Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Voice Acting

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: City Fall | Comic Book Transmissions

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

My latest TMNT YouTube video, this time covering the City Fall story arc…

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

TMNT #3844 Deep-Dive – Going Big

***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 #38-44
AUTHORS: Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman
ARTISTS: Mateus Santolouco, Cory Smith
COLORIST: Ronda Pattison
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: TMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 5 (shown right)
RELEASED: October 2014 – March 2015

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I was about halfway through these issues when I noticed things were feeling bigger. We had a big bad guy with a big bad plan for his big terrible fortress. So our heroes made their own big plans, got in some big fights, and in Donatello’s case, took a big risk. A risk that came with big consequences.

Naturally, with big things come big visuals. Slash using only his massive body to shield Michelangelo from an airborne car. A friggin’ building collapsing on Bebop and Rocksteady. Krang looking into the sky with glee as his Technodrome begins to terraform Earth in his home planet’s image. And lest we forget the intense ground battle between the Foot Clan and the forces of Dimension X. It’s all here in these seven issues.

But before we get into all that, let’s talk about Old Hob, shall we?

Before IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series brought us its take on classic villains like Shredder and Krang, there was Old Hob. He was there from the very first page of the very first issue. My initial impression of this mutant cat with an eyepatch was that he was what I’ll call a “starter villain.” In essence, a one-note bad guy for our heroes to fight while we as readers learn about them and their world. Under a different creative team, we might have been done with Hob as early as issue #4. Having served his purpose, the character could have been cast aside.

Instead, the crew at IDW Publishing has consistently found a place for Old Hob. We’ve seen him evolve from gang leader to would-be mutant revolutionary. Issues #38-40 represent a big step in that evolution, as we see Hob has started using mutagen to create his own mutant army. But calamity ensues when Bebop and Rocksteady catch wind of it. It’s all the mass chaos and destruction you could hope for.

Hob has two new recruits who we meet in issue #38. The first is Mondo Gecko, a TMNT legacy character and skateboarding lizard. The second is Herman, a hermit crab with a knack for heavy artillery (shown above). What I appreciate more than anything about these two is that, like the Turtles, they’re tonally versatile. More often than not they’re funny characters, Herman in particular. But when it’s time for a fight, they can pose a serious threat.

Less versatile, yet undoubtedly priceless, is Pidgeon Pete, who we met back in issue #35. Pete is a dim-witted, boundlessly enthusiastic slice of pure cheesy comedic joy. As much crap as I’ve given Mateus Santolouco about how he draws the Turtles, his dumb anthropomorphic pidgeon game is on point, and should never be tinkered with or changed. Ever.

Santolouco is indeed back for issues #38-40, before Cory Smith tags in for #41-44. Interestingly, their stylistic approaches to the Turtles and their world are very similar, to the point that it’s difficult to differentiate between the two at times. Whether that’s good or bad depends on one’s personal tastes. For yours truly, the upside is that it offers a comforting consistency between Santolouco’s issues and Smith’s. Both are good at high impact fight sequences and turn in a tremendous amount of detail. The downside? I’m still not in love with how Santolouco draws the Turtles. Smith’s, while slightly better, have many of the same traits.

If there was any doubt, it becomes pretty clear in issue #40 that the book is gradually working toward a romance between Raphael and Alopex. The idea of one of the Turtles having a genuine love interest hasn’t been explored much over the years. So I’ve been curious to see how the IDW crew develops this. At the same time, there’s an awkwardness to it that I’ve never quite been able to get past. One is a turtle, the other is a snow fox. One a reptile, the other a mammal. So how to they “match up?” Physically, I mean…

Y’know what? Let’s just change the subject.

Moving into the “Attack on the Technodrome” story, one thing becomes damn clear: Cory Smith draws a hell of a Krang. The sheer amount of detail he puts into this tentacled alien blob makes it genuinely look like it could exist in the real world. The last three pages of issue #40 are a thing of beauty.

Writers have a habit of keeping all four Turtles in their respective character “lanes.” Leonardo the leader, Raphael the rebel, Michelangelo the fun one, and Donatello the brain. One thing this series has been great at is blurring those lines and not giving us cookie cutter characters. One small example: in issue #38 Mikey actually says, “Just ’cause I’m not a genius like Donnie doesn’t make me dumb.”

To that end, Donatello is a character to watch during this stretch of issues, and not just because of what happens to him at the end (no spoilers!). Early on we see him stand up to Splinter, calling him out for his fixation on stopping Shredder, insisting Krang and the Technodrome potentially terraforming the Earth are more urgent. We then see him take initiative and a real risk to try and thwart Krang’s plan. He winds up making a tremendous sacrifice for his family, and for the world at large. There’s no mistaking it: These ain’t cookie cutter Ninja Turtles.

It all comes down to a battle at Krang’s base on Burnow Island. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance as the Technodrome begins to terraform the Earth, the Turtles infiltrate the massive moving fortress while Shredder and the Foot face Krang’s forces on the ground. Sadly, because we only have about two issues to left by the time they get to said ground battle, it isn’t as satisfying as you’d hope.

What is satisfying is the one-on-one fight we see between Shredder and Krang. And shockingly, the right guy wins!

The most interesting thing about the Shredder/Krang tandem on the ’80s TV show, at least for yours truly, is that their modus operandi are so different. Shredder is an Earth-bound ninja master, and Krang is an intergalactic warlord. They shouldn’t work well together, but somehow they do. In the IDWverse, however, Shredder and Krang are not partners (yet). In this story, they’re actually at war with one another. And while Shredder is very much the arch rival of the TMNT, when you stack his forces up against Krang’s, it should be no contest. Krang’s space age weapons beat Shredder’s blades and shurikens any day of the week. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so given their awesome track record, that’s exactly what this book gives us. It doesn’t inflate Shredder’s power based on his arch villain status. The world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t really the place to look for realism. But I appreciated that little pinch of it.

One character who’s easy to overlook in all of this is Baxter Stockman. Like Old Hob, he’s been around since issue #1 and has big plans of his own. In these issues we find him working alongside the reluctant robot Fugitoid (see the Neutrino story arc) as Krang’s servants and Technodrome tech aficionados. But as ever, Stockman has his own agenda to undermine Krang. When confronted by the Turtles, Stockman unveils an army of “flyborgs.” They’re half cyborg, half insect zombies. God help us.

Stockman is a TMNT legacy character that dates back to the original comic book. But fans of the ’80s cartoon may remember him as the evil scientist character who turned into a mutant fly. As the ’80s cartoon is obviously one of this book’s main influences, I was ready for them to turn him into a fly pretty quickly. But to their credit, the IDW crew held off and gave the evil scientist time to shine. The flyborgs are a pretty nice hold-off, though. I love their design, which originated in a Micro-Series issue drawn by Andy Kuhn. It’s a wonderful sci-fi/horror blend, and Smith’s execution of it is great.

It’s no accident that the series feels like it’s moving toward a crescendo. The stakes are getting higher, the cast is growing larger, and things do indeed feel like they’re getting bigger. All roads lead to issue #50, and one more epic showdown…

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

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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