Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Micro-Reviews

A TMNT #122 Micro-Review – Turtles in Costume!

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #122
AUTHORS: Sophie Campbell, Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Jodi Nishijima, Ronda Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 20, 2021

The Turtles dress up for Halloween in this issue, and I found myself wishing the creators would have had a little more fun with their costumes. Mikey dresses up as Hellraiser, and Leo dresses like an old woman who I’d like to think is Mrs. Doubtfire. But they had three more Turtles they could have had fun with!

All these issues later, I still find it surreal to read a TMNT book where the Turtles are working to form their own government. What’s more, that the book is devoting so much time to it.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Micro-Reviews

A TMNT: The Last Ronin #4 Micro-Review – Scope Overblown

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TMNT The Last Ronin 4, cover, 2021TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #4
AUTHOR: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Tom Waltz
ARTISTS: Eastman, Esau & Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Samuel Plata (Color Assistant)
RELEASED: September 22, 2021

Coming in, The Last Ronin felt (to me at least) like it was going to be a small scale personal story involving Michelangelo, Oroku Hiroto, and maybe April O’Neil and her daughter. Instead, they’ve gone too big with it and make it into an almost militaristic save-the-world story. The scope has been blown way out of proportion.

Case in point, the most interesting scene in this issue is the one-on-one time between Mikey and April’s daughter. I’d have gladly taken more of that over the sci-fi warfare stuff.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Micro-Reviews

A TMNT: The Last Ronin #3 Micro-Review – A Grumpy Old Turtle

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TMNT The Last Ronin 3, cover, 2021TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #3
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Tom Waltz
ARTISTS: Eastman, Esau & Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: May 26, 2021

These Last Ronin books are all great looking. But for yours truly, the most interesting artistic element is how our lead character looks as that grizzled old man. It’s not often you get to see the Ninja Turtles age, as they’re obviously prominently portrayed as teenagers. So to see the line and ink work on an older, more ragged Ninja Turtle is interesting.

From a story perspective, I’m ready for the action to start up again. Hopefully that’s what they give us next time.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

A TMNT/Ghostbusters Deep-Dive Review – Bustin’ in a Half Shell

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters #14
AUTHORS: Erik Burnham, Tom Waltz
ARTIST: Dan Schoening
GUEST ARTISTS: Charles Paul Wilson III, Cory Smith, Ronda Pattison (Colorist)
COLORIST: Luis Delgado
LETTERER: Neil Uyetake
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: Paperback, Deluxe EditionTMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 5
RELEASED: October 2014 – January 2015

***New around here? Check out Primary Ignition’s TMNT Deep-Dive Review archive!***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

If you were a kid in the ’80s or ’90s, chances are you’ll find something appealing at IDW Publishing. That’s not me kissing ass. It’s simply the law of averages. Their collection of licenses includes Transformers, My Little Pony, Sonic the Hedgehog, Back to the Future, among others. That’s to say nothing of two iconic staples of the ’80s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters.

And of course, IDW loves them a good crossover. It was only a matter of time before the boys in green met the boys in grey.

So what do people want to see from a story like this? What’s the appeal of a crossover? The answer is fans like it when things…well, cross over. We like to see different characters from different worlds meet, interact, team up, or even fight. Often it’s a combination of all four.

But how do you mash up the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Ghostbusters? On the surface, they have very little in common.

The answer is: Find common ground. Take something the two properties have in common and use it to bring them together. Thus the question becomes, what do the TMNT and the GBs have in common? Well, simply at face value…

  • They’re both four-man teams.
  • They both fight the supernatural and/or the extraordinary.
  • They’re both from New York City.

That, especially that third point, is apparently a good enough starting point. TMNT/Ghostbusters sees an accident with the Turtles’ dimensional portal send them to the Ghostbusters’ incarnation of New York. The accident also frees Chi-You, a Chinese warrior god hell bent on ruling the Earth. Caught up in his plot is none other than a demonically possessed Casey Jones.

These issues feel very much like the Turtles are guest-starring in a Ghostbusters story. That’s because artistic team behind IDW’s Ghostbusters books, penciller Dan Schoening, colorist Luis Delgado, and letterer Neil Uyetake handle most of the pages. The common threads between IDW’s Ghostbusters and TMNT books? Tom Waltz, who co-authored TMNT with Kevin Eastman, was the editor on Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters author Erik Burnham had worked on plenty of supplemental material for the TMNT series as well. So the ground was fertile for a crossover.

Said crossover is in good hands. Over the last decade, Burnham, Schoening, Delgado, and Uyetake have been responsible for what in my opinion are the best Ghostbusters comics ever made. All parties involved clearly had a reverence for the source material, and Burnham was turning in amazing scripts.

But what really sets the material apart is Schoening and Delgado. As is the case with TMNT comics, my argument when it comes to Ghostbusters comics is that a lot rides on how you draw the heroes themselves. Because of likeness issues, most pre-Shoening artists tended to draw the movie-based Ghostbusters as guys who looked loosely like the actors. As in this case the characters are so closely identified with their performers (Can you picture someone other than Bill Murray playing Peter Venkman?), what we got were essentially Ghostbusters stories with characters who looked like they were standing in for the genuine article. 

Then along came Shoening who took a more animated, cartoony approach to the movie Ghostbusters. His Egon Spengler doesn’t look like Harold Ramis. But like an impressionist channeling a specific person, he captures the feel of the characters in a way no other artist ever has. So to see him take on the Ghostbusters and the Ninja Turtles, in the same story no less, is very special.

Issues #2 and #3 are where we get a lot of those “common ground” scenes. The two teams share pizza in the firehouse. Donatello compares tech geek notes with Ray. Raph and Venkman make wisecracks to each other. And of course, we get our first obligatory shot of a Ninja Turtle wearing a proton pack. Along those lines, Cory Smith’s variant cover for issue #3 (shown left) is my favorite in the entire series. If you’re an ’80s or ’90s kid, the smart bet is this would have made your head explode back then.

By villain standards, Chi-You isn’t very memorable at all. He’s essentially a generic, grand-standing, monolouging bad guy. He does, however, manage to look pretty bad ass in Casey Jones’ hockey mask. But the strange thing about this story is that the bad guy is almost an afterthought. The main event is that interaction between the two teams. With only four issues to work with, you almost don’t have the time to properly build up a brand new villain while still delivering on what fans want to see from a crossover.

And did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters deliver on what fans wanted to see? I’d say so. I’d like to think no one realistically came into this thing expecting a grand masterpiece. But it wasn’t a small task either. It’s job was to deliver on a scenario dreamed up by many an ’80s or ’90s kid: What if the Ninja Turtles met the Ghostbusters? And the answer we get is perfectly serviceable. It isn’t contrived, or forced, or hokey, or stupid, all of which it easily could have been. The IDW crew delivered on the crossover, just like they delivered on the two books individually.

What more could a kid who grew up watching these characters on worn out VHS tapes possibly ask for?

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

A Turtles in Time Deep-Dive – This Ain’t No Game!

***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. Or in this case, veering off and looking at a miniseries that showcased numerous talented writers and artists…***

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time #14
AUTHORS: Paul Allor
ARTISTS: Sophie Campbell, Charles Paul Wilson III, Ben Bates, Dan Duncan. “A” covers by David Petersen.
COLORISTS: Bill Crabtree, Jeremy Mohler, Bates, Ronda Pattison
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: TMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 5
RELEASED: June – September 2014

***New around here? Check out Primary Ignition‘s TMNT Deep-Dive Review archive!***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Adapting video games into any other media, be it movies, TV, or in this case comics books, is tricky. So much of the fun of a video game is in the immersion factor. Being able to interact with and play your way through an entirely different world.

As far as pure fun is concerned, few games can beat 1991’s Turtles in Time from Konami. It was the best of the side-scrolling TMNT beat-em-up games, throwing a smorgasbord of enemies and settings at players. Tried and true locales like the New York City sewers and the Technodrome, and eras as far back as the prehistoric and as far ahead as a star base in 2100. We saw foot soldiers riding dinosaurs, Bebop and Rocksteady dressed as pirates, Krang flying in a spaceship, and finally…Super Shredder. Turtles in Time had it all.

So how do you supplant that story into comic books without losing the joy of being able to ninja-kick through the game yourself? You don’t. You can, however, use the strengths of the medium to present something different, yet still evocative, of the original product.

That’s what IDW does with it’s four-issue Turtles in Time miniseries. Each issue takes us to a different era, spotlights a different Turtle, and has its own artist to provide a different look and feel. As an added bonus, most of the artists had already worked on the main series by this point. But with that in mind, from an artistic standpoint Turtles in Time surprisingly doesn’t feel all that familiar…

Author Paul Allor and artist Sophie Campbell hit the ground running with issue #1, as the Turtles find themselves suddenly thrust into pre-historic times. It’s worth noting that the character responsible for the Turtles’ temporal displacement, an interdimensional time-traveler named Renet, had not been introduced in the main series yet. Issue #1 came out in June 2014, and Renet’s official introduction didn’t come until August. Whoops…

I’ve called Sophie Campbell’s approach to the Turtles “cutesy.” But her work on the main series also had a vulnerable, emotional side to it that made it a great fit for the “Northampton” story arc. This, on the other hand, is pure cutesy. “Northampton” wouldn’t have been nearly as effective had it looked like this.

Still, as with “Northampton,” we have to account for tone. When Campbell worked on the main series, she was helping to tell a four-issue story about a family coming together and healing after a devastating, costly battle. This is a one-off where Michelangelo rides a dinosaur. It’s much more playful, and somewhat akin to the 2012 Nickelodeon series that was airing at the time. So while still cute, Campbell is able to adapt her style to match a story with a much different tone than “Northampton.” Once again, she makes it work.

Also, Raphael also gets a pet dinosaur. So…that’s a thing.

In issue #2, author Erik Burnham and artist Charles Paul Wilson III take us to feudal Japan. Of course, in the IDWverse this is the time period the Turtles and Splinter originally lived in as humans before their murder and reincarnation in the 21st century. There’s a story opportunity gift-wrapped for them there, and Burnham takes advantage of it. Our heroes meet their past selves, Splinter’s human counterpart Hamato Yoshi, and their mother Tang Shen. A little convenient? Sure. But the resulting character moments are worth it. Specifically, Leo blatantly attempting to change the future while Raph acts as the voice of reason. It’s a really nice role reversal. Seeing the Turtles in samurai garb is pretty cool too.

As for Wilson, for me his style is comparable to that of Andy Kuhn. Generally speaking, I’m a fan of his work, but he struggles when it comes to the Turtles themselves. The word that comes to mind when I look at his take (shown above) is…gelatinous. I’ll leave it at that. Everything else, however, looks just fine. The action sequences in particular have a great kinetic energy to them.

Burnham stays on for issue #3, as Ben Bates returns to draw the Turtles on a pirate ship in the 18th century. As with Campbell, Bates’ work takes on a different tone for Turtles in Time. Less so because of his pencils, and more his colors. The palette is lighter and the look is a bit sketchier, which adds up to a windswept, sea-blown vibe. Combined with the largely white backgrounds he uses to depict the open sky, it highly effective.

From a writing perspective, I was impressed with how Burnham incorporated Krang as the hidden leader of the evil pirates. At editorial’s request, he also snuck the IDW origin of a TMNT legacy character on to the last page. Beyond that, between issues #2 and #3 Burnham is able to give us two very different stories. Issue #2 has its comedic moments, but airs on the dramatic side, while issue #3 is a lot more fun and comedic. Particularly with Michelangelo, who wins his pirate comrades over with his version of an “inspirational” speech.

Out of all the artists working on Turtles in Time, the name I was most excited to see was Dan Duncan’s. His work on the first 12 issues of the main series is some of the best the property has ever seen. Coming into the fourth issue of Turtles in Time, I was hoping for more of the same with the unique flavor of it being in a futuristic setting. Ronda Pattison, the colorist he worked with on the main series, being along for the ride only seemed to sweeten the pot.

The performance Duncan turns in is superbly creative, with Turtles that are as expressive as ever. But it’s not quite as evocative of those first issues as I’d hoped. Oddly enough, this issue once again looks like it was inspired by Nickelodeon show. It makes you wonder how much these creative teams were influenced by it, if at all. Still, Duncan has the tall task of drawing a Manhattan strictly populated by mutants, all of which he had to design himself. So this issue in and of itself is a tremendous achievement.

Issue #4, written once again by Allor, introduces us to an elderly Donatello. With his brothers now gone, he refuses to take part in a rebellion against an America ruled by the Foot clan. Donatello is an interesting choice for that role, as given the choice of all four Ninja Turtles, I doubt he’d the one many would bet on as the sole survivor of an apocalyptic scenario. It makes perfect sense, though, if you think about it. And of course, having Don meet an older, more jaded version of himself makes for great character development, which would soon be reflected in the main series.

When you get right down to it, Turtles in Time is perfectly skippable. It doesn’t add anything integral to the main series, and is just a fun little romp through different time periods. The latter, however, is also its greatest appeal. It takes the Turtles out of their element and lets a variety of talented people play around with them. Much like the video game, it’s an exercise in creativity and fun. At the end of the day, it’s hard to hate on that.

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

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.