Sunday, February 19, 2017

Batman/TMNT Adventures #4


Publication date: February 15, 2017
Published by: IDW (publisher) and DC Comics (co-publisher)

Writer: Matthew K. Manning
Artist: Jon Sommariva
Inker: Sean Parsons
Colorist: Leonardo Ito
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

Summary:

Down in the streets, Batman wades through crowds of people panicking from fear toxin as he pursues the Scarecrow.  The gas eventually affects him, though, and Batman sees a vision of Alfred dying at the hands of Gotham's rogues gallery.  Then Scarecrow hits him over the head with a shovel.


At Foot Clan HQ, the Joker receives a call from Harley Quinn, telling him that the Footbots have made enough Joker Gas to poison the whole city.

On a rooftop near two Kraang portals, Batgirl, Robin, Michelangelo and April are busy taking on more Footbots while Donatello is distracted by something.  He's found a beacon device that's been opening the portals, but the technology doesn't look Kraang in origin.  They take care of the last of the Footbots and Robin suggests that if they find the source of the smiling Footbots, they'll find the Joker.  Mikey says they know where Foot HQ is, so Robin calls Batman.


In a basement somewhere, Batman, Leonardo and Raphael are chained to the wall near a Kraang portal, each experiencing their worst fear as Scarecrow gloats over them.  The call from Robin is enough to snap Batman back to his senses and he pulls his shackles off the wall.  The Scarecrow, frightened, escapes into the portal.

In the loading dock by Foot HQ, Harley is busy ordering the Footbots to load the Joker Gas into trucks.  Batgirl and April confront her (while Don still fiddles with the beacon) and Harley unleashes the Joker's own personal mutations: Bud and Lou (formerly his pet hyenas).

In the throne room, the Joker tries to explain his plan to taint cans of peanut brittle with his Joker Gas to Baxter Stockman when Batgirl, April and Donnie bring the fight with Bud and Lou to him.  Before the other Foot Mutants can join in, Rocksteady stops them and says that after the Joker has made such a mockery of the Foot, he can fight this one on his own.


Elsewhere, Robin and Michelangelo have stayed behind to monitor the Kraang portals on the rooftop.  Batman calls, saying he's reached Foot HQ, but Leo and Raph are still messed up from the Scarecrow's fear toxin.  Batman gives them a motivating speech and together they drop in on the throne room, taking Bud and Lou out.  Helping Raph to his senses, Leo offhandedly mentions Splinter and that's enough to force the Shredder out of his Joker Gas-induced paralysis.  Bonking Joker on the head and regaining his throne, Shredder tells the Bats and the Turtles to take the clowns and leave.

Later, Donnie tells Batman what he's learned about the beacon: It's not Kraang tech.  Someone was able to tap into the Kraang's frequency and hijack their portal technology.  They've been using mind control impulses to coordinate the Arkham escapees.  Donnie asks if Batman knows anyone from Gotham who could be behind this.  Somewhere, the Mad Hatter throws himself a tea party...


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from Batman/TMNT Adventures #3.  The story continues in Batman/TMNT Adventures #5.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Regular Cover by Sommariva, Subscription Cover by Dustin Weaver, and Incentive Cover by Tony Fleecs.


Review:

The Scarecrow is my favorite Batman villain and for the life of my, I don't know why.  His stories all start and end the same way: He scares Batman, Batman scares him back, he goes to jail.  But I like the guy anyway, so sue me.  His part in this issue is much the usual, but it was still a thrill to see him menace Leonardo and Raphael in addition to the Caped Crusader.  His hallucinogenic fear toxin also facilitates a half-splash page showcasing the many rogues of Batman: The Animated Series, including numerous morts we never saw more than once or twice.  The Sewer King?  baby Doll?  Lock-Up?  The Ninja?  Red Claw?  Oh shit, is that the Condiment King?

There are little gags throughout the issue that I got a kick out of, like the Joker trying on Shredder's helmet and checking out his own reflection or all the visual humor of Harley being treated like a nuisance (which is how she was portrayed in most of the Batman: The Animated Series episodes, long before she became a major mainstream character).  Bud and Lou getting mutated was a legit surprise and I'm always relieved to get hit with those in a comic, these days.  A shame they didn't talk; I had their voices from Krypto: The Superdog all ready to go in the back of my head.

And speaking of surprises, Mad Hatter being the big end boss was another one.  I suppose we're all so used to the Joker being the endgame in these things, who could really suspect that a second stringer like Mad Hatter would be the final antagonist?  Manning didn't telegraph it, either, aside from the beacons having white rabbit pictures on them (which we don't see until this issue, preserving the surprise).

If I had a few criticisms for the issue, it's in regards to a handful of dodgy-looking panels that Sommariva could have gone over a second time, I think.  Look at Page 10, Panel 3 and the awful foreshortening on Harley's arm as she's pointing at the Footbot.  Then there's the sequence where a very serious Rocksteady holds the other Foot Mutants back, wanting the Joker to pay for insulting the Foot Clan.  Wha?  The dialogue is very much written in Rocksteady's accent, so it must have been part of Manning's script, but doesn't that seem more like something Tiger Claw should have been doing?  Rocksteady's a slave of the Foot Clan; what does he care if their honor has been besmirched?  And since when do the other Foot Mutants take orders from him, anyway?

But I'm really just picking nits, here.  We're in the last leg of this miniseries and it has picked up substantially.  There are great callbacks, but the book isn't overloaded with Easter eggs in place of substance.  It's been very fun and I'm looking forward to seeing how Manning and Sommariva tie it up.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

TMNT (IDW) #67


Publication date: February 15, 2017

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

Summary:

In Harlem, Slash sits on a rooftop, reading The Grapes of Wrath to a flock of pigeons.  He's suddenly attacked by Darkwater and EPF agents, who manage to incapacitate and tranquilize him.  As the pigeons flee, Agent Bishop convenes with Sergeant Winter to collect Slash.


At the Church Lair, the Turtles are arguing over what their next move should be.  Leonardo thinks they should be training so they can be prepared for the next attack, from whoever might launch it.  Raphael thinks they should lay low and stay out of things for a while.  Michelangelo thinks they should be out fighting crime and helping those in need.  Donatello thinks they should be building up their tech now that Harold won't work with them, especially with the Pantheon out there.  Sick of arguing, Leonardo storms out.


At EPF headquarters, Bishop meets with Dr. Shevlin to get a status report on Slash.  Shevlin says that their scans have found traces of psychotropic serum in his system, accounting for his enhanced intelligence, as well as traces of PTSD, intimating that Slash had previously been weaponized.  Regardless, Shevlin has been able to implant nodes in Slash's brain, allowing him to be remotely controlled as a weapon, just as Bishop requested.

As Shevlin is dismissed, Colonel Knight enters and asks Bishop for a word.  Knight isn't too thrilled about what Bishop is getting his Darkwater mercenary unit into.  After reading up on Bishop's history with the EPF, he isn't sure that the Agent's head is in the game.  Bishop exposits that his father founded the EPF during the Cold War because he could foresee that Earth's greatest threats came from extraterrestrial and unnatural forces.  The rise of mutants is proof of that and Bishop is determined to carry on his father's work.  Knight is worried that Bishop's motivations are too personal.

At Foot Clan HQ, Leo goes to see Splinter.  He asks how Jennika is doing and Splinter says she has the makings of an excellent Chunin.  With that out of the way, Leo tells his father that he's worried his brothers aren't taking their threats seriously.  He's worried that he won't be able to effectively lead them when the time comes.  Splinter reassures him, partly happy that the weight of the world hasn't crushed his children's spirits, and insists that Leo will be a fine Master of the Hamato Clan.


At Mutanimal HQ, the team is watching a movie when a pigeon (evidently Pete's cousin Jimmy) comes tapping at the window.  At the same time, Mondo Gecko hears a knock at the door and goes to answer it.  Pete gets news from Jimmy that Slash has been kidnapped just as Slash bursts in through the front door and begins beating everyone up.  Controlled by Bishop, he smacks Old Hob away, rips off Mondo Gecko's tail, bludgeons Man Ray with it, smashes Mutagen Man's casing, body-slams Sally Pride against Pigeon Pete, and tears off Herman the Hermit Crab's left claw.  Lindsey is then tranqed by Sergeant Winter, who comes in with the EPF to secure the location.

All the Mutanimals are accounted for with the exception of Hob, who has escaped to a nearby rooftop.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #66.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #68.

*Bishop mentions "the TCRI fiasco" which concluded in TMNT Universe #4.

*Michelangelo is shown reading Batman comics, just in case anyone was still curious if the Batman/TMNT miniseries was "canon" or not (it's not).

*This issue was originally published with 5 variant covers: Regular Cover by Santolouco, Subscription Cover by Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga, Retailer Incentive Cover by Karl Moline, Unknown Comics Exclusive Cover 1 by Mat Nastos (color), and Unknown Comics Exclusive Cover 2 by Mat Nastos (black and white).


Review:

Oh shit, now that's how you start a new story arc.  After something of a two-month "break" (a light comedy issue and a one-shot adventure), the TMNT ongoing is kicking it into gear again.  We've got Santolouco back, the Mutanimals are front and center, TMNT Universe plot threads are now REALLY intersecting with the main book, and Bishop isn't fuckin' around.  If perhaps you were snoring through December and January, this issue is your wake up call.

Being the start of a new arc, there is a bit of exposition to sit through, but it's woven into the narrative more gracefully than, say, TMNT #61.  The fight between the Turtles is sort of a quick way to rundown the various drama assaulting them from all sides, but in a way that feels natural to the story.  They each want to handle their problems their own way, prioritizing them differently, and this is creating rifts between them.  While Leo "reminding" Raph of what's at stake was some clumsy Chris Claremont-tier stuff, you DO have to get those new readers up to speed SOMEHOW.

What I really love is how fast we're back to Bishop being a direct antagonist.  It feels like the Turtles JUST dealt with him in TMNT Universe #4 and now he's already back and packing a wallop.  In that way, he's the polar opposite of villains like the Pantheon, who are all about playing the long game and stretching their diabolical schemes out for as long as possible.  Bishop hits hard, fast and FREQUENTLY and I think it's really helping to set him apart from other bad guys that have appeared in this book.  Remember back when it took the Shredder three months to move from the spot he was standing in (TMNT #9 thru TMNT #11)?  Bishop could've had the Turtles captured, executed, dissected, stuffed and mounted in that span of time.

The Mutanimals getting wasted by Slash wasn't very flattering for the Mutanimals, but the scene as depicted was pretty brutal for this book.  Red blood and everything.  Now, I know Mondo's tail will grow back, but I'm not so sure about Herman's left claw.  Ah well, it was the small one.  The Mutanimals aren't out of the story yet, so perhaps before this arc is over they'll have the chance to get their licks in.  And anyway, this is just one more reason for Hob to want to kill all humans.  He's been racking up a lot of those, lately.

I suppose if I had to be critical again, it would once more be in regards to the exposition.  While the dialogue between the Turtles was a necessary evil to fill in new readers starting with this fresh arc, the stuff between Knight and Bishop was as awkward as a junior prom.  Bishop reminding Knight that Darkwater is a mercenary unit (he might forget!) and then going off on this weird tangent about his father and the origin of the EPF... It was "for the benefit of the audience" stuff and read like exactly that.  All it was missing was Bishop turning toward the reader and saying, "Did you get all that?"  At the very least, it helped spell out the distinction between the EPF (government agency) and Darkwater (mercenary unit).  On the off chance you hadn't pieced that together.

Moments of clumsy dialogue aside, this was a solid start to a new arc.  I'm glad to see Bishop back with guns a-blazing so quickly and we've got plenty of Mutanimal action to look forward to.  Sounds like exactly my thing.  


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Went back and reviewed TMNT Comic #9


Filled in the summary and review for Titan's TMNT Comic #9.

By the standards of Titan's TMNT issues, this comic was competent.  I'll give it that.  The above gag was more amusing than the actual story, though.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Batman/TMNT Adventures #3


Publication date: January 25, 2017
Published by: IDW (publisher) and DC Comics (co-publisher)

Writer: Matthew K. Manning
Artist: Jon Sommariva
Inker: Sean Parsons
Colorist: Leonardo Ito, John Rauch, Zack Atkinson, and Sean Galloway
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

Summary:

In Central Park, the Turtles and the Bat-Family do their best to take down the mind-controlled Snakeweed, but he's evolved plating to cover his heart; his only weakspot.


On the docks, the Shredder is flanked by Tiger Claw, Rahzar, Fishface and Baxter Stockman.  He asks what the Joker's demands are and the Clown Prince of Crime insists he wants the whole city.  He hits Shredder with a burst of Joker gas and the villain falls to the floor in a laughing fit.  Joker then approaches Stockman and asks where he can get some mutants of his own.

Back in Central Park, Batman orders Robin and Raphael to go find Poison Ivy since she's the one controlling Snakeweed.  The two hunt her down, but are immediately ensnared by vines.  Robin manages to use a batarang to cut Raph free and the Turtles tackles Poison Ivy into a nearby lake, holding her underwater until she goes unconscious.  Once that happens, Snakeweed collapses and the fight ends.  Raph carries Poison Ivy to the Kraang portal back to Gotham, but as soon as he puts her through, the portal closes.


Down in the lair, the Turtles and the Bat-Family mingle as best they can.  Donatello attempts (with little success) to flirt with Batgirl, April seems to have the hots for Robin, Michelangelo keeps trying to compare his "superhero" exploits with his guests', Raphael broods and, naturally, Batman and Leonardo compare notes.  Master Splinter then steps in and turns on the TV to a relevant news report.  Apparently, the East Village is under attack from various strange apparitions.  Donatello gets a hit on his tracking device and learns that Kraang portals are opening in Chinatown.  Batman orders the team to split up: He, Leonardo and Raphael will hit the East Village, everyone else will investigate Chinatown.

Mikey, Donnie, April, Robin and Batgirl take the Shellraiser to Chinatown where they find Footbots with creepy smiles painted on them.


As for Batman, Leo and Raph, they find the streets of the East Village choked with a strange gas.  Batman puts on a gas mask and tells the Turtles to stay on the rooftops while he tries to control the panicked crowd.  He warns them to keep an eye out for a man dressed like a scarecrow.  Before the Turtles can ponder what that means, the gas hits them and they begin to hallucinate their worst fears: Raph sees Leo as a giant cockroach and Leo sees Raph as a shambling zombie.  They begin to panic when a man calls from the stairwell, telling them to get inside quickly.  They comply, unaware that the man is Jonathan Crane: The Scarecrow.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from Batman/TMNT Adventures #2.  The story continues in Batman/TMNT Adventures #4.

*Mikey mentions how Snakeweed was blown up in TMNT New Animated Adventures #2.

*This issue was originally published with 4 variant covers: Regular Cover by Sommariva, Subscription Cover by Erica Henderson, Incentive Cover by Ben Harvey, and Exclusive Cover by Ken Haeser.


Review:

Now we're talking.  The setup and introductions are over with and we're ready to get to the good stuff: The Turtles and the Bat-Family teaming up to fight their various rogues.  It's rather simple, I'll admit, but it is exactly what I want to see in this miniseries.

Poison Ivy isn't my favorite Batman villain, and Snakeweed is no one's favorite TMNT villain, but together they formed a pretty good team-up for this issue.  While the resolution was what you'd expect (stop Poison Ivy and you stop Snakeweed), I wasn't expecting Ivy's defeat to be quite so brutal.  So Raph just holds her freakin' head underwater until she nearly drowns?  Hardcore, man.  I remember an episode of The Batman had a similar resolution when that version of Batman fought Killer Croc.  He just held him underwater until he lost consciousness and resuscitated him later.  THAT'S how to solve a problem!

And speaking of The Batman, that other Batman cartoon that's got a worse reputation than Batman the Animated Series, the interaction between Joker and Shredder got me thinking about it.  This Shredder's voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, who also voiced the Joker in The Batman, so when he gets gassed and starts laughing, I intuitively heard Richardson's Joker voice in my head.  So it's like two different Jokers laughing at once.

And in regards to THAT scene, you might be disappointed to see Shredder go down so easily, but I think Joker really did do a good job backing him into a corner.  And the sight of the Shredder getting gassed and laughing like a lunatic was a genuine surprise (you'd never expect him to be subjected to such an indignity).  I'm sure payback is inevitable.

Thus far, though the series is ramping up, it's still kind of episodic: One villain fight after another.  There's the overarching Joker/Foot Clan thing brewing on the side, but the series to this point has been just a string of team-ups and fights.  It's a departure from the last Batman/TMNT crossover, but it helps to give this version it's own identity.  I'm having fun with it and Manning is trying his best not to retread ground from the last crossover quite so much anymore.  The bit where the two teams bond in the lair doesn't hit as many of the same points as in the other crossover, finding new angles to exploit (so we know for certain now that Donatello has a "type").  The bit where Michelangelo and Batgirl dance to a parody of the Ninja Rap ("Wingnut Rap") was cute but dumb.  But cute.

While this miniseries hasn't exactly knocked my socks off yet, it IS getting to the good stuff.  And it's getting there fast.  The Scarecrow also happens to be my favorite Bat-Villain, so I'm anxiously looking forward to next month.