Saturday, July 19, 2014

So what happened to the old images?



All images on the site from 2008 through 2010 got deleted.

I dunno how it happened.  I was cleaning out my Google+ image folder and somehow two years worth of TMNT Entity images, which I didn't intend to delete, got thrown out (and I emptied the trash, too, so there's no restoring them).

So I'm gonna have to go back and rescan and reupload them all for the site.  I guess some good will come of it, since those older images could not be enlarged (Blogger had image data size caps back then) and now I can add them to the articles in higher quality.

But still.  Pain in the ass.  And it also means reviews are gonna be taking a break until I can get this over with.  Boooo.



Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #28


Publication date: October 2006

Story: Steve Murphy
Art: Steve Rolston
Letters: Eric Talbot
Frontispiece: Andy MacDonald

“Shanghaied”

Summary:

Frontispiece: In an alley somewhere, Raphael is doing battle with a giant praying mantis-man.  He says he hates a lot of things, especially aliens that have no right messing with Earth.  One thing he LOVES, however, is a cold beer.  That reminds him of a story…

At Wally’s, a bar that serves both Earthlings and aliens, Raphael is enjoying a drink when he notices the guy next to him looks familiar.  He strikes up a conversation with him and it turns out the barfly is Cha Ocho, the Foot Soldier Leonardo scarred to “make a point”.  Raph asks Cha if he’s still with the Foot Clan and Cha says yeah, but that he hasn’t been called into work for a while.  Raph asks the bartender, Cookie, to bring them both a couple of boilermakers.


Cookie steps into the backroom and is gone for a while, then returns with the drinks.  As soon as Raph and Cha imbibe them, though, they pass out.  “Cookie” then carries the two drunks, as well as the unconscious body of the real Cookie, to a trap door.  “Cookie” turns out to be a robot using a holographic disguise.  The robot then binds Raph and Cha and loads them onto a conveyer built, carrying them through a series of tunnels toward a spaceship.


Raph and Cha come to, but only after they’ve been brought into the ship.  They break their bonds and begin attacking the robots.  Seeing the hatch closing, Raph jams it with a sai so they can escape.  Unfortunately, the spaceship (which was disguised as an abandoned tenement down the street) has already begun takeoff.  The two leap from the ship and manage to tumble down into a pile of trash.


As they recover, they ponder whether the people and aliens that were kidnapped will be used for slave labor or food.  Limping out of the garbage, they both agree they need a stiff drink after that caper.  They decide not to go back to Wally’s, though.


Turtle Tips:

*As Cha Ocho says he hasn’t done any work for the Foot Clan in a while, this story likely takes place during the 6 month time gap in TMNT (Vol. 4) #5.

*Leonardo scarred Cha Ocho’s face in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #6.  Ocho will return in TMNT (Vol. 4) #6.

*Raphael’s friendship with Cha Ocho will continue into the future, as seen in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #69.

*This issue also featured a bonus story, “The Channeling” by Fernando Pinto.


Review:

This is a really short tale, not so much because of length (22 pages) but because it reads FAST.  Rolston lays the pages out with large, “widescreen” panels that span the entire width of the page and you’ll rarely encounter more than four panels at a time.  He and Murphy also make use of extended silences which, again, makes the reading experience fly by.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.  I’ve complained about decompression before, in story’s like “Donatello: The Brain Thief”, but the difference here is that this is a one-off scenario and not an extended narrative.  And the “fly by the seat of your pants” story works well with the hasty panel work, as the pages whisk by.  Yeah, it only took me 5 minutes to read, but I found this is one of those Tales of the TMNT issues I really remember.

It’s something of a sequel to “Scars” in that, chronologically, this is our second glimpse of Cha Ocho.  I wasn’t too kind in my appraisal of “Scars” and I had a bone to pick with Ocho.  That bone, though, had more to do with the fact that he was so heavily built up and then nobody did anything with him afterward; he was all hype.  “Shanghaied” is one of the few stories to actually try and follow through on the promises from “Scars” and it gives us a glimmer of the character Ocho could have been if the writers had felt compelled to develop him beyond an origin.

The idea present here is that Ocho hates Leonardo… so naturally he and Raphael get along swimmingly.  It’s an interesting exploration of both their characters, as neither seems to hold any animosity toward the other despite their allegiances.  Ocho’s hatred of Leo doesn’t extend to Raph and likewise Raph doesn’t want to pummel Ocho just for being Foot.  It’s a levelheaded look at the characters, who are both known for being impulsive and letting their anger get the better of them.

And, again, it all winds up being an almost-completely discarded concept.  The idea that Leo and Ocho are bitter rivals but Raph and Leo are drinking buddies never got utilized beyond this tale.  “Dark Shadows” is the only story, I think, that ever references Raph and Ocho’s friendship again.

The overall conflict, the robots harvesting Earthlings (and aliens visiting Earth), is neat because it’s one of those moments where the bad guys aren’t fleshed out or given motivations or defeated.  Raph and Ocho stumble into their trap, escape by the skin of their teeth and just move on with their lives.  They don’t play the heroes or anything like that.  It’s very different from the usual stuff, making it rather light reading, but also unique.  In terms of the chronology, I like to think this happens during the time gap early in Volume 4 (because of Ocho’s statement about his employment frequency).  The idea that these people-harvesters immediately descend upon a new planet contacted by the Utroms shows how Earth attracts the best and worst of the alien cultures via First Contact.

“Shanghaied” is a pretty good tale, if a very short and sweet one.  It’s one of the few to try and live up to Cha Ocho’s hype and if we’d had more of these he might not have been such an embarrassment.  It definitely stands out in the Tales of the TMNT canon and is worth a look.


Grade: B+ (as in, “But those robots kinda reminded me of big versions of the robots Gyro Gearloose used on DuckTales”.)

Caught on Camera


Originally published in: TMNT Magazine (Panini) #16
Publication date: June 26 – July 23, 2014

Script: Ed Caruana
Art: Bob Molesworth
Colours: Jason Cardy
Colour assist: James Stayte
Letters: Alex Foot

“Caught on Camera”

Summary:

In his lab, Donatello is putting the finishing touches on the closed circuit TV security system he just installed throughout the lair.

Looking in on the kitchen cam, he sees Raphael moping over the loss of Spike.  Thinking he’s alone, Raph carves a watermelon into the shape of Spike and pretends his buddy has come back to him.  Raph then sees the hidden camera and realizes Donnie was watching him the whole time.


Through the dojo cam, Don sees Leonardo practicing… sort of.  Leo is pretending to be a great hero that is the idol of millions and the purveyor of justice, with lots of corny speeches to go around.  Leo sees the hidden camera and feels fatally embarrassed.

And in the living room, Michelangelo is dressed like the Shredder and giving a speech about how only the orange bandana-ed Turtle is powerful enough to stop him.  Mikey sees a wax pizza with the camera hidden in it and, thinking it real, eats the camera.

Donnie has a good laugh at the idiocy of his brothers and then checks back on the living room cam.  He sees Leo doting over Raph, who is in pain.  Raph says something at the Kraang facility they raided the other night bit him.  Suddenly, six tentacles burst out of Raph’s shell.


Don immediately runs out to the living room to help him, only to find it was all a prank.  His brothers “encourage” him to stop spying on them.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from “One False Move”.  The story continues in TMNT Magazine (Panini) #17.

*Spike mutated into Slash and left Raph in the season 2 episode “Slash and Destroy”.


Review:

A cute little story, but not much to say about it, otherwise.

You’ve got Raph lamenting over Spike becoming Slash and leaving him, which the cartoon didn’t spend much time on.  I mean, unless it was specifically a Slash episode; then Raph could get all sad again.  But if Slash wasn’t in the episode, then Raph couldn’t care less.  Kid's cartoons have short term memories like that.

But anyway, if you look at this as a story about Raph and Spike, then it kind of pairs nicely with “Taken” from TMNT Magazine #4.  So there’s that.


Grade: Meh.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TMNT (IDW) #36


Publication date: July 16, 2014

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow and Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Mateus Santolouco, Mark Torres (pgs 1, 12-13), Cory Smith (page 22)
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
“The Pied Piper of Hamelin” (1842) written by: Robert Browning

Summary:

The tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is retold as a strange figure plays the flute in a dark place.

Down in the lair, Leonardo and Splinter can’t come to a consensus on their priorities.  Splinter wants to deal with the Foot Clan immediately, while Leo feels that General Krang presents the more pressing threat.  Having gotten nowhere, they decide to take a walk around the sewers.

On the streets, Casey is hanging around outside the Second Time Around shop when he hears two people talking about breaking in.  He confronts them and discovers that it’s April’s parents who don't have keys.  They tell him that they’re moving back into the shop’s apartment but didn't want to bug April for a spare set.  Mrs. O’Neil is horrified at the bruises Hun has left on Casey and insists he come in to rest.


Down in the tunnels, Leo and Splinter tell one another about the visions they had of Tang Shen.  Leo is confused, as he recalls Splinter telling him that, in his days as Hamato Yoshi, he promised Shen that he would not seek vengeance upon the Foot.  Splinter laments that the promise was made in a previous life and that it was a promise to protect his sons; a promise he failed to fulfill because he DIDN’T take action against the Foot.  Suddenly, everything goes dark.


When the lights come back on, Splinter and Leo are paralyzed and trapped in a desolate throne room surrounded by rats.  On the ruined throne is a gaunt, verminous man who introduces himself as the Rat King.  He says that they’re in a mystical realm called a Thin Place and he has used his spiritual powers to paralyze them.  While he’s curious about Splinter, the Rat King is disgusted by Leo as he reeks of his "sister’s work”.  The Rat King explains that he is ages old and that his family has competed to rule all through various games.  At one point, he was even the Pied Piper of legend.  He infers that all that has occurred in their lives has been arranged by his family as if it were a game of chess.


Whilst reciting the ballad of the Pied Piper, the Rat King makes his move and tests Splinter.  Splinter is confronted by Dark Leo.  Dark Leo accuses Splinter of failing him and attacks.  Splinter overcomes the psychological attack and refuses to fight back, admitting to his past failures and vowing to make up for them by taking action.  The Rat King is amused by Splinter’s devotion to his sons and decides to move on.

Leo's test sees him confronted by a monstrous version of Splinter.  The evil Splinter admonishes Leo for being a failure, but right off the bat Leo isn’t falling for it.  Recalling what the Rat King said about him reeking of his “sister’s” work, Leo realizes that the Rat King is the brother of Kitsune and that all of this is in his head.  He slices the evil Splinter in the arm before attacking the Rat King directly.  The Rat King is fascinated that Leo was able to turn Kitsune’s attack on his psyche into a spiritual strength.

Suddenly, Leo and Splinter find themselves back in the lair.  The Rat King informs them that they are highly interesting pieces in the game.  He tells them that soon it will be his turn to move and that Leo may be the piece he chooses.  He then erases their memories of the encounter and vanishes.  Leo notices that Splinter has cut his arm, but neither recall where the injury came from.  Leo suddenly has an epiphany about “turning a weakness into a strength” and announces he knows how to beat the Shredder.


Speaking of whom, the Shredder arrives on Burnow Island and approaches General Krang…


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #35.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #37.

*Tang Shen appeared to Leo and Splinter through their dreams in TMNT (IDW) #30.  Splinter, as Hamato Yoshi, made his promise to Tang Shen not to seek revenge against the Foot in TMNT (IDW) #5.

*This issue was originally published with 4 variant covers: Cover A by Santolouco, Cover B by Eastman and Pattison, Cover RI by Mark Torres, and Cover RE by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird and Steve Lavigne.

*This issue also included character design sketches of the Rat King by Santolouco.


Review:

The Rat King.  My all-time favorite TMNT villain.  I could write a whole article about him, and I probably will, but the glorious thing about the Rat King is that no two incarnations are alike.  They aren’t just different, every Rat King is RADICALLY different with only the vaguest similarities in terms of abilities and aesthetics binding them together as the same individual.  And that’s one of the character’s greatest strengths; his malleability and potential to be reinterpreted in any number of different ways, yet always retaining some fundamental essence that reassures you he is… The Rat King.

So this time around, he’s a supernatural entity of undefined origin, the feuding brother of Kitsune making a bid for world conquest, and also the literal Pied Piper of Hamelin.  Hey, in one universe he was a half-clone/half-robot that made Six Million Dollar Man sound effects while doing the Hurricane Kick from Street Fighter.  He’s been through weirder phases is all I’m saying.

When the Rat King was teased in the final page of the previous issue, I was wondering if he was going to be tied into anything else going on in this book’s mythology.  There hadn’t been any build-up or foreshadowing for the character, at least not obviously, and characters don’t just step out of the blue in this book.  Tying him in with Kitsune, who is still a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a kimono, gives him a place within the complex tapestry of IDW’s Ninja Turtles universe while also allowing him to be a “surprise” villain.  Bebop and Rocksteady required two agonizing years of build-up while the Rat King just shows up fully formed and all “sup guys” in a single issue.  Go figure.

Like everything else, he is now inextricably tied into the aforementioned tapestry that makes the IDW universe so lush (if a little less “random” since absolutely everything is interconnected in some way).  And it makes you wonder more about Kitsune’s deal, which is something I’ll admit I haven’t given much thought, and what her sincere motivations are.  Apparently she’s out to rule the world, so is the Shredder just another pawn in her “game” with her brother?  And exactly HOW MANY of the events in this book’s timeline have been arranged as part of their “game”?  Did they have a hand in the reincarnation of Yoshi and his sons?  And how is their supernatural angle going to collide with General Krang’s sci-fi based angle?

Again, more teeeaaasssiiinnnggg.  Which is something this book has been really good at since it started.

There are some interesting reflections going on in this story, as Splinter and Leo both discuss their mutual visions of Tang Shen for the first time and Leo straight up calls Splinter out on his promise.  Splinter’s excuse starts out rather flimsy (“It doesn’t count if you get reincarnated”), but escalates into something of a bit more substance (“No, I promised to protect and look at what a good job doing jack shit did”).  What the Rat King ends up doing with his Dark Leo scenario is to fortify Splinter’s conviction that Shredder must be dealt with.  Incidentally, the Shredder is Kitsune’s pawn in the “game”, so that works out nicely for him.  Likewise, he leaves Leo with a lingering sense of inspiration that I assume will result in his trying to play Shredder and Krang against one another.  It might sound obvious in summary, but the execution was subtle and thought-provoking.

Santolouco’s interpretation of the Rat King is, like many others, a total departure and highly original.  Yet he still retains those basic Rat King-isms that make him identifiable as the character; tattered bandages and a propensity for living in squalor.  Santolouco gives the Rat King this gaunt, Count Orlok-like appearance that invokes the zombie-esque version from the Nickelodeon cartoon (while the balding skull with flowing cape of hair invokes Riffraff from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and intentional or not I’m a-ok with it).  Again, it speaks to how open to interpretation the Rat King is, which has always been his greatest strength.

All in all, this was a wonderful issue not just because of all the back story elaboration, plot thread dropping, or even the introduction of a classic villain.  I think it worked because save for that brief diversion with Casey, the whole issue was a singularly focused story.  Your attention isn’t pulled in twelve different directions at once (which this book can be guilty of doing from time to time) and you really get to invest in the depth of this one adventure.


Grade: A (as in “And I didn’t even comment on Krang and Shredder properly meeting for the first time.  That’s kind of a big deal”.)