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 Video Games

TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge Trailer Drops

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

A brief trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, an arcade game style thowback. While this trailer itself is about a minute and a half, there’s only about 20 seconds worth of gameplay footage in it. Thus, we have more flash than substance.

Still, what we do see doesn’t exactly lack promise…

Shredder’s Revenge will be a four-player, side-scrolling beat-em-up game in the style of classic ’80s and ’90s TMNT games. It will take us to classic TMNT locales such as the New York City sewers and the Technodrome.

This should be fun. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game and Turtles in Time are two beloved pieces of ’90s nostalgia, and probably still the best overall TMNT games ever made. If Shredder’s Revenge is half as good, it’ll be well worthwhile.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge will be available for both PC and consoles. For more, check out IGN’s coverage here.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

A TMNT #112 Deep Dive – Origins and Opportunities

***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 #112
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
ARTISTS: Eastman (Layouts), Dan Duncan, Mateus Santolouco,
COLORIST: Ronda Pattison
LETTERERS: Robbie Robbins, Shawn Lee
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: TMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 1 (shown right)
RELEASED: August 2011-July 2012

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

One can’t define IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series in one, or even a handful of ways. It covers so much ground. It’s a love-letter to decades of TMNT lore in comics, television, movies, video games, etc. It’s a masterclass in comic book storytelling in both the short and long term. It’s an explosion of often beautiful work from a number of different artists. It’s become, in some ways, the pinnacle of TMNT mythology based on not just it’s lengthy duration, but its undoubtable quality.

So for the uninitiated…who/what are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, TMNT for short, were created in a black and white comic book self-published in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The premise was pure comic book insanity: Four anthropomorphic turtles trained in martial arts by an anthropomorphic rat, who then proceed to defend New York City against extraordinary threats of all kind. Most notably an evil ninja clan known as the Foot, and their sinister leader the Shredder.

This bizarre concept exploded into an unlikely cultural phenomenon after it was adapted into a wildly successful cartoon show in 1987. During the peak of the franchise’s popularity in the ’80s and early ’90s, TMNT was a multimedia and merchandising juggernaut. There were toys, feature films, video games, licensed clothing of all kinds, Turtle-themed food products, a bizarre musical stage show, just to name a few. It might be tough to understand if you weren’t a kid in the ’80s or ’90s, but “Turtlemania” was very, very real.

After multiple iterations in television, movies, and of course comic books, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand was purchased by Nickelodeon in 2009. Naturally, there were more TV shows, movies, video games, etc. But for sheer power of storytelling, little (if anything) tops the 2011 comic book series from by IDW Publishing that’s still running to this day.

That’s where we come in.

Almost right off the bat, TMNT hits us with what may still be the best two-page spread in the entire series (shown right). Certainly it’s one of them. Put aside that it’s beautifully drawn and colored. This image gives us the series’ initial hook using purely the visual language of comic books. Especially if you’re a longtime Turtle fan, though you don’t need to be one in order to get it.

Look at how Old Hob and his thugs are grouped compared to how the Turtles and Splinter are grouped. There’s a sizable gap in between our heroes, whereas the villains are drawn fairly tight. What does this tell us? That something’s missing. The Turtles are incomplete. The good guys have a problem that needs to be solved. Then, consider Dan Duncan’s masterful rendering of the Turtles (I appreciate Michelangelo’s toothy growl in particular), and Ronda Pattison’s beautiful smokey coloring of the scene, and you’ve got pure comic book awesomeness spread out over two pages.

Indeed, Raphael is missing. This was the big twist early on: Having Raph grow up on his own, separated from his family. As far as set-ups are concerned, this is a pretty good one. Raph has always been written as the moody and broody one among his brothers. Growing up on his own gives him a reason to be that way, as opposed to assigning him those character traits for no real reason. So in the larger sense, it’s a good idea…

What’s always puzzled me about this twist with Raphael is that in the short term it’s never effectively followed up on. There’s no story about Raph butting heads with his father or brothers as he struggles to acclimate to this family he’s never known. Between issues #4 and #5, we essentially jump from reunited to reacclimated. It’s the kind of missed opportunity the series would not come to be associated with as it continued. Let’s call it stumbling out of the gate.

The IDW crew gives April O’Neil a larger role in the formation of the Turtles’ identities. She’s an intern at Stock Gen (owned by Baxter Stockman) who grows attached to the rat and four turtles brought in for research. She even gives them their names (“I have History of Renaissance Art 101 this semester.”). This creates a a nice connection between the Turtles and Splinter early on, to the point that she’s essentially a part of the family.

These 12 issues are among my favorite artistic runs on any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book. Nobody draws the Turtles quite like Dan Duncan. It’s all in the way he does their faces. The big white eyes, the way the beak curves up, the larger-than-you-might-expect size of the teeth. Even the their bodies have a seemingly perfect turtle-to-human ratio. Drawn in his sketchy yet masterfully inked style, it all adds up to figures that are very expressive. His Turtles “act” as well, if not better, than any I’ve ever seen. As do virtually all his mutant characters.

Colorist Ronda Pattison’s contributions to the series should never be ignored. She’s been with the book since day one, and provided a really nice consistency throughout the series. Issue #5 is a particularly strong one for her, as she uses three different color palettes to convey three different settings and moods. We have a smokey looking city scene as a stealthy Splinter sneaks around buildings at night. Then we have a more sunny and colorful palette as we check in with our reunited brothers in their sewer home. Finally, we switch to a more sepia toned look as we travel back to feudal Japan to see the Turtles and Splinter in human form.

Duncan and Pattison also did the primary covers (as opposed to the variant covers) for these issues. It’s all good, strong work. But Duncan leaves the book after issue #12, just as the duo were starting to hit their stride. For my money, issues #11 and #12 were their best work cover-wise.

Indeed, IDW made a bold choice in going with a reincarnation angle for their version of the TMNT story. We see in issue #5 that Hamato Yoshi and his four teenage sons have been reincarnated into their current states after being executed by their Yoshi’s enemy Oroku Saki, the future Shredder, and the Foot Clan. Obviously nothing like this had been done with the origin story before. I’m not sure if any “purists” were angered by it. But for me it was a case of no harm no foul. It didn’t fundamentally alter anything about the Turtles, Splinter, or Shredder. They didn’t so much change the origin story, so much as add a new layer to it.

As much as anything else, I appreciate that these first twelve issues give the Turtles a more expansive gallery of villains to fight. Shredder (shown above) and the Foot Clan have been around since the beginning, and cast such a long shadow that they tend to monopolize the villain scene in Ninja Turtles stories. In contrast, this series leads off with a brand new villain: A mutant cat named Old Hob. From there, in addition to the Foot, we meet sinister scientist/business tycoon Baxter Stockman, who from there leads us to the intergalactic tyrant Krang.

Like a cover of a classic song, many of these are familiar notes played with a different sound. Most of these characters we’ve seen before. So it’s just a matter what the IDW “spin” will be. You’ve got the Turtles, Splinter, April O’Neil, Casey Jones, Shredder and the Foot Clan, Krang and Dimension X, Stockman and the Mousers, etc. Naturally, there are familiar story beats too. We’ve got Mousers invading the Turtles’ lair, the boys having to rescue a kidnapped Splinter, April and Casey’s budding romance, among others.

It all amounts to something two-fold. On one hand, we have a melting pot consisting of much of what worked for the TMNT in other eras (mainly the original comics and the ’80s cartoon). But on the other, our creators are using those elements to lay the foundation for their own stories down the line. These issues are essentially a garden filled with seeds for stories that would come to fruition in the over 100 issues that have since followed. The care and crafting put into these early issues was evident when they came out, and is even more so with the benefit of hindsight.

What it all comes down to in the first 12 issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I’d argue most of the really good TMNT stories ever told, is family. Not just the discovery of one’s family, and what they mean in the formation of your identity, but the family you choose for yourself. April O’Neil unknowingly plays a role in the Turtles’ story, but eventually embraces and accepts them. Casey Jones leaves an abusive father to find our heroes as his new surrogate family, most notably a surrogate brother in Raphael. There is no stronger bond than family, regardless of what form it takes. That, if nothing else, has been the prevalent theme that has kept these characters and their stories relevant, and will likely continue to do so for generations to come.

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

Posted in Movies

TMNT: The Movie at 30: Fan Film Inspiration

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

In my experience, fan films are very hit or miss. And as far as Ninja Turtle fan films go, it’s almost always a miss. The reason is very simple: A fan film simply doesn’t have the budget to create Turtle costumes that suspend disbelief. It’s primarily a lip sync issue. Hell, in a lot of them the mouths don’t move at all.

But two TMNT fan films have won me over with sheer nostalgic charm, thanks to a connection with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie.

The first, and I’d argue most impressive, is Casey Jones. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, it’s clearly intended to be a prequel to the 1990 movie. The filmmakers are clearly going for similar lighting. The lead actor looks ike Elias Koteas (who played Casey in the movie). But the ultimate cherry on top? Robbie Rist, who voiced Michelangelo in all three original films, reprises his role here. And he’s obviously older, he does a fine job recapturing that Mikey magic.

My one big critique? I wouldn’t have put April in the yellow jumpsuit. Yes, we all love the old cartoon. But that’s clearly not the vibe you’re going for here.

Up next is Back in the Shell, which was to be a TMNT live action fan series. The idea is awesome, of course. To their credit, these folks at Prop Shop Garage make some of the most incredible Turtle costumes I’ve ever seen. I even gave them a little press when I first caught wind of it. The influence from the 1990 film is as plain as green on a Turtle. Sadly, the series never got off the ground. But we did get this awesome trailer…

I should add that I was originally going to spotlight a third project here. It came out around the same time as the first Michael Bay TMNT film. It saw Raphael, played by his movie voice actor Josh Pais, interrogating “Megan Fox” about what the new movie would be like.

But apparently, much like the Turtles themselves the film struck hard and faded away…without a trace.

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

Posted in Movies

TMNT: The Movie at 30: The Alternate Ending

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As those of us who fell in love with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie as kids have grown into geeky adults, more and more curiosity has generated regarding unused content from the film, or scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor.

For instance, cut footage exists of a scene where Shredder fights off the street punks that got caught after mugging April. And he does it while sitting down.

Other bits and pieces supposedly exist. But what you see below is, to my knowledge, the closest thing we have to an actual deleted scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie. This was to have been an alternate ending, in which April and Danny pitch their story to a comic book publisher while the Turtles look on…

While this is a cool thing to see all these years later, I think it goes without saying we were better off without it in the actual film.

Robbie Rist provided the voice for Michelangelo in the movie. Obviously that’s not him at the end. Would have been cool, but I can’t bring myself to complain about something like this.

Astoundingly, we’ve never gotten any kind of deluxe edition of the film in the United States. But for some odd reason, the German release of the movie contains not only this scene and some alternate takes, but commentary by director Steve Barron.

Totally bogus, dude.

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

Posted in Movies

TMNT: The Movie at 30: Original Trailer

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

If you’d have told me in say, February, that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie was about to turn 30, I’d never have believed it.

But after “social distancing” at home for a mere week and change, I absolutely believe it. Heck, I’d believe ya if you told me it was 50.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is 30 years old as of yesterday. If you’re a child of the ’80s, this is one of the movies that shaped your childhood.

But it’s more than just a great nostalgia movie, or even a great comic book movie. It’s a great movie. Period. It’s about more than martial artists in turtle costumes. At its core, it’s about family. The family you’re born with, and the family you choose.

So as we celebrate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie this week, I invite you to take a look at the film’s original trailer…

Obviously, much was unfinished when this trailer hit screens. Most notably the voiceover work. But thanks to the magic of internet geeks and YouTube, we can now watch a “remastered” version of the trailer with the correct accompanying voice work.

God I love this movie.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Movies

TMNT Fan Series Back in the Shell – Just One Question…

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Falling down a social media rabbit hole yesterday, I stumbled across this little treat. A behind the scenes look at an upcoming six-episode Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan series called Back in the Shell

The series is coming to us courtesy of the folks at Nerdbot. The Turtle suits are coming from Prop Shop Garage, who make some stellar looking TMNT costumes akin to the ones in the old ’90s flicks, which  Back in the Shell is obviously trying to capture the spirit of. (As if that track from Spunkadelic wasn’t a dead give-away!) A teaser is is being advertised for next week. You can officially call me intrigued, dudes and dudettes.

I do have one question, though.

This is a fan-series, undoubtedly made with a fraction of the money used to make the Paramount/Nickelodeon TMNT movies. So how is it that this, a teaser for a teaser, can get me more excited than those two movies did? Not individually, mind you. Combined.

The answer is pretty obvious to me. But I’ll let you decide for yourself.

For more on Back in the Shell, check out its official Instagram page, as well as Team Ninja Turtle on Facebook.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com!

Posted in Astonishing Art

Astonishing Art: TMNT by Matt DeMino

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It honestly wasn’t my intent to do another “Astonishing Art” so soon after the last one. Much less another dedicated to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But today’s piece popped up in my Instagram feed today, and I simply couldn’t resist.

Chances are at some point you’ve seen the image at right, or at least some version of it. It’s the classic Norman Rockwell painting “The Runaway,” which made its debut on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1958. It’s textbook Rockwellian America. A naive young runaway sits in a diner under the protective eyes of a policeman and the counterman. As one might imagine, artists have been tipping their hat to it for a long time.

Cast in point, our subject today: A TMNT-inspired spin on “The Runaway” by Matt DeMino. This piece first appeared on the official TMNT Twitter account yesterday.

Damn. Right in the feels. Especially as an ’80s kid who grew up on a steady Ninja Turtles diet. Who among us didn’t run around with a pillow on our backs and a ninja headband on? The boys in green were our heroes, This image could have been plucked from the dreams of a million kids back then. It still could today.

But this one is clearly for the ’80s/’90s crowd. The references to the three original live action movies are pretty blatant. Casey Jones is sporting his look from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie. You’ve got the Shredder helmet from that same movie on the counter. The scepter from the third movie is sitting at Raph’s feet. And on the lower left, you can see the broken canister from The Secret of the Ooze. Yeah, you might say I’ve watched those movies a few times…

This isn’t the first time DeMino has been commissioned to work on the Ninja Turtles. The piece at left came out on Thanksgiving last year. Note the same analog Coke can design in both scenes.

Clearly, DeMino’s take on the Turtles and Splinter is very reminiscent of the old movies. Hey, that’s how I’d do it too. That original Steve Barron film is still the definitive presentation of the TMNT, for my money. After all these years, it still holds up.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #65 Review – Sewer Christmas Party

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #65, 2016, cover, ChristmasTITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #65
AUTHOR: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
PENCILLER:
Mateus Santolouco
PUBLISHER:
IDW Publishing
PRICE:
$3.99
RELEASED: 
December 14, 2016

***Need to catch up? Check out last issue!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I didn’t expect to like this issue as much as I did, primarily because of what happened in issue #61. I’ve called that “the meeting issue,” because it contains one of the oddest scenes I’ve ever seen in a TMNT book. It’s essentially a big war council scene with all the good guys talking strategy. The promise of all these characters being together for a Christmas party, along with my general distaste for “Christmas episodes” (bah humbug), made me nervous. Thankfully, this story about a Christmas party stays fairly upbeat, and weaves in some nice character work.

The boys in green are more in need of holiday cheer than ever. They now find themselves estranged from their Master Splinter after the events of issue #64. Mikey throws a Christmas party in an attempt to boost morale. But one question remains unanswered: Who invited the Mutanimals?

tmnt-65, pepperoniMateus Santolouco is back on the pencil for this issue. I’ve been a little critical of him in recent months. But given how long he’s worked on this series, his art does feel like a homecoming of sorts. Santolouco is also tremendous at injecting excitement and enthusiasm into his characters. Look at Mikey on the cover. Look at the way he draws Pigeon Pete. Cartoony? Yes. But also a lot of fun.

This issue was also my first exposure to Pepperoni, Raphael’s pet baby dinosaur. Having skipped Turtles in Time and Bebop and Rocksteady Destroy Everything, I was woefully unprepared for this little pink creature running around. On the upside, Santolouco makes him an adorable addition.

While I’ll keep things spoiler free, Splinter makes a brief appearance in this issue. Tonally, it’s odd. We left things in a very somber, painful place with Splinter last month. This month he’s feeling rather…Christmasy. It’s a cool idea. But Splinter is the one character I would have kept immune to all this holiday cheer.

This issue also introduced Angel/Nobody to Woody the pizza guy. This had sort of a Steve-Urkel-meets-Laura-Winslow vibe to it. (Look it up, kids.) This could very well have been a one-off. But it was charming enough to merit a revisit down the road.

TMNT #65 was a nice bit of levity, and a break from the intensity we’ve had in the last few months. Though I suspect next month we’ll crank that intensity right back up. So we may want to enjoy this respite while we can.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A TMNT Universe #1 Review – “Your First Step into a Larger World.”

TMNT Universe #1, Freddie E. Williams II, coverTITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #1
AUTHORS: Paul Allor, Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
PENCILLERS: Damian Couceiro, Bill Sienkiewicz, Eastman. Cover by Freddie E. Williams II.
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: August 31, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz, and the crew at IDW have been creating good to great TMNT comics for several years now. This new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe series opens the door for even more. If this freshman issue is an indicator of things to come, we’ve got mostly good things ahead of us.

The Turtles and April O’Neil are hoping they can make an ally of Baxter Stockman. But Agent Bishop and the Earth Protection Force are in hot pursuit of the boys in green. Our heroes will soon find themselves in a fight to survive. Then in our back-up story, Leo faces off against the Foot Clan by himself. Despite his skills, he may be hopelessly outnumbered.

Paul Allor is no stranger to the Turtles, having written a number of their adventures for IDW. His experience is evident here, as he writes a damn good opening page. We get a glimpse into Bishop’s psyche, and why he opposes mutants the way he does. It’s a misguided, though relatable sentiment.

TMNT Universe #1, sonic weaponAllor uses this first issue to remind us that the Turtles, and mutants in general, are isolated and at times hated. Though Bishop’s motivation, while villainous, is relatable in its own way. As one might expect, the most emotional reaction we get comes from Raphael, and it’s used effectively to close the issue.

Allor also isn’t bad with the repartee between the Turtles. Panels like the one above aren’t exactly dripping with wit. But they’ve got a nice charm to them that we don’t always have time for in the main TMNT series.

Couceiro, who’s on both the pen and inks for this issue, is a solid fit for the Turtles. He’s got a really nice command of light and shadow, which obviously bodes well for our shadow-bound heroes. He also doesn’t draw their bandanas too large, which I tend to chide Mateus Santolouco, and more recently Dave Watcher for. I do, however, have one thing to nitpick: His Turtles are very toothy. He draws toothy Turtles. Panels like the ones below actually take me out of the story, as I can’t help but stare at their teeth. On the plus side, they’re very white. Splinter must have gotten the boys good dental insurance.

TMNT Universe #1, back-up, LeonardoOur back-up story is about Leo trailing a Foot ninja, who as it turns out, has some friends. A lot of friends. When I initially read this story, I thought it was scripted by Kevin Eastman. Leo’s inner monologue reads like one of the original Mirage books. He seems more like an easy going teenager, and less like the disciplined leader we usually see. But the issue credits Tom Waltz for the script. I’m not sure why Leo is so casual here. It almost strikes me as out of character.

This is also a premise that’s been done to perfection in both the original Eastman and Laird series, and the IDW series. It’s Leo against a bunch of foot ninjas. This story is set to continue next issue, so hopefully they do something with this concept we haven’t seen before. Eastman handles the page layouts, slowing the pace a bit to take us into the action. Bill Sienkiewicz and colorist Tomi Varga are a good fit for the Turtles, providing the gritty, street-level feel the story needs.

Like many things in life, this issue reminds me of a line from Star Wars. In the original 1977 film, Obi-Wan says to Luke: “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.” In a sense, that’s what Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #1 is. Chances are good that this series will really enrich what IDW has created for the Turtles. Dare I say, cowabunga?

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