Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TMNT/Ghostbusters #1


Publication date: October 22, 2014

Written by: Erik Burnham, Tom Waltz
Art by: Charles Paul Wilson III (pgs. 1-5), Cory Smith (pgs. 6-9), Dan Schoening (pgs. 10-22)
Colors by: Luis Antonio Delgado, Ronda Pattison (pgs. 6-9)
Letters by: Neil Uyetake
Edits by: Bobby Curnow

Summary:

Japan.  The Muromachi Period.  Kitsune prays before the torri to open the gateway for the Iron Demon.  She’s approached by her brother, the ox-headed Chinese deity known as Chi-You.  Chi-You accuses her of breaking the rules of the “game” established between their family by manipulating demons when they’re supposed to stick to mortals.  Kitsune begins to insist that she’s within her rights when the Iron Demon (Krang) exits the portal with a canister of ooze.  Kitsune sees a chance to be rid of her brother and throws Chi-You into the gateway.  The Iron Demon tells her that the safeguards in his transmat technology will keep Chi-You from exiting the portal, trapping him in dimensional limbo forever.


The present.  Harold Lillja’s lab.  Harold, April and Donatello have finally completed the interspatial transportation unit and tested it out for short distances.  Donnie invites his brothers, April and Casey to take the longest test by teleporting to the church lair to surprise Splinter.  As they step through the gateway, Harold swats at a fly and hits a button that recalculates the coordinates, sending the Turtles to who-knows-where.


New York City.  Another dimension.  The Ghostbusters (Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddemore) finish trapping a class 5 spirit and pile into Ecto-1.  They receive a call from Janine Melnitz and Kylie Griffen.  Apparently, Egon’s dimensional inverter (a dimensional breach early warning device) has gone off (he built it after their recent spats with the Peoplebusters and Gozer) and the Ghostbusters follow the signal to see what the big deal is.


The Turtles and co. materialize in the church lair, but the one in this dimension, which happens to still be in use and with a wedding in service, no less.  The dimensional breach also allows Chi-You to break free.  At first he’s furious that he’s in the wrong dimension, but then he realizes that the energies of this new universe have increased his powers.  The Turtles try to fight him, but are woefully overmatched.  Chi-You then uses his powers to possess Casey and all the wedding goers, turning them into mindless slaves to his will.


As the people attack the Turtles and April, the Ghostbusters come storming in and assess the situation…


Turtle Tips:

*For the Turtles, this issue takes place after TMNT (IDW) #40.

*For the Ghostbusters, this issue takes place after Ghostbusters (Vol. 2) #20.

*Kitsune began her pact with the Iron Demon/Krang in TMNT: The Secret History of the Foot Clan #1 (the prologue takes place sometime during that miniseries).

*The Ghostbusters last encountered Gozer in Ghostbusters (Vol. 2) #19 and had dealt with the Collectors/Peoplebusters in Ghostbusters (Vol. 2) #4.

*The Rat King, the other sibling of Kitsune and Chi-You, revealed the “game” in TMNT (IDW) #36.

*This issue was originally published with 9 variant covers: Regular Cover by Schoening and Delgado, Subscription Cover by Triston Jones, RI Cover by Kevin Eastman and Ronda Pattison, Hastings Exclusive by Brent Peeples, Heroes’ Haven Exclusive by Ozzy Fernandez and Tony Kordos, Awesome Con Exclusive by Jerry Gaylord, Hot Topic Exclusive by Adam Gorham and Paris Alleyne, and VA Con Exlusive gold and VA Con Exclusive red.


Review:

So here it is: A dream come true.  The Ninja Turtles have just met the Ghostbusters and my inner seven year-old couldn’t be more excited.  Gratuitous crossovers tend to follow a predictable formula, and this one may turn out to be no different, but the thrill of seeing two properties you love interact is usually worth the clichés.

Now, in addition to IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, I also diligently read all of their Ghostbusters comics and let me tell you: They freakin’ ROCKED.  Burnham’s and Schoening’s run on both volumes of Ghostbusters amounted to some DAMN good comics.  I keep using the past tense because, as of last month, the series is cancelled.  And during the brand’s 30th Anniversary, no less.  If IDW has any plans for the Ghostbusters beyond this miniseries, I do not know, but I can only hope.  And I can’t recommend enough that you check these comics out.  The first volume has recently been collected in a hardcover omnibus called Total Containment and it’s worth every penny.

Anyway, I just wanted to get it out there that I’ve been reading both books, so I wasn’t at any sort of disadvantage when it came to the continuity of the intersecting titles.  But for those of you who haven’t been reading one or the other book?  Or, god forbid, neither?  You might be at something of a loss. 

Those who have been reading TMNT should be fine; the continuity of the Ghostbusters book so far extends only to some vague references of their recent encounters with the Peoplebusters and Gozer.  It explains why they have the dimensional breach warning system in place, but the references are slight.  You might wonder what that goth chick from Extreme Ghostbusters is doing there, but that's about it.

The Turtle continuity, on the other hand, is much less forgiving.  If the “TMNT” coming first in the title didn’t tip you off, this is more of an essential chapter in the chronology of the Turtles than it is the Ghostbusters.  So if you’re coming into this after having only read the Ghostbusters book, you’re just a little bit fucked.  It starts out knee-deep in “The Secret History of the Foot Clan” mythology, adding in the stuff the Rat King revealed during the “Monsters, Misfits and Madmen” arc, and hinges the whole crossover plot device on a subplot that began in the “Utrom Empire” miniseries and came to a head during the “New Mutant Order” arc.  So far as the Turtles go, this mini is MIRED in their continuity and you Ghostbusters fans are right to be head-scratching.

That said, I like how Waltz and Burnham have worked so much of the TMNT mythology into setting up this crossover.  As a reader of the IDW TMNT books I don’t feel like this storyline is inessential or a side story, but another vital step in the forward momentum of the series.  Admittedly, the reason for the Turtles to get lost in another dimension (Harold swatting at the keyboard) was kind of dumb, but I think it was intended as a tongue-in-cheek sort of thing.  The crossover between these two properties is so random to begin with, the stupidity of the story mechanic is an appropriate nod to the circumstances.

I haven’t much else to say about the story outside of the continuity between the books because this introductory chapter was all setup that used the continuity as a means to an end.  There isn’t much actual story yet to discuss.  But that’s a necessary evil of the crossover tale and one of the clichés I talked about in the first paragraph of this review (who wants to bet that the Turtles and the Ghostbusters will fight when they first meet due to a misunderstanding, but will eventually realize they’re on the same side and team up to save the day?).

Chi-You was a surprise inclusion; a creature of Chinese folk lore I wasn't too acquainted with until I read his wiki article.  I wonder how deep Waltz will end up going with this oddball "pantheon" of manipulative deities?  And how international he plans to get?  Kitsune comes from Japan, Chi-You comes from China and the Rat King comes from Europe.  It seems like there are plenty of options out there in the world of ancient mythology to expand their ranks.

Let’s talk about the art.  Three guys on this one.  Again, those who don’t read the TMNT book are at a disadvantage here, probably wondering why three people penciled this thing instead of one.  Those who have been keeping up with the TMNT books no doubt recognized the method to the madness and didn’t blink.  Basically, Charles Paul Wilson III has a history with the IDW TMNT book, often drawing the stories which take place in Feudal Japan.  Corey Smith is an alternating artist for the ongoing TMNT title, swapping out with regular artist Mateus Santolouco between arcs.  Dan Schoening, though, is the main artist for the Ghostbusters book (or was, anyway) and he’ll be the artist for the rest of this mini.  See?  It all makes sense.

Schoening’s style is a bit polarizing, I’ve discovered, but I absolutely adore his stuff.  Yeah, there are a few aesthetic choices that bug me (he overdetails the digits so everybody looks like they have granny fingers, all the women speak out of the sides of their mouths, he draws ears as itty bitty half-circles), but just because I don’t like SOME of his decisions doesn’t mean to don’t love everything else.  His style is heavily animated and it marries EXTREMELY well with Luis Antonio Delgado’s colors (which don’t get as much credit as they deserve).

Schoening is also an Easter Egg MANIAC and one of the most entertaining aspects of his run on Ghostbusters was going back and inspecting every page for the myriad in-jokes he slipped in for the eagle eyed readers.  In this issue, you’ll see the Bug-Eye Ghost from the old Kenner Real Ghostbusters toyline and the dimensional inverter was a staple of Egon's lab in the Real Ghostbusters cartoon (though Delgado miscolors it black rather than yellow).  There are really subtle Easter Eggs, too, like the Ghostbusters taking a case at the Daily News Building, which is located in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan. 

But perhaps more obviously, the wedding everyone crashes is between Irma and Howie from the Fred Wolf TMNT cartoon (with Vernon and Burne as groomsmen).  I wouldn’t take the Easter Eggs too seriously, TMNT fans, as Schoening includes them more for fun than canon (many of the Easter Eggs in the Ghostbusters comic make no sense in context and are just supposed to be a cute game of Where’s Waldo).  “Irma” is even addressed as “Lucy” by the wedding goers, so that should tip you off that it was just a gag and not “really her”.

There are LOTS more than just the ones I've listed, too, so be sure to take a microscope to each panel.  You'll find lots of nods, especially to fake products and props from the Real Ghostbusters cartoon (such as the beverage Yuppie Water from the episode "Short Stuff").

Anyhow, when I mute the hyperactive screeching of my inner seven year-old, I can see a few of the problematic factors in this crossover.  The learning curve regarding TMNT continuity is a little intimidating for the uninitiated and this first installment is heavy on the setup.  That aside, it’s still all very promising and those of you who HAVE been reading the Turtle books won’t miss a beat.  As for the rest of you?  Hey, these comics are pretty great.  Check em out.

Grade: B (as in, “But once again, Casey gets jobbed.  Jeez, he is IDW’s punching bag, isn’t he?”)


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #45


Publication date: April, 2008

Plot: Jim Lawson and Peter Laird
Script: Jim Lawson
Art: Jim Lawson
Letters: Eric Talbot
Cover: Jim Lawson and Steve Lavigne
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney

“Rocks”

Summary:

Frontispiece: A tentacled, Lovecraftian monster slithers from the rocks and speaks of places in the earth where evil dwells.  The rocks don’t say where the evil came from, but animals know to avoid such places.  Humans don’t, however, and often settle down in such places.  And that brings the monster to a place called Dudleytown…


Mike, Raph and Don enjoy a peaceful night out camping.  Mike and Don wish Leo could have joined them, but Raph is actually happy to get a break from the guy.  Mikey suggests someone tell a ghost story and Don spins a yarn about Dudleytown.  Apparently, it was a small town not far from their campsite.  The people there began to change over time and became nocturnal, living in caves.  At night, they would attack people from nearby towns until eventually those townspeople fought back.  They locked up all the people of Dudleytown in a church and left them there as their valley was flooded to become a reservoir for Boston.

The next morning, the Turtles go out to a field to play some baseball, waving to a few hikers as they pass by (and still getting used to the idea of living out in the open as “aliens”).  Raph hits a fastball into the woods and Mikey runs out to get it.  He’s attacked in the woods by a pair of strange fish-like man-creatures.  When he doesn’t return, Don and Raph go looking for him and follow the trail they left behind.  Eventually, one of the man-creatures attacks them and Raph stays behind to fight it while Don continues tracking Mikey.  After a skirmish, Raph kills the creature and leaves to catch up with Don.


Mikey, meanwhile, is carried down a cave by the other man-creature and is set before a huge Lovecraftian monster; a lesser god named Karenthog Sar Routolo, Devourer of Worlds.  The monster says that it has lived in the earth, listening to the rocks tell their stories for centuries.  For every lie man tells, every promise man breaks and every act of violence man commits, the rocks crack.  It has been listening to these cracks and knows that soon, man will be crushed under the weight of his evil and in that catastrophe, Karenthog will rise.  It says that Michelangelo intrigues it, as Mikey is not a man but lives like one anyway.  The monster intends to devour Mikey and learn his secrets.


Donatello takes this opportunity to come out of hiding and attack the monster, giving Mikey the chance to run.  The remaining man-creature gives chase, but as Don and Mikey cross the threshold to the surface, Raph pushes a boulder down from above which crushes the man-creature and seals the entrance.


Mikey thanks his brothers for coming to his rescue, but Raph tells him not to sweat it.  He promises that he and his brothers will always be there for each other.  As he says this, a rock begins to crack.


Turtle Tips:

*This story takes place during the six month time gap in TMNT (Vol. 4) #5, after the Utroms had initiated First Contact with Earth.

*The crack in the rock foreshadows the Turtles breaking up and going their separate ways in the future.  You can read more on that in this article.

*The global catastrophe the subterranean monster fears was previously alluded to in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #16, Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #18, Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #24, and Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #30.

*The global catastrophe itself will be shown in detail in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #69.

*This issue also contained a bonus pin-up, “Alhazred” by Kennon James.


Review:

When you go back and reread the Mirage TMNT stories, particularly Tales of the TMNT Volume 2, you’ll notice several vague allusions to a great global catastrophe that will wipe out human civilization.  What’s interesting is that few of these predictions were exactly the same and it’s easy to overlook them all when reading through the first time around; it’s something you better pick up on in hindsight.

I think the earliest hint of the global catastrophe was in TMNT (Vol. 1) #37 (“Twilight of the Ring”), where Leonardo defeats a spiritual entity known as the Adversary and inexplicably ensures the downfall of human/mammalian civilization.  This was a “guest” issue and as such it may or may not “count” on a canonical level (that’s really up to the reader, though).  But be that as it may, it fits in nicely with all the other stories that tease the end of the world.

Tales of the TMNT Volume 2 was where the writers really began building up to the Apocalypse.  Murphy wrote two stories (“Sins of the Past” and “The Blue Hole”) that suggested global warming would very soon destroy the Earth.  In both stories, the threat of global warming was the impetus for another adventure and it’s easy to forget all about it by the time you’re done reading.  Murphy wrote another story ("Rock of Ages”) where survivors of an ancient human race are discovered by the Turtles and it is learned that they destroyed their civilization through over-industrialization which led to a global climate change.  So again, the global warming thing.

Other writers took a more supernatural look at the potential destruction of Earth.  In a story by Bill Moulage that better complements this one (“Circle of Darkness”), Michelangelo encounters a Lovecraftian monster named Ouroboros and a cursed prophet named Tiresias.  Tiresias foresees a catastrophe that will kill tens of thousands of people and tries to cast a spell that will bind those lost souls to Ouroboros.

That works well with the Lovecraftian deity seen here in Lawson’s story (“Rocks”), which also foresees a future where mankind is crushed under the weight of his lies and arrogance, as for every lie man tells the rocks proceed to crack and crumble.  It’s a bit poetic, but essentially the more mankind abuses the environment and ignores the consequences, the more they will bring about their own destruction (global warming, again).

Whether you agree with the global warming sentiment or not (it was laid on way too thick for my tastes), it IS interesting how subtly they built the event up.  You even saw glimpses of it in stories like Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #55, which showed a flooded Earth and ruined cities.  By the time you get to Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #69, and you get to see the big event, hopefully all that foreshadowing will have paid off.

Another element of foreshadowing seen in this issue is the inevitable dissolution of the Turtles as a team and possibly even as a family.  We’d seen hints of their breakup as far back as “Old Times”, so again, anybody who has been reading the grand scheme of Mirage comics won’t be too surprised by the time they get here.  But Lawson actually bookends this issue with hints of the breakup.  When the tale begins, the Turtles are one ninja short, and while Don and Mike miss having Leo among them, Raph makes a flippant remark about wanting to have a break from the guy (which leads to a panel of awkward silence).  And, of course, the end of the story sees Raph make a remark about family unity, only for a rock to crack at the sound of his “lie” (illustrating that Raph’s earlier statement about wanting a break from his family was the truth, not his later remark about always being there for his brothers).

All in all, that’s what “Rocks” really amounts to; lots and lots of foreshadowing for things to come.  The meat of the story is really dull, just the Turtles fighting monsters, and I remember being bored with it the first time I read it.  I guess in order to appreciate “Rocks” you need to step back and look at the big picture, which can be a little tough when you consider how episodic most of the storytelling in the Mirage series is.

Grade: B- (as in, “But in keeping with Lovecraft tradition, the all-powerful and terrifying deity is defeated in the mot lackluster way possible”.)


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Breakdown


Originally published in: TMNT New Animated Adventures #16
Publication date: October 15, 2014

Story: Paul Allor
Art: Marcelo Ferreira
Colors: Heather Breckel
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow

“Breakdown”

Summary:

The Turtles are chasing down a Foot Soldier in the Shellraiser.  He turns into an alley and they don’t take the turn sharp enough, crashing into the wall.  Leo and the others proceed to chase down the Foot Soldier while Donnie stays behind to fix the Shellraiser.

As Donnie assesses the damage, a stranger walks up and offers to help fix the vehicle, as he’s good with machines.  Donnie panics and tries to conceal his identity by stealing some clothes off a laundry line.  While he does this, the stranger gets busy fixing up the Shellraiser (much to Donnie’s annoyance).  He tries to get the stranger to leave when suddenly Leo calls on his T-phone, saying they need the Shellraiser ASAP.  Donnie asks what the hurry is and he sees his brothers coming with an army of Foot Soldiers hot on their heels.


The stranger tells Donnie the van is fixed and to go in and give it some gas.  Much to Donnie’s surprise, the stranger is right and the Shellraiser zooms off.  Donnie picks up and his brothers and they use the… chomping teeth mechanism on the grill of the Shellraiser to scare the Foot Soldiers off.

Later, the police interview the stranger and ask how the street got so damaged.  The stranger nonchalantly mentions that he helped a giant talking turtle repair his van and the police fail to believe him.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from “The Walkabout”.  The story continues in TMNT New Animated Adventures #17.



Review:

Er… hrm.  Funny?  I guess?

The issue hinges on a tired punchline; a character matter-of-factly describing the Ninja Turtles to someone who incredulously rolls their eyes at the absurdity of the idea.  It’s not a very funny joke.

And that’s all there really is to say about “Breakdown”.

Grade: F (as in, “Foot Soldiers… Were those human Foot Soldiers?  Haven’t seen them in a while”.)


The Walkabout


Originally published in: TMNT New Animated Adventures #16
Publication date: October 15, 2014

Story: Matthew K. Manning
Art; Chad Thomas
Colors: Heather Breckel
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow

“The Walkabout”

Summary:

Many years ago.  In his home in Japan, Hamato Yoshi sees something in the sky and rushes inside to get someone.

The present.  Splinter tells the Turtles that he is going to partake of his annual walkabout and, like always, they are to respect his privacy.  The Turtles agree, but as soon as he leaves, they decide to follow him and solve the mystery of the annual walkabout.


They trail Splinter across the rooftops and through the empty streets (Mikey stopping for pizza), but they can’t shake the feeling that Splinter knows they’re there.  Leo thinks he sees Splinter enter an old warehouse through a skylight and they go inside.  As soon as they do, they realize that the warehouse looks very familiar.  As a horde of Mousers attack them, they come to the conclusion that this was one of Baxter Stockman’s old hideouts.

The Turtles narrowly escape through the skylight, but they aren’t ready to give up yet.  Donnie catches Splinter through some fancy binoculars he made and they give chase into an alley.  They promptly bump into Rahzar, Fishface and a unit of Footbots, resulting in a nasty skirmish.  The Turtles throw some smoke bombs and retreat, realizing they’re badly outnumbered.


Back at the lair, the Turtles figure that Splinter led them into all those traps because he truly DOES want to keep his walkabout private.  They whine amongst themselves that they’ll never figure out what the big deal is.

Many years ago.  Hamato Yoshi brings his infant daughter, Miwa, outside to watch a shooting star.  He tells her happy birthday.


The present.  Splinter sits on a rooftop, watching the stars and quietly wishes Miwa a happy birthday, just as he always has.  Elsewhere, Karai, mutated into a snake, watches the sky as a shooting star passes by.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT New Animated Adventures #15.  The story continues in “Breakdown”.

*This story must take place sometime between the season 2 episodes “Vengeance is Mine” (where Karai is mutated) and “The Invasion (Part 1)” (which begins the storyline that sees the Turtles exiled from New York).

*Baxter Stockman had a lot of warehouses.  This could be the one from “Mousers Attack!”, though, given the Mousers and everything.

*The title “The Walkabout” does not appear in the actual issue.  Editor Bobby Curnow confirmed this as the title on the IDW Forums.


Review:

Man, Splinter’s a jerk.  “My sons are following me.  I’d better lead them into several life-threatening traps in order to convince them to go home.”  Ahhhh, the comedy of child abuse.

Anyway, “The Walkabout” is a pretty alright story that at least gives us a chance to see several bad guys and enemies from the cartoon, even if the Mousers, Rahzar, Fishface and the Footbots only receive 3 pages between them.  

It’s most assuredly a coincidence, but Manning’s script shares similarities with the story “Sleepwalking Sensei” from Panini’s TMNT Magazine.  In that adventure, the Turtles follow Splinter in secret as he traipses through New York, crossing paths with the Foot Clan and other life-threatening hazards along the way.  But like I said, I don’t think it’s a matter of knocking off an idea, but rather that the idea wasn’t very original to begin with.

What gives “The Walkabout” an edge is the subplot involving Splinter lamenting over Karai.  The Karai storyline in the Nick cartoon was kind of fumbled in the second season, but Manning tries to make lemonade out of it and the bookending flashbacks are pretty nice.

All in all, “The Walkabout” is an okay story, but one we’ve seen before in another form.

Grade: C- (as in, “Chad Thomas is still one of the better artists they have on this title”.)