sort of talk is considered treason on “Shredder Island” and a fight breaks out.  The Turtles flee (running past several humans being rounded up by Foot Clan officers) and make their way to the nearest manhole.  Unbeknownst to them, Renet arrives seconds late, but soon enough to trip the thugs that are chasing them.


The Turtles find sanctuary in their old lair, but also find a map with grim tidings.  Apparently, in this future, Shredder controls North and South America, General Krang controls Asia, Europe and Africa, and Baxter Stockman controls Australia.  Then, Renet blips into the lair, having fixed her time scepter.  She explains that after their first adventure, the Turtles absorbed an excess of quantum particles, which is why they were suddenly sent hurtling across time and space.  Raphael wants to know why they went to time periods very specific to their history and Renet suggests that the “universe” was guiding them in an attempt to teach them a lesson.

Suddenly, they’re greeted by Future-Don, an old man and the last of the Ninja Turtles.  They ask him what happened and Future-Don tells his younger self that he gave up on fighting and in doing so, his brothers were killed and the last of the resistance rounded up.  Donnie is mortified and insists on restoring the resistance before they all head back to their present.  Future-Don says that the last of the resistance are scheduled to be publically executed in only a few hours.  Don forces his future self to guide them to where the executions will be taking place.


In a public square, a walrus-mutant is about to kill the humans they rounded up earlier when the Turtles storm the platform.  Future-Don joins the fray, feeling the fight return to him.  Don attempts to free one of the soldiers, but the man is executed.  He gets the rest free (including one with a scarred face), but the walrus-mutant intervenes before they can escape.  He’s summarily shot by the fish-girl from the sushi restaurant who says that Donatello inspired her earlier to fight back and follow her own path.  She joins them in escaping, following Future-Don back the lair while the Turtles keep the Foot clan at bay.  They’re then menaced by an older, more demonic-looking Shredder flanked by dozens of Bebop and Rocksteady clones.  He attempts to strike, but Renet sends them home before his blade can connect.


In the lair, the scar-faced man, actually Woody and leader of the resistance, asks Future-Don to consider returning to the fight to inspire and lead the people.  Future-Don holds his old purple bandana and considers it.

In the present, the Turtles reflect on the future they’ve seen.  Donatello is racked with guilt, especially because he has, in fact, considered giving up the fight many times.  Leonardo repeats what Renet said, that the “universe” was trying to teach them something.  Don is confused and unsure what to do.  Michelangelo tells him that all they CAN do is keep fighting.  Don is satisfied with that.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT: Turtles in Time #3.

*The future in which Shredder and Krang wage war upon one another was first glimpsed in TMNT Villains Micro Series #8: Shredder.  The older, more demonic version of the Shredder was also seen inhabiting the afterlife in that issue, as well.

*The Turtles had their first adventure with Renet, and absorbed the quantum particles, in TMNT Annual 2014.

*This issue was originally published with 2 variant covers: Regular Cover by David Peterson, and Subscription Cover by Dan Duncan.


Review:

Alright, before I get ahead of myself by talking about Turtles in Time as a whole, let’s discuss this single issue.  It’s rather… formulaic.  I mean, it’s really formulaic.  Every cliché of the “characters go to a future ruled by the bad guy and inspire the masses to fight back” plot is present as a matter of obligation and it’s all rather graceless.  I mean, the script follows the guidelines right down to having the character the heroes briefly talk to at the beginning show up to save the day at the end because they “inspired” her.

Hey, remember that episode of “Darkwing Duck” where Darkwing goes into an alternate universe ruled by Negaduck and inspires the local heroes to resist the fascist tyranny before going home?  Heck, remember that episode of the 4Kids NINJA TURTLES cartoon where Donatello goes to an alternate future ruled by the Shredder and inspires the future Turtles to resist the fascist tyranny before going home?

I’m sure if I spent 5 minutes on TV Tropes I could come up with a dozen more doppelgangers of this story right down to the letter, but do I really need to?  In the end, the dull familiarity made for a very boring, predictable read.  For all my grievances with the last issue, it was at least a fun (if rushed) tale of rascally hijinks that felt spontaneous and original.  This was writing by formula and for a tale all about “inspiring” others, this was an utterly uninspired script.

On the other hand, it does fit into the massive tapestry of IDW’s TMNT universe, following up on the glimpse of a dystopian future we saw in the Shredder micro, as well as the Shredder’s older form.  It also reads well after the one-shot story in TMNT (IDW) #37, where Shredder and Krang officially declare war on one another.  The release of these two issues was well-timed, as they complement each other nicely.  So while the story is nothing fresh, it has its place in the grand scheme of this narrative. 

Now, for those patiently waiting for a flashback or a circular storytelling gimmick or SOMETHING to explain the in medias res beginning of this miniseries… too bad.  In fact, if you were reading this issue on auto-pilot and not really digesting the dialogue, you may have even missed the explanation.  Offhandedly, Renet mutters some mumbo jumbo about “quantum particles” and that’s all we get.  I guess it didn’t really need anything more than that.

Looking at the whole Turtles in Time miniseries, I think it was a lot of fun, even if it ended on a bland note.  The tonal pacing was rather bipolar (fun-serious-fun-serious), and the time period one-shot nature of each chapter sometimes forced storytelling truncations, but the end ultimately justified the means.  We got a lot of crazy situations out of this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants storyline and it sewed up a handful of loose threads that might have been dangling from the ends of the aforementioned IDW TMNT tapestry.  Each issue also served, sort of, as a spotlight on each Turtle and nobody felt shortchanged.  While I didn’t care for this chapter much, the whole miniseries was pretty cool.  Confusing, thanks to all the delays and scheduling bullshit, but pretty cool.

Grade: D (as in, “Doesn’t the ‘footprint’ style Foot Clan symbol represent the Feudal Era incarnation of the clan while the ‘claw’ style symbol represents the modern incarnation of the clan, at least in the IDW universe?  Or was future-Shredder just feeling nostalgic and changed the logo to Foot Clan Classic?  It’s not important.”)


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Splinter's Game


Originally published in: TMNT New Animated Adventures #15
Publication date: September 10, 2014

Story: Bobby Curnow
Art: Chad Thomas
Colors: Heather Breckel
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow

“Splinter’s Game”

Summary:

In the living room, Mikey trounces Raph in a game of Ninja Ultra Fury on their Legal-Approximation-Of-A-Playstation.  Mikey asks Master Splinter if he’d like to try and Splinter agrees.  Having never played a video game before, he completely fails at it and loses instantly.


That night, while the Turtles sleep, Splinter returns to the game with ultimate focus.  For several more nights, he trains, and in doing so, he “becomes the game”.

At breakfast, Splinter asks Mikey if he’d like to partake in a rematch of Ninja Ultra Fury… on max difficulty.  Mikey declines, saying he’s bored with the game and has moved on to a new title.  Splinter momentarily freaks out in frustration, at least until he notices Leo and Don watching him.  Then he tells them to forget what they’ve seen.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from “The Adventures of Ice Cream Kitty”.  The story continues in TMNT New Animated Adventures #16.


Review:

TMNT editor Bobby Curnow has been credited on “story” for much of IDW’s ongoing TMNT series, but I think this is his very first Turtle script.  It’s a fun little 4 pager, in a way reminiscent of the old Fred Wolf TMNT episode “Leonardo vs. Tempestra”.  In that one, the no-nonsense train-a-holic Leonardo gets obsessed with mastering a video game.  Here, much the same happens with Master Splinter.

Beyond that, it’s sort of a one-punchline kind of comic, though the Engrish phrases were kind cute.

Grade: B (as in, “But I guess I kind of prefer these short gag strips over the ‘what I learned today’ centerpiece stories”.)