Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

A TMNT #2937 Deep-Dive – Cutesy Turtles

***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 #29-37
AUTHORS: Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow
ARTISTS: Sophie Campbell, Mateus Santolouco, Cory Smith
GUEST ARTIST: Mark Torres
COLORIST: Ronda Pattison
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: TMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 4 (shown right)
RELEASED: December 2013 – August 2014

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I don’t usually go for what I call, “Cutesy Turtles,” i.e. the boys in green drawn in a cute and cuddly style. That’s not to say the Turtles shouldn’t have softer, gentler moments. But remember, the Turtles are martial artists. They’re ninja. They’re warriors. They should look ready and able to fight at any given time

Sophie Campbell provides a unique and rare exception to that rule. I’d classify her take on the Turtles as cute. But there’s also a sensitive quality to her take that made it perfect for the four-issue “Northampton” story arc in IDW’s TMNT series.

The whole “retreat to a farm” plot point dates back to the original Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird comic book and has been adapted into various TMNT media over the years. It always involves the Turtles recovering after getting beaten down by the Foot, and eventually making a triumphant return to the city. The IDW series presented it with a new twist: Leonardo recovering after being brainwashed by the Foot. It wasn’t just a matter of recovering from a beat down. It was about coming together and healing as a family.

I think one would be hard-pressed to debate that Campbell’s art in these issues has a cute quality to it. But there’s more to it than that. This is as emotionally transparent and as vulnerable as the Turtles have ever looked. Part of that is because of the “softer” look Campbell gives them. Another part involves her decision to draw them with eyeballs, as opposed to the white slits many artists use, eyes being a “window to the soul” and what not. The general autumn aesthetic of “Northamption” plays a role too. Campbell and colorist Ronda Pattison’s greater emphasis on fall colors is a subtle message that we’ve got a front row seat to a time of change and transformation in these characters’ lives.

From a writing perspective, it’s interesting to pay attention to each individual Turtle during these issues. TMNT #30 in particular. Each brother deals with the blows they’ve been dealt in his own way. Michelangelo narrates the issue via a letter to Woody. Thus, he reaches out to others while expressing himself creatively. Leonardo desperately seeks guidance from a mentor, in this case his mother (more on her in a moment). Raphael, perhaps predictably, seeks out confrontation with Alopex, who is on her own journey of self discovery. Understated but no less important is Donatello’s emergence as a healer. We see him tend to Splinter’s wounded leg and act as a friendly ear for Leo. This emphasizes that his contributions to the Turtle clan go far beyond that of a simple Mr. Fix-It.

On the subject of healing, not to be lost in the shuffle is April O’Neil, and her role in the saga of the Turtles. We learn in “Northampton” that her father, now disabled after suffering a stroke, was once a scientist who had a hand in testing and developing the mutagen that transformed the Turtles and Splinter into their present state. The O’Neil family will later learn that the “ooze” in question has miraculous healing properties. That’s a new spin on the green goo that’s become synonymous with the TMNT over nearly three decades. More than anything else, it opens up some interesting storytelling doors…

The Turtles have always had a father figure in Master Splinter. But rarely if ever had there been a maternal figure in the story. Historically, the closest thing to one came in the form of Tang Shen, who we’d see via flashbacks as a love interest for the future Splinter, Hamato Yoshi. She would always meet a bloody end thanks to the Shredder.

In the IDWverse, Shen is cast not only as Yoshi’s beloved wife in feudal Japan, but the mother of their four sons. Centuries later, Yoshi is reincarnated as Splinter, and his sons return as four turtles. Shen, on the other hand, becomes a spectral presence, and for the first time has a role in the ongoing story of the TMNT. We saw her briefly during “City Fall,” and we see her once again during “Northampton.” Campbell and Pattison’s presentation becomes downright tender, and also brighter during Shen scenes (shown left). Fittingly, it also has a bit more of an Asian influence. It’s a unique visual, seeing this woman behave in a motherly way with these anthropomorphic animals. And needless to say, her relationship to the Turtles and Splinter is unlike any we’ve seen in the series.

Family continues to be one of the central themes for the book heading out of “Northampton,” into issue #33. The relationship, or lack thereof, between Casey Jones and his father, now the massive brute called Hun, takes centerstage. Present since the very first issue, this plotline is one of the more prevalent byproducts of presenting a younger Casey Jones. In other media, the character has almost always been a grown adult. Making him college-aged allows us to see not only a young man whose identity is still forming, but a character that’s often much more vulnerable than our traditional hockey-mask wearing ass kicker. And thus, more interesting. The downside? A jacked up dude in a hockey mask is a lot more intimidating and formidable than some teenager walking around with golf clubs and a hockey stick.

The truly tragic element of the Jones family story is that by this point in the series, Hun does actually want to help Casey. He wants to do what, in his mind, is best for his son by giving him a bunch of cash and sending him off to start a new life for himself. All the while, Hun would be staying in New York working for Shredder, the man who stabbed Casey and put him in the hospital. Hun may want what’s best for his son, but it’s clear where his loyalties are. And when Casey refuses his offer, we get an all too grim look at just who Arnold Jones has become.

Issue #33 also sees Mateus Santolouco return on pencils and inks. My complaints from last time about Santolouco’s Turtles looking too inflatable and puffy still stand. But oddly enough, his renderings of Slash, another mutant turtle, are perfectly fine. Granted, Slash is a different species of turtle, and is larger than our four boys in green. He also has an entirely different texture to his skin, which Santolouco draws beautifully. All Santolouco’s mutant characters (the four Turtles notwithstanding) are very charismatic and expressive. Not just Slash, but Old Hob, Pidgeon Pete, the Rat King, among many others. So it becomes that much easier to get invested in these characters and their world.

And yes, I did say the Rat King (shown below). Another TMNT “legacy” character that’s appeared in various media over the years, his trademark is his ability to control rats. Naturally, that becomes a problem for Splinter. The Rat King of the IDWverse has a more supernatural, and frankly demonic quality to him. As one might expect, he’s hardly a one-off baddie, and has his place in the larger tapestry of this series. But for now, he simply puts Splinter and Leo through the ringer, content to play again another day…

This portion of the book also lays a good amount of foundation for things to come. We spend more time with tech genius Harold Lilja, who we met in Donatello’s Micro-Series issue. There’s also Nobody, a vigilante/superhero who’s loosely the TMNT equivalent to Iron Man. She emerges when Angel, a friend of Casey’s and member of the Purple Dragons, dons a tech suit created by Harold.

Harold’s latest creation is Metalhead, a turtle-shaped cyborg and TMNT legacy character who’ll serve a purpose the likes of which readers will never see coming. I was impressed with what the IDW team did with Metalhead, specifically his “four-legged” battle mode.

Issue #37 and a portion of #36 see Cory Smith take a turn on artistic duties. Smith’s style is somewhat akin to what Ben Bates turned in during his time on the series, with a touch of Dan Duncan thrown in as well. It feels very familiar. As always, Pattison’s work brings a wonderful consistency to it all.

Smith gets the tall task of drawing the series’ first meeting between Shredder and Krang. Or at least the first meeting we’ve seen, as it turns out they’ve met before. I don’t love that approach, as I think it would have been much more interesting to see these two would-be dictators and forces for evil meet for the first time and size each other up. But what we get nonetheless has intrigue to it. They meet for what’s almost a business negotiation. As one might expect, things break down.

The four “Northampton” issues are the real selling point for this cluster of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It puts our characters in a new environment and studies them during a period of vulnerability. It’s not a matter of the book dipping in quality. Rather, it’s about setting the table for things to come. And rest assured, big things are coming…

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, Dead Body Road, TMNT, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Last week I said I missed Star Wars and TMNT comics. This week we got the return of Bounty Hunters, and a double-dose of TMNT. Where are you gonna find a more fair friggin’ deal than that?

This week’s new releases are pretty light. So I’m holding a few back from last week’s pull list. That Texas Blood is one of them. We might also see Marvels Snapshot: Captain America and/or Harley Quin: Black + White + Red.

TITLE: Batman #93
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Guillem March, Javier Fernandez, Tomeu Morey & David Baron (Colorists), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: June 23, 2020

The Designer’s role in this story more or less wraps up in this issue. That’s a little sad, as I liked that character concept. Even if the costume was a little bit much.

Punchline, the Joker’s new answer to Harley Quinn, gets put over pretty strong here. They obviously want her to be a big deal. She’s got an interesting worldview, and it’s not as crazy as you might think. Her costume is definitely cosplay-friendly. Not quite as much as Harley, but expect to see her around the convention scene.

TITLE: Dead Body Road: Bad Blood #1
AUTHOR: Justin Jordan
ARTISTS: Benjamin Tiesma, Mat Lopes (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by Matteo Scalera & Morena Dinisio.
RELEASED: June 24, 2020

This issue has a strong hook. For yours truly, most of that has to do with our heroine, Bree Hale. We establish her as a small town girl-next-door type. But obviously she has a history that allows her to kick all kinds of ass and escape perilous situations. She’s particularly strong in the climactic sequence as she fights off a sadistic interrogator.

My understanding is this isn’t connected with the previous Dead Body Road mini at all, and that it’s an anthology book like Criminal. So you should be okay coming in cold.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #105
AUTHORS: Sophie Campbell (Script), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Campbell, Ronda Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer).
RELEASED: June 24, 2020

There’s a big moment between Raph and Alopex in this issue that leads me to believe we’re headed toward fairly uncharted waters: Romantic interests for the Turtles.

And no, don’t talk about Mitsu in TMNT III. Please.

I’m game for really putting the Teenage in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Especially now that they’re doing this Mutant Town story. Between the Raph/Alopex scene and the concert setting, this issue really does that well. They’ve got a chance to break some new ground here. Let’s hope they take it.

TITLE:TMNT: Jennika #3
AUTHOR:
Braham Revel, Ronda Pattison
ARTISTS:
Revel, Jodi Nishijima, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letters).
RELEASED:
June 24, 2020

I can’t get over how much Braham Revel’s style reminds me of the 2012 Nickelodeon show.

It’s amazing to think how virtually everything The Next Mutation did wrong with Venus di Milo, IDW has done right with Jennika. Although based on how the IDWverse has been put together, we might actually see Venus in the comics at some point.

Bebop and Rocksteady show up here. Why does Rocksteady carry an average-sized sledgehammer? It feels like it should be bigger. Mutant-sized. That, or a giant blaster like on the old cartoon.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #50
AUTHOR:
Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Daniele Di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
June 24, 2020

Ryan Parrott does Rocky, Adam, and Aisha a lot of justice in these books. That’s one of those things that’s expected, but still really nice when you actually see it. Rocky is also sans mullet, which I appreciate.

“Necessary Evil” might have gone a little long. But it was still a story very much worth telling. Well executed too, in terms of both the writing and the visuals.

Definitely a worthy issue #50. And if the cliffhanger at the end is any indication, PR fans are going to want to come back for issue #51.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #6
AUTHOR:
Tom Taylor
ARTISTS:
Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by Redondo & Marcelo Maiolo.
RELEASED:
June 24, 2020

The humor in this issue is on-point. Especially with Batman doing a guest shot. That’s a high compliment coming from me, as I don’t usually get into Harley-Quinn-style comedy.

We’re teased with a separation of Harley and Deadshot from all the various new characters in the group. That would be interesting, though I expect ultimately a bad move for sales. I’d stick around, though. Again, a pretty high compliment from yours truly.

TITLE: Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #3
AUTHOR: Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS: Paolo Villanelli, Arif Prianto (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED: June 24, 2020

Boba Fett is teased for this issue, but doesn’t show. I’m curious as to how much of him we’ll need to see to keep this series afloat as the months go by. That’s not to say characters like Bossk and Valance aren’t appealing. But Boba’s drawing power is obvious at this point. You could easily make the argument for doing a Boba Fett series, much like the Darth Vader one.

I grow a little weary of the story they’re telling about all these hunters having a common target. The target in question simply isn’t that interesting. Not yet, at least.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Micro-Series, Vol. 1 – Mildly Sexualized Mutant Snow Fox

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro-Series, Vol. 1TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Micro-Series, Vol. 1

AUTHOR: Brian Lynch, Tom Waltz
PENCILLERS: Franco Urru, Andy Kuhn, Valerio Schiti, Ross Campbell. Cover by David Peterson.
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Micro-Series #1-4
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: June 20, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As a child of the ’80s, there are few books I’m enjoying more than IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which combines elements from the nearly all incarnations of the TMNT. In addition to the monthly ongoing series, IDW is publishing several Micro-Series issues which run alongside the events of the book. Each issue spotlights a single character, and provides some extra insight as to how their minds work. This book collects the first four Micro-Series issues, each of which focuses on one of the boys in green.

This book is a little tough to get a grip on because each issue takes place at a different point in the story being told in the ongoing TMNT series, with different locations and different characters. From a collection standpoint, I find it a little odd that these issues weren’t collected with Tom Waltz and Dan Duncan’s TMNT issues, so the story could be told in a less confusing, more linear fashion. I suppose it offers an advantage in that the fluctuating artwork lends itself to the different perspectives of the characters. But including these issues with the ongoing story might have increased their level of exposure, as this material really isn’t necessary for the enjoyment of the regular series.

TMNT Micro-Series: Raphael, AlopexRaphael is up first, in what is probably the most notable issue here. Shortly after Raph is reunited with his brothers in Change is Constant, he and Casey Jones are out on patrol. They run into a humanoid arctic fox named Alopex, who initially portrays herself as the victim of a bizarre experiment. But eventually we learn that’s not quite the case. In addition to the debut of our mildly sexualized mutant snow fox here, we also see a pair of familiar looking cretins: Bebop and Rocksteady in human form. This obviously indicates that we’ll be seeing the return of the beloved dimwitted duo in the near future. We also get a brief look at their boss…three guesses who that is. My biggest complaint with Raph’s part of the book is that the debut of Alopex and the return of Bebop and Rocksteady steal the spotlight from him. The story is supposed to be about how he has a sentimental side despite his tough exterior. But that’s not what we come away thinking about. It’s a strong issue, but maybe not for the reasons it wanted to be.

Next we go to Michelangelo, who’s out to have some fun on New Year’s Eve, but stumbles on to a heist. What’s cool about this issue is that it really plays up Mike’s individuality, and his desire to have fun like a normal teenager would. Instead of constantly running drills like Leo, training like Raph, or tinkering with machines like Don, he wants to live his life a little more. This story tells us there’s really nothing wrong with that kind of individuality, and we see Mike realize that the only person (or Turtle, I guess) that he needs to be to find success is himself. Andy Kuhn’s art isn’t normally the type I would enjoy on a Ninja Turtles story. But given Mike’s light-hearted demeanor, it works here.

TMNT Micro-Series: DonatelloWe then move to Donatello. A lot of writers tend to let Don’s role as “the brain” eclipse any other potentially interesting aspect of his personality. That’s not the case here. Brian Lynch and Tom Waltz (who actually wrote the script here) portray Donny as someone whose interests often isolate him from his brothers, who don’t share them at all. He finds some camaraderie and companionship through the anonymity of the internet, where he finds out about a gadget convention and decides to attend. When he finds Baxter Stockman causing trouble, Don and his “internet arch enemy” have to save the day. Valerio Schiti’s art really stands out in this book, as it’s the cleanest and most stripped down compared to the rest. I like the way the internet is used in this story and how Don, like a lot of people, used it as a way to reach out and express himself in ways he can’t at home. It added a new level of depth to his character that I haven’t seen explored before.

The most emotional story in this collection belongs to Leonardo. The issue takes place shortly after Splinter is kidnapped by Old Hob. Now, much like we saw in the original Kevin Eastman/Peter Laird issues, the Turtles must find their lost father. While searching for Splinter, Leo is attacked by countless Foot soldiers (yet another echo from Eastman and Laird), and must fight to survive. As he’s fighting, he flashes back to his childhood, and recalls his mother’s murder at the hands of Oroku Saki (Remember, in this continuity the Turtles and Splinter were originally human before being murdered by the Foot Clan, and reincarnated in their mutant form). As such, Leo snaps and we get a bit of insight as to TMNT Micro-Series: Leonardowhy he’s so dedicated to his family and his training. Ross Campbell’s Turtles are shorter and more stout than what we’re used to seeing from Dan Duncan. But the style works well in its own right. During a few key moments he even diverts from the use of white slits for the Turtles’ eyes in order to give Leo a bit more of an expressive face. The fight between Leo and the Foot is also really suspenseful and well choreographed. It really builds to a fever pitch, making for a sequence fitting for the Turtles’ best fighter.

The book also has a few nice nods to the ’80s cartoon that I really enjoyed as a longtime fan. Mike calls himself a “party dude,” Don’s screen name is duz_machines_84. Little things like that are fun.

While this book is frustrating in how it picks up at various points in the ongoing series, the character development it provides for Leo, Don and Mike is undeniable. Raph didn’t necessarily have a moment like that, but given the extra of attention he always seems to get compared to the others, he’ll survive. If you’ve ever given the Turtles as individuals this much thought, you’ll enjoy this book.

RATING: 8/10

Images 1 and 2 from 4letter.net. Image 3 from thetechnodrome.com.

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