Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Voice Acting

A TMNT #1320 Retrospective | Comic Book Transmissions

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

New video! This one takes a look at IDW Publishing’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1320

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

A TMNT #2128 Deep-Dive – Broken Home

***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 #2128
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
ARTISTS: Mateus Santolouco, Eastman
GUEST ARTISTS: Dan Duncan, Andy Kuhn, Ben Bates, Sophie Campbell
COLORIST: Ronda Pattison
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: TMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 3 (shown right)
RELEASED: April 2013 – November 2013

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

One of the really amazing things to me about this stretch of TMNT issues is that the series is still relatively young at this point. . When issue #21 came out, the book was only in its second year. And yet, Tom Waltz, editor Bobby Curnow, and the rest of the TMNT crew had such a solid handle on these characters and their world that even at that early juncture they were able to tell one of the more ambitious and impactful stories the property has ever seen. This, my friends, is “City Fall.”

Kevin Eastman, one of the co-creators of the Ninja Turtles and their world happens to pencil and ink issue #21. Eastman can be credited with the creative spark that launched a global juggernaut, having famously doodled a “ninja turtle” for friend and eventual TMNT co-creator Peter Laird in the early ’80s. Fast-forward to the early 2010s, and Eastman has top-billing on this new, ever-expansive TMNT comic book. My understanding is that to this day Eastman acts more as a consultant for the series than anything else, pitching in on story, character design, and drawing variant covers for each issue. Despite all he’s given us over the years, in my estimation he shouldn’t be the first name mentioned when talking about all the success this series has had. I’d absolutely rather have him aboard than not, as he’s obviously very creative with years of expertise to offer. He also gives the series a certain credibility for die-hards like me who are forever in his debt. But let’s keep Eastman’s role in the proper perspective as we move forward…

For those familiar with Eastman’s art, TMNT #21 is more or less exactly what you’d expect, and perhaps even hope for: Something in the vein of a classic Eastman and Laird TMNT issue. It’s dark (though not grim), though as expected Ronda Pattison’s colors accent things beautifully. It’s got the trademark scratchy texture, and the figures are a little bit blocky in that Eastman sort of way. It’s a nice artistic interlude in an issue that ultimately serves as the calm before the proverbial storm of “City Fall.”

Issue #22 marks the beginning of what wound up being a pretty extensive run for Mateus Santolouco as the artist for TMNT. Santolouco is very talented, and as we’ll soon see brings us no shortage of memorable moments. But for yours truly, the success or failure of a TMNT artist largely hinges on the way they draw the Turtles themselves, and I’ve never been a huge fan of how Santolouco draws the boys in green. They’re very expressive and emotional, which is a great thing. (For evidence, look no further than Raphael’s “acting” in issue #22.) But the way Santolouco proportions the bandanas on the Turtles’ heads has always bothered me. That, and the certain puffy “inflatable” quality he sometimes brings to their frames. Indeed, Santolouco turns in a career performance on “City Fall.” But that’s not to say it’s a flawless one.

The first chapter of “City Fall” sees Casey Jones abducted by the Foot. Fast-forward several pages, and Shredder does something genuinely shocking: He stabs Casey in the stomach in front of the Turtles and Splinter (shown below). It’s drawn and colored for maximum impact, and is one of the images that immediately come to mind when I think of “City Fall.” The red background packs a hell of a punch when you turn the page. Even the sound effect they use is enough to make you shudder.

By this point in the series, Shredder was already well established as a villain. But in “City Fall” he ups his game and truly earns his status as the Turtles’ arch rival. Not just because of what he does to Leo (more on that in a moment), but because of the sheer cunning and viciousness he displays in these pages. Here is a man who’s trying to conquer an entire city, and destroy the Turtles’ family in the process. More over, he’s flat out stabbing people to get what he wants. He makes damn effective use of those gauntlets. We see what he does to Casey, and later on we see him straight-up murder someone with them. This guy is playing for keeps.

The stabbing of Casey turns out to be part of a ploy to capture Leonardo. Kitsune brainwashes Leo, turning him against his family and into the waiting arms of his new master, the Shredder. The subsequent hallucination sequence, which is given several pages in issue #23, sees a number of familiar faces tag in for portions of the artwork: Dan Duncan, Andy Kuhn, Ben Bates, and Eastman. There’s also Sophie Campbell, who we’ll see more from in future issues. Story-wise, it’s not the most logical thing in the world. But it does manage to be powerful, as everything Leo values come crashing down around him.

Thus, we’re introduced to who the IDW crew would dub behind the scenes as, “Dark Leo.” Years later, Santolouco would say in an interview (see the back of issue #94) that Dark Leo ultimately isn’t that different from the Leo we know. He makes some interesting points…

“Leo is disciplined. A real soldier if you will. Once you change who he is responding to, you change his relation to the world around him. In essence he is still the same person, loyal and faithful to his duty as second-in-command of a ninja clan or army.”

We get what may very well be the book’s dramatic highlight in issue #24. Splinter attempts to bargain with Old Hob for Leo’s location. Of course, it’s a trap. Splinter and his remaining three sons wind up confined in a shipping container with Shredder and a small army of his Foot minions. It’s here that we get the big reveal (shown left): Leonardo has turned against his family. It’s an edge-of-your seat sequence, and your stomach drops when you see all that awaits our heroes.

In the grand scheme of things, Leo isn’t under Shredder and Kitsune’s control for that long: About five issues. But his brief conversion to the dark side and the events surrounding it create a ripple effect that touches virtually every area of the book. Not only does Splinter make a faustian deal with Old Hob, but Raph goes on a violent rampage looking for answers, a jealous Karai creates her own mutant henchmen, Casey Jones’ father becomes the villainous brute Hun. The sheer scope of “City Fall” is massive. So massive in fact, one can argue it starts to become a problem.

Almost from its inception, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was accompanied by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro-Series, a set of character-based one-shots published periodically to supplement the main book. Naturally, new characters and developments started popping up in those books that began to impact the main series. Whenever something like this would happen, the IDW team would simply include a caption box referencing whichever issue was being alluded to. No harm, no foul. The trouble is, there are so many characters and plot threads converging in “City Fall,” it starts to feel like we aren’t getting the full story without reading the supplemental material in Micro-Series.

The character of Hun is the most egregious example. In issue #25, Casey’s father Arnold Jones is devastated after learning that his son has been stabbed. Then in issue #27 he shows back up as Hun, the massive and muscled leader of the Purple Dragons street gang, just in time to have a showdown with Casey in issue #28. Arnold Jones’ transformation into Hun and all the circumstances surrounding it? That was all in the Hun-dedicated issue of TMNT Villains Micro-Series.

Mind you, the main series continues to cite the Micro-Series issues, and if you’re reading the IDW Collection books, said Micro-Series issues are included. But not everyone has the fortune of reading this series via those collections. The simple truth is, for better or worse, you need the Micro-Series issues to see the full tapestry of “City Fall.”

Bebop and Rocksteady, two staples of the ’80s cartoon, also make their IDW debut here, and like Hun are greatly supplemented by their own Micro-Series issue. By and large they’re exactly as we remember them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My only complaint about their big entrance? The head of Rocksteady’s sledgehammer is too small. It barely looks bigger than his fist. He’s a big dude. Let him have a big hammer.

I maintain that not all, but many of the best TMNT stories are, at their core, about family. Such is the case with “City Fall.” Yes, it is about a super villain making a massive power grab, brainwashing a mutant turtle in the process. But I think it’s also a story about what happens to people when a family becomes broken. Some, like Donatello and Michelangelo, remain steadfast in the face of heartbreak. Others, like Splinter and Raphael, give into their darker and uglier impulses. Some families, like the Turtles, are fortunate enough to heal and come back stronger. Others, like Casey and Arnold Jones, remain fractured and in fact grow further apart.

When you look at it that way, “City Fall” could just as easily have been called “Family Fall.”

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

A TMNT #1320 Deep Dive – Classic Characters, New Layers

***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 #1320
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman (Story), Tom Waltz (Story & Script)
ARTISTS: Andy Kuhn, Ben Bates
COLORIST: Ronda Pattison
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: TMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 2 (shown right)
RELEASED: August 2012-March 2013

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Open Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #13, and it’s evident a pretty big change has occurred. It’s very much the same series. But it looks very different.

Issue #12 had been Dan Duncan’s last as regular penciller (Though he would continue to do cover art for the IDW Collection TMNT books.). His were large shoes to fill, as he’d been with the series since its beginning. He’d introduced us to almost all the characters (not counting the ones introduced in the TMNT Micro-Series issues) and their world. Throw in that he just happens to be one of the best to ever draw the Ninja Turtles, and virtually any artist to pick up the pencil in his wake would have a daunting task ahead of them.

The responsibility ultimately fell on Andy Kuhn, who for the record, is quite good. That’s evidenced by his scenes between Shredder and Karai, Baxter Stockman and the Utroms, and his renderings of Slash later on. But the transition between Duncan’s take on the Turtles and Kuhn’s toothy, inky renderings of the boys in green is a jarring one. As such, his work in TMNT is an acquired taste. Still, he’s more than capable of telling compelling stories in his own right.

Compelling stories continued to be the M.O. for TMNT as it entered its second year of publication. As we discussed last time, the best Ninja Turtles stories often center around themes of family, both the ones we’re born with and the ones we choose. That continued to be the case in issues #13-16 as Waltz and the TMNT crew took an in-depth look at the different, and not always so good, paternal relationships on display. We had Casey Jones and his drunk, abusive father. We had Shredder’s strict, often harsh relationship with Karai (though he’s technically her grandfather). One can even make an argument for Baxter Stockman and Slash.

But of course, the preeminent paternal dynamic in this book is between Splinter and the Turtles. Historically, Splinter in his many incarnations has had one prominent character trait: He’s wise. As such, writers have focused more on the Turtles when it comes to character development. But these issues, #14 in particular, give Splinter an added layer that I don’t think any of us were expecting.

When Casey Jones comes to April’s apartment having been beat up by his dad once again, Resident hothead Raphael goes into a rage. He sets out to teach Arnold Jones a lesson, and is unknowingly followed by Splinter. After Raph has roughed up Casey’s father, Splinter arrives on the scene and shockingly puts a blade to Jones’ throat. He asks, “Would you have me execute this man, my son?” Naturally, this brings Raph out of his angry fit.

Splinter goes on to say that as a young man he, like Raph, was once prone to intense anger, and even thirsts for revenge. Thus, father and son are able to relate to one another in a new way. We even see later on that Splinter’s anger issues have not subsided completely…

As we’ve seen the IDW team do with so many other classic TMNT characters, this move doesn’t change the essence of Splinter. Rather, it adds a new layer to what was already there. It allows him to keep doling out wisdom and fatherly advice, while reminding us that Splinter is wise for a reason. He’s fought many of the same battles as his sons, and faced many of the same demons. This move gives Splinter credibility, as opposed too simply making him a fountain of platitudes.

The artistic highlight of Kuhn’s four-issue run comes in issues #15 and #16 with what I’ll call the “church fight.” The Turtles find an underground rec room at an abandoned church, and hope to set it up as a base. There they run into Slash, a mutant snapping turtle created at Stockgen using an “impure” dose of mutagen. Ergo he’s wild and far more animalistic than our heroes.

The fight with Slash takes place in the dark, with the only light source being flashlights. It’s here that Kuhn is truly in his element. He turns the book into a horror show. Slash has never looked more menacing or terrifying than in some of these under-lit shots. Colorist Ronda Pattison’s contributions to this sequence can’t be understated. She creates a dim, hazy yellow glow that perfectly compliments the inky blackness of Kuhn’s shadows.

Let’s also talk about Woody, a side character introduced early in the series who works at a pizza place. He gives the Turtles their pizza fix via a friendship with Michelangelo. Woody’s introduction into the book was charming, but seemingly random. Even in a world as detail rich as IDW’s TMNT, did we really need to know where the Turtles got their pizza from? Maybe not. But the book ultimately wound up better for it.

In issue #15, shortly after one of Mikey’s pizza runs, Woody gets attacked by Slash. Toward the end of issue #16, he abruptly breaks off their friendship. Juxtaposed with some dialogue from Splinter explaining the nature of Mikey’s kindness and sensitivity, we get a heartbreaking few panels in which he finds a note from Woody and then departs in tears (shown above). A heart-wrenching moment coming from a character who seemingly meant very little at the start.

That’s the thing about Michelangelo in the IDWverse: He’s not just a party dude. He’s a sensitive guy. So once again, we see the layering of a classic character. The reason Mikey’s emotions often come off so big is because he feels them in a big way. We aren’t altering or subtracting, we’re simply adding…

Heading into issue #17, Kuhn tags Ben Bates in on pencils and inks. Bates has a more traditional take on the Turtles, in that they’re more in line with what someone like Kevin Eastman or Jim Lawson might turn in. They’re a little bit shorter, with faces that are expressive and nicely proportioned. His work here actually made him into one of my favorite artists on the series.

Issues #17-20 take us directly into space opera territory, as the Turtles are accidentally transported to Dimension X and find themselves caught in a war between General Krang’s forces and the Neutrinos. At the center of the conflict is the android Fugitoid, whom Krang believes holds the secret to constructing his ultimate weapon, the Technodrome.

For TMNT buffs, it’s all very familiar. Fugitoid has been part of TMNT lore since the early days of the comic books, has been adapted into various media. The Technodrome, meanwhile, was a staple of the ’80s cartoon, as were the Neutrinos. It’s not necessarily surprising to see the Neutrinos, but it’s interesting that they made it in so quickly and relatively unchanged. Then again, without the zany hairstyles they’re not really the Neutrinos are they?

This four-issue Dimension X story is the first time Krang, who’s been a fixture in the book since early on, really takes center-stage as the primary villain. There’s a lot to like about IDW’s take on a character who, in the ’80s cartoon, was often played for laughs. First and foremost is how he’s drawn and designed. Kuhn and Bates both draw utroms (the alien species Krang belongs to) very well. But they each go out of their way to make Krang himself look ruthless and sinister. That’s not a small feat, as he’s essentially just a pink blob with tentacles. Also, gone is the colorful and flamboyant robot body Krang wore in the cartoon. What we get here is something that looks much more mechanical, not to mention dark and foreboding. We’re reminded that Krang is a warlord, and very much someone to be feared.

He’s got big, bad plans too. This series repurposes the Technodrome as giant terraforming device to forcefully change Earth’s atmosphere to that of Krang’s destroyed home planet, Utrominon. By virtue of scope alone, at this early point in the series Krang may have been outperforming Shredder on the bad guy scale.

On that topic, one thing that impressed me from a writing perspective was that while they’re not the primary villains, Shredder, Karai, and the Foot Clan still have a presence during these issues. They don’t hog the spotlight away from the main story, but we also don’t go too long without seeing them. By the time we get to the Dimension X storyline, Karai has taken on a more proactive role in a very organic way. Make no mistake about it: There’s an art to keeping all these characters and plot threads relevant to the larger story of the series. To a large extent, TMNT has proven itself to be a masterclass in how to keep all those proverbial plates spinning.

When I look at these eight issues together, the word that comes to mind is versatility. Traditionally, the Ninja Turtles are written and portrayed as all-ages action-adventure characters with a knack for comedy. We get all those ingredients here. But we also get a horror element mixed in with Slash, and then a very strong dose of science fiction courtesy of Krang and the Neutrinos. There’s also a touch of YA romance mixed in there via April O’Neil and Casey Jones. What that tells me is that these characters and their universe are far more versatile than the general public will ever give them credit for. What this IDW comic book series does is expand on that potential in long form, and in a way no other medium has even come close to.

How fitting that the Turtles owe that expansion to the very art form in which they were born: Comic books.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Ninja Turtles, Vol. 5: Krang War Review – The Battle For Dimension X

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 5: Krang WarTITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 5: Krang War

AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz

PENCILLER: Ben Bates
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #17-20
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: May 8, 2013

By Rob Siebert

Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Ninja Turtles have always had their share of cosmic adventures, dating back to the original books Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird did. It’s as much a part of their mythology as anything else. That being said, I’ve always preferred my TMNT stories to be more on the Frank Miller side of things. I like my Turtles to be stealthy, rooftop hopping shadow dwellers, as opposed to laser dodging, spaceship flying, alien-fighting adventurers. But even if you come in with that mind set, Krang War is a pretty good Ninja Turtles story.

When the Turtles, April O’Neil and Casey Jones decide to investigate Stockgen further, they shockingly discover that April’s former co-worker Chet is actually the Fugitoid, a robot from Dimension X. Fugitoid contains the consciousness of Honeycutt, a scientist who once warned the high council of the planet Utrominon of their world’s imminent destruction due to their overuse of one of it’s natural resources. But the council refused to heed his warning, and the planet was doomed. Thus, the Utrom warlord Krang is determined to manipulate Earth’s atmosphere to make it a new Utrominon. In the meantime, Krang’s forces have invaded the planet Neutrino. When forces from Neutrino come to Earth and retrieve Chet/Fugitoid/Honeycutt to help them build a weapon, the Turtles are drawn into their war. But how does all this, and the ensuing battle, involve the Shredder’s daughter Karai?

Neutrinos-TMNTI have very little complaining to do about how well Waltz and his various collaborators have brought elements from the original cartoon show into the modern era for this series. Krang War is no exception. Children of the ’80s will recognize the Neutrinos, Kala, Zak and Dask. King Zenter and Queen Gizzla are also there, though in name only. Eastman, Waltz and Bates do a fine job of re-interpreting them for a universe that’s a bit more mature (though not too mature of course). The high-registered, lingo spewing teenagers driving souped up flying cars, replaced with battle-hardened soldiers with familiar hairdos. Krang’s rock soldiers from Dimension X look good too.

Ben Bates’ art is a definite improvement over Andy Kuhn’s in the last volume. Kuhn’s art is fine in it’s own right, but Bates is a much better fit for the Ninja Turtles. He does a great job giving us the cartoony expressions and humor, in addition to the more serious drama and action. In a way it’s a meld of a lot of the great TMNT incarnations through the years. I can see Eastman and Laird, the 4Kids animated series, as well as traces of the current animated series. He brings the pencilling back up to the level it was when Dan Duncan was on the book. Sadly, this book contains his entire four-issue run.

Ben Bates, Ninja Turtles #18I liked the way Karai was worked into this story. Although, there was a weird scene between she and the Shredder in issue #19 where they’re sitting at a table eating while they’re in full combat gear. But on the whole, her presence in the story was a nice way to keep the Foot Clan involved in the proceedings without actually making the story about them. By the time we close the book, we also have something that could finally prompt a meeting between Shredder and Krang. I don’t necessarily see that happening until autumn at the soonest. But I’m guessing it’s in the near future.

IDW’s Ninja Turtles series has had a fairly hit-or-miss existence. They didn’t pay off Raphael’s early separation from his brothers in the first book, and things took a tumble in the third book with the team’s first confrontation with the Shredder. But things have gradually been on the uprise since then. In truth, this is the best the series has been so far. Perhaps it’s a matter of Eastman, Waltz and the creative team finally getting comfortable in their skin as far as this new continuity is concerned. Either way, my hopes aren’t high that things will stay this good. But after 20 issues, at least our creators have a little more experience on their side.

RATING: 7.5/10

Image 1 from teenagemutantninjaturtles.com. Image 2 from 4thletter.net.

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