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: TMNT #100, Dark Knight ReturnsSuperman

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Nothing too in-depth here. Just straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Word recently broke about Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird working together again after all these years for a Ninja Turtles story called “The Last Ronin.” How fitting then, that not only does IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100 comes out this week, but we’ve also got a new Frank Miller book. It’s no secret that Eastman and Laird drew inspiration from Miller’s work in the early to mid ’80s.

Imagine what would have happened if it had the modern Frank Miller back then. Back then you had his work on characters like Daredevil and Wolverine. Now? We’ve got the Dark Knight sequels and Holy Terror. *shudders*

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz (Script)
ARTISTS: Dave Watcher, Michael Dialynas. Variant cover by Eastman.
SUPPLEMENTAL ARTISTS: Mateus Santolouco, Adam Gorham, Dan Duncan, Cory Smith
COLORISTS: Ronda Pattison, Bill Crabtree
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

TMNT #100 is more or less exactly what you want it to be. All recent plot threads converge, and as expected, we see the return of a major villain. Can’t say I expected that death, though. And make sure you don’t miss that epilogue…

The only real complaint I have is that I felt half a step behind because I couldn’t keep up on the Shredder in Hell mini. I suppose that’s the problem when you’ve created a world so rich and dense. You can’t always pack everything into one series. But that’s not necessarily a terrible problem to have.

TITLE: Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child
AUTHOR: Frank Miller
ARTIST: Rafael Grampa. Cover by Grampa and Pedro Cobiaco.
COLORIST: Jordie Bellaire
LETTERERS: John Workman, Deron Bennett
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

My impression when I closed this book was that Miller must either have a ghostwriter working with him, or the editors are heavily involved here. Because this is a surprisingly competent issue to have his name on it in 2019. But if it was mostly Miller? Good on him.

No Bruce Wayne here. Which is kind of odd, but fine with me. Carrie Kelley, Lara, and this Dark Knight universe Jon Kent are more interesting anyway. They’re taking on Darkseid here, and Raphael Grampa’s art looks amazing.

A really good start. But keep your expectations tempered.

TITLE: Superman #18
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTIST:
Ivan Reis
INKER:
Joe Prado
COLORIST:
Alex Sinclair
LETTERER:
Dave Sharpe
RELEASED:
December 11, 2019

Ugh. Why?

Yes, it’s exactly what it looks like. The same thing they did in 2015, in a storyline that, fittingly, was also called Truth.

It’s not that I don’t think Bendis and this team can do a good job with it. But we were just here. And inevitably, when you do this kind of thing you have to come up with some convoluted way to get the genie back in the bottle. So why even bother?

I will say, though, there’s a single silent page depicting the big moment between Clark Kent and Perry White that’s absolutely beautiful.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #4
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTIST: Werther Dell-Edera
COLORIST: Miquel Muerto
LETTERED BY: Andworld Design
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

In this issue, we get a major revelation about the nature of the monsters devouring children in Archer’s Peak. Tynion takes what I’ll refer to as the “Do you believe in magic?” approach. It’s an interesting twist that I didn’t see coming, and for my money, helps separate this book from the pack. Hopefully he’s given the time to expand on it.

As cool as Erica Slaughter is, part of me actually wants to see her killed off so James can take her place and learn about all this monster stuff. Probably won’t happen. But could be cool.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1017
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTIST: Fernando Blanco. Cover by Tony Daniel.
COLORIST: John Kalisz
LETTERER: Travis Lanham
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

A nice little one-and-done. I like when they do these. In the context of Detective Comics, it reminds me of Paul Dini’s run all those years ago.

Our story deals with missing children at the Martha Wayne Orphanage in Gotham. Taylor shows us a more sensitive and empathetic side of Batman and Robin. Also, the art in this issue really stands out, as Kalisz uses a more saturated color palette, while our inks are darker. He even gives us a sort of saturated sepia tone for the opening flashback that sets the scene really well.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #26
AUTHORS: Ryan Parrott, Sina Grace
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino
COLORIST: Raul Angulo
LETTERER: Ed Dukeshire
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

One of the big selling points of this book early on was it was set in the pre-Green Ranger days. Tommy, one way or another, inevitably pulls focus from the other characters. It’s a little sad that the emphasis has shifted that way.

But Parrott is still the best PR writer we’ve seen from this BOOM! Studios run with the license. Oddly enough, what I enjoyed most about this issue was a flashback to Tommy eating a meal with Rita at the palace. As a kid, I always wanted to see him in there interacting with the other villains.

TITLE: Dying is Easy #1 (of 5)
AUTHOR: Joe Hill
ARTIST: Martin Simmonds. Cover by J. Lou.
COLOR ASSISTANT: Dee Cunniffe
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

Cop turned stand-up comic. Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

If grim-and-gritty is your thing, this book is right up your alley. If there’s a seedy underbelly to the world of stand-up, this book is smack in the middle of it. Simmonds and Cunniffe do a tremendous job using the colors to create an ominous, foreboding vibe. Ultimately, that pays off on the last page…

Fittingly, the book also manages to be funny in a black comedy sort of way. I’m not totally sold yet, but I may indeed be back for more.

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

Posted in Wrestling

A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations Review – A Darker Shade of Green

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations, 2016TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations
AUTHOR: Tom Waltz
PENCILLER: Zach Howard, Cory Smith
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: March 30, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In an era where everybody wants to read a “dark” story with a dark tone, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations is truly dark in terms of both story and art. That comes with its share of pros and cons. I’d think twice before showing it to a kid who likes the Nickelodeon cartoon. But for adults following this series, this issue is pretty cool.

These Deviations one-shots are the IDW equivalent of an Elseworlds or “What if?” story from DC or Marvel. They change a few things within the timeline of a series, and show us how the story unfolds afterward. In the case of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations, we go back to City Fall. Early in the story, Casey Jones is stabbed in the gut by The Shredder, but survives. This time, he doesn’t. Subsequently, instead of Leo being brainwashed and brought into the Foot, it’s all the Turtles. When we open the story, they’re chasing a desperate Splinter, determined to capture him. But while his family may have abandoned him, Splinter will find allies in unlikely places.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations, image 2I’ve been a Ninja Turtles fan most of my life. As such, the opening sequence in this issue is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s actually half the reason I wouldn’t put this issue in a young child’s hands, because it’s so emotionally brutal. The Turtles are mean, nasty, and blood thirsty toward their father. But he absolutely refuses to fight them. At one point Michelangelo, probably the most heart-on-his-sleeve of the boys, tells Splinter: “We’re not your sons.” In the next panel, we see a tear fall from Splinter’s eye. That’s an amazing character moment for him, amplified immensely by Zach Howard’s art. His eyes are very wide and expressive, almost dog-like. This entire sequence is the creative highlight of the book.

The Turtles and Splinter are hardly the only stars here. In this one issue, we also get appearances from Shredder, Karai, Kitsune, Alopex, Casey’s father Arnie Jones, Old Hob, and Slash. They’re not in minor roles, either. They all do their part in adding weight and emotion to the story. They also play a part in adding a significant amount of bloodshed to the proceedings. I won’t spoil things, but a lot of characters die in this issue. So much so that the last page contains a shot of the Turtles standing amongst all the bodies. From a logic standpoint, it’s almost too much. You’re literally left thinking: “Wait, they all died?” It’s a shame. I’d enjoy seeing this timeline revisited at some point, and now they’ve left themselves without a lot of supporting characters. Not all of them get the impactful deaths they deserve, either.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations, image 1Conspicuous by her absence is April O’Neil. Waltz, Howard, and the creative team are somewhat hindered by the page count here. So I imagine it was just a matter of not being able to fit her in anywhere. But being such a close confidant, you’d think she’d have found a way to interject.

One character’s death is delivered by Arnie Jones. Again, no spoilers. But I will say it’s both very unexpected and very cool. It’s the kind of moment that reminds you that when you get right down to it, anything can happen in these stories.

Deviations, to it’s credit, doesn’t look like an average TMNT issue from IDW. Again, it’s dark. It’s much sketchier and more shadowy, especially in that opening sequence. Then at the very end, something happens and the brightness suddenly adjusts. It’s as if a light has suddenly turned on, and it’s very fitting given the events that unfold. It’s a great example of different art styles conveying different tones.

Chronologically, the first thing that changes in this timeline is the death of Casey Jones. This issue is hurt by the fact that we don’t actually see Casey die, or the Turtles’ reaction to his death. We also don’t see how the boys are captured, or how they’re brainwashed. This story is essentially missing its first act. Again, the scope of this story is much bigger than the page count allows. I imagine that’s why it seems like so many characters die so quickly. They had to hurry and wrap things up before they ran out of space.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations, image 3Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations accomplishes its goal. It shows us a different take on the Turtles and their world. It’s not beautiful from a pacing standpoint, but it’s strengths in art and sheer emotional impact outweigh its flaws. They can, and should, come back to this if they can add something meaningful to it.

Consider this: How would the Turtles move forward without Splinter? Do they split up? Do they become more aggressive without their father’s guiding hand? Food for thought…

Images courtesy of comicbookresources.com.

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