Thursday, April 28, 2016

TMNT (IDW) #57



Publication date: April 27, 2016

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Mateus Santolouco
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

Summary:

The Turtles, Leatherhead and a quartet of Utroms find the bodies of the Utroms who were slaughtered (the headless Fugitoid).  Among the corpses is Councilor Lorqa.  With Lorqa dead and Colonel Ch’rell still in stasis, Chief Science Adviser Ma’riell takes command of the Utroms.  Technical Specialist Leeshawn, Lieutenant Kleve and Corporal Montuoro are distrustful of the Turtles, but Ma’riell is willing to give them a chance to explain themselves.


Leatherhead tells of how he found the bodies and called for help, while Leonardo gives the lowdown of who the Fugitoid is and how they revived the Utroms from stasis.  The Utroms ask where General Krang is and Leo makes up a hasty story about him being off on a mission in space. Leo then orders Donatello to work on repairing the Fugitoid with Michelangelo as back-up while he, Raphael and Leatherhead hunt down the killers.

Leatherhead leads Leo and Raph down into the tunnels beneath the Technodrome where he claims he smelled a faint fire coming from a cave system.  They’re attacked by a giant Mouser leftover from when Baxter Stockman was in Krang’s employ, but Leatherhead tears it apart.


Up in the lab, Don and Ma’riell succeed in getting the Fugitoid in stable condition, though his consciousness remains comatose.  Don figures that he can get Harold to help him fully revive the Fugitoid once they go home.  With that settled, the other Utroms demand to know why Ma’riell’s brother, Ch’rell, has not yet been revived.

In the tunnels, Leatherhead begins to make an awkward confession that he wasn’t exactly living in peace on the island.  After he was mutated, he found himself hunted by an enemy.  Suddenly, Lieutenant Tragg and Sergeant Granitor pop up with laser guns and demand that the Turtles fork over their breathing devices.  


The Turtles take the two Rock Soldiers down, assuming them to be the murderers.  Tragg claims that he and Granitor hadn’t even made it back to the Technodrome; that they’d been hiding in the caves since the end of the battle and have no clue what the Turtles are talking about.

Leatherhead then smashes Tragg with his tail and informs the Turtles that he has another confession to make.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #56.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #58.

*Councilor Lorqa last appeared in TMNT: Utrom Empire #3.

*Raph mentions the time he and Casey took down a giant Mouser together, which happened back in TMNT (IDW) #9.

*This issue was originally published with 5 variant covers: Regular Cover by Santolouco, Retailer Incentive Cover by Eastman and Pattison, Art Appreciation Month Cover by Cory Smith after Leonardo Da Vinci, Ottawa Comicon Exclusive by Eastman, and Eastman Fan Club Edition by Eastman.


Review:

Alright, evil Leatherhead!  It’s no Cajun swamp trapper, but I’m willing to compromise.

I’ve always liked Leatherhead best as a villain.  It may be because that’s how I was initially introduced to the character, but I think he has more potential for interesting stories as an antagonist than as a hanger-on for the heroes.

It looks like they’re running with a version of Leatherhead’s back story from the Mirage comics; how he was an ally of the Utroms who lived with them until they left Earth.  Here, Waltz and Associates have adapted it to fit their less positive image of the Utroms, with him now having been hunted (possibly imprisoned and experimented on) by them.  It gives him a justification to hate the Utroms, albeit a misguided one, so perhaps calling him “evil” is a little too quick on the draw.  As it is, Leatherhead still slaughtered a bunch of innocent aliens, so it’ll be tough trying to redeem him at this point if IDW ever tries to go that route in the future.

The atmosphere of this issue felt like one of those Old Dark House murder mystery flicks; a dead body, multiple suspects, red herrings, paranoid accusations, dimly lit secret passages, etc.  It’s very much not the direction I was expecting this arc to go; I was thinking it would be a sci-fi sort of tale given the setting and guest characters.  I’m pleasantly surprised.

I dig the variety of unique Utrom characters we’ve been given, too.  Waltz and Benefactors carve into some of the comic’s history to mine a few names, such as Lorqa (who appeared in the Utrom Empire miniseries) and Ma’riell (who appeared in a flashback to Krang’s time as the Iron Demon in Feudal Japan).  The newer faces are all fairly diverse, with the distrustful Kleve, obedient Montuoro and skittish Leeshawn.  Santolouco gives them all distinctive ornamentation so you can distinguish them (bone mohawks or fins), but their expressions help display their personalities even better.  Utroms are usually depicted as being identical to each other, so it’s nice to see them given unique features in both obvious and subtle ways.

Of course, there’s still Ch’rell.  Not sure how long we’ll be waiting for him to get out of his tube, but I hope he fills the void Krang left behind.  Though I’m curious what Waltz and his Amazing Friends will come up with to make Ch’rell’s campaign of conquest different from Krang’s.  IDW’s Krang was already a ruthless overlord, so what will Ch’rell be? 

As for the action, Tragg and Granitor get in a good fight.  I liked the bit where Tragg (or was it Granitor?) grabs Leo’s sword by the blade and swings him around.  He’s a Rock Soldier; what does he care about sharp objects?  It’s a short fight, though, with this issue being mostly atmosphere.  Pattison’s colors are their usual greatness, particularly in the tunnel sequences as everything is lit by Leo’s puny flashlight.

While I wouldn’t say there are too many twists and turns (Leatherhead explaining in detail how he “found” the bodies pretty much telegraphed him as the killer), I’m digging what we’ve got so far.  It’s already shaping up to be one of the better Leatherhead introductory stories.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

TMNT: Adventures in New York


Publication date: April 20, 2016
Published by: NYCGo Family Ambassador Program

Story: ???
Turtle art: Dario Brizuela (?)
Background art: ???
Turtle colors: Heather Breckel (?)
Background colors: ???
Lettering: ???

“Adventures in New York City”

Summary:

On a ferry just off Staten Island, the Turtles are going for a ride.  Michelangelo proceeds to make jokes about how everything is “ferry nice” or “ferry inspirational”, which agitates Raphael.  Mikey thinks that Raph is “ferry grumpy”.

Later, after visiting the museums of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the Turtles check out the Unisphere.  Raph thinks he could bench press it, but Donatello disagrees, citing its weight as 900,000lbs.  Leonardo jokes that Donnie must be in love with the thing.


Next, above the East River, the Turtles swoon over how tall the Brooklyn Bridge is.  Leo suggests a race to the top, winner chooses the next pizza topping.  Donnie takes the lead, insisting on anchovies and marshmallows.

Afterward, on Liberty Island, Donnie thinks Lady Liberty would make a great addition to the Ninja Turtles.  Leo figures all she needs is a mask and Mikey says she’s got the right color skin tone for the job.


Finally, at the Bronx Zoo, Raph suggests that animals have inspired the best martial arts styles.  He, Donnie and Leo then show off the Tiger, Monkey and Crane Styles.  Leo then turns to Mikey, who is stuffing pizza in his face, and figures he’s demonstrating the Turtle Style.


Turtle Tips:

*On April 20, 2016, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were made official ambassadors of the City of New York via their NYCGo Family Ambassador Program.  The honor included using the TMNT as part of an advertising campaign to teach children about New York City history and culture (and also promote tourism).

*Part of the program included these comics, which you can read Here.

*Incidentally, I have a feeling there might be more of these comics once the program rolls out in full, possibly a LOT more.  And I may never find all of them.  With that in mind, consider these summaries as a sampling of the types of comics NYCGo is producing for the campaign.

*The art for the Turtles appears to be repurposed from IDW’s TMNT New Animated Adventures series.  No credits are given, so I’m not sure who did the new background art that they’re overlaid onto.


Review:

This is a pretty big honor for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, being named cultural ambassadors by the City of New York.  I mean, go through the catalogs of your brain and think of as many fictional characters as you can who hail from NYC, and then realize that the TMNT were chosen above all of them to represent the city.  Yeah, I’m sure Viacom pulled some strings to make it happen, but whatever.  It’s still a pretty big honor.

Using fictional children's icons as cultural ambassadors isn’t a new thing, of course.  I think Hello Kitty is still an official cultural ambassador of Japan.  It’s mostly done for tourism under the veil of “education”, but I suppose it also speaks to the kind of international appeal the Turtles have.  They weren’t selected just because they’ll attract more American kids to New York, but because they’ll be recognized by children all over the world (who will then beg their parents to bring them and all their money to New York City).

Personally, I’ve visited New York City twice in my life so far, and without getting mushy, I will say that it is an incredible experience.  So many movies and TV shows have been filmed there, and so many comics and cartoons have been set there, that when you first arrive you feel like you’ve just crossed some sort of boundary into a fictional place that only ever existed on celluloid or in your mind’s eye.  But I will ALSO say that my feelings can be summed up with the old cliché: “It’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.”  Because holy shit, I wouldn’t want to live there.  (A meaningless declaration on my part anyway, because I could never afford to live there even if I wanted to.)

These comics, production-wise, aren’t very good, no.  They use what looks like cut and paste artwork from the IDW New Animated Adventures comics.  It looks like Brizuela’s art and Breckel’s colors, but I might be wrong.  They’re slapped onto new artwork of New York City environments without a whole lot of consideration for scale or environmental interaction.  So the characters float on the grass of Corona Park and in the Brooklyn Bridge comic, Donnie is about 50 feet-tall.  Then there's the Statue of Liberty...



But I don’t think they necessarily NEED to be great, thought-provoking comics.  Each strip showcases a tourist destination and imparts at least one factoid on the audience, followed immediately by a cheap joke.  They get the job done and they’re only meant to be a cute way to get the kids engaged in sightseeing.

I’m not entirely sure of the delivery method for these comics.  Will they be included in pamphlets?  As part of an app?  The press release that included them as a photo gallery isn’t entirely clear and the TMNT section of the NYCGo website doesn’t seem to be entirely up and running yet.  As a matter of fact, there may end up being quite a few more of these comics, if they really intend for the Turtles to give a full-blown tour of the city.  So the ones I summarized are most likely just a sampling.

Anyway, while the comics are kind of eh, this review isn’t really about them.  I just think it’s damn cool that the Turtles have made it this big, to be officially recognized as cultural ambassadors.  It’s quite an achievement for the brand.



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

TMNT Amazing Adventures #9


Publication date: April 13, 2016

Contents:

*"The Frogs of War - Part One"
*"Mini Metalhead"


Turtle Tips:

*This issue is continued from TMNT Amazing Adventures #8.  The series continues in TMNT Amazing Adventures #10.

*This issue was originally published with 2 variant covers: Regular Cover by Jon Sommariva, and Subscription Cover by Ben Harvey.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Batman/TMNT #5


Publication date: April 13, 2016

Script: James Tynion IV
Art and cover: Freddie E. Williams II
Colors: Jeremy Colwell
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Variant cover: Kevin Eastman with Tomi Varga
Assistant editor: David Pina
Group editor: Jim Chadwick

“Deadly Mutant Arkham Inmates”

Summary:

At the Bat-Signal, Commissioner Gordon meets with Batman and, much to his surprise, Leonardo and Raphael.  Gordon says that Arkham has been overtaken by a group of ninja calling themselves the Foot Clan.  Then the Penguin steps out of the shadows and says he’s taking a very big risk by betraying the Shredder, however, he wants Batman to know that the Shredder has teamed with Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins.  With this new intel in hand, Batman and the Turtles leave, only for Leo to collapse a few rooftops later, finally succumbing to the mutagen erosion.


Down in the Batcave, Michelangelo and Donatello are playing video games on the Bat-Computer when Casey finally recovers.  Casey thinks they need to get a move on, and a voice agrees with him.  Damien, the current Robin and son of Batman, emerges and wants to know what all the trespassers are doing in his cave (and playing with his game system).

Robin starts smacking the Turtles and Casey around when Batman returns and tells him that they’re allies.  Everyone is worried about Leo, of course, and Alfred and Splinter come rushing down from Wayne Manor with a stretcher.  Casey then shows Batman the special device Harold gave him before he left called the Slingshot.  With enough power to boost its signal, the Slingshot can home in on the portal and send them all back to their dimension.  However, the connection weakens the longer they’re in this dimension and they have to go back now or potentially never return at all. 


Leo is against leaving the Shredder behind to wreak havoc in this world, but Batman assures him that he can handle things and encourages the Turtles to go home.  Batman and Robin then leave in the Batwing to deal with Arkham, as Splinter warns Batman not to underestimate the Shredder.  Alfred, too, suggests they take the Intimidator Suit as a precaution, but Batman doesn’t think he’ll need it.

Batman and Robin drop in on Arkham Asylum and are immediately met by the Penguin.  As punishment for betraying the Shredder, he was the first to be mutated and now stands as an anthropomorphic emperor penguin.  More than that, Penguin has been tasked with the lowly assignment of leading the first wave of Arkham mutants against Batman.


The Dynamic Duo then find themselves surrounded by the mutant inmates: The Scarecrow (crow), Poison Ivy (praying mantis), Mr. Freeze (polar bear), Two-Face (baboon), the Joker (cobra), the Mad Hatter (march hare), the Riddler (fox), Bane (elephant), and the Ventriloquist (parrot).


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from Batman/TMNT #4.  The story concludes in Batman/TMNT #6.

*The Intimidator Suit was seen under construction in Batman/TMNT #1.


Review:

This crossover has been everything I could have wanted it to be and I’m not ashamed to say I love it.  Yes, it has been very silly in places but can you honestly say that you WOULDN’T want to see the Shredder mutate the inmates of Arkham into the greatest assortment of action figures that never existed?  You sir, are a liar.

Admittedly, this penultimate chapter functions in the same way most penultimate chapters do, in that its primarily build-up to the conclusion.  As such, there isn’t a whole lot of action in this issue and the big money-shot is the cliffhanger for the next and final installment. 

There is some overlap that makes the issue feel stretched out a bit.  You’ve got Penguin and Commissioner Gordon informing Batman that the League of Assassins have come to Gotham and teamed with Shredder and the Foot Clan, but then a few pages later Robin shows up and gives intel to Batman that says nearly same thing.  Narrative-wise, the redundancies set up unique threads; Penguin’s betrayal and Leo’s collapse, and Robin entering the game because we’ve all been asking “Where’s Robin?” these past five months.  The ends justify the means, I just wish Robin could have laid something more substantially informative on Batman other than something every other character (and the readers) already know.

But even if the issue is mostly getting us from Act II to Act III, it looks so damn good I don’t think anyone will get bored along the way.  That two-page spread of Leo and Raph on the Bat-Signal is just gorgeous, with special praise needing to be delivered to the colorist, Jeremy Colwell.  The fight between the Turtles and Damien is ostensibly the action missing from the issue, though it hinges on that crossover cliché, “the misunderstanding”, that we already went through when the book began.  There isn’t really any tension, as we could all predict Batman would arrive in the nick of time, but again, Williams puts a lot of energy into it so it remains a cool sequence despite its predictability.

The cliffhanger was great, goofy fun and I’m dying for the next chapter to see all the wacky Arkham mutants in action.  I hope we get even more than the ones from the final splash page (characters like Harley Quinn, the Creeper and Clayface appear on the cover of this issue, but there’s no telling if they’ll actually be in the comic).

I can just imagine Tynion sitting in front of his computer and laboring over which animals made the most “sense” to match with each villain.  There’s a logic to most of the choices that you can follow: The Riddler’s sly, so he’s a fox.  Poison Ivy preys on men, so she’s a praying mantis.  The Mad Hatter of the book had the March Hare as his friend, so naturally…

Others are maybe a little more obtuse, like the Joker as a cobra.  I assume it’s because cobras spit venom and Joker historically squirts acid and Joker Venom from his corsage.  I guess a hyena would’ve been too obvious, right?  Two-Face as a baboon I admit I don’t really get, but maybe it’s because he was a lawyer and Tynion’s trying to make some commentary about them.

My favorite is Mr. Freeze as a polar bear, by the way.

So anyway, the Batman/TMNT crossover thus far has been straddling a line between cool and silly, which has always been the line both franchises have tightrope walked.  And Tynion has managed that balancing act expertly so far.  We've got cool, dramatic sequences like the aforementioned Bat-Signal spread, and then we've got mutant animal super villains.  It's a little bit of everything.  

Here’s hoping Tynion and Williams stick the landing next month, but I’m not too worried.