Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Batman/TMNT Adventures #6


Publication date: May 10, 2017
Published by: IDW (publisher) and DC Comics (co-publisher)

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

Summary:

Gotham City.  Bruce Wayne and his new ward, Tim Drake, are attending a showing of "The Grey Ghost and the Men from Planet X" at the Fox Foundation Film Festival when suddenly Kraang portals open up everywhere and an all-out alien invasion hits Gotham!  Batgirl is already in the thick of things, but Bruce and Tim quickly suit up as Batman and Robin, joining her in the streets.


Before they can be overwhelmed by Kraangdroids, a new portal opens up and out pop Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo (much to the new Robin's further confusion).  They reveal that when the Mad Hatter used the Kraang portal tech, the Kraang were monitoring him and were able to zero-in on Gotham City's dimension.  When Raph spotted some Kraangdroids with a portal generator while on patrol, the Turtles followed them.

As Mikey introduces himself to the new Robin, he tells him all about their encounter with the Scarecrow and how his fear gas made Leo and Raph go crazy.  Batman gets an idea and tells Raph to come with him to Arkham while Leo and the rest stay behind and keep the Kraang under control.


At Arkham Asylum, the Scarecrow awakens from a nightmare.  Apparently, while traveling through the Kraang portal to the TMNT's dimension, he made a brief detour into Dimension X where he was nearly snagged by a Kraang.  Batman and Raph confront him to ask for his help, thinking that his fear gas might be able to drive the Kraang back through their portals and keep them from ever wanting to return to Gotham.  The Scarecrow reveals that he had already planned for this and, during his most recent excursion into Gotham, filled the police blimps with a specially modified version of his fear gas (having used Kraang DNA he obtained while in Dimension X to make a special strand that would only affect Kraang and mutants).


While Nightwing joins the fray (interrupting Donnie's clumsy flirting with Batgirl), Batman uses the Batwing to coordinate the police blimps into venting the gas above the city.  Unfortunately, the one above Gotham Square fails to vent, leaving Raph to eject from the cockpit and slash the blimp with his sai.  This releases the gas, but Raph falls under its spell, now seeing cockroaches everywhere.  As for the Kraang, they begin to see mutant and ninja foes from the TMNT's dimension everywhere around them.  Terrified, they flee back to Dimension X.  The Turtles, luckily, are using their Dimension X atmosphere converters, protecting them from the gas (but not Raph).


Later, the Turtles bid the Bat-Family a fond farewell as they return to their dimension.  Raph momentarily thinks he sees the Shredder in a Kraang portal, but brushes it off as lingering effects from the gas.  With the day saved, Robin confesses to Batman that he'd like to see the rest of the cheesy sci-fi movie that began their evening.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from Batman/TMNT Adventures #5.  For the Nickelodeon TMNT, their story continues in TMNT Amazing Adventures: Robotanimals #1.

*This installment takes place a few months after the previous issue.  For the Turtles, it looks to take place between seasons 4 and 5 of the Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon.  For Batman, it takes place during The New Batman Adventures, sometime after "Sins of the Fathers" (when Tim became Robin).

*Evidently, Sommariva had video games on the brain when he drew this issue.  A kid dressed like Ness from Earthbound and a kid wearing a Legend of Zelda t-shirt can be seen on page 14.  And if you look below Renet, you'll see Mega Man hiding in the Kraang hallucination of TMNT characters on page 17.

*This issue was originally published with 7 variant covers: Regular Cover by Sommariva, Subscription Cover by Valerio Schiti, Incentive Cover by Sean Galloway, Ottawa Comic Con Exclusive Cover by Ty Templeton, Salt City Comic Con Exclusive Cover by Neal Adams, IDW Conventions Exclusive Cover by Sommariva, and Retailer Summit Exclusive Cover by Sommariva.


Review:

So, I'll say off the bat that this issue seems like an afterthought.  Like, they'd originally plotted a 5-issue miniseries and then suddenly got permission to do a sixth issue and now "Oh shit!  We gotta come up with SOMETHING!"

As hasty as this story is, I think Manning and Sommariva managed to throw something pretty entertaining together, even if it is a rather clumsy drop off in quality from the previous installments.  I mean, c'mon.  So the Scarecrow just happens to have created a Kraang-oriented strain of his fear gas and just happens to have been filling the Gotham police blimps with it because he just happens to have been having prophetic nightmares about their impending invasion?  It's some pretty half-assed stuff and you can tell from the getgo that nobody at IDW thought they were going to have to make this issue.

But as convenient as the resolution of the conflict is, the story finds lots of places to have fun along the way.  The Turtles and the Bat-Family treating each other like old friends was absolutely great and I loved every minute of that.  The Turtles just slip right into a comfy dynamic with the Dynamic Duo like they were the Flash or Green Arrow or any other DC character having a routine team-up.  It makes this issue feel less like the sixth part of a storyline and more like a one-shot sequel to an earlier miniseries.  The groundwork for the relationships between the characters has already been built, so they can all just say "hi" and get down to business.

While the story is definitely a slapdash sort of thing, Sommariva's art is as good as in his other five installments.  That half-page splash of all the fear gas-created TMNT characters was some fun Where's Waldo stuff and squinting into the margins and crevices will reward you with Armaggon and Mutagen Man, among others.  Also, uh, Mega Man.  Because okay, then.

If there was any real missed opportunity to this issue, I think it was that for a story where the Scarecrow plays such a pivotal role, they didn't frame it in a way that drew comparisons between his New Batman Adventures design and his Nickelodeon TMNT doppelganger, the Rat King.  The previous issue even ends with the Scarecrow designing his New Batman Adventures costume, but he doesn't wear it in this story (as he spends the issue in Arkham, clad in a patient's uniform).

I dunno, man.  You got two bad guys, one from each show, both dressed in spooky black Southern Baptist preacher outfits, both voiced by Jeffrey Combs, you set up the appearance in the last issue, and then... What, nothin'?  Just a little disappointing.  Or maybe I'm just being a little bitch because the Rat King is my favorite TMNT villain and the Scarecrow is my favorite Batman villain and God forbid a bunch of complete strangers writing a comic should indulge my extremely unique expectations.

Anyhow, this wasn't the best ending to the miniseries, to be honest.  And I think that's because the narrative of the miniseries ended last issue.  This felt like a sequel miniseries that got condensed down to one issue and no one really benefits from that.  I mean, I'm glad we got it, because it gave us one more month of Batman and the Ninja Turtles hanging out, but the actual plot just isn't very good.


Monday, May 8, 2017

TMNT: Free Comic Book Day 2017


Publication date: May 6, 2017

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Cory Smith
Additional art: Mateus Santolouco, Dave Wachter, Michael Dialynas, Sophie Campbell, Damien Couceiro
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

Summary:

In the sewer tunnels, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael are running a training routine with several laser cannons being operated by Donatello and the Fugitoid.  They all get blasted and return to the lair to take a rest.  There, they catch up with Professor Honeycutt (Fugitoid) and fill him in on everything they've recently been through with the Foot Clan, the Pantheon, Leatherhead, the Mutanimals, Agent Bishop and so on.


The Fugitoid is happy to see them again, but confesses that he must return to Burnow Island and then teleport back to Planet Neutrino in Dimension X.  King Zenter has asked the Fugitoid to join Commander Dask in persuading five key witnesses in testifying against General Krang in his upcoming trial.  The Fugitoid fears it won't be an easy task, as Krang's influence has a far reach and he may try to get to the witnesses before he and Dask can help them reach safety.


Suddenly, the lights go out and the Fugitoid is attacked a hooded, tentacled, cyborg alien.  The Fugitoid recognizes the alien as a bounty hunter named Hakk-R, often employed by Krang.  Hakk-R uses his tentacles to download data from the Fugitoid's skull and then proceeds to whip the Turtles around.  Donatello manages to subdue Hakk-R with an impromptu blowtorch, but having procured what he was sent for, Hakk-R teleports to safety.


The Fugitoid reveals that Hakk-R downloaded the locations of the five witnesses against Krang and is no doubt on a mission to eliminate them all.  Not about to let Krang walk off scott-free for his evildoing, the Turtles promise to go to Dimension X with the Fugitoid and save the witnesses from Hakk-R.


Turtle Tips:

*This story takes place between TMNT (IDW) #72 and TMNT (IDW) #73, with the story also continuing into the companion miniseries TMNT: Dimension X #1.

*General Krang was defeated and taken into Neutrino custody in TMNT (IDW) #44.

*This special comic was available only on Free Comic Book Day at local comic shops.

*This issue was originally published with 2 variant covers: Regular Cover by Cory Smith, and Ultimate Comics Exclusive Cover by Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga.


Review:

Another Free Comic Book Day has come and gone.  I love Free Comic Book Day.  The price is always right.

Following IDW's so-far-schedule of skipping a year, we've got our third FCBD release for TMNT, and like last time, this one helps set up an impending story arc.  Two of them, actually: The Trial of Krang arc in the ongoing and the Dimension X companion miniseries.  Not sure yet how those two are going to intertwine and I won't be finding out until, like, August or something.  So we got plenty of time.

But hey, it does its job of getting us dedicated readers hyped for the big event storyline while also getting new readers up to speed with a four-page recap sequence.  The recap is graceless, but a necessary evil.  I suppose my only complaint for this part was that the narrative captions are supposed to be color-coordinated, but they used a blue-for-Leo and a purple-for-Donatello that were way too close in shade.  It might have just been an issue with my printing, but half the time I couldn't tell which one of them was supposed to be talking.

Cory Smith is back after an extended absence and I look forward to seeing him on the ongoing (or the mini; I hope he's in at least ONE of those).  He was a great alternate for Santolouco back during "Vengeance", but he's given his style some individuality if this FCBD one-shot is any indication.  It makes sense; he was leap-frogging with Santolouco on "Vengeance" so naturally he'd try to keep a consistency with his alternate, but this time around he's free to draw in a style more his own.  It looks good and he adds some cartoony effects like spinning birds around a dazed Donatello's head that I can't help but love.  Pattison's colors are lovely, too, and altogether this has the production values (and nearly the length) of a $4 issue of the main series.  Not bad for a giveaway!

The new villain introduced, Hakk-R, has a stupid name but a cool design.  We'll see how he works out in August.  Despite his fearsome appearance, he speaks very casually and I liked the juxtaposition (he's not playing up a scary monster routine, which would have been fairly cliche).

As for those of you asking the usual question, "If I didn't get one of these, will I be missing anything?"  Well, August is still a while away, but it looks like a rather important event setting up the storyline happens in this FCBD issue.  So... Yeah?  I mean, I'm sure they'll recap it in the ongoing or whatever, but it's certainly not skippable.  But I'm sure you can snag one of these on the aftermarket, even if you have to pay for it (sorry).

Anyhow, I'm already looking forward to August.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

TMNT: Funko Universe #1


Publication date: May 3, 2017

Writer: Caleb Goellner
Artist: Nico Pena
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

Summary:

Down in the lair, the Turtles are out of pizza for breakfast, but Michelangelo has the unexpected solution: Rice Shreddies, a brand new cereal!  Actually, he just bought it for the decoder ring prize inside, but after fishing through the box, Mikey finds he's been ripped off!  The Turtles aren't about to take this sitting down and head to the cereal factory to demand a prize (leaving poor Splinter to clean up their mess).


Meanwhile, at the cereal factory, it turns out that Rice Shreddies are the creation of the Shredder and Krang.  Having "fortified" the cereal with Vitamin X, it will poison the children who eat it with a mind-controlling serum that will be activated once they slip on the toy decoder ring.  Suddenly, there's a knock on the door and Krang orders the Foot Soldiers (disguised as factory workers) to send whoever it is away.

It's the Turtles, of course, who proceed to storm the factory at the sight of the Foot Soldiers.  While Bebop and Rocksteady keep the TMNT distracted, the villains load up the "Trucknodrome" with cereal so they can deliver it to the grocer.  The Turtles dump a vat of cereal onto the Foot Soldiers, stopping them, but the bad guys escape in the Trucknodrome.


The Turtles pursue the Trucknodrome in the Party Wagon (nearly mowing down Casey Jones and April' O'Neil along the way), but they're constantly being blinded by the boxes of cereal Bebop and Rocksteady are chucking at them from the back of the truck.  In the back of the Party Wagon, Raphael is disturbed to find that Mike has bought hundreds of gallons of milk for a milk-drinking contest, but the revelation gives Donatello an idea.  Leonardo and Mikey load the milk into a bomb container and chuck it at the Trucknodrome.  The explosion destroys the Trucknodrome, turns the cereal into goop and sends the villains blasting off into the sky.


A job well done, Michelangelo surfs the soggy Rice Shreddies until he finds his decoder ring prize.  Alas, it was designed for a human finger, not a mutant turtle's, and he cannot wear it.  Just then, the four baddies come crashing back down and the Turtles subdue them with a ninja net.  The morning saved, they decide to go get some pizza for breakfast.


Turtle Tips:

*This issue was released as part of a 5-issue series of one-shots involving IDW titles getting the "Funko" treatment.  Other Funko Universe titles include The X-Files, Ghostbusters, Judge Dredd and Strawberry Shortcake.

*As you likely know, the Funko Pop! Vinyl collectibles are very popular.  The Turtles got the Funko merchandising treatment several years prior to this one-shot's publication.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Regular Cover by Nico Pena, Subscription Cover which is a photo of a Michelangelo Funko Pop! Vinyl collectible, and Retailer Incentive Cover by Jamal Peppers and Ronda Pattison.


Review:

I'm always surprised by what little TMNT odds and ends IDW publishes on the downlow, because those seem to wind up being some of the their best output.  As I mentioned before, I had next to no hype for the Carmelo Anthony Special, but that wound up being one of their funniest releases. Likewise, I had no expectations going into the TMNT Funko Universe one-shot, but it resulted in one of the best comics I've read this week.

It's essentially an episode of the 1987 TMNT cartoon, but rendered through the prism of the Funko Pop! Vinyl merchandising line.  While a more traditional Fred Wolf TMNT aesthetic would have been better, the only reason this thing even EXISTS is because IDW is doing a merchandising cross-promotion with Funko, so let's all just be satisfied with the compromise.

Writer Caleb Goellner, who has done lots of work on the TMNT Amazing Adventures series based on the Nickelodeon cartoon, handles the script for this one-shot.  He's mostly done short back-up strips in that title, but he transitions to a full-length story really well.  He captures all the character nuances in the dialogue and even if the characters don't LOOK identically like their Fred Wolf counterparts, you won't have any trouble hearing their voices in your head.

The plot is typical 1987 nonsense, and I like it for that, but I do wish Goellner had maybe refrained from having the characters all stop and reflect on how the evil scheme makes no sense or how silly everything is.  After "Turtles Forever" and "Trans-Dimensional Turtles", I think the gag where everyone points out how weird and silly the Fred Wolf era was is getting a little stale.  Part of the humor in that show was how matter-of-fact the characters were about the inherent insanity of their predicaments; constantly pointing it out is becoming a tiresome exercise.

That said, Goellner captures the voices and a lot of the humor comes from the dialogue.  I think I laughed more at how authentic so much of it sounded as opposed to the quality of the jokes.  Raph's sarcastic asides, Shredder and Krang's bickering, all the puns... It has a sincere David Wise-ness to it that will sort of charm you into a smile, at least if you have any nostalgic affinity for the 1987 show.

References and in-jokes abound throughout the story and might get a little obnoxious by the time Shredder starts quoting his song from The Coming out of their Shells Tour.  Funniest thing is that the subtlest Easter egg is the one relating to the ACTUAL TMNT Cereal that Ralston-Purina produced back in the '90s.  The "ninja nets" the Turtles use to capture the villains at the end are a reference to the cereal pieces by the same name (which were really just Chex).  Odd that the writer decided to be so coy about the one thing most relevant to the plot of this comic.

Nico Pena's art is very cute and manages to take the static Funko Pop! Vinyl figures and put them into dynamic action sequences and slapstick comedy.  If you've ever owned one of those things (and let's face it, you probably do; I don't know where they come from but everyone seems to wind up with several out of nowhere) then you know that they aren't so much "toys" as they are "figurines".  They certainly aren't articulated or expressive.  But Pena makes the character models work and this doesn't look anything like a hastily thrown together licensed toy tie-in.  The folks making it really wanted to create a good story starring the Fred Wolf TMNT and I'd say they did it.

In fact, it leaves me wishing IDW would do more with the other versions of the TMNT beyond their homegrown incarnations and the Nickelodeon series.  Maybe something similar to the 30th Anniversary Special, like an anthology series containing stories featuring different versions of the TMNT, be it the Mirage ones, the Fred Wolf ones, or the 4Kids ones.  IDW clearly has writers and artists who are excellent at capturing the many different incarnations of the Turtles, so it'd be fun to see them utilized more often.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

TMNT (IDW) #69


Publication date: May 3, 2017

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:

In a restroom at EPF headquarters, Dr. Shevlin is attacked by an invisible Mondo Gecko who steals his security pass.  Mondo proceeds to sneak into the EPF server room and download as much data as he can get away with.


At the Greater New York Senior Living Center, Agent Bishop catches up with his father who seems to be suffering from senility.  Agent Bishop tells his dad that everything he worked for in setting up the EPF back in the day will soon bear fruit, as the EPF is about to track down and stop the monsters challenging the Earth.  Bishop's dad slips into lucidity and tells his son a story about President Eisenhower and his trip to Area 51.  Eisenhower was so horrified by the things he saw there, he left office with a very different view of the military and government.  Bishop's father warns his son that some questions are best left unanswered before slipping back into senility.

As a nurse wheels his father away, Bishop gets a message from Colonel Knight that Agent Winter and Dark Water are in contact with the mutants and need back up.  Bishop climbs into his van and wires himself into the VR device used to control Slash.


At Mutanimal HQ, Winter has the building surrounded.  Hob pulls out a stash of Null brand stun guns and grenades and suggests he create a diversion while the Turtles make a run for it.  Leonardo agrees with the plan, provided they all run in different directions and meet up later.  Hob lays down cover fire while the Turtles run off in pairs, but Raphael is quickly tranqed, leaving Donatello to carry him.  Leonardo and Michelangelo are soon subdued by a microwave transmitter mounted on an assault van.  Hob provides more cover fire and destroys the transmitter, but their escape is thwarted by the arrival of the mind-controlled Slash.


Before Slash/Bishop can pound them, Sally Pride arrives in the stolen EPF assault van and picks everybody up.  A chase follows, but Sally manages to ditch the EPF by driving off a bridge and sinking the van.  The Turtles, Hob and Sally then discretely swim back to the sewer access of the church lair.

In the lair, they're met by Mondo Gecko who shows them a news broadcast.  Detective Lewis is covering for the EPF, citing to the public that the chase and bridge crash was just a "training exercise".  Mondo then hands Donnie the data files he got from the EPF, but they turn out to be nothing put human resource documents with names, addresses, next of kin and so on.  The Turtles and Sally begin arguing over what their next move should be; Raph and Sally wanting to storm the EPF while Donnie and Leo think they should hold off since they're clearly outgunned.  Mikey then notices that Hob is missing along with the EPF's HR files.


At the Senior Living Center, Hob finds Agent Bishop's father and forces him at gunpoint to call his son and tell him that the monsters have found him...


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #68.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #70.

*If you're curious how everyone swims from the bridge to the lair so fast, it's actually consistent with TMNT (IDW) #48.  Hooray for spatial awareness!

*This issue was originally published with 7 variant covers: Regular Cover by Santolouco, Subscription Cover by Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga, Retailer Incentive Cover by Nick Roche and Tomi Varga, El Paso Comic Con Exclusive Cover by Eastman, Fried Pie Con Exclusive Cover by Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel, Excelsior Collectibles Exclusive Cover by Alex Kotkin, and Planet Comic Con Exclusive Cover by Eastman.


Review:

So all that clumsy exposition about how Agent Bishop's father founded the EPF back in TMNT (IDW) #67 kinda pays off in this issue, though not in a way that excuses the wall of text from the earlier installment.  Maybe instead of having Bishop recite the history of the EPF and Dark Water (is it one word or two?  Fuck, I dunno) to Colonel Knight, they could have used that issue as an opportunity to introduce Bishop's dad and then framed the info-drop differently.  I think it would have paid off better than to have Old Man Bishop introduced and put in harm's way in the same issue.  But hey, I don't get paid to write these things.  (I don't get paid to review them, either.)

Still, even if we don't have the deepest emotional connection to Bishop's dad, I think we can at least appreciate the situation as presented and the lengths Hob is going to in order to get even with his foe.  Taking a senile geriatric hostage is low, but Hob is an "ends justify the means" kind of guy.  And even if he's threatening to splatter the brains of a geezer, he's doing it to try and get his friends released from the EPF.  It's another good example of that balance Hob's had going for him; he does the wrong things for the right reasons.

In terms of script, the scene where Bishop talks to his dad is a bit eye-opening for the character.  All other media portrayals of Bishop present him as a cold and distant individual (the 4Kids incarnation is an immortal super-human who was abducted and experimented on by aliens, the Nickelodeon version is an Utrom in a robot body), so to see him sharing a tender moment with a beloved family member is new ground for the character.  It also conveniently opens up a weakness for Hob to exploit in the same issue its introduced, but that's writing economy for you.

The script does this weird thing, too, where we're given the first and last name of the nurse who wheels Old Man Bishop away ("Angie Starks").  It's emphasized and drawn out, like knowing her full name is important.  If she doesn't wind up doing something substantial in later issues then I'll really be at a loss as to why Waltz and co. were so desperate for readers to know her full name.

Aside from that opening bit with Bishop's pop, this installment is mostly action and boy is it something.  I love conflicts where the Turtles are up against serious odds and wind up taking it on the chin, and this issue doesn't disappoint.  The Turtles and Hob get absolutely wrecked and their slapdash plan crumbles as soon as it starts ("Split up and I'll cover you!  Oh god never mind just run!").  There's also a nice change from suspense to humor once Sally shows up and the car chase is allowed to get a little goofy.  Keeps you on your toes.

The mood whiplash in general is something I don't mind, as whenever the book starts to get TOO intense, they dial it back and remind us that this is "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" we're dealing with so don't take it TOO seriously, but then we get an old man held up at gunpoint and things get dark again.

While the stuff with Old Man Bishop could have been paced out a bit better, I'm still enjoying the heck out of this arc.  Lots of Mutanimals, lots of Bishop and lots of Santolouco.  Couldn't ask for more.