Saturday, June 20, 2015

TMNT: Casey & April #1


Publication date: June 17, 2015

Story: Mariko Tamaki
Art: Irene Koh
Colors: Paul Reinwand
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow

Summary:

Exiting the Holland Tunnel in their VW van, Casey and April hit the open road and, eventually, reach the Southwest.  Stepping out to get their bearings, April takes a look at the scroll Dr. Miller stole from the Foot Clan (and died for).  She finds a drawing of a Joshua tree in a desert, which indicates to her that they need to go to the Mohave Desert to find information on the Pantheon (a family of warring deities).  Casey plucks up a heart-shaped rock and is about to give it to April when he accidentally says something scientifically stupid, eliciting an awkward correction from her.  He pockets the rock in embarrassment.


Moving on, they discuss their best memories of seeing the night sky (April recalls her trips to the Grand Canyon, Casey recalls trying to see stars through the light pollution in New York).  They inevitably conclude that if they’d known each other as kids, they probably wouldn’t have been friends.

Stopping at a diner, a couple of cowboys begin giving Casey a hard time over his name (sounding like the ballad about the train conductor).  This ends in a fight between Casey and the bullies and April has to force him to back off and escape in the van.  


The pair argue and fight for a while, first over how Casey put their mission in jeopardy by nearly getting a visit from the cops, but also over the fact that he’s still thinking in terms of “I” and not “we”.  To take her mind off of how mad she is at Casey, April compares the scroll with a modern map and thinks the place they’re looking for might be an old armory now.

After stopping for gas, Casey absentmindedly (and angrily) backs into an old bumpkin’s truck.  The old timer isn’t mad, but he’s worried that his sister Red might get upset if he doesn’t show up to see her.  April offers to drive by in the van and let Red know what happened while the geezer's truck is being repaired.  Casey wants to check out the armory, though, so the old timer offers to let him borrow his old motorcycle.  April and Casey split up, and Casey chucks the heart-rock away in anger.


Once they’d left, the old timer picks up the rock and remarks about the curiosity of young love.  As a plague of rats swarm him, he slowly transforms into the Rat King.  The gruesome Pantheon member figures that it’s time to play a game with his two new friends…


Turtle Tips:

*This mini-series takes place after the events of TMNT (IDW) #47.  The story continues in TMNT: Casey & April #2.

*Dr. Miller’s death is mentioned on the radio.  He died in TMNT (IDW) #46.

*This issue was originally published with 4 variant covers: Regular Cover by Irene Koh, Subscription Cover by Faith Erin Hicks and Paulina Ganucheau, Convention Exclusive by Joe Eisma, and Hastings Exclusive by Brent Peeples.


Review:

Hmmm.  I… Well, I just don’t think this kind of comic was meant for me.  It’s a slow-burn romance story filled with long rambling conversations between the two main characters as they sit and talk.  For 20 pages.  Talk about stars, talk about each other, talk about life, talk about talking… I mean, it’s a young reader’s romance story.  There are people out there who love comics like this; people who would rather read Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane over a “normal” Spider-Man comic.  Those kinds of people.

I’m just… not one of those kinds of people.  20 pages of characters sitting in a car or at a diner or pumping gas and rambling, the thrill being the “romantic tension” between them, it just doesn’t appeal to me.  Nothing wrong with anybody who likes that sort of thing, but man.  Wotta snooze-fest.

I’m trying to be open-minded and fair about this.  And I don’t blame IDW for casting a wider net by dabbling in a different genre to try and attract a fresh demographic.  The last miniseries we got was Mutanimals and it was a tidal wave of TMNT fanwank.  I loved it, but I understand that it might have had limited appeal to the uninitiated or the casual TMNT reader.  And looking at the Diamond sales numbers, the thing positively bombed, selling around only 8,000 units toward the end of the run.

So clearly, appealing strictly to hardcore TMNT fans may make for comics that excite a hardcore TMNT fan like myself, but they don’t do much for IDW’s bank account.  With that context in place, I can fully understand and appreciate why they’d go for a book like Casey & April that’s so tonally different from what they’ve been doing, aiming for readers who like teen romance stories.

All that being said: Ehhhhhhh.  I just couldn’t get into this comic.  I appreciate that April and Casey are finally getting a spotlight after being relegated to deadweight status in the TMNT ongoing for what feels like a year or more.  Their shelving in the main title to make way for 30 new characters has been pretty disrespectful, especially for what had originally been main characters.  So I’m glad to see them getting major screen time once again.  I just wish it could have been in a more exciting comic.

It isn’t just the long conversations that got me nodding off, it’s that what passes for action is horribly clich├ęd and predictable.  So they go to a diner and are immediately, IMMEDIATELY beset upon by cowboy hicks for no good reason whatsoever.  Remember when this happened in "Starman"?  Or "Superman II"?  Or seemingly any movie ever where the main characters decide to make an innocent stop at a diner where cowboy truckers are also present?

Well, well, well.  If’n it ain’t two-a them city folks comin’ ‘round here with their Em Pee Three players ‘n their ten dollar coffees.  Ya’ll best go on back the way you come!”

It’s just so tired and worn out.  It elicits the “couple’s first fight” scenario that manufactures a romantic drama between them, but the whole thing is a dull contrivance at best.  The remaining “action” in the issue involves Casey swerving out of the way of a cyclist and a slight fender bender with the old man.  Edge-of-your-seat stuff, isn’t it?

The good news is the Rat King, my favorite TMNT villain, looks to be a major antagonist in this miniseries.  I’m hoping he adds a little more energy to this story, because it sure could use some.

The art dabbles in this faux-manga style that looks alright, I guess.  The faux-manga look and the whole “romantic teen drama” storytelling was what made me immediately think of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, by the way.  While I don’t really like it when people who aren’t Japanese try to ape what they think is “manga”, Koh doesn’t overdo it in the worst ways so the exercise is mostly inoffensive.  She draws an absolutely GNARLY Rat King, translating Santolouco’s original design very well.  That final cliffhanger splash page was a wonderful rendition of the character.

Colors by Paul Reinwand are quite nice.  He gives April back her fair skin and freckles, which haven’t been seen since the Secret History of the Foot Clan miniseries, but are a detail I really liked (and really missed).  His most outstanding color work comes in the Rat King pages, of course, particularly in the green hues he gradually bathes the panels in.  It’s not so much a glow, but a subtle, unearthly lighting choice that makes the moment all the creepier.  He also elects to color only one rat among dozens completely white, which makes me think of Socrates from “Willard”.

In conclusion, I will concede once again that these sorts of stories just don’t appeal to me.  Doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means I don’t like them.  That said, objectively the issue has problems: namely that stupid hackneyed fight at the diner and the almost insultingly on-the-nose symbolism of the heart-shaped rock.  The art is alright and the coloring is great.  I hope it gets a little more exciting in future issues, but I am curious to see more of the Rat King.

Also, looks like IDW has cut back the length of their TMNT miniseries issues from 22-pages to 20-pages, but the $4 price tag remains the same.  Fuck that.


Grade: C (as in, “Cowboy hats are worn exclusively by thuggish jerks who don’t like anyone who follows a different way of life than them.  I thought everybody knew that”.)

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Man, I totally agree.

And unfortunately, it sounds like ALL of IDW's comics are getting chopped to 20 pages, not just minis.

Killer Moth said...

I actually don't mind young romance comics, if done right. (I do love my action titles, but, sometimes, I don't mind something different.) As Mark laid out, that isn't the case here. While the art was quite pretty, that's the only compliment to really give (other than the Rat King popping up, of course).

One personal observation when reading the issue was how the dialogue was really scrunched in smaller word balloons, here and there, almost as if the production crew was trying to avoid having the word balloons cover up the attractive artwork. Word balloons are a necessary evil in comics, and I wouldn't mind this minimalist approach, either, if the dialogue was any good. I wish the IDW TMNT writers could borrow one of the Transformers comic writers for a day or two. Say what you will about the IDW Transformers, but their comic titles sport some impressive dialogue (especially MTMTE).

Disappointing how the Mutanimals mini didn't sell, but, as Mark said, not everyone is going to want TMNT fanwank. They should, but, alas, no.

I was mixed about going into this mini, as I'm not into April/Casey (in any version, really). As noted by Mark and many others, romance isn't something the TMNT franchise does well for various reasons. As previously stated, I don't mind such romance, if done decently. I know it wouldn't be possible, but I wish we could have had an IDW Angel/Casey/April triangle. I'm becoming fascinated by the Angel/Casey dynamic and their backstory mentioned in City Fall, savoring the sheer potential. Plus it would make for an interesting conflict for Casey in which woman he'd choose: the ex-researcher vs. the ex-gangbanger. Oh, well, there's always fanfiction to sort that out.

Good reviews, as always, and hopefully, the Rat King will do his usual awesome job in the next few issues, because this mini sure needs him.

Anonymous said...

Why is Casey Jones Asian in this issue?

Anonymous said...

Casey became an anime pretty-boy in this issue. In fact this whole issue seemed like a way to attract anime fans to Turtles. You know the kind who are on tumblr and deviantart talking about how much they love their "shippings" and their "OTP" and try to vicariously live through fictional characters?

Goddamn anime shippers are the worst.

Mark Rodriguez said...

I did kinda enjoy it, but I have to say that this book brings out an interesting fact that I'm surprised you didn't mention. The fact that April and Casey really have nothing in common when it comes down to it. When they're not being chased by mutants, ninjas and aliens, they really have no business being together. Sure they're the first guy and girl to have ever met the Turtles and get swept up into their adventures... but that doesn't mean they HAVE to hook up.

I guess this story serves to give the characters a chance to really look at each other and see if their little relationship is worth it or now and how hard they really have to work at it to make it work when thre aren't ninja turtles running around.

Killer Moth said...

To piggyback on what Mark Rodriguez said, April/Casey suffer from the opposites attract syndrome that mainstream writers love doing, because they think "similar = boring." And yet, there have to be some things in common, because otherwise, opposites attract eventually means opposites exploding. There has to be something more bonding than "hey, we're different from each other, let's make out!" If done right, it can work or if there's a good premise (I'm becoming quite fond of Leo/Lotus, for example, and I don't even like Turtle/human pairings).

As I previously stated, romance isn't something most writers, let alone TMNT writers, can do well. And, again, like Mark R. said, "When they're not being chased by mutants, ninjas and aliens, they really have no business being together." That's why I can't see myself into April/Casey in any meaningful way. Really, an ex-researcher with an ex vigilante who may or may not have mental issues (at least, IDW Casey doesn't suffer from that)? How long could such a relationship last, with or without being swept up by the Turtles and their adventures? Yes, Casey has tried his best to improve, as seen with City At War, but reality is reality and "pair the spares" goes so far. Plus all the potential regressions to his Dark Casey persona since City At War (and I'm ignoring that silly time when April ran around as Nobody).

For the record, as someone who does actively write pairings online via fanfiction, I wouldn't mind the occasional hint or opportunity in actual canon at best. Because, at worst, I know it will be a total botch job, or if one must go there, don't half-ass it. There's also a time and place for it, as with the current IDW plotlines, there really isn't a lot of time to properly develop Raph/Alopex or Casey/April (hence the mini). Between Don dealing with his Metalhead body, Karai reformatting the Foot Clan, the Shredder/Baxter alliance, Hun's conflicting loyalties to his son and some hopeful fallout from Krang's defeat, I'm not really up for romance at the moment. At least, the mini will continue the Pantheon arc, which might be the only reason to care about this thing in the first place.

Arun said...

To be honest, when I read this story, something about it just didn't click with me and I couldn't figure out what it was. It's not the romance, and it's certainly not the artwork, but I felt the characters just didn't feel right to me? Other writers besides Waltz have handled these characters already, but I feel like something about the way Tamaki wrote Casey in particular (I think it's a little early to tell with April, but I guess her interactions with Casey felt strange to me) just rubbed me the wrong way. I think some of the lettering, and how the script jumps around kind of confused me. How exactly did the cowboys learn Casey's name? He's not addressed by his name when he and April enter the diner, unless there's an off-panel "What yer name, boy?" type of thing, it really does add to that adds to that "manufactured" feeling.

When you mentioned the cowboy scene, it definitely felt like it was thrown in specifically to drive a wedge between him and April. I think April is understandably upset, but the way the scene plays out just felt slightly out of character for Casey. At least IDW Casey seems to just deal with people giving him shit, it's harassing others that'll get his blood boiling (there's sort of an exception with Hun, but he doesn't start those fights).

I'm not quite sure what to make of this storyline yet, but since we're getting a little more Pantheon talk, and the Rat King is finally active again, I think things will start getting more interesting soon.

Anonymous said...

"Mark Rodriguez said, April/Casey suffer from the opposites attract syndrome that mainstream writers love doing, because they think "similar = boring." And yet, there have to be some things in common, because otherwise, opposites attract eventually means opposites exploding. There has to be something more bonding than "hey, we're different from each other, let's make out!" If done right, it can work or if there's a good premise (I'm becoming quite fond of Leo/Lotus, for example, and I don't even like Turtle/human pairings)."

Hmmm, no. Here is the thing about relationships it's not an exact science. It's not the similar equals boring, it that couples who are the opposite of each tend to complement each other the way that couples who are more similar can not. Does it always work? Of course, not but neither does couples who are more similar work either. But yes, there is right way and wrong to do romance. I think it TMNT comics would be better served being more understated with their romantic subplots while still giving the relationship the development it needs. We don't need a bunch of chessy dialogue to know what these "lovers" are going through. They could instead treat romance more like silent movie and less like soap opera., if that makes any sense.

Adam Winters said...

The whole issue did feel like an extended plot device just to get April and Casey in different vehicles. I'm hoping that the Rat King fun will really pick up in the next three issues.

“Cowboy hats are worn exclusively by thuggish jerks who don’t like anyone who follows a different way of life than them. I thought everybody knew that”.

Heh. That felt very much like something that would have happened in one of the Mirage Volume 4 books.

Killer Moth said...

"Hmmm, no. Here is the thing about relationships it's not an exact science. It's not the similar equals boring, it that couples who are the opposite of each tend to complement each other the way that couples who are more similar can not. Does it always work? Of course, not but neither does couples who are more similar work either. But yes, there is right way and wrong to do romance. I think it TMNT comics would be better served being more understated with their romantic subplots while still giving the relationship the development it needs. We don't need a bunch of chessy dialogue to know what these "lovers" are going through. They could instead treat romance more like silent movie and less like soap opera., if that makes any sense."

I'd agree to this, to an extent. I'd certainly agree that writing a good relationship isn't an exact science by any means, and there are times I do like "opposite attract" couples for the reasons you cited. But then, there have to be other bonding motivations to be together in addition to "your opposite X compliments my opposite Y," which was the point I was trying to convey. And, yes, I'll concede that there are plenty of similar-based couples that didn't work out. (See what happened with Cyclops/Jean Grey, for example, though, a lot had to do with Marvel's later editorializing against the pairing. I'm not counting Bendis' time-travel version that's currently running around.) Unfortunately with an action series, one can't always address certain characterization issues or have it all in sync or final re-editing, especially if you're on deadline. Read Mark's latest on April O'Neil's 2007 movie prequel comic on that.

I actually like your silent movie analogy, as that's how I prefer when official fiction addresses pairings: seen but not heard. For a weird version of your point, there's Archie's Moon Eyes Saga. Ninjara breaks up with Raph for a rather realistic reason (even if it had no real foreshadowing), especially when compared to most fiction..., which would have worked beautifully if only Murphy didn't immediately put her into another pairing and wrote Mokoshan so poorly in order to achieve that goal. Win some, lose some.

And second what Adam said. Mirage Vol 4 would have liked to have done that.

Anonymous said...

To think that there was a time when Casey Jones was a big tough badass vigilante who kicked the shit out of the "Law Breakers" of New York city... look at him now... a pathetic weak little anime pretty boy who's got nothing better to do.

Once you've resorted to "will they or won't they" and love-triangles... it ends up like a typical fan fiction. It doesn't do anything for the characters or the storyline, it becomes a distraction, a waste of time and makes the couple look incompetent as hell. What people see in that type of storytelling is beyond me...

Anonymous said...

"it that couples who are the opposite of each tend to complement each other the way that couples who are more similar can not."

Sorry, but that's a load of crap, studies have shown that people who have more things in common end up together, not opposites...
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/DyeHard/Story?id=1023122&page=1