Tag Archives: Kevin Eastman

Epic Covers: TMNT #83 by Dave Watcher

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

ARTIST: Dave Watcher

THE ISSUE: In their quest to defeat the Rat King, the Turtles find themselves in Siberia. Once there, they face his brother, the gigantic Manmoth.

WHY IT’S EPIC: Dave Watcher has had the cover duties on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the last few months, and he’s been absolutely killing it. His depictions of the TMNT-style human/animal hybrid characters are striking. The texture that Watcher gives to these creatures makes them feel very familiar, despite their otherworldly nature. For another such instance, check out the cover to TMNT #82, where he gets to draw the Toad Baron.

But TMNT #83 is definitely a highlight of Watcher’s work on the series. What’s interesting about this one is that despite Manmoth leering over our heroes, much of his body is still shrouded in shadow. He’s not in the shadows, per se. We can clearly see the snow on top of him. But the lighting has that effect because he’s almost in a hunched position. I also love that you have to look closely at the cover to see those menacing eyes. The Turtles look great too, of course.

On my first read-through, Manmoth felt very familiar. Not in that I’d seen him before, but because a mutant mammoth seemed like such an obvious course for the TMNT universe, I was convinced Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had created him at some point.

As it turned out, the character originated over at Archie Comics. First in 1991’s TMNT Meet Archie #1, and later in the pages of TMNT Adventures. To their credit, the crew at IDW really is drawing inspiration from all corners of TMNT history. They made a silly one-off character from the ’90s into something pretty damn cool.

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

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A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #64 Review -Toothpaste and Orange Juice

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #64, 2016, Kevin Eastman variantTITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #64
AUTHOR: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
PENCILLER: Dave Watcher
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: November 23, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead, and they’re coming up quickly!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This one was a head-scratcher, and not the first one TMNT has turned in since this whole “Splinter leads the Foot Clan” thing started. What we have is an issue that starts out very strong, builds to fitting climax, and then veers off in an unexpected direction. It’s not necessarily a good direction, either. It’s almost like taking a swig of orange juice after brushing your teeth.

In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #64, our heroes storm the base of Darius Dun and the Street Phantoms, hoping to rescue their ally Harold. But in the process, things go south. Allegiances change, and more importantly, families are split apart.

Let’s jump right into spoiler territory, as that’s where my main point of contention with this issue is. During the climax, Splinter has Darius Dun killed. This leads Don, Raph, and Mike to immediately leave the Foot. Splinter tells Leo that the Turtles aren’t safe by his side now that he leads the Foot Clan, and he’s been resorting to drastic measures to break their loyalty and push them away. As you see below, the exchange ends with Leo saying he understands, and walking away.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #64, 2016, Dave Watcher, Splinter explanationI’m glad he understands, because I’m not sure I do.

Let’s unpack this: So Splinter’s end game, at least recently, has been to keep the Turtles safe. So why make this move now? Why not back when you were going against the Foot Clan? Why not when Donnie had his brush with death? Why not after they were reunited with Raph way back in issue #4? This entire ninja crusade was Splinter’s idea to begin with. But now that he’s in a position to control the enemy forces from within, he’s suddenly got cold feet about the whole thing? So much so that he’s willing to alienate himself from his sons? It all feels very forced. I can only assume there’s something else going on that we don’t know about. Otherwise, you’d think Splinter would know what the readers already know: This will only lead to the Turtles coming back to try and save Splinter from himself.

As it’s still so fresh, I’m hesitant to judge this development too harshly. But this feels like a case where an extra line or two would have done wonders. We can’t tell just how much Splinter is second-guessing himself at this point. But something like “I’ve gone too far” seems appropriate.

Adding to the awkward nature of this scene is the build-up to it, which is really actually really good. In the opening scene, Casey Jones explains Splinter’s plan to make him the leader of the Purple Dragons, “to help you guys run the city after we trash the phantoms.” The letterer emphasizes that word run, and for good reason. It’s rare that a single word literally makes a scene. But there you have it.

TMNT #64, 2016, HaroldWe also have some nice stuff between Harold and his estranged ex-wife Libby. Harold’s been around for awhile, and has been a nice supporting techie character. But I never expected they’d give him this sort of depth. It all comes about quite organically. It’s a pleasant surprise.

While I’m still picking on him over the whole bandana/beak thing, Dave Watcher has become one of my favorite TMNT pencillers in recent memory. His stuff has a sketchy quality to it, which for me evokes memories of the original Kevin Eastman/Peter Laird stuff. His renderings of Harold and Libby make the scene very accessible. He’s also very good at drawing TMNT tech. Look at what Libby’s wearing in the above panel. It somehow looks believable, doesn’t it?

I’m not much of a variant cover guy. But I almost always make an exception for the ones Kevin Eastman does for this book, such as the one shown above. I love the concept, and I love how shadowy and moody it is. The one thing I don’t love? Splinter’s tail. It’s curvature is too sharp, and it pulls you right out of the scene.

After all this time, I still maintain that this TMNT crew missed a huge opportunity by not taking advantage of what they established early on with Raph. Unfortunately, what we’re presented with in this issue could be just as big a misstep. We need more information on why Splinter is doing what he’s doing, or this story might lose a lot of punch. But I’ll give them this much: They’ve got me coming back for next issue.

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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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A Ninja Turtles: City Fall – Part 2 Review – The Brainwashed Brother

Ninja Turtles, Vol 7: City Fall Part 2TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 7: City Fall – Part 2
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
PENCILLERS: Mateus Santolouco, Charles Paul Wilson III
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #25-28
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: February 12, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As a life long Ninja Turtles fan, I can’t even tell you how cool it was to see that last page in issue #27, where Bebop and Rocksteady finally make their IDW debut (a portion of which is shown below). Not only that, but they look bad ass. They’ve busted through a wall, and instead of holding ray guns like they did on the old cartoon show, Bebop is holding a friggin’ chainsaw, and Rocksteady’s got a sledgehammer. They look every bit like the sawed off (yet dimwitted) monsters you’d hope they’d be. Granted, it doesn’t really make sense for Rocksteady to have a sledgehammer, given that his fists are twice as big as it’s head. So he should really have the chainsaw. But you know what? Who the hell cares! It’s Bebop and Rocksteady, and they look bad ass!

And hell, that’s just one page of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 7: City Fall – Part 2.

As The Shredder tightens his grip on the organized crime factions in New York City, he has a new second-in-command at his side: Leonardo. Having been brainwashed by the witch Kitsune, Leo now believes his brothers to be dead, and Splinter to be a twisted manipulator. Now the Turtles must fight to bring their brother home, and once again face the Foot Clan head on. But in doing so, they’ll have to form an uneasy alliance with Old Hob and Slash. Meanwhile, Casey Jones sees a side of his estranged father he never knew existed. Sadly, father and soon seem destined to be on opposing sides.

Bebo & Rocksteady, TMNT: City Fall, Part 2The City Fall story feels like something the entire series has been building up to. Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and the artists have had time to establish this version of the TMNT universe, who everyone is, etc. Thus, a story like this, which alters and shifts a lot of those relationships, is much more meaningful. Our climactic battle between the Turtles and the Foot successfully capitalizes on those high stakes, and is much better than the disappointing first encounter in Shadows of the Past.

The Turtles come into this fight shortly after losing two major battles to the Foot in the previous book, so we’ve got a good sense of just how merciless and powerful our bad guys are, and that it’s entirely possible for our heroes to lose again. Then, we crank up the intensity with the introduction of Bebop and Rocksteady, two enemies who are bigger and stronger than the Turtles, with Shredder, Karai, and a brainwashed Leo waiting in the wings. And all the while, we’ve got an entirely different battle happening elsewhere between Casey and his father, who has become the massive behemoth Hun. It’s a much better constructed, and because of the higher stakes, much more suspenseful than what we saw in Shadows of the Past.

The vision sequences between Leo and his mother Tang Shen are fairly strong, particularly the one at the beginning of issue #26. For one thing, the simple image of an anthropomorphic turtle walking beside a human woman, and looking up at her with such reverence, makes for a compelling visual. But in previous incarnations, we haven’t heard much about the Turtles having a mother. The reincarnation angle used in the IDW series opens up a new creative door in that respect. It might be compelling to see Eastman and Waltz play with this a bit more as the series progresses.

Leonardo, mother, Ninja Turtles, IDWThe biggest drawback in City Fall – Part 2 is that there are technically two fairly significant holes in the story. One involves Alopex, and the reasoning behind a major decision she makes during the book’s climax. The second involves Casey’s father, and how he makes the transformation into Hun. Both these things were addressed in issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries: Villains, which runs alongside the regular series. Neither of those issues are collected here. It doesn’t necessarily ruin anything, and for Hun, an annotation is made referencing his particular issue. But it’s frustrating that we don’t get to see how and why these two rather pivotal events take place. It’s one thing for the microseries issues to supplement what’s happening in the main book. It’s another thing entirely to stick major events in there that readers should know about. Ideally, we should be able to get all of our pertinent plot points from the main series. That didn’t happen with City Fall – Part 2.

What I said about Mateus Santolouco’s art in the last volume still stands here. The way he draws their faces, with the beaks that are subtly framed like human noses, and the larger bandanas, they almost have a cutesy quality to them. Cute is definitely not what we’re aiming for here. Still, he does a fantastic job of injecting so many different emotions into not only our resident mutant turtles, but a mutant cat, a mutant snow fox, a mutant rat, etc. However, the best panels in the book are drawn by Charles Paul Wilson III, who handled the first exchange between Leo and his mother (a portion of which is shown above). The brief change in texture and color scheme lent a lot to the notion of it being a vision or a dream sequence.

Ninja Turtles #27, IDWWithout giving too much away, the last page of this story is encouraging. It seems to indicate that Eastman, Waltz, and Ross Campbell (the next artist in the rotation) are going to spend some time examining the consequences of Leo being brainwashed. City Fall tore this family apart, and it looks like the next chapter of this series will be about putting the family back together. Considering we didn’t get that kind of story when Raphael re-joined the team after Change is Constant, that’s good to see. It also looks like the events of this series will, to an extent, be mirroring certain events from Eastman and Peter Laird’s original series for the next several issues.

In the end, City Fall – Part 2 is the best we’ve yet seen from IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. By and large, it’s an emotional story about families being torn apart, and the lengths some will go to in order to bring them back together.

RATING: 8.5/10

Images from tmntentity.blogspot.com. 

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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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A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 Review – A New Chapter

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtes, Vol. 1: Change is ConstantTITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtes, Vol. 1: Change is Constant
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
PENCILLER: Dan Duncan
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1-4
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER:
IDW Publishing
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: February 23, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Like most children of the ’80s, I love me some Ninja Turtles. My fondness for these four green guys has only grown as I’ve gotten older, and they’ve continued to be interpreted by different writers, artists, animators, etc.  They’re not quite as renowned in the 21st century as they used to be, but the boys in green still have a legacy that’s very, very special.

The next chapter in that legacy is IDW Publishing’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ongoing, which is overseen by TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman. It marks Eastman’s first involvement with the franchise in a number of years, as he sold all his rights to the franchise to his co-creator Peter Laird in 2000. The series has tweaked the Turtles’ status quo a bit, but for the most part the characters still ring true.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, IDW, cover spreadThe big twist for this new series is that Raphael has been separated from Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Splinter since the accident that turned them into humanoid mutants. Moments after they were all doused in radioactive ooze (per the classic origin story), a cat leapt in and snatched Raph from the group. Splinter is bound and determined to find his lost surrogate son. Meanwhile, Raphael has been wandering homeless through the streets. Nevertheless, his sense of morality is intact. He comes across a father attacking his teenage son, and saves the day. The young man’s name is Casey Jones (sound familiar?) and the two strike up a fast friendship. Our villain here is Old Hob, the mutated version of the cat who swiped Raphael. Somehow, this humanoid cat with an eye patch started a street gang, and has been feuding with the Turtles and Splinter since their mutation.

Raphael, Old Hob, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1I’m not completely sold on this Raphael thing yet. These first four issues did a nice job of setting everything up, but the true test will lay with what Eastman and this team do with this new angle as time goes on. Raphael has always been the hot-headed rebel of the group, and this separation story is an interesting way to set him up as such. Because he’s been away from Splinter and the others his whole life, Raph has never received the training his brothers have. Thus, he could potentially stand out like a sore thumb when he inevitably is placed with his brothers. If this new dynamic can be capitalized on, it could make for some really cool stories.

TMNT purists will scoff at this, but I’m disappointed the Turtles kept their red bandanas for this series, as opposed to going with the color scheme they typically have in TV shows and movies. Yes, when the Turtles were created they all had red bandanas. But the problem I’ve always had with that setup is that it can be difficult to tell them apart. If you take the weapons and the dialogue away, and stand them up side by side, you should ideally still be able to tell who is who. That’s not the case here. The fact that this is a full-color book as opposed to black-and-white, which the Turtles were always published in back at Mirage Studios, makes this choice even less sensical.

Conspicuous by his absence in this story is the Turtles’ arch nemesis, The Shredder, though there is one scene that features a sword-bearing ninja who may turn out to be him. We also see a shadow-shrouded villain named General Krang, who shares a name with one of the main TMNT villains from the ’80s animated show. April O’Neil and Baxter Stockman also play major roles.

Ninja Turtles, IDW, originDan Dunan’s pencils are a strong selling point for this series. He’s great with injecting emotion into his art, which I love. During the scene where the un-mutated Raphael gets snatched away from Splinter and the others, surrogate father and son lock eyes, and we can see the fear and desperation between them. He’s also great at working with the Turtle faces, which there’s certainly something to be said for, as they obviously don’t exist in the real world.

For a few years now, I’ve been craving a Ninja Turtles series that takes the best ingredients from just about every version of the TMNT, and brings it all together to create something that adds on to classic elements, while still keeping things fresh with vibrant storytelling and stunning visuals. This series seems like it has the right attitude to pull that off. Will it happen? Probably not. That’s a pretty high standard to set for any book. But the Turtles deserve no less, so I’ll hold out a bit of hope.

RATING: 7/10

Image 1 from turtlepedia.wikia.com. Image 2 from comixology.com. Image 3 from dreamwidth.org.

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