Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

A TMNT/Ghostbusters Deep-Dive Review – Bustin’ in a Half Shell

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters #14
AUTHORS: Erik Burnham, Tom Waltz
ARTIST: Dan Schoening
GUEST ARTISTS: Charles Paul Wilson III, Cory Smith, Ronda Pattison (Colorist)
COLORIST: Luis Delgado
LETTERER: Neil Uyetake
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: Paperback, Deluxe EditionTMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 5
RELEASED: October 2014 – January 2015

***New around here? Check out Primary Ignition’s TMNT Deep-Dive Review archive!***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

If you were a kid in the ’80s or ’90s, chances are you’ll find something appealing at IDW Publishing. That’s not me kissing ass. It’s simply the law of averages. Their collection of licenses includes Transformers, My Little Pony, Sonic the Hedgehog, Back to the Future, among others. That’s to say nothing of two iconic staples of the ’80s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters.

And of course, IDW loves them a good crossover. It was only a matter of time before the boys in green met the boys in grey.

So what do people want to see from a story like this? What’s the appeal of a crossover? The answer is fans like it when things…well, cross over. We like to see different characters from different worlds meet, interact, team up, or even fight. Often it’s a combination of all four.

But how do you mash up the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Ghostbusters? On the surface, they have very little in common.

The answer is: Find common ground. Take something the two properties have in common and use it to bring them together. Thus the question becomes, what do the TMNT and the GBs have in common? Well, simply at face value…

  • They’re both four-man teams.
  • They both fight the supernatural and/or the extraordinary.
  • They’re both from New York City.

That, especially that third point, is apparently a good enough starting point. TMNT/Ghostbusters sees an accident with the Turtles’ dimensional portal send them to the Ghostbusters’ incarnation of New York. The accident also frees Chi-You, a Chinese warrior god hell bent on ruling the Earth. Caught up in his plot is none other than a demonically possessed Casey Jones.

These issues feel very much like the Turtles are guest-starring in a Ghostbusters story. That’s because artistic team behind IDW’s Ghostbusters books, penciller Dan Schoening, colorist Luis Delgado, and letterer Neil Uyetake handle most of the pages. The common threads between IDW’s Ghostbusters and TMNT books? Tom Waltz, who co-authored TMNT with Kevin Eastman, was the editor on Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters author Erik Burnham had worked on plenty of supplemental material for the TMNT series as well. So the ground was fertile for a crossover.

Said crossover is in good hands. Over the last decade, Burnham, Schoening, Delgado, and Uyetake have been responsible for what in my opinion are the best Ghostbusters comics ever made. All parties involved clearly had a reverence for the source material, and Burnham was turning in amazing scripts.

But what really sets the material apart is Schoening and Delgado. As is the case with TMNT comics, my argument when it comes to Ghostbusters comics is that a lot rides on how you draw the heroes themselves. Because of likeness issues, most pre-Shoening artists tended to draw the movie-based Ghostbusters as guys who looked loosely like the actors. As in this case the characters are so closely identified with their performers (Can you picture someone other than Bill Murray playing Peter Venkman?), what we got were essentially Ghostbusters stories with characters who looked like they were standing in for the genuine article. 

Then along came Shoening who took a more animated, cartoony approach to the movie Ghostbusters. His Egon Spengler doesn’t look like Harold Ramis. But like an impressionist channeling a specific person, he captures the feel of the characters in a way no other artist ever has. So to see him take on the Ghostbusters and the Ninja Turtles, in the same story no less, is very special.

Issues #2 and #3 are where we get a lot of those “common ground” scenes. The two teams share pizza in the firehouse. Donatello compares tech geek notes with Ray. Raph and Venkman make wisecracks to each other. And of course, we get our first obligatory shot of a Ninja Turtle wearing a proton pack. Along those lines, Cory Smith’s variant cover for issue #3 (shown left) is my favorite in the entire series. If you’re an ’80s or ’90s kid, the smart bet is this would have made your head explode back then.

By villain standards, Chi-You isn’t very memorable at all. He’s essentially a generic, grand-standing, monolouging bad guy. He does, however, manage to look pretty bad ass in Casey Jones’ hockey mask. But the strange thing about this story is that the bad guy is almost an afterthought. The main event is that interaction between the two teams. With only four issues to work with, you almost don’t have the time to properly build up a brand new villain while still delivering on what fans want to see from a crossover.

And did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters deliver on what fans wanted to see? I’d say so. I’d like to think no one realistically came into this thing expecting a grand masterpiece. But it wasn’t a small task either. It’s job was to deliver on a scenario dreamed up by many an ’80s or ’90s kid: What if the Ninja Turtles met the Ghostbusters? And the answer we get is perfectly serviceable. It isn’t contrived, or forced, or hokey, or stupid, all of which it easily could have been. The IDW crew delivered on the crossover, just like they delivered on the two books individually.

What more could a kid who grew up watching these characters on worn out VHS tapes possibly ask for?

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Children of the Atom #2

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Children of the Atom #2
AUTHOR: Vita Ayala
ARTISTS: Bernard Chang, Marcelo Maiolo (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by R.B. Silva & Erick Arciniega.
RELEASED: April 14, 2021

For whatever reason, Marvel’s teenage superhero books have historically had an authenticity to them that DC’s simply don’t. That’s the case with Champions, and it’s the case here too. For instance, early on we have Gabe, a black teenager, narrating about how people “assume they know who I am.” Even as someone who’s never experienced racism, it felt powerful.

On an entirely different note, Gabe has a line about action figures that hit home for me as a toy geek. Multiple levels, people. The series is working on multiple levels!

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: The Joker #2

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: The Joker #2
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV, Sam Johns
ARTISTS: Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo, Arif Prianto (Colorist), Romulo Fajardo Jr., (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer) Ariana Maher (Letterer). Cover by March & Tomeu Morey.
RELEASED: April 13, 2021

In two issues, The Joker has become the most interesting thing James Tynion IV is writing right now. It’s more interesting than his Batman run. I say that despite not really caring much about Punchline’s back-up feature.

Last time I compared this book to Mindhunter. But because of the Gotham City influence, these first two issues have also felt a little like Gotham Central. And God help me, it just occurred to me that book came out almost 20 years ago.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #1

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #1
AUTHOR: Chip Zdarsky
ARTISTS: Pasqual Ferry, Matt Hollingsworth (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Phil Noto.
RELEASED: April 14, 2021

So what if Peter kept his black symbiote costume? That’s the question this book asks, and the answer is pretty much what you’d think it is. Under the symbiote’s influence, Peter pushes things too far.

I’ll say this much: It’s a little refreshing to go back to a simpler time in Spidey’s career. Even if things are about to get really dark.

Weird is it may sound, I appreciate the depth of the black Joe Caramagna uses for the symbiote costume. You stare into it, and it feels like you’re looking into some kind of twisted abyss…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman: The Detective #1

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Batman: The Detective #1 (of 6)
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Andy Kubert, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Clem Robins (Letterer)
RELEASED: April 13, 2021

I was tempted to close this one early. Not because this isn’t a talented creative team. It just isn’t my cup of tea. Not just because Batman is wearing the ridiculous jacket and goggles, but because it feels like Tom Taylor is doing his best Frank Miller impression. The dialogue and narration is very terse and blunt, and there’s no shortage of blood. Bruce Wayne even has a military-style short haircut for no apparent reason. Kubert’s work is fine, but the fact that he did DKIII makes this feel all the more Miller-ish.

I’ll pass, thanks.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Action Comics #1029

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Action Comics #1029
AUTHORS: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad
ARTISTS: Phil Hester, Michael Avon Oeming, Eric Gapstur (Inker), Hi-Fi (Colorist), Taki Soma (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: March 23, 2021

As a fairly new father, the narrative in this issue about kids stepping out of their “golden age” and learning their parents aren’t infallible was touching. It felt very true to Superman.

*sigh* Oh Phil Hester. If only you were sticking around.

I can’t help but think of Powers every time I see Michael Avon Oeming’s work. He’s well suited for the Midnighter back-up, though. I’m looking forward to more.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

TMNT #3844 Deep-Dive – Going Big

***This year marks the 10-year anniversary of IDW Publishing’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. In celebration, we here at Primary Ignition will be looking back at the book as a whole. For some, this has emerged as the definitive version of the TMNT. Here is why…***

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #38-44
AUTHORS: Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman
ARTISTS: Mateus Santolouco, Cory Smith
COLORIST: Ronda Pattison
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: TMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 5 (shown right)
RELEASED: October 2014 – March 2015

***New around here? Check out Primary Ignition‘s TMNT Deep-Dive Review archive!***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I was about halfway through these issues when I noticed things were feeling bigger. We had a big bad guy with a big bad plan for his big terrible fortress. So our heroes made their own big plans, got in some big fights, and in Donatello’s case, took a big risk. A risk that came with big consequences.

Naturally, with big things come big visuals. Slash using only his massive body to shield Michelangelo from an airborne car. A friggin’ building collapsing on Bebop and Rocksteady. Krang looking into the sky with glee as his Technodrome begins to terraform Earth in his home planet’s image. And lest we forget the intense ground battle between the Foot Clan and the forces of Dimension X. It’s all here in these seven issues.

But before we get into all that, let’s talk about Old Hob, shall we?

Before IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series brought us its take on classic villains like Shredder and Krang, there was Old Hob. He was there from the very first page of the very first issue. My initial impression of this mutant cat with an eyepatch was that he was what I’ll call a “starter villain.” In essence, a one-note bad guy for our heroes to fight while we as readers learn about them and their world. Under a different creative team, we might have been done with Hob as early as issue #4. Having served his purpose, the character could have been cast aside.

Instead, the crew at IDW Publishing has consistently found a place for Old Hob. We’ve seen him evolve from gang leader to would-be mutant revolutionary. Issues #38-40 represent a big step in that evolution, as we see Hob has started using mutagen to create his own mutant army. But calamity ensues when Bebop and Rocksteady catch wind of it. It’s all the mass chaos and destruction you could hope for.

Hob has two new recruits who we meet in issue #38. The first is Mondo Gecko, a TMNT legacy character and skateboarding lizard. The second is Herman, a hermit crab with a knack for heavy artillery (shown above). What I appreciate more than anything about these two is that, like the Turtles, they’re tonally versatile. More often than not they’re funny characters, Herman in particular. But when it’s time for a fight, they can pose a serious threat.

Less versatile, yet undoubtedly priceless, is Pidgeon Pete, who we met back in issue #35. Pete is a dim-witted, boundlessly enthusiastic slice of pure cheesy comedic joy. As much crap as I’ve given Mateus Santolouco about how he draws the Turtles, his dumb anthropomorphic pidgeon game is on point, and should never be tinkered with or changed. Ever.

Santolouco is indeed back for issues #38-40, before Cory Smith tags in for #41-44. Interestingly, their stylistic approaches to the Turtles and their world are very similar, to the point that it’s difficult to differentiate between the two at times. Whether that’s good or bad depends on one’s personal tastes. For yours truly, the upside is that it offers a comforting consistency between Santolouco’s issues and Smith’s. Both are good at high impact fight sequences and turn in a tremendous amount of detail. The downside? I’m still not in love with how Santolouco draws the Turtles. Smith’s, while slightly better, have many of the same traits.

If there was any doubt, it becomes pretty clear in issue #40 that the book is gradually working toward a romance between Raphael and Alopex. The idea of one of the Turtles having a genuine love interest hasn’t been explored much over the years. So I’ve been curious to see how the IDW crew develops this. At the same time, there’s an awkwardness to it that I’ve never quite been able to get past. One is a turtle, the other is a snow fox. One a reptile, the other a mammal. So how to they “match up?” Physically, I mean…

Y’know what? Let’s just change the subject.

Moving into the “Attack on the Technodrome” story, one thing becomes damn clear: Cory Smith draws a hell of a Krang. The sheer amount of detail he puts into this tentacled alien blob makes it genuinely look like it could exist in the real world. The last three pages of issue #40 are a thing of beauty.

Writers have a habit of keeping all four Turtles in their respective character “lanes.” Leonardo the leader, Raphael the rebel, Michelangelo the fun one, and Donatello the brain. One thing this series has been great at is blurring those lines and not giving us cookie cutter characters. One small example: in issue #38 Mikey actually says, “Just ’cause I’m not a genius like Donnie doesn’t make me dumb.”

To that end, Donatello is a character to watch during this stretch of issues, and not just because of what happens to him at the end (no spoilers!). Early on we see him stand up to Splinter, calling him out for his fixation on stopping Shredder, insisting Krang and the Technodrome potentially terraforming the Earth are more urgent. We then see him take initiative and a real risk to try and thwart Krang’s plan. He winds up making a tremendous sacrifice for his family, and for the world at large. There’s no mistaking it: These ain’t cookie cutter Ninja Turtles.

It all comes down to a battle at Krang’s base on Burnow Island. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance as the Technodrome begins to terraform the Earth, the Turtles infiltrate the massive moving fortress while Shredder and the Foot face Krang’s forces on the ground. Sadly, because we only have about two issues to left by the time they get to said ground battle, it isn’t as satisfying as you’d hope.

What is satisfying is the one-on-one fight we see between Shredder and Krang. And shockingly, the right guy wins!

The most interesting thing about the Shredder/Krang tandem on the ’80s TV show, at least for yours truly, is that their modus operandi are so different. Shredder is an Earth-bound ninja master, and Krang is an intergalactic warlord. They shouldn’t work well together, but somehow they do. In the IDWverse, however, Shredder and Krang are not partners (yet). In this story, they’re actually at war with one another. And while Shredder is very much the arch rival of the TMNT, when you stack his forces up against Krang’s, it should be no contest. Krang’s space age weapons beat Shredder’s blades and shurikens any day of the week. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so given their awesome track record, that’s exactly what this book gives us. It doesn’t inflate Shredder’s power based on his arch villain status. The world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t really the place to look for realism. But I appreciated that little pinch of it.

One character who’s easy to overlook in all of this is Baxter Stockman. Like Old Hob, he’s been around since issue #1 and has big plans of his own. In these issues we find him working alongside the reluctant robot Fugitoid (see the Neutrino story arc) as Krang’s servants and Technodrome tech aficionados. But as ever, Stockman has his own agenda to undermine Krang. When confronted by the Turtles, Stockman unveils an army of “flyborgs.” They’re half cyborg, half insect zombies. God help us.

Stockman is a TMNT legacy character that dates back to the original comic book. But fans of the ’80s cartoon may remember him as the evil scientist character who turned into a mutant fly. As the ’80s cartoon is obviously one of this book’s main influences, I was ready for them to turn him into a fly pretty quickly. But to their credit, the IDW crew held off and gave the evil scientist time to shine. The flyborgs are a pretty nice hold-off, though. I love their design, which originated in a Micro-Series issue drawn by Andy Kuhn. It’s a wonderful sci-fi/horror blend, and Smith’s execution of it is great.

It’s no accident that the series feels like it’s moving toward a crescendo. The stakes are getting higher, the cast is growing larger, and things do indeed feel like they’re getting bigger. All roads lead to issue #50, and one more epic showdown…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Suicide Squad #2

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Suicide Squad #2
AUTHOR: Robbie Thompson
ARTISTS: Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira (Inker), Marcelo Maiolo (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: April 6, 2021

The only real complaint I have with this issue is that it has a gratuitous Batman cameo. Not the worst I’ve ever seen. But hardly inspiring.

With all the emphasis on Peacemaker in the upcoming James Gunn Suicide Squad, it comes as no surprise that he remains our central character. Thompson is developing him nicely.

Aside from Superboy, I’d argue most of the characters Peacemaker is surrounded by are fairly obscure and a little silly. As such, they’re fairly expendable. That’s not a bad thing in a book where, theoretically, any of them could die at any moment.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman #107

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Batman 107, cover, Jorge Jimenez, 2021TITLE: Batman #107
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Jorge Jimenez, Ricardo Lopez, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: April 6, 2021

Tynion is doing a story where mass panic has broken out in the wake of a Scarecrow attack, all the while the police seem to be a little trigger happy. You don’t think that could have been inspired by anything in the real world, do you…?

The more I see it, the more I dig this design of the Scarecrow. It’s like a mix of his classic look and his look from the Arkham games.

Ricardo Lopez’s art in the Ghost-Maker back-up is just a little bit reminiscent of Skottie Young. Can’t say I expected that.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars: The High Republic #4

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Star Wars: The High Republic #4
AUTHOR: Cavan Scott
ARTISTS: Ario Anindito, Mark Morales (Inker), Annalisa Leoni (Colorist), Ariana Maher (Letterer). Cover by Phil Noto.
RELEASED: April 7, 2021

This issue went by fast. In a good way. As I said with issue #3, the more this series gets to focus in on character development, the better. That way, we’re a little more invested in this different era.

To that end, this issue shines a nice spotlight on Jedi Master Sskeer and his former apprentice Keeve Trennis. Sskeer has a distinct and interesting look to him, in that he’s a reptile with only one arm. And his interactions with Keeve all come off heart-felt and genuine. Those two should have been our only protagonists at this early going.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.