Sunday, January 29, 2017

TMNT (IDW) #66

Publication date: January 25, 2017

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz, Sophie Campbell
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Sophie Campbell
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

"Desperate Measures - Prologue"


In the bleak, mountainous regions of Alaska, Raphael and Angel/Nobody gear up in search of Alopex, using a GPS tracking device Donatello gave them to locate her.  Meanwhile, Alopex is sleeping in a cave, her mind under constant siege by Kitsune, who still seeks to take control of her.

Elsewhere, Angel chides Raph for his crush on Alopex.  Raph doesn't think it's worth pursuing, since they're different species, but Angel tells him to go for it anyway.  She says that the way Raph and Alopex connect on an unspoken level reminds her of the way her dad and late mother used to connect.  Raph turns the tables on Angel, asking what's up between her and Woody.  Angel brushes it off, insisting that even if Woody's cute, he's still a dweeb.  With the fun over, they begin to scale a mountain that Alopex should be at the top of.

As for Alopex, her psychic battle against Kitsune is going poorly.  Kitsune reveals that the Shredder was never the "bear" that tormented her and represented Alopex's fears.  Kitsune was always the bear and, appropriately, transforms into one.  The Kitsune-bear tackles Alopex and threatens to swallow her up, forever imprisoning her as a pawn.

Reaching the top of the mountain, a blizzard kicks up and Raph and Angel can no longer find their way.  Raph decides to use the mental techniques Leonardo taught him to find Alopex with his mind and begins meditating.

Raph appears in Alopex's vision moments before Kitsune can consume her.  Raph cheers Alopex on and she gains the strength to fight back.  She overpowers Kitsune and cuts the head off her astral form, banishing her from her mind.

The blizzard stops and Alopex awakens (her butterfly eye-mask having changed from purple to blue).  She immediately finds Raph and Angel and is happily reunited with them.  As they head back to the (Foot Clan?) helicopter, Raph asks what became of Kitsune.  Alopex fears that Kitsune survived the psychic attack and is far from defeated.  Getting into the chopper, Angel asks Raph not to tell Woody that she called him cute.  As they fly away, a family of polar bears watches from a cliff.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #65.  The series continues in TMNT (IDW) #67.

*The events of TMNT Universe #6 take place around the same time as this issue.

*Alopex went missing in TMNT (IDW) #60.  Her origin and the significance of the bear were seen in TMNT Villains Micro-Series #4: Alopex.

*Splinter charged Raphael and Angel with tracking down Alopex in TMNT (IDW) #61.  Alopex was revealed to have been GPS chipped in that issue, as well.

*Leonardo began teaching his psychic defense techniques to the others at the end of the back-up story in TMNT Universe #5.

*This issue was originally published with 4 variant covers: Regular Cover by Campbell, Subscription Cover by Campbell, Retailer Incentive Cover by Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga, and Comics and Ponies Exclusive Cover by Eastman and Varga.


Well, okay, if you're really into the romantic angles of the IDW TMNT series, then this issue is gonna be for you.  But to me, the Raph/Alopex dynamic has always come across as rather cringe-inducing and forced; they've never displayed any sincere chemistry and they've interacted so seldom over the years it's hard to believe they could be in love.  The most they've ever done is awkwardly smile at one another on two, maybe three occasions.

The conversation between Raph and Angel made me want to gag; it was a cheap cop-out to cover for all that romantic work the writers DIDN'T do.  "Oh, the reason they're totally in love even though they've hardly ever shared any page space together is because... because... they share an unspoken psychic bond!  They don't NEED chemistry or to even spend time with each other!  What they have is intangible!"

That's as bad as using "destiny" as an excuse for cheap romance.

But okay, if you've been on the edge of your seat waiting for Raph and Alopex to hook up, maybe you'll be pleased with this issue.  And anyway, maybe now that Alopex is back in the book and Raph has confessed his affections for her, we can actually start to get that chemistry we've never seen before.  They have to start somewhere.

And on the subject of the "now that Alopex is back in the book" thing, can we just STOP having characters get estranged from the cast and have to be rescued/reunited?  I've harped on this before, but it isn't going to stop being a valid criticism.  We'll never GET these dynamics and relationships if the characters are constantly running away and having to be tracked down and brought back.  And that says nothing about how tiresome the exercise has gotten.  All the Turtles have had an AWOL storyline by now, so we're left to endure the scenario with third-stringers like Alopex.  Who will be next?  Are we gonna get a storyline where Jennika is separated from the team and has to be reunited?  Oh no, Pigeon Pete has gone missing!  Better start a story arc about getting him back!

I'm being a dick and maybe I'm trashing this issue way harder than it deserves, but story-wise it's a collection of the elements of the IDW series I DON'T like.  Crude exposition trying to manufacture relationships because the groundwork to give them substance was never built... A repeat of the rescue/reunion storyline we've seen five or six times in the book already... Characters overcoming the villain by fighting them on the astral plane and winning because of feelings...

There's nothing FRESH in this issue.  It's not just stuff we've gotten before, it's stuff we've gotten SEVERAL times before and absolutely nothing new or innovative is done with it.  How many more times do you really want to see the characters go into the psychic realm and fight nebulous monsters but win because "I have FAMILY!  Also LOVE!" ...?

But the art was nice.  Campbell draws the cutest Alopex and people like it when Campbell draws Alopex so that alone was surely enough to justify this issue.  The story and dialogue was as tiresome as I made it out to be, but if all you want is to see some very pretty pictures then you're going to get it.  I love the watercolor wash Campbell uses and there's this disarming blend of horror and cuteness that defines Campbell's style.  Like those bloody red foxes that Kitsune sics on Alopex during the first vision; you want to pet them but you also want to keep your distance.  The issue reads very quickly because there are so many splash pages and montages, but with dialogue like this, I'm okay with the issue reading quickly.

Look, art aside, I think I've made it clear that this was not my cup of tea.  This is what the IDW comic reads like when it's on autopilot.  So much of it is stuff we've gotten again and again and again; I feel like a record is skipping or something.  There are definitely interesting and original plots going on in IDW as we speak (the whole "Splinter leading the Foot Clan" thing has been fascinating), but this was not one of them.


Anonymous said...

Gee, Mark, why don't you tell us how you really feel?

Adam said...

So... is it April & Casey mini-series compressed into a single issue with better artwork?

I'm totally on board with your critiques about unwarranted romantic "shipping" and the tired old "estrangement/search/reunion" trope.

Anonymous said...

I never really got why so many comic book writers put forced pairings into a series anyway. Do they really do it to attract female readers to the series who are interested in ships? I imagine most girls who like TMNT already don't give two shits about if the Turtles are in relationships.

I mean I don't mind romance in general, hell almost everything I watch on TV or movies has some sort of romance in it, but I don't know its always felt forced in TMNT.

Killer Moth said...

"Oh no, Pigeon Pete has gone missing! Better start a story arc about getting him back!"

Heh. That sounds funny, given how the Nick series flat-out dropped Pigeon Pete in Season 4.

Mark once commented about Ninjara being reduced to a fifth party member with interchangeable dialogue or the Raph/Ninjara romance being her main defining feature, which is how I feel about Apolex, despite the fact I like her. Ninjara nearly redeemed herself on this front with the Moon-Eyes Saga with her valid reasons to break up with Raphael, until the hastily made Ninjara/Mokoshan pairing mucked things up. I don't know if IDW will do the same with Raph/Apolex, but learn from what worked and, more importantly, what didn't work from Raph/Ninjara, 25+ years ago. In interesting compare/contrast, IDW is finally establishing their Turtle/Fox ninja pairing at 66 issues vs. Archie starting to break-up theirs at #67.

As for shipping generally, either leave enough open-ended hints for the audience to come up with their own conclusions or if it must be part of the storyline, don't half-ass it, as Mark and others have properly criticized both in this series and in other continuities. Shipping in Turtle media doesn't bother me (except in the Nick series as far as Michelangelo is concerned), but the criticism of "here for the Ninja Turtles, not for the 'Still a better love story than Twilight' meme" is most understandable. For what it's worth, IDW was even-handed with the April/Casey break-up, which was refreshing. Which should be good enough news if/when Raph & Apolex do the same.

Besides the good art, I did appreciate the fact that this story was done-in-one, as if it became a two-parter or longer, it would have been excruciating. And maybe the issue was worth it, regardless, to discuss the "estrangement/search/reunion" trope that has been going on in the series for a while. To end on a positive note about Apolex, I like the Angel/Apolex friendship, so Angel's role made the issue bearable for me. As a result, TMNT Universe's upcoming plans for them should be a treat.

Or I'm just curious about the Toad Baron. Whichever reason works.

Mark Pellegrini said...

@Killer Moth

"In interesting compare/contrast, IDW is finally establishing their Turtle/Fox ninja pairing at 66 issues vs. Archie starting to break-up theirs at #67."

Hey, I hadn't even noticed that. A coincidence, I'm sure, but a funny bit of happenstance.

Anonymous said...

Is it even more coincidence both the Moon-eyes saga with Ninjara and this issue also both took place in Alaska?

Killer Moth said...

I came to that conclusion, as I had to look up the Moon Eyes Saga reviews to get Mokoshan's spelling right. And now I just realized I misspelled Alopex's name all over the place in my last comment. Whoops. Sorry about that.

As a new thought, at least Raph's monologue about loneliness as a reason to connect with Alopex works enough in light of his related anxiety in the first Universe arc. Beats the "Nothing did happen, but everything happened" exchange Ninjara had with April over Mokoshan. Myself, I almost prefer the "you're a mutant ninja, I'm a mutant ninja, let's make out" rationale Archie or Murphy went with, or however Mark snarked about that, a long while ago.

Anonymous said...

Heh, You are right the "estrangement/search/reunion" gets old and the conversation between Angel and Raphael is cringe worthy, but I did feel some chemistry between Alopex and Raph. But I am no expert on romantic things so that was perhaps just my imagination. :P

Anyway I think near the end of the series Alopex should be killed which would make Raph fall to the dark side (of the Force), become the new Shredder and get killed by Leo. But they would never make it as a story. Just was an idea. :P

Boogaloo said...

Yeah, almost every time I see Alopex in a TMNT story I really just want to yell, 'DO SOMETHING ALREADY'! I like her in concept - quite possibly in large part due to Sophie clearly liking her and drawing the hell out that character - but she never seems to actually do anything of consequence or have much character development in any of the stories she's been in so far. Hopefully the TMNT Universe stuff will change this.

Gotta say though, the art totally saves this issue for me - the compositions on some of the dream sequence/spirit world pages (no borders/gutters, some sort of watercolor wash, etc.) are some of the most stunning images in the series so far. Story page 13 in particular (Kitsune demon bear on top, horrifying Alopex face on bottom) is quite a thing to behold.

Anonymous said...

Alopex has always felt like the typical "Scrappy" character of the IDW run. Ninjara felt this way too in the Archie series. Basically the female mutant character who is shoe-horned into the main story, has tons of arcs about her, and is portrayed as always sympathetic and right...even though I have nothing but indifference toward her.

Sadly we're likely stuck with her for the entire IDW run given she debuted at the beginning of the series and Eastman came up with her concept.

Dermot Mac Flannchaidh said...

Yes, thank you. Forced informed love interests are some of the worst. I know TMNT is usually an action-oriented genre with some fast-moving stories, but sometimes it really ''needs'' better in-depth development of characters and interpersonal chemistries - not just romantic, but platonic and familial as well.

Anonymous said...

Thats not fair to say they never interacted.

Remember when the gang went to the farm and Alopex teased for doing tai-chi? That was a pretty playful moment.

Anonymous said...

Alopex is pretty much cool character design whose role in story is really wasted .-. Which sucks, since it feels like she should be more interesting than how she is written

Anonymous said...

Huh. I guess I'm in the minority because I actually liked the issue. It wasn't perfect, but I bought the romance. It wasn't the most well done story in the IDW series, but it was solid enough for me. I guess I'm easy to please.

Ezir said...

Part of me does agree about the whole "estrangement/search/reunion" concept that sure gest used up a lot nowadays, though I somewhat disagree with all of that "Alopex should have bigger role" that I read about in earlier comments. This is just my opinion so don't kill me for it, but for a secondary character, I believe her writing is better than some other secondary characters in the whole comic that do absolutely nothing (Karai for example who had pretty much no use to the whole narrative, she was just a glorified villain character with face and some backstory but never managed anything significant other than serving as means to introduce Bebop and Rocksteady)

IDW has pretty much only few pages of the whole comic and as I writer myself, I know how hard it is to put a good story in so few panels they publish every month. No use saying that Alopex could have a big role, since the main characters are the turtles, the focus is on their 'family' and all of that, which doesn't really leave much space for things like romance.

That said, I find the whole romance subplot of Raph/Alopex executed extremely well because it was subtle and 'by chance' and not making Raph all about Alopex or vice versa. For those who know how to read between lines and not just words, it was obvious there was a chemistry between them, some kind of character understanding each other. It wasn't told to us in comic bubbles, but we were shown in images by the way that Alopex always stands/sits near Raph. Other than that, it was a normal dialogue of two friends, not Oh's and Ah's of romantic couple. Do also take note, calling it all a fully fleshed out romance is overestimating it, since all we were given as fans is POSSIBILITY for it. All we had in #66 is two teenagers that can start relationship as Angel noted it, because of chemistry and crushes, though it appears both are unsure which I find to be great execution making characters feel real and alive.

Compared to that we have Casey and April which was a cringe-worthy and as subtle as a shotgun blast in the library. I mean...that completely was unnecessary and I find the focus on Casey and April to be most boring of all (no offence to their fans). While a possible Raph/Alopex romance should they pursue it would IMO actually enchance the characters and slove their personal problems (Give Alopx finally a place to belong and Raph someone who could calm his temper, which would mirror his father's marriage) the Casey and April stuff felt forced since neither needed another. Casey's need for acceptance was solved by turtles giving him new family way before he and April became a thing. Worse yet, if you look at the panels, there are no hints about either of them showing any chemistry, they just are together for the sake of being together becasue apparently IDW artists decided they NEED romance. I hope that by taking their time with Alopex/Raph, we are in for a good and well developed sub-story for both of them :)

Sorry for a long comment and being obtruse, have a nice day ;)

Anonymous said...

Jeez, reminds of Boy Meets World always doing "Shawn ran away from home" stories. The well is dry Waltz.