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 #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

Weekly Comic 100s: TMNT: The Last Ronin #2

***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: The Last Ronin #2
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Tom Waltz
ARTISTS: Eastman, Esau & Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Samuel Plata (Color Assists), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 17, 2021

This issue definitely feels like it came from Eastman and Laird. Which is to say it has a grit to it that’s very Frank Miller-ish. Eastman even does a handful of pages in that scratchy black and white style that’s synonymous with those original TMNT comics.

The Last Ronin will down as one of the all-time great TMNT stories. Down the line, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the world this story takes place in used to tell “future” stories, much like the worlds created for stories like Kingdom Come and Batman Beyond.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Weekly Comic 100s: TMNT: The Last Ronin, Three Jokers #3, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps 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: The Last Ronin #1
AUTHORS: Peter Laird (Story), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story & Script)
ARTISTS: Eastman (Layouts), Esau & Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Samuel Plata (Color Assists), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 28, 2020

There’s a certain Batman Beyond vibe to the world of The Last Ronin. Some of The Dark Knight Returns too. And our villain almost a Kylo Ren rip-off. But none of this is necessarily bad. This book has a lot of intrigue going for it, and is off to an interesting start.

As this is supposedly based on an old story by Eastman and Laird, I came into it thinking it took place in the original TMNT comic canon. There’s a character on the last page who indicates that’s probably not the case.

TITLE: Batman: Three Jokers #3
AUTHOR:
Geoff Johns
ARTISTS:
Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED:
October 27, 2020

Another beautiful issue by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson. Though not what I would call a satisfying ending to the whole Three Jokers premise.

The story had a lot of interesting ideas, particularly when it came to Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon. Even Joe Chill, the man who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne. There’s also a new, interesting twist on the events of The Killing Joke. But in the end, this should remain out of continuity. A well written, gorgeously drawn idea exhibition. Nothing more.

TITLE: The Department of Truth #2
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Martin Simmonds, Aditya Bidikar (Letterer), Dylan Todd (Designer)
RELEASED: October 28, 2020

“Collective belief shapes the world, so everything is a little bit true, or has the potential to be true.”

That’s a quote from this issue which essentially sums up the premise of The Department of Truth. And every time I find myself getting into it, that premise pulls me right out of the story. Because even using comic book logic, I just can’t get behind it.

Plus, we see something in this issue that turns me off. Any kind of violence against children has been doing that since my daughter was born.

TITLE: Batgirl #50
AUTHOR: Cecil Castellucci
ARTISTS: Emanuela Lupacchino, Marguerite Sauvage, Aneke, Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Mick Gray (Inker), Scott Hanna (Inker), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Trish Mulvihill (Colorist), Becca Carey (Letterer). Cover by Joshua Middleton.
RELEASED: October 27, 2020

What’s interesting about this book’s take on Batgirl is that she’s integrated into her community in a way Batman has never been. She’s helping an old lady with her groceries, she’s teaching self defense classes, etc. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s yet another example of why the Batgirl costume in this series doesn’t work. Barbara Gordon is part of the community too. So, as she’s only wearing a domino mask as Batgirl, it would be that much easier for people to recognize her. 

Now that this series is over, hopefully she gets a new outfit. And soon.

TITLE: Power Rangers: Drakkon New Dawn #3
AUTHOR: Anthony Burch
ARTISTS: Simone Ragazzoni, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jung-Geun Yoon.
RELEASED: October 28, 2020

This mini started to get interesting at the end of issue #2, when it looked like the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as we knew them were about to return to the “Drakkonverse.” But this issue doesn’t follow through on that, which pretty much killed it for me.

But apparently Lord Drakkon sells comics. So I’d be surprised if we don’t get some kind of follow-up to this story. As one might expect, they leave the door wide open for it.

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