Sunday, November 1, 2015

TMNT (IDW) #51


Publication date: October 28, 2015

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Ken Garing
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow

Summary:

One month later.

At an abandoned warehouse, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael survey a meeting between the Mafia and a new tech-based gang called the Street Phantoms.  Don is shocked when Harold’s equipment can’t get a bead on the Street Phantoms and thinks that the enemy tech looks strangely familiar.


Leo orders his brothers and the Foot Soldiers to engage the enemy and they attack.  Jammer, leader of the Street Phantoms, orders his men to retreat and the cloaked gangsters phase through the ground and vanish.  Lupo, leader of the mobsters, is left behind to be interrogated.  A Foot Assassin wants to torture him, but Leo insists on enforcing the “no killing” policy.  All they learn from Lupo is that word is getting out that the Foot Clan have gone soft and now all the gangs that once served them are hoping to revolt.

Afterward, the Turtles split up: Leo to report back to Splinter, Don to ask Harold about the tech, and Raph to go do something private.  As they leave, a female Foot Assassin watches them from the shadows.

At Foot Clan HQ, Splinter ponders how defeating his greatest enemy and becoming Jonin of the Foot Clan has brought him no peace of mind.  With Michelangelo walking out on the family, Bebop and Rocksteady swearing revenge against the Clan and other forces vying for control of the city, Splinter feels his troubles have only compounded.


In an alley, Mikey saves an old lady from a purse-snatcher.  Raph interrupts and tries to convince Mikey to return to his family, but so long as Splinter is leading the Foot Clan, Mikey wants nothing to do with them.  After Raph leaves, Mondo Gecko confronts Mikey and suggests that he try throwing in with a new family.  Unbeknownst to either of them, a soldier named Agent Winter is watching them and reporting back to a mysterious commander.

At Foot HQ, April delivers a meal to Kitsune, who has been under house arrest since Splinter took over.  April reveals to Kitsune that she knows all about her and her siblings.  She knows Kitsune is playing “the game” and will be watching her intently.  After April leaves, Kitsune summons Alopex and tells her that they’ll have to step up their plans.


Elsewhere in the HQ, Leo tells Splinter how the raid went.  Leo is uncomfortable with his new role as Chunin of the Foot, but Splinter insists that they keep a strong appearance, as a power vacuum in the city could lead to another gang war.

At Harold’s lab, the scientist is working on Metalhead Mark Two when Don shows up.  Don asks him about the “cloaking cloaks”, saying that they’re similar to the tech Nobody uses but more advanced.  Enraged, Harold explains that he used to have a partner and they developed the cloaks together.  However, she betrayed him, stole the tech and used it to become filthy rich.  Harold warns Don that whoever is funding the Street Phantoms is not to be trifled with, as such tech does not come cheap.


At Dun Import/Export, the boss, Darius Dun, meets with Jammer and Maze of the Street Phantoms.  Jammer tells Dun that the Foot Clan still seem to be as formidable as ever, but is interrupted by the female Foot Assassin, who corrects him and says that the Foot are growing weak.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #50.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #52.

*Raph mentions his time on the streets, which was resolved in TMNT (IDW) #4.

*April learned about Kitsune's siblings and "the game" in TMNT: Casey & April #4.

*Darius Dun, Jammer(head) and the Street Phantoms are villains who originated from the 4Kids TMNT cartoon.  Specifically, they were featured in season 6; the Fast Forward era.

*This issue was originally published with 6 variant covers: Regular Cover by Garing, Artist’s Edition sketch cover, Retailer Incentive by Eastman, Fried Pie Exclusive by Eastman and Tomi Varga, and Rhode Island Comic Con Exclusive by Ian Nichols.


Review:

The new era of IDW’s TMNT series has begun and on the surface it looks and feels very different from the previous one.  Skipping ahead a month in the narrative, right off the bat we’re treated to a very unusual scenario, as the Turtles lead the Foot Clan, Mikey plays Lone Wolf and hoooooly shit that’s a lot of Fast Forward references I was not anticipating.

This introductory issue is exactly what it is: An introductory issue.  There’s a recap of the previous arc to explain how we got here and the pacing is a rapid-fire tour of the new landscape and status quo.  It’s very hurried, perhaps a little spastic, but this is a “jumping-on point”, as it’s called in the comics world, so all this is for the benefit of potential new readers. 

With no supplementary miniseries on the schedule until the Batman/TMNT thing is over with (which, according to Curnow, will not be part of the IDW canon), the burden of supporting the IDW TMNT universe will be squarely on the shoulders of the ongoing.  I hope it can manage the challenge on its own and a good strategy might be to slow down with all the new story arcs and let the plots breath a bit.  As it is, this first chapter kicks things off by throwing us in sixteen different directions, and while all very intriguing, I would like to see the series relax a bit with the storylines and let the characters have a chance to shine again.

But to talk about them, let's start with Harold and his cryptic references to a female partner who betrayed him.  I’m wondering if that will turn out to be Null, who was introduced back in the Mutanimals miniseries but never received much back story or personality beyond “evil”.  It would be an interesting way to tie everything together, as you’ve got Harold’s mysterious ex-partner selling weapons to Darius and the Street Phantoms, who in turn are trying to overthrow the Foot Clan.  Meanwhile, you’ve got Mikey potentially hooking up with the Mutanimals, and they’ve been waging war with Null.  So yeah, a lot of opportunity for interconnectivity.

As for the Street Phantoms and Darius, I must say, that was a legit surprise.  I never expected to see Fast Forward characters show up again.  Like, never ever.

I do wonder how much they’ll be altered to fit this new narrative setting.  Will Darius hold any sort of familial relationship to the Jones/O’Neil family or is he a totally separate individual?  They call the leader of the Street Phantoms Jammer rather than Jammerhead, as he was called in the cartoon.  Will he get his ability to download skills into his brain later on (or maybe he already has them)?

There was nothing wrong conceptually with most of the Fast Forward villains; some of them even had pretty cool powers and visuals.  The issue was more that they were trapped in a shitty cartoon that didn’t use them to their full potential.  “No such thing as bad characters, just bad writers” and all that.  So maybe Waltz and the gang can get some mileage out of them.  Let’s at least give these characters a second chance.

There’s also April revealing she’s onto Kitstune, Kitsune further manipulating Alopex, Agent Winter monitoring Mikey and Mondo for a mysterious commander (Null?  Bishop?), Splinter dealing with the stress of leading the Foot Clan, Leo dealing with the stress of also leading the Foot Clan, a female Foot Assassin out to betray the Clan, another gang war perhaps on the horizon, Metalhead getting rebuilt, and allllll the other stuff left over from the last arc that this comic didn’t have space to pick up on (Leatherhead?).

You see what I mean about there being a LOT of threads going on simultaneously, right?

Ken Garing is on art duties for this issue and I think the next, so he’s set for a short run.  His style is less animated than Smith and Santolouco and has a “Mirage” feel to it that I rather like.  The Turtles are rounder and bulkier and lack the individualizing features the previous artists drew them with.  They aren’t “cute”, either, and look fairly mean and sort of ugly.  It’s a major deviation from Santolouco/Smith and, again, helps to register that this is a new era for the book (though Santolouco is scheduled to come back after the next story arc, according to the editor’s notes in the letters page).

While I like Garing’s Turtles, I’m not quite sold on a few of his other character designs.  Splinter has this big fat chin flap that makes him look like a furry toad and his April looks like Sigourney Weaver.  Beyond that, though, I’ve few other grievances with his work.  The Street Phantoms look great and there are little Easter eggs thrown in (like Mikey using the grappling hook of his Fred Wolf counterpart to snag the purse-snatcher).

This new era is certainly interesting, but it's mostly a superficial change, it seems.  The prioritizing of two dozen storylines over character focus remains as it was in the previous era and that was the one change I was really hoping for.  Nevertheless, I’m certainly intrigued by what’s been set up.  With luck, none of the plot threads will be shortchanged.


Grade: C+ (as in, “Can't say I'm anxious for the return of Triple Threat, though”.)

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that Kitsune is "stepping up" her plans for Alopex. I think this might be the fifth or sixth time we've had a still shot of Alopex overlayed atop a menacing Kitsune fox face. I think the last time Alopex actually did something was like 8 issues ago.

That said, I hope it isn't just a one and done "Alopex tries to kill a turtle and then comes to her senses" thing. I'd rather see her try to pit Leo against Raph or engage in mind games with Splinter. If Alopex's mind control is resolved as neatly as Leo's was in the City Fall arc, I'm going to be pretty mad with the writers.

Anonymous said...

Garing's Bludgeon looks like butt.

Chet said...

I've totally forgotten everything that happened in the 'Fast Forward' episodes of the TMNT 4Kids cartoon. Which may be a good thing when it comes to the Street Phantoms. You'd think the writers would only go there if they'd be out of other characters to use, so this is a very interesting, bold direction to go for the book.

Killer Moth said...

I'm a tad mixed on April telling Kitsune, "I'm on to you," as wouldn't have been a better tactic for the Turtles to simply play dumb and not arouse Kitsune's suspicions and hopefully catch her off-guard? Then again, as per the first commenter, it's high time Kitsune step up her game (and Splinter said last issue he wants Kitsune around to keep an eye on her). So maybe it's just as well April said what she said.

As for Mikey's grappling hook, I did enjoy the callback but I liked the symbolism behind it more. Here, he has an actual reason to discard his nunchucks vs. the Fred Wolf series having to deal with rising censorship and Mikey being forced to abruptly stop using them.

As for the Fast Forward elements, I'm game, and that was the one part of the issue that surprised me most. And the bit with the female Foot Soldier or assassin was a nice twist, and could give rise for a different version of "City At War" with the various Foot factions against each other..., except this time, the Turtles actually leading one of the Foot factions. Not unlike Image Raph or the Turtles' co-inspiration, Daredevil running the Hand for a while, after all.

Otherwise, aside from the standard complexity addiction/multiple storylines that is per the IDW norm (as Mark already pointed out), I enjoyed the issue and can't wait to see where the new direction goes. I'm really anxious to see what happens with Bebop and Rocksteady, now they're free agents (or conversely to see how Bludgeon and Koya take to working for the Turtles).

As for Agent Winter, I'll lean toward his working for Bishop, though, Baxter's still on the loose, too. He still has some resources at his disposal (as seen in "Vengeance"), so not like he couldn't hire people to keep tabs on everyone, if he wanted to. He hired black-suited spooks before, courtesy of the Donatello micro, so we shouldn't discount him, either.

Anonymous said...

So is Agent Winter supposed to be the IDW version of Max Winters?

Anonymous said...

Surprised that you dislike the art so much, I thought the artists version of April looked cute!

Joey Batz said...

What I'm sort of predicting for the next 50 issues (let's place bets on how far off I am) is this:

For the first 25 issues, the story culminates in a "City At War" storyline, with Splinter's Foot Clan fighting against Darius Dun's factions, the Foot rebels, the Mutanimals (with Michaelagelo as part of their group), and other unified mobs.

After that, the Turtles and Splinter will lose control of the Foot somehow, but Mike will rejoin them. The government will have been monitoring the situation and will have recruited Baxter Stockman (forcibly or otherwise). Knowing the full story and understanding the depth of his genetic experiments, the government will want to eliminate any uncontrolled mutants while creating brainwashed from birth mutants that are completely loyal to US interests. They will, of course, need the pure psychotropic serum, and thus need to get their hands on the only two mutants that have the pure, untainted serum: Splinter and Slash. Attempting to capture Slash, they will end up provoking Hob and the Mutanimals, causing them to go full terrorist on New York City and declare open war on humanity. The book will have two primary antagonists at this point, Hob and the Mutanimals, and the government's anti-mutant task force led by Agent Bishop (Agent Winters is his subordinate), The Turtles will be caught in a catch-22; they can't team up with the Mutanimals even though Hob would welcome them in in a heartbeat because the Mutanimals want to wipe out humanity, and they can't side with the government because the government is looking to kill them and all other mutants and to dissect Splinter in order to create mutant super soldiers.

Past issue 100, I imagine that the stuff with the Pantheon will come out into the open. I actually really DON'T want the Pantheon to become the primary antagonists right now, but rather to stay in the shadows and bide their time (perhaps it's the One Piece fanboy in me, but I love it when long runners really bide their time like that). I imagine that Shredder and Krang will come back into the mix, somehow or other. And I imagine that we will start seeing that dystopian future that we saw glimpses of in the Shredder micro and Turtles in Time #4. Like, with Shredder and Krang leading their armies against each other in a full scale war for the Earth, plunging the world into chaos and ruin. Perhaps Splinter will pass on (gracefully and peacefully like in Mirage Vol. 4) and the Turtles will carry on without his guidance. Leo, Mike, and Raph will carry on their fight in the war against Shredder and Krang (backed by competing members of the Pantheon, though they don't know they are being manipulated), leading up to the event where the three Turtles would have been killed, but this time Donatello decides to fight with them and the future turns out differently from what we've seen. And finally the Turtles contend with the Pantheon itself.

Okay, I had way too much fun with that (even if it was probably pretty horrible). Still, I would be totally psyched if any of what I wrote came to pass. Conceptually, it's a pretty epic story. I think so, at least.

Are Bobby Curnow and Tom Waltz reading this? If so, I'll happily accept your job offers for me to be part of your writing staff ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm getting a worrying "TMNT Adventures" vibe about Winters - and we all remember what happened to Mikey in that (tortured, blinded....)

Anonymous said...

Oh God now stage is set for the Garbageman comeback

Totaldrama Icequeen said...

When is #52 coming out?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Jammerhead a robot I don't think it was even brought up in any real capacity in the episode itself just a one off thing that had no baring on anything