Saturday, June 27, 2015

Acting Out!


Originally published in TMNT New Animated Adventures #24
Publication date: June 24, 2015

Story: Matthew K. Manning
Art: Marcelo Ferreira
Ink assist: Athila Fabbio
Colors: Heather Breckel
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow

“Acting Out!”

Summary:

At Purple Dragon HQ, three of the Dragons are sick to death of eating homemade spaghetti.  They decide to head over to Restaurant Row and steal some cash and some food.

On the rooftops, it’s Mikey’s turn to pick their training exercise and he wants to roleplay as Super Robo Mecah Force Five.  Mikey is Captain Dash Coolstar, Donnie is Dr. Blip, Leo is Squeakums the Space Chimp and Raph is the villain, Cyberoid X.  Although Raph thinks the whole thing is lame, he follows Leo’s advice to humor Mikey and play.

Down below, the Dragons are about to knock over an Italian joint when suddenly they see the silhouettes of the Turtles on the roof for a split second.  Scared, they decide to try their luck someplace else.


On the roof, the Turtles don’t even know about the Dragons.  Raph is phoning in his performance while Mikey gets so into it that he throws a satellite dish off the roof, pretending it’s a discus.

Meanwhile, the Dragons are about to rob a French restaurant when the dish plows into them.  They see the silhouettes of the Turtles and decide to look elsewhere.


They settle on a trendy bakery and go around back.  That’s when Raph finally gets into his part as the villain and gives a tour de force monologue about destroying his enemies.  The Dragons are so scared, they run back to their hideouts.

The Turtles are impressed with Raph’s thespian skills, all having been unaware of the Dragons.  As for the Dragons, they decide to eat their slop and like it.


Turtle Tips:

*This is the last story in TMNT New Animated Adventures.  But the continuity will continue in TMNT Amazing Adventures #1.


Review:

With this being the last story published in New Animated Adventures, I want to talk about the comic as a whole.  But first, I’ll give my feelings on this story.

The plot is only okay; it sort of feels like something we’ve seen before.  The Turtles are training/playing and along the way they thwart a crime without even realizing it.  I know we’ve seen that setup somewhere else.  It’s not a bad comedy relief plot and I enjoyed a lot of the dialogue between the three Purple Dragons, who have a lot of personality for such a short story.

The visual execution from Ferreira is more impressive.  As the Turtles play, they’re constantly followed by the floating heads of the Robo Mecha Force Five characters they’re pretending to be, giving us a picture-in-picture view of their imaginations.  It was a neat effect.  There’s also a gag where Mikey opens his mouth, but delivers a blank speech bubble, intimating the bad dubbing of the anime show they’re recreating.

It was an alright back up with some very nice art and a few gags that stand out.

As for New Animated Adventures, well, this book has been in trouble for quite a while.  I’m surprised it managed to last a full two years, admittedly.

For a while now, issues have been moving only 5-6,000 units (according to Diamond) and that’s really bad.  It’s been a low seller, which doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the title in any way, but it most certainly hasn’t been attracting a wide readership.

New Animated Adventures changed a lot over the course of its run.  It started out as full length stories, then moved on to anthology status with 2-3 isolated tales per issue, then finally settled on a serialized two-parter with an episodic back-up.  You can see how the title was trying pretty hard to find a system that worked.  For what it’s worth, I think the format they ultimately settled on was their best bet, though they should have taken the serialized segment further than just two-parters (which often simply felt like a single issue story that got bisected).

The book hadn't been bad for what it was, but there was just no… hook.  Nothing to force readers to come back for more.  The episodic tales felt inconsequential and you could miss a dozen installments and feel at a loss for nothing.  If the A story had been an ongoing continuity (and the B story an episodic back-up), then that might have made for the hook to keep people reading from month to month.

But I suppose the big hurdle had been the fact that New Animated Adventures had to stick to the continuity of the TV series without ever disrupting it or contradicting it.  That meant that by its very nature, New Animated Adventures could never tell stories that mattered.  There could never be any impact.  No decisive battles with any enemies, no character development, no ongoing storylines with resolutions, no nothing.  The Turtles couldn’t even fight the Shredder because that might contradict one of the Shredder fights in the show, which the cartoon uses sparingly for punctuation in the season narratives.

So there was just no draw.  There were many good stories in New Animated Adventures, but they always, ALWAYS had to put things back the way they were before they started.  Because otherwise they’d contradict the show.

The good news is that Amazing Adventures, at least according to editor Bobby Curnow, has been given license to deviate from the continuity of the cartoon.  How much they’ll deviate, like if they’ll go full Archie, only time will tell.

I hope Amazing Adventures finds the sort of footing New Animated Adventures never did.  I enjoy the Nickelodeon incarnation of the TMNT and want to see more of them, but I was getting pretty bored with these episodic tales that had to constantly pick up after themselves.  Here’s hoping the new volume does something fresh or at least gives us a fight with the fucking Shredder.  I mean jeez.

Grade: C+ (as in, “Can’t say I really liked the Mecha Force Five show-in-show gag.  It was no Space Heroes”.)


Favorite Haunt, Part 2


Originally published in TMNT New Animated Adventures #24
Publication date: June 24, 2015

Story: Matthew K. Manning
Art: Chad Thomas
Ink assist: Athila Fabbio
Colors: Heather Breckel
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow

“Favorite Haunt, Part 2”

Summary:

Just outside the lair, the Ghost Tracker Rebecca and her crew think they’re about to uncover a portal to the afterlife (not a portal to the Ninja Turtles).  Inside the lair, Leo comes up with a plan to lure them away from lair’s entrance.  Together, the Turtles gather up the ghost samurai costumes they’d just used to scare Mikey.


Wearing the costumes, the Turtles first lead the Ghost Trackers away from the lair, getting them lost in the maze of sewer pipes.  Once that’s done, Mikey begins chasing them back up to the surface, getting rid of them once and for all.

Leo, Raph and Donnie ditch their disguises, figuring their problems are solved.  Of course, that’s just when the three Squirrelanoids drops down from the pipes above and attack.  The Turtles have their hands full keeping the monsters at bay and all hope seems lost when they’re backed into a corner…


But then Mikey shows up!  His flashlight casts the shadow of his ghostly costume against a wall and the sheets make him look like the silhouette of a large, predatory bird.  The Squirrelanoids scamper into a drainage valve in fear and the Turtles lock them inside.

Raph hopes that after seeing what a bunch of wusses the Ghost Trackers are, Mikey will finally be over his ghost hunting reality shows.  Mikey is about to agree, when suddenly he feels a “cold spot” and runs away screaming in terror.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from “Favorite Haunt, Part 1”.

*There are only 3 Squirrelanoids in this issue, but the cover shows 4.  Shenanigans!


Review:

“Favorite Haunt” suffers from some poor pacing.  There are essentially three acts to this story (the Turtles scaring Mikey, Mikey scaring the Ghost Trackers, everyone fighting the Squirrelanoids), but the first act winds up getting the lion’s share and the last two acts are hurried to fit in what pages are left. 

I think what disappointed me most was that the Squirrelanoids wound up being shortchanged.  They fight the Turtles for two and a half pages total during this storyline, playing second fiddle to the dilemma with the Ghost Trackers.  While the suspense of the TV crew trying to uncover the lair wasn’t a bad idea by any means, it shouldn’t have taken so much priority over the actual monsters in this supposedly spooky story.

Some plot points are left unresolved, too.  After they get lost, the Ghost Trackers bring up that they can just use their EMF readers to find the entrance to the lair again.  Mikey scares them out of the sewers, but there’s nothing to keep them from coming back other than fear, I guess.  If Manning was going to bring up a plot point like that, then he should have come up with something to resolve it, even something as BS as Donnie building “an EMF jamming device” or whatever.

The story started off with promise, but feels like a victim of either poor pacing or lack of space to give the last two acts their share.  This probably would’ve made a good episode of the show, and I like the spirit of the three act build-up Manning was going for, but there needed to be better story distribution.

Grade: C- (as in, “Can the Squirrelanoids hibernate?  I mean, the Turtles are always locking them up in sewer pipes and septic tanks.  Are they feeding them in there or just leaving them to die?”)


Friday, June 26, 2015

TMNT New Animated Adventures #24


Publication date: June 24, 2015


Contents:

*"Favorite Haunt, Part 2"
*"Acting Out!"


Turtle Tips:

*This issue is continued from TMNT New Animated Adventures #23.  The series continues in TMNT Amazing Adventures #1.

*This issue was originally published with 2 variant covers: Regular Cover by Brizuela, and Subscription Cover by Patrick Parnell.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

TMNT Magazine (Panini) #25


Publication date: March 5 – April 1, 2015

Script: Sholly Fisch
Art: Iain Buchanan
Colours: Jason Cardy
Colour assist: J. Stayte, E. Pirrie, K. & C. Carter
Letters: Alex Foot

“Stroke of… Genius?”

Summary:

At Foot HQ, Baxter Stockman shows the Shredder his latest inventions: Killer robots based on the natural predators of the turtle.  Shredder is not impressed by the Cyber-Raccoon (of Doom), the Mecha-Squid (of Doom) or the Baxterbot (of Doom) and destroys them all. 

Baxter has one last invention, the Robo-Samurai (of Doom) and the Shredder, sick of this shit, sends his Footbots to destroy it.  But the Robo-Samurai is programmed with the skill of hundreds of martial arts masters and easily destroys the Footbots.  Intrigued, Shredder allows Baxter to sic the Robo-Samurai on the Turtles.


The Turtles, meanwhile, are out on a training run.  The Robo-Samurai attacks them in an alley and with minimal effort, defeats them all.  The Turtles, try as they might, cannot compete with the skills of hundreds of martial arts masters.

Baxter begins transmitting through a monitor in the robot’s face and starts to gloat.  The Turtles taunt him, tricking him into switching from automatic to manual so he can crush them himself.  This is a bad move, as he has no idea how to fight.  Don deduces that the Robo-Samurai’s weak points are its joints and the Turtles take it apart.


Back at Foot HQ, Shredder has watched the whole thing and wants to “reward” Baxter Stockman’s “genius”.  Baxter insists he has an even greater invention in the works: The Robo-Badger.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Magazine (Panini) #24.  The story continues in TMNT Magazine (Panini) #26.

*Shredder already tried to destroy the Turtles with a robot samurai (Chrome Dome) in the season 2 episode, “Target: April O’Neil”.  Chrome Dome appeared a few episodes later in “Vengeance is Mine”.  I guess Baxter missed those episodes.


Review:

I think the drawback of this adventure is that it’s a lot of “been there, done that”.  The Turtles fight robot ninja all the time and fought Chrome Dome (a robot samurai) once before, already.  So another robot samurai doesn’t seem particularly exciting or threatening.  There’s a throwaway line in there from Raph about how often they fight robot martial artists, but it seems more like Fisch is trying to cover tracks.

The bright side is that this is the most substantial appearance from the Shredder in ANY of the comics (US or UK) based on the Nick cartoon.  Some stupid, self-imposed rule keeps the Shredder on the sidelines because the writers don’t want to interfere with the show’s continuity, so he’s hardly appeared thus far in either book.

Fisch finds an interesting way to give the Shredder screen time without having to pit him directly against the Turtles.  He’s still micro-managing, but at least he gets some dialogue and screen time.  I don’t really like Shredder as an armchair antagonist, but those are the cards these Nick-based comics have been dealt, I suppose.

The resolution is pretty stupid and sloppy, though.  This was a double-length story, but still felt terribly rushed.