Wednesday, August 16, 2017

TMNT: Dimension X #3

Publication date: August 16, 2017

Story: Aubrey Sitterson
Art: Khary Randolph
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams


The Turtles pull into the Intergalactic Wrestling Federation headquarters on Stump Asteroid to collect the third witness: Stump.  They arrive on the eve of Grappleganza, a main event where Cryin' Houn' will fact off against Antrax the Executioner.  Stump, backed by his partner Sling, isn't interested in ditching his big promotion to go testify in Krang's trial.  Leonardo reminds him that Krang clearcut his entire homeworld, but Stump reveals that he's the one who charged Krang for the lumber and made a tidy profit in the transaction.

The Turtles are at an impasse until Stump suggests that Raphael play a heel in Grappleganza and lose to Antrax in the opening match.  Raph reluctantly signs a contract to appear in the match, while Michelangelo enthusiastically signs on as his manager (oblivious to the fact that pro wrestling is rigged).  Raph proceeds to face Antrax in the ring and, defying Stump's orders, defeats him.

Stump feigns anger (having actually paid Antrax off to lose) and refuses to leave his asteroid since the Turtles broke their deal.  To make it up to him, Leonardo and Donatello offer to face Cryin' Houn' and his unknown partner in the ring and throw the match as planned.  Leo and Donnie become El Samurai and Superstar Donnie and enter the ring.  However, before Cryin' Houn' can call his pre-selected "surprise" partner from the audience, Hakk-R teleports into the middle of the ring, ready to attack Stump.

The Turtles and Cryin' Houn' take on Hakk-R and Donnie gets the better of him by finding the one part of his body that remains solid even when he shape-shifts.  Hakk-R taps out and then teleports away.  Stump then takes to the ring and tells the crowd (confused as to why Cryin' Houn' attacked his own partner) that he's fed up with their mouth-breathing antics and is taking Cryin' Houn' to a more sophisticated venue.  The crowd gets ugly and the Turtles barely make it to the Hot Rod with Stump and Houn'.

In the Hot Rod, Stump explains that it was all showmanship: Sling will stay behind and build Antrax back up, then he'll return with Cryin' Houn' and it'll be a multimedia event.  He then reminds the Turtles of the contracts they signed and that they'll be obligated to participate in that big return match.  Mikey expresses excitement when Raph finally snaps and tells him that pro wrestling is fake.  Cryin' Houn' takes offense to that accusation and attacks Raph.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT: Dimension X #2.  The story continues in TMNT: Dimension X #4.

*Not that I REALLY have to point it out, but this whole issue is a throwback to TMNT Adventures #7.

*Dask is shown flying the Hot Rod at the start of this issue, even though he was supposed to be staying behind on Neutrino as per TMNT (IDW) #73.  While the obvious No-Prize would be that he decided to join in when they dropped off the last witness, Dask talks with Zak's faux-beatnik lingo, so it's more likely an art error.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers; Cover A by Nick Pitarra and Chris Chuckry, Cover B by Khary Randolph, Incentive Cover by Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga.


While I've never been a big fan of wrestling, I always did like the space wrestling stuff in Archie's TMNT Adventures.  It was spontaneous and bizarre when introduced, but later proved to be a key part of the book's developing mythology.  The characters and setting would become a recurring aspect of the series and often take center stage in major storylines.  Looking back, the space wrestling was a very important part of TMNT Adventures.  Damn, that book was weird.

So an entire issue of Dimension X dedicated to revisiting that concept was just what I was looking for.  In fact, this issue seems to be the centerpiece of the Dimension X miniseries (both figuratively and literally).  The interconnecting Nick Pitarra covers are all themed around the wrestling setting and I don't think I'm out of line in suggesting that this was the story fans were most looking forward to in this miniseries.  Issues 4 and 5 are going to have a hard time topping this one.

While the homages are all very direct, writer Aubrey Sitterson puts a fresh spin on things, playing with the pre-determined results of pro wrestling matches and balancing them with the faux-spontaneity of "sudden upsets".  In the Archie series, the fights were staged as genuine battles with no set winner or loser, but this incarnation of the scenario is a bit truer to real pro wrestling, albeit with ant-people and Elvis-dogs.  It seems more well-versed in the antics of pro wrestling, from the manger jumping into the ring, to a tag team turning on each other, to the face getting full of himself and acting like a heel, and so on.  It's well-researched.

We get a bevy of familiar cameo characters in this issue.  Antrax being a wrestler rather than Krang's executioner was different, but I liked the angle.  It keeps the parts of the character that make him recognizable as Antrax but changes things up just enough to keep him fresh (and without going into "in name only" territory like the Antrax that appears in the Nickelodeon cartoon).  Cryin' Houn' being an Elvis parody was one of those things that SHOULDN'T have surprised me (because, well, his NAME), but I didn't see it coming and it got a good chuckle out of me when it happened.  A definite change to the character, but an improvement over the Tasmanian Devil-looking guy that just mumbled "My name" over and over again.

Alas, no Ace Duck!  They'd better have other plans for him is all I'm saying, because they missed their best opportunity to bring him on board.  (He's on the cover of issue #4 but I don't know if that means he's actually going to be in the comic or not; Cryin' Houn' is on the cover, but drawn closer to his Archie design, leaving me to think that it was just a reference to the TMNT Adventures comic and not an actual case of the character being in the book.)

Khary Randolph and John Rauch have a great rapport on pencils and colors with this issue.  Randolph's layouts are very heavy on perspective, with a lot of "looking up" and "looking down" angles.  It's awesome because it gives you a sense of scale when one wrestler towers over another or when one character leaps into the ring and is coming down with an elbow drop.  Rauch's colors, meanwhile, give you that sense of center ring spotlighting.  Characters in the ring tend to be bathed in red and orange, while characters outside the ropes have drearier colors with highlights to make them blend into the shadows but still recognizably stand out.

I think the only thing getting dull is Hakk-R.  Since his introduction in the Free Comic Book Day prelude, he's been repeating the same shtick of popping up, bothering the Turtles, then teleporting away when things look bad.  I do like that the Turtles are getting the hang of fighting him and he isn't as much of an overpowered threat as he was when introduced, but that's also turning him into more of a nuisance than an arch-enemy.

That aside, this was my favorite issue in the miniseries so far.  And as I said when I opened this review, I think it'll be hard to top.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

TMNT: 100 Project

Publication date: February, 2017 (indicia), March, 2017 (actual publication)
Published by: IDW (publisher), Hero Initiative (co-publisher)


The TMNT: 100 Project contains over 100 pieces of original art done on blank sketch covers for TMNT (IDW) #50.  Artists who appear in this book:

Kristin Allen
Grace Allison
Franco Aureiliani
Gabriel Ba
John Beatty
Dan Berger
Terry Blas
Dan Brereton
Jeffrey Brown
Chris Burnham
Jim Calafiore
Daniel Campos
Giuseppe Camuncoli
Ethan Castillo
Victor Castro
Ron Chan
Matthew Clark
Ryan Cody
Adelso Corona
Dennis Culver
Carlos D'anda
Michael Dialynas
Mark dos Santos
Dan Duncan
Kevin Eastman
Rich Ellis
Gabe Eltaeb
Cat Farris
Max Fiumara
Sebastian Fiumara
Tony Fleecs
Autumn Fredrickson
Agnes Garbowska
Ken Garing
Ben Glendenning
Gabriel Hardman
James Harren
John Heebink
Fred Hembeck
Christopher Herndon
Edwin Huang
Chris Ivy
Drew Johnson
Dale Keown
Lukas Ketner
Scott Koblish
Scott Kolins
Rich Koslowski
Peter Krause
Steve Kurth
Jim Lawson
John McCrea
Ted McKeever
Mark McKenna
Shawn McManus
Rodolfo Migliari
Danny Miki
Karl Moline
Fabio Moon
Albert Morales
Chris Moreno
Daryl Murphy
Marat Mychaels
Todd Nauck
Mike Norton
Michael Oppenheimer
Richard Pace
Tony Parker (presumably not the point guard for the San Antonio Spurs, but maybe?)
Hanna Nance Partlow
Khoi Pham
Joe Phillips
Whilce Portacio
Gordon Purcell
Tom Raney
Sara Richard
Paolo Rivera
Darick Robertson
Tone Rodriguez
Craig Rousseau
Stan Sakai
Alex Saviuk
Stuart Sayger
Dan Schoening
Tim Seeley
Sajad Shah
Bill Sienkiewicz
Walter Simonson
Andy Smith
Matt Smith
Ryan Sook
Aaron Sowd
Ty Templeton
Nate van Dyke
Mike Vasquez
Dave Wachter
Jonathan Wayshak
Charles P. Wilson III
Aaron Wood
Rich Woodall
Tom Ziuko
Jim Zub

Turtle Tips:

*As with Hero Comics 2012 #1, this special art book was released as a charity publication with all profits going to the Hero Initiative.

*Although Nick Pitarra is listed in the index of artists, his work does not appear in the book.  Unfortunately, including him messes up the index and so half of the page numbers do not correspond to the correct artist.


I had a hell of a time finding this thing.  I had ordered it from my local comic shop and they put it on my list, but when the March release date came, they told me that it wasn't available through Diamond and that they'd have to special order it.  They tried special ordering it, but after a month they told me they'd have to back order it.  By around July they finally told me that they were never going to get it, so I should try elsewhere.  Of course, four months after release date, the thing was sold out everywhere.  Fuckin' awesome.

I lucked out, though.  I was browsing around a shop while stopped in Temple, Texas, and there it was, just chilling on the shelf with all the other trade paperbacks.  Got it for MSRP ($15).  Fuckin' awesome (not sarcastic, this time).

Now, I generally don't review art books here at TMNT Entity because, well, what can I write?  "Some of the art is good and some of it isn't."  Wow, I really plumbed the depths of my critical analysis skills for that nugget of wisdom.  But art is (mostly) subjective, so what I might think looks disappointing and what I might think looks amazing is entirely a matter of my perspective.  Chances are, I won't like what everybody else likes.  For example, there are people out there who like Erica Henderson.  I mean, I think there are.  She gets work, so there must be.  Right?

But I guess that's what's worth pointing out about this book.  There is a LOT of art in this thing and there is a WIDE variety of styles.  You WILL find something you like in here.  In fact, given the quantity of content, you're gonna find lots of stuff you like in here.

In addition to the wide range of aesthetic styles, you'll also encounter a wide range of... effort.  There are artists who devoted countless hours to their charity cover, really bringing their A-game and giving it their all...

And then there are artists who just shat a doodle out in 3 minutes and called it a night.

But hey.  Some people like doodles.  More power to ya, I suppose.

You'll see a ton of recognizable names in here, featuring TMNT artists from multiple generations.  There are Mirage dudes like Lawson and Berger, and then there are IDW dudes like Schoening and Dialynas.  And this kickass piece from Duncan:

There's a whole lot of representation in here, including plenty of artists I've never seen touch the Turtles before.  Check out this gorgeous cover from Migliari:

Like I said, you can definitely tell who gave a shit and who didn't in this collection.  Because damn.

Regarding subject matter, the majority of the book features drawings of the Turtles, as expected, though there are some dark horse interpretations of them.  I was surprised to find several depictions of the TMNT from the reviled live-action Michael Bay films.  They're nice pieces to be sure, but the Turtles are still ugly.

In terms of characters, you have mostly the usual suspects: The Turtles, April, Krang, Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, etc.  Even a couple of Leatherheads.  But then you'll turn the page and get hit with a wild card.  Dr. Dome?

Is that... Venus De Milo...?

So that's what I mean when I say there's so much variety in here.  Variety of styles, variety of interpretations, variety of characters... It's an art book that celebrates the entire TMNT franchise in all its incarnations, even the unpopular ones like Next Mutation or the Michael Bay flicks.  It's sincere and I appreciate that.

All-in-all, it actually reminds me of Udon's various Capcom tribute art books, albeit in soft cover.  It follows the same formula and there's a certain joy in seeing (almost) every aspect of the franchise receive a spotlight in so many different styles.  While I know IDW did this for a special event, I'd love to see them do more periodically.  And if they do, I'll be sure to buy one from a shop that can actually order the damn thing.

Hogbog the Horrible

Publication date: December 29, 1990 - January 11, 1991
Originally published in: TMHT Adventures #25

Story: James Nichols
Art: Richard Elson


In the Technodrome, Shredder is enjoying his day off when Krang comes through the portal from Dimension X.  Still angry that Shredder won't build him a body, and displeased with all of his failings, Krang fires Shredder and introduces him to his replacement: Hogbog, the Totally Horrible.  Shredder backs away in awe of the giant, three-armed, fire-breathing monster, but orders Bebop and Rocksteady and spy on Krang and figure out when he plans to unleash it on the city.  The mutants do, and when Shredder gets the time and location, he calls the Happy Hour News and reports it in as a means to sabotage Krang and get his job back.

Thanks to April, the Turtles arrive at a junkyard the same time as the Technodrome.  They get the drop on Krang and knock him off his tripod, but Hogbog comes storming out and attacks them.  The creature corners them, but April comes speeding in on the Channel 6 news van and crashes it into the monster.  Dazed, Hogbog goes wandering off into the city.  The Turtles leave to catch Hogbog while April stays behind to deal with Krang.  Knowing she can't fight him, she calls in her camera crew who broadcast his bodiless appearance all over television.  Humiliated, Krang squirms away in tears.

Meanwhile, the Turtles go after Hogbog in the Turtle Blimp.  They find him scaling a skyscraper and Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael grapple down to fight him.  With Hogbog distracted, Donatello smacks him in the back with the Blimp's glider, knocking him over the edge of the skyscraper.  The monster crashes into the ground and is driven deep into the earth by the impact.

Back in the Technodrome, Shredder is certain he's got his old job back now that Hogbog has been defeated.  But Krang returns from a second trip to Dimension X with Shredder's newest replacement: Hogbog's mate.  Knowing Shredder sabotaged his last scheme, Krang sics her on him to get revenge.

Turtle Tips:

*This story was originally published alongside "One of our Turtles is Missing!"

*When Hogbog crashes through the ground, the Turtles joke that he might make an appearance in Neighbours.  I had to Wikipedia this shit, but apparently Neighbours is an Australian soap opera that's very popular in the UK.


Wait, Shredder hasn't built Krang his robot body yet?  So does that mean this story takes place somewhere in the middle of the Archie TMNT Adventures miniseries?  Or, more likely, the Fleetway comics ascribe to no coherent continuity, not even that of the Archie comics they were published alongside of.

Other weird season 1 relics abound.  This issue features Krang firing the Shredder from his employ (a plot the cartoon would later try its hand at in the episode "Beware the Lotus").  It's a reminder that although Shredder and Krang were more often depicted as partners in later seasons, their original dynamic in the series was as employer and mercenary.

There are yet more season 1 artifacts in the story, like Krang being embarrassed to be seen without a body and also calling the Shredder "Saki" as a means to disrespect him (something he stopped doing by the second season).  It seems that the people who wrote the Fleetway-original comics never read past the initial Archie 3-issue miniseries (that adapted the first season of the cartoon), because all the character dynamics and even designs are mined exclusively from those stories.

Aside from some good (but uncredited) artwork, "Hogbog the Horrible" is far more milquetoast than the other comic published in this issue of Hero Turtles.  It has a fun focus on the villains, but nothing much beyond that save for a generic monster and a tired King Kong parody.

Friday, August 11, 2017

One of our Turtles is Missing!

Publication date: December 29, 1990 - January 11, 1991
Originally published in: TMHT Adventures #25

Story: James Nichols
Art: Sandy James


Down in the sewers, the Turtles are testing out Donatello's new wave machine with their surfboards when it overheats and explodes.  Donnie is caught in the explosion and swept out to the beach.  He awakens, but with... AMNESIA!

As the Turtles search the sewers for Donnie, a Foot Soldier spy hears that one of them is missing and reports back to the Shredder.  Figuring this is the best time to pick a solo Turtle off, Shredder orders the Foot Clan to hunt Donatello down.  They eventually find him out by the tracks, but he doesn't know who they are.  Sensing an opportunity, Shredder introduces himself as "Mr. John Smith" and invites Donnie back to his home for supper.

At the Technodrome, Donnie fills up and asks Shredder how he can repay him.  Shredder asks Donnie to help him defeat a trio of criminal turtles; specifically, he wants Donnie to build a Super War Machine.  Donnie isn't sure how to build it, but as soon as he starts, his muscle memory takes over and he constructs the colossal tank.

Two days later, the Turtles receive a letter from the Shredder, telling them to come out and save Donatello, if they can.  Splinter senses that it is a trap, but the Turtles head out anyway.  They find Donatello, but he lures them into the path of the Super War Machine.  The Turtles easily destroy the tank, but Donatello takes a gun from the Shredder and attacks them.  Realizing that Donnie has amnesia, the Turtles decide not to fight back and Donnie brains them all into unconsciousness with the butt of the rifle.

Later, the Turtles come to in the Technodrome, but they've been placed inside the Turtle Crusher (a glass tube with a hydraulic press on the roof.  Before the press can come down, Mikey throws a slice of emergency pizza at Donnie.  Eating it, Donnie regains his memory.  He helps the Turtles escape and together they beat the Foot Clan senseless.  Locking them in the Turtle Crusher (but not turning it on, because they're good guys), the Turtles leave.

Back at the lair, Donatello apologizes to the others by making them pizzas... plain cheese pizzas.  The Turtles think he has amnesia again because he forgot the toppings, but Donnie reveals it to just be a prank.

Turtle Tips:

*This story was published alongside "Hogbog the Horrible".


These UK comics are weird, but there's a sort of consistent weirdness to them.  There are ideas that are almost uniquely Fleetway, as they pop up a lot, but you'd swear on the surface that they're mistakes.  Like, the Foot Soldier robots have all been shown talking throughout this series.  Strange, but then in this issue not only do they talk, but they have inner monologues, too:

Can these Foot Soldiers feel?  Can they love?  I hope not.  Because the Turtles chop their heads off with their bear hands in this issue.

There's also the fact that the Shredder knows where the sewer lair is (he sends them a letter via paper airplane in this issue) or how the Technodrome is apparently in some place both stationary and sewer adjacent (the Turtles walk in and out of the Technodrome frequently in these comics).  All these things come across like lazy writing at first, but as I get further into the Fleetway series, I'm starting to see that the writers are keeping up with these ideas.  Maybe it WAS a fuck up at first, but now they're owning it.

This issue also tries to figure out what to do about Michelangelo's lack of a weapon.  In some panels he fights with his hands and yet in others he uses a bo staff like Donatello.  This has happened before in the Fleetway series, but it's still bizarre every time I see it.  How much longer until England finds out about the grappling hook?

Everything else about the issue is a lot of, I dunno, whatever.  It's an amnesia plot.  Nothing says "we're not even trying" like an amnesia plot.  Still, the art is lovely.  Is it Sandy James?  I don't know for sure, but those bullet blasts and explosions look gorgeous.  I suppose my only complaint about James' art, beyond the instances of tracing and copying from Michael Dooney, is that he always manages to make the pizza look like vomit.  It might be the combo of yellow goo flecked with red and green dots, but his pizzas always appear diseased and revolting.  The '80s cartoon had more appetizing pizzas and those cartoons were drawn with Korean slave labor.

Anyway, the oddities are the real reason to read these Fleetway comics.  Or at least *I* think so.  C'mon, I have to find SOMETHING to motivate me to review these things.