Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TMNT: Turtles in Time #4


 Publication date: September 17, 2014

Writer: Paul Allor
Artist: Dan Duncan
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow

“Turtles in Time, Part 4”

Summary:

The Turtles blip into a futuristic Manhattan populated entirely by mutants.  Intrigued, they decide to get some sushi and reflect on how swell this world is.  A fish-girl at the restaurant fawns over them, explaining how she always wanted to be a ninja but her master wouldn’t let her.  Donatello tells her that she needs a new master and should follow her own path, but his words arouse the suspicions of a nearby gang.  Apparently, that sort of talk is considered treason on “Shredder Island” and a fight breaks out.  The Turtles flee (running past several humans being rounded up by Foot Clan officers) and make their way to the nearest manhole.  Unbeknownst to them, Renet arrives seconds late, but soon enough to trip the thugs that are chasing them.


The Turtles find sanctuary in their old lair, but also find a map with grim tidings.  Apparently, in this future, Shredder controls North and South America, General Krang controls Asia, Europe and Africa, and Baxter Stockman controls Australia.  Then, Renet blips into the lair, having fixed her time scepter.  She explains that after their first adventure, the Turtles absorbed an excess of quantum particles, which is why they were suddenly sent hurtling across time and space.  Raphael wants to know why they went to time periods very specific to their history and Renet suggests that the “universe” was guiding them in an attempt to teach them a lesson.

Suddenly, they’re greeted by Future-Don, an old man and the last of the Ninja Turtles.  They ask him what happened and Future-Don tells his younger self that he gave up on fighting and in doing so, his brothers were killed and the last of the resistance rounded up.  Donnie is mortified and insists on restoring the resistance before they all head back to their present.  Future-Don says that the last of the resistance are scheduled to be publically executed in only a few hours.  Don forces his future self to guide them to where the executions will be taking place.


In a public square, a walrus-mutant is about to kill the humans they rounded up earlier when the Turtles storm the platform.  Future-Don joins the fray, feeling the fight return to him.  Don attempts to free one of the soldiers, but the man is executed.  He gets the rest free (including one with a scarred face), but the walrus-mutant intervenes before they can escape.  He’s summarily shot by the fish-girl from the sushi restaurant who says that Donatello inspired her earlier to fight back and follow her own path.  She joins them in escaping, following Future-Don back the lair while the Turtles keep the Foot clan at bay.  They’re then menaced by an older, more demonic-looking Shredder flanked by dozens of Bebop and Rocksteady clones.  He attempts to strike, but Renet sends them home before his blade can connect.


In the lair, the scar-faced man, actually Woody and leader of the resistance, asks Future-Don to consider returning to the fight to inspire and lead the people.  Future-Don holds his old purple bandana and considers it.

In the present, the Turtles reflect on the future they’ve seen.  Donatello is racked with guilt, especially because he has, in fact, considered giving up the fight many times.  Leonardo repeats what Renet said, that the “universe” was trying to teach them something.  Don is confused and unsure what to do.  Michelangelo tells him that all they CAN do is keep fighting.  Don is satisfied with that.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT: Turtles in Time #3.

*The future in which Shredder and Krang wage war upon one another was first glimpsed in TMNT Villains Micro Series #8: Shredder.  The older, more demonic version of the Shredder was also seen inhabiting the afterlife in that issue, as well.

*The Turtles had their first adventure with Renet, and absorbed the quantum particles, in TMNT Annual 2014.

*This issue was originally published with 2 variant covers: Regular Cover by David Peterson, and Subscription Cover by Dan Duncan.


Review:

Alright, before I get ahead of myself by talking about Turtles in Time as a whole, let’s discuss this single issue.  It’s rather… formulaic.  I mean, it’s really formulaic.  Every cliché of the “characters go to a future ruled by the bad guy and inspire the masses to fight back” plot is present as a matter of obligation and it’s all rather graceless.  I mean, the script follows the guidelines right down to having the character the heroes briefly talk to at the beginning show up to save the day at the end because they “inspired” her.

Hey, remember that episode of “Darkwing Duck” where Darkwing goes into an alternate universe ruled by Negaduck and inspires the local heroes to resist the fascist tyranny before going home?  Heck, remember that episode of the 4Kids NINJA TURTLES cartoon where Donatello goes to an alternate future ruled by the Shredder and inspires the future Turtles to resist the fascist tyranny before going home?

I’m sure if I spent 5 minutes on TV Tropes I could come up with a dozen more doppelgangers of this story right down to the letter, but do I really need to?  In the end, the dull familiarity made for a very boring, predictable read.  For all my grievances with the last issue, it was at least a fun (if rushed) tale of rascally hijinks that felt spontaneous and original.  This was writing by formula and for a tale all about “inspiring” others, this was an utterly uninspired script.

On the other hand, it does fit into the massive tapestry of IDW’s TMNT universe, following up on the glimpse of a dystopian future we saw in the Shredder micro, as well as the Shredder’s older form.  It also reads well after the one-shot story in TMNT (IDW) #37, where Shredder and Krang officially declare war on one another.  The release of these two issues was well-timed, as they complement each other nicely.  So while the story is nothing fresh, it has its place in the grand scheme of this narrative. 

Now, for those patiently waiting for a flashback or a circular storytelling gimmick or SOMETHING to explain the in medias res beginning of this miniseries… too bad.  In fact, if you were reading this issue on auto-pilot and not really digesting the dialogue, you may have even missed the explanation.  Offhandedly, Renet mutters some mumbo jumbo about “quantum particles” and that’s all we get.  I guess it didn’t really need anything more than that.

Looking at the whole Turtles in Time miniseries, I think it was a lot of fun, even if it ended on a bland note.  The tonal pacing was rather bipolar (fun-serious-fun-serious), and the time period one-shot nature of each chapter sometimes forced storytelling truncations, but the end ultimately justified the means.  We got a lot of crazy situations out of this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants storyline and it sewed up a handful of loose threads that might have been dangling from the ends of the aforementioned IDW TMNT tapestry.  Each issue also served, sort of, as a spotlight on each Turtle and nobody felt shortchanged.  While I didn’t care for this chapter much, the whole miniseries was pretty cool.  Confusing, thanks to all the delays and scheduling bullshit, but pretty cool.

Grade: D (as in, “Doesn’t the ‘footprint’ style Foot Clan symbol represent the Feudal Era incarnation of the clan while the ‘claw’ style symbol represents the modern incarnation of the clan, at least in the IDW universe?  Or was future-Shredder just feeling nostalgic and changed the logo to Foot Clan Classic?  It’s not important.”)


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Splinter's Game


Originally published in: TMNT New Animated Adventures #15
Publication date: September 10, 2014

Story: Bobby Curnow
Art: Chad Thomas
Colors: Heather Breckel
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow

“Splinter’s Game”

Summary:

In the living room, Mikey trounces Raph in a game of Ninja Ultra Fury on their Legal-Approximation-Of-A-Playstation.  Mikey asks Master Splinter if he’d like to try and Splinter agrees.  Having never played a video game before, he completely fails at it and loses instantly.


That night, while the Turtles sleep, Splinter returns to the game with ultimate focus.  For several more nights, he trains, and in doing so, he “becomes the game”.

At breakfast, Splinter asks Mikey if he’d like to partake in a rematch of Ninja Ultra Fury… on max difficulty.  Mikey declines, saying he’s bored with the game and has moved on to a new title.  Splinter momentarily freaks out in frustration, at least until he notices Leo and Don watching him.  Then he tells them to forget what they’ve seen.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from “The Adventures of Ice Cream Kitty”.  The story continues in TMNT New Animated Adventures #16.


Review:

TMNT editor Bobby Curnow has been credited on “story” for much of IDW’s ongoing TMNT series, but I think this is his very first Turtle script.  It’s a fun little 4 pager, in a way reminiscent of the old Fred Wolf TMNT episode “Leonardo vs. Tempestra”.  In that one, the no-nonsense train-a-holic Leonardo gets obsessed with mastering a video game.  Here, much the same happens with Master Splinter.

Beyond that, it’s sort of a one-punchline kind of comic, though the Engrish phrases were kind cute.

Grade: B (as in, “But I guess I kind of prefer these short gag strips over the ‘what I learned today’ centerpiece stories”.)



The Adventures of Ice Cream Kitty


Originally published in: TMNT New Animated Adventures #15
Publication date: September 10, 2014

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

“The Adventures of Ice Cream Kitty”

Summary:

In the kitchen, Leo opens the freezer for an ice pack because Raph took sparring a little too far.  After some verbal sparring, the two Turtles begin fighting… leaving the freezer door open.  Ice Cream Kitty, defender of the city, awakens for her evening justice patrol!  Recalling her epic origin in which a genius (Michelangelo) gave her super powers, she journeys to the surface to fight crime as only she can.

Back in the lair, Mikey notices that the freezer door is open and Ice Cream Kitty is MIA.  He freaks out, but Donnie figures they can just follow her trail of melted ice cream.

On the streets, Ice Cream Kitty notices a bank robber and oozes into action.  The thief slips on her puddle of melted ice cream and knocks himself out.  The day is saved!  The Turtles then arrive and Mikey places the half-melted cat in a cooler and returns her to the freezer.


The next evening, Raph opens the freezer for an ice pack after Leo takes sparring a little too far.  The two begin to fight, leaving the freezer door wide open.  Ice Cream Kitty awakens, ready for another night of crime fighting!


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from “Training Trap”.  The story continues in “Splinter’s Game”.

*Ice Cream Kitty first appeared in the season 2 episode “Of Rats and Men”.


Review:

Well, we have a winner for best story in this issue.  And it’s Ice Cream Kitty!  Because of course it is.

I think this was Manning’s first story in New Animated Adventures, but he writes a really fun and goofy short strip that forgoes the formulas that have made many of these New Animated Adventures stories a little repetitive.  It’s just a silly yarn that gets inside the head of Ice Cream Kitty and gives us insight on how she sees herself and the Turtles (she looks at Mikey as the “genius” who gave her “super powers”).

The narration (which may be Ice Cream Kitty’s inner monologue or might just be 3rd person description) puts a neat spin on things while simultaneously making Ice Cream Kitty’s predicament seem more bearable.  She doesn’t see herself as a tortured monster locked in a cage, but as a cool superhero with a loving family and an adventurous life.  So I don’t feel so sorry for her being cooped up in that freeze all the time anymore.

Only 4 pages, but a cute 4 pages.

Grade: B+ (as in, “But wait, Ice Cream Kitty is a girl?  Does Kevin Eastman know?”)


Training Trap


Originally published in: TMNT New Animated Adventures #15
Publication date: September 10, 2014

Story: Landry Q. Walker
Art: Dario Brizuela
Colors: Heather Breckel
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow

“Training Trap”

Summary:

Down in the lair, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo find a note from Leonardo.  Apparently, he’s set up a training obstacle course for them and whoever gets through it first will receive a prize.

At the abandoned underground water treatment plant, Leo has finished setting up his decidedly nonlethal obstacle course when he’s suddenly attacked by Fishface and a unit of Footbots.  With Leo chained up, the bad guys then get to work replacing all of the nonlethal traps with lethal ones.


The other Turtles soon arrive and begin their race through the course.  They’re immediately menaced by swinging blades, spring-loaded spikes and flesh-eating acid.  Raph and Mikey think Leo has gone insane, but Donnie figures someone else must have interfered and replaced all the traps.  However, if all they did was replace the traps, then the strategy to solve the obstacle course should remain the same.  They ruminate on this, trying to figure out what lesson Leo was trying to teach them that could get them through the course.  They settle on “teamwork”.

Using teamwork, they make it through the many deathtraps with ease and slaughter all the Footbots.  As they approach Fishface, the mutant puts a knife to Leo’s throat and threatens to kill him.  Luckily, Leo has used the time to get loose from his chains and belts Fishface in his fish-face, knocking him out.


Back at the lair, Leo presents the prize: A trophy for #1 Turtle.  He tells them they all earned it, but Raph insists that it was HIS idea to use teamwork, so he should get the trophy.  Raph immediately regrets being so greedy, as Mikey begins singing a congratulatory rap song in his honor.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT New Animated Adventures #14.  The story continues in “The Adventures of Ice Cream Kitty”.


Review:

Teamwork!  The answer to all of life’s problems.  I’m gonna feel sorry for the kids who grew up reading stories like this.  When they get to high school or college and have to work on group projects, they’re going to learn that sometimes 90% of your group are a bunch of lazy assholes and sometimes you’ve just got to do everything yourself.

Teamwork!  Yay!

This was another fun, lighthearted story.  A little dumb, but eh, it was a 10-page comedy relief piece that had to wrap everything up with a moral.  It was nice to see Fishface again, though he’s been reduced to a one-punch annoyance; a far-cry from the leg-fighting worthy adversary he was in the first season of the cartoon.  But all the villains in this series, be it in cartoon or comic formats, are victims of instantly decaying skill beyond their initial appearances.  So the portrayal’s just keeping consistent, I guess.

Hey, do you think Shredder is ever going to show up in this comic?  And do more than just sit on his throne, I mean.  With a little pixie dust, it could happen.

Grade: C (as in, “Could have been a B, but Brizuela misspelled ‘water’ on page 3”.)