Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Micro-Reviews

A Teen Titans Academy #5 Micro-Review – Too Much Nightwing?

***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

Teen Titans Academy 5, cover, 2021, Rafa SandovalTITLE: Teen Titans Academy #5
AUTHOR: Tim Sheridan
ARTISTS: Steve Lieber, Dave Stewart (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Rafa Sandoval & Alejandro Sanchez.
RELEASED: July 27, 2021

This is the first issue of Teen Titans Academy I didn’t like. It sees the Bat Pack characters take center stage for the second consecutive issue. Granted, they’ve been part of the book since issue #1. But So have characters like Summer, Alinta, Brick, Gorilla Gregg, etc. I’d rather have spent time with them than a trio of Batman groupies.

Also, I’m starting to think this book is a little too Nightwing-heavy for me. And I say that as a Nightwing buff.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Micro-Reviews

A Teen Titans Academy Yearbook 2021 Micro-Review – Life with Stitch

***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: Teen Titans Academy Yearbook 2021
AUTHOR: Tim Sheridan
ARTISTS: Bernard Chang, Marco Santucci, Darko Lafuente, Rafa Sandoval, John Tarragona (Inker). Cover design by Stephen Blackwell.
COLORISTS: Marcelo Maiolo, Michael Atiyeh, Miquel Muerto, Alex Sinclair
LETTERER: Rob Leigh
RELEASED: June 29, 2021

This short stories collection is highlighted by a look at the mysterious Stitch. As I’ve said previously, I think the strength of a teenage superhero book is how well it highlights that teen element. The Stitch story does that, tying into how lonely and isolating high school can sometimes feel. Nice work by Sheridan, who to his credit writes the entire issue.

We also get a charming little outing for Beast Boy and Raven. Teen Titans Academy should first and foremost be about the new characters, i.e. the students. But the classic characters also have their place.

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

Posted in Uncategorized

A Teen Titans Academy #4 Micro-Review – The Bat Pack is on the Case!

***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

Teen Titans Academy 4, cover, 2021, Rafa SandovalTITLE: Teen Titans Academy #4
AUTHOR: Tim Sheridan
ARTISTS: Steve Lieber, Dave Stewart (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Rafa Sandoval & Alejandro Sanchez.
RELEASED: June 22, 2021

In this issue we meet the “Bat Pack,” three young detectives decked out in Batman-inspired garb. Based on how much Batman worship goes on at DC, I can only assume that’s also how the editorial staff dress at work…

Jokes aside, the Bat Pack stuff is pretty fun to follow. The characters actually feel like teenagers, a vital ingredient in teenage superhero books that’s harder to nail down than one might think. Steve Lieber’s art is also a good match for the story.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Weekly Comic 100s: Teen Titans Academy #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: Teen Titans Academy #2
AUTHOR: Tim Sheridan
ARTISTS: Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona (Inker), Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED: April 27, 2021

I rolled my eyes a couple of times during this issue. First at the on again/off again romance between Nightwing and Starfire, which is still a thing. Second, that our cliffhanger sees another superhero team butting into this book, and we’re only on  issue #2.

On the plus side? We get to know a young speedster named Bolt in this issue, who wears blades in place of her lower legs like Oscar Pistorious did. I like that juxtaposition. It catches you by surprise.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Weekly Comic 100s: Teen Titans Academy #1

***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: Teen Titans Academy #1
AUTHOR: Tim Sheridan
ARTISTS: Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona (Inker), Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED: March 23, 2021

I love this premise. Use the classic Teen Titans to introduce us to a new generation of teenage heroes. In a perfect world, that would be the endgame here: To introduce a group of characters that will eventually become the full-time Teen Titans.

Naturally, there are a lot of students we meet in this issue. The one that stood out the most to me was Summer Zahid, a young woman of Middle Eastern descent wearing a hijab. There isn’t enough Muslim representation in comics, and any book that can chip away at that gets bonus points from me.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

A TMNT #112 Deep Dive – Origins and Opportunities

***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 #112
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
ARTISTS: Eastman (Layouts), Dan Duncan, Mateus Santolouco,
COLORIST: Ronda Pattison
LETTERERS: Robbie Robbins, Shawn Lee
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: TMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 1 (shown right)
RELEASED: August 2011-July 2012

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

One can’t define IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series in one, or even a handful of ways. It covers so much ground. It’s a love-letter to decades of TMNT lore in comics, television, movies, video games, etc. It’s a masterclass in comic book storytelling in both the short and long term. It’s an explosion of often beautiful work from a number of different artists. It’s become, in some ways, the pinnacle of TMNT mythology based on not just it’s lengthy duration, but its undoubtable quality.

So for the uninitiated…who/what are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, TMNT for short, were created in a black and white comic book self-published in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The premise was pure comic book insanity: Four anthropomorphic turtles trained in martial arts by an anthropomorphic rat, who then proceed to defend New York City against extraordinary threats of all kind. Most notably an evil ninja clan known as the Foot, and their sinister leader the Shredder.

This bizarre concept exploded into an unlikely cultural phenomenon after it was adapted into a wildly successful cartoon show in 1987. During the peak of the franchise’s popularity in the ’80s and early ’90s, TMNT was a multimedia and merchandising juggernaut. There were toys, feature films, video games, licensed clothing of all kinds, Turtle-themed food products, a bizarre musical stage show, just to name a few. It might be tough to understand if you weren’t a kid in the ’80s or ’90s, but “Turtlemania” was very, very real.

After multiple iterations in television, movies, and of course comic books, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand was purchased by Nickelodeon in 2009. Naturally, there were more TV shows, movies, video games, etc. But for sheer power of storytelling, little (if anything) tops the 2011 comic book series from by IDW Publishing that’s still running to this day.

That’s where we come in.

Almost right off the bat, TMNT hits us with what may still be the best two-page spread in the entire series (shown right). Certainly it’s one of them. Put aside that it’s beautifully drawn and colored. This image gives us the series’ initial hook using purely the visual language of comic books. Especially if you’re a longtime Turtle fan, though you don’t need to be one in order to get it.

Look at how Old Hob and his thugs are grouped compared to how the Turtles and Splinter are grouped. There’s a sizable gap in between our heroes, whereas the villains are drawn fairly tight. What does this tell us? That something’s missing. The Turtles are incomplete. The good guys have a problem that needs to be solved. Then, consider Dan Duncan’s masterful rendering of the Turtles (I appreciate Michelangelo’s toothy growl in particular), and Ronda Pattison’s beautiful smokey coloring of the scene, and you’ve got pure comic book awesomeness spread out over two pages.

Indeed, Raphael is missing. This was the big twist early on: Having Raph grow up on his own, separated from his family. As far as set-ups are concerned, this is a pretty good one. Raph has always been written as the moody and broody one among his brothers. Growing up on his own gives him a reason to be that way, as opposed to assigning him those character traits for no real reason. So in the larger sense, it’s a good idea…

What’s always puzzled me about this twist with Raphael is that in the short term it’s never effectively followed up on. There’s no story about Raph butting heads with his father or brothers as he struggles to acclimate to this family he’s never known. Between issues #4 and #5, we essentially jump from reunited to reacclimated. It’s the kind of missed opportunity the series would not come to be associated with as it continued. Let’s call it stumbling out of the gate.

The IDW crew gives April O’Neil a larger role in the formation of the Turtles’ identities. She’s an intern at Stock Gen (owned by Baxter Stockman) who grows attached to the rat and four turtles brought in for research. She even gives them their names (“I have History of Renaissance Art 101 this semester.”). This creates a a nice connection between the Turtles and Splinter early on, to the point that she’s essentially a part of the family.

These 12 issues are among my favorite artistic runs on any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book. Nobody draws the Turtles quite like Dan Duncan. It’s all in the way he does their faces. The big white eyes, the way the beak curves up, the larger-than-you-might-expect size of the teeth. Even the their bodies have a seemingly perfect turtle-to-human ratio. Drawn in his sketchy yet masterfully inked style, it all adds up to figures that are very expressive. His Turtles “act” as well, if not better, than any I’ve ever seen. As do virtually all his mutant characters.

Colorist Ronda Pattison’s contributions to the series should never be ignored. She’s been with the book since day one, and provided a really nice consistency throughout the series. Issue #5 is a particularly strong one for her, as she uses three different color palettes to convey three different settings and moods. We have a smokey looking city scene as a stealthy Splinter sneaks around buildings at night. Then we have a more sunny and colorful palette as we check in with our reunited brothers in their sewer home. Finally, we switch to a more sepia toned look as we travel back to feudal Japan to see the Turtles and Splinter in human form.

Duncan and Pattison also did the primary covers (as opposed to the variant covers) for these issues. It’s all good, strong work. But Duncan leaves the book after issue #12, just as the duo were starting to hit their stride. For my money, issues #11 and #12 were their best work cover-wise.

Indeed, IDW made a bold choice in going with a reincarnation angle for their version of the TMNT story. We see in issue #5 that Hamato Yoshi and his four teenage sons have been reincarnated into their current states after being executed by their Yoshi’s enemy Oroku Saki, the future Shredder, and the Foot Clan. Obviously nothing like this had been done with the origin story before. I’m not sure if any “purists” were angered by it. But for me it was a case of no harm no foul. It didn’t fundamentally alter anything about the Turtles, Splinter, or Shredder. They didn’t so much change the origin story, so much as add a new layer to it.

As much as anything else, I appreciate that these first twelve issues give the Turtles a more expansive gallery of villains to fight. Shredder (shown above) and the Foot Clan have been around since the beginning, and cast such a long shadow that they tend to monopolize the villain scene in Ninja Turtles stories. In contrast, this series leads off with a brand new villain: A mutant cat named Old Hob. From there, in addition to the Foot, we meet sinister scientist/business tycoon Baxter Stockman, who from there leads us to the intergalactic tyrant Krang.

Like a cover of a classic song, many of these are familiar notes played with a different sound. Most of these characters we’ve seen before. So it’s just a matter what the IDW “spin” will be. You’ve got the Turtles, Splinter, April O’Neil, Casey Jones, Shredder and the Foot Clan, Krang and Dimension X, Stockman and the Mousers, etc. Naturally, there are familiar story beats too. We’ve got Mousers invading the Turtles’ lair, the boys having to rescue a kidnapped Splinter, April and Casey’s budding romance, among others.

It all amounts to something two-fold. On one hand, we have a melting pot consisting of much of what worked for the TMNT in other eras (mainly the original comics and the ’80s cartoon). But on the other, our creators are using those elements to lay the foundation for their own stories down the line. These issues are essentially a garden filled with seeds for stories that would come to fruition in the over 100 issues that have since followed. The care and crafting put into these early issues was evident when they came out, and is even more so with the benefit of hindsight.

What it all comes down to in the first 12 issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I’d argue most of the really good TMNT stories ever told, is family. Not just the discovery of one’s family, and what they mean in the formation of your identity, but the family you choose for yourself. April O’Neil unknowingly plays a role in the Turtles’ story, but eventually embraces and accepts them. Casey Jones leaves an abusive father to find our heroes as his new surrogate family, most notably a surrogate brother in Raphael. There is no stronger bond than family, regardless of what form it takes. That, if nothing else, has been the prevalent theme that has kept these characters and their stories relevant, and will likely continue to do so for generations to come.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

DC’s Infinite Frontier #0 – A Rapid Fire Review

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Couldn’t jam Infinite Frontier into an edition of “Weekly Comic 100s,” so we decided to upgrade the format. We’ll cover each story in this oversized issue in rapid fire fashion, and take a glimpse into DC’s future (not to be confused with Future State).

TITLE: Infinite Frontier #0
AUTHORS:
Various
ARTISTS:
Various. Cover by Dan Jurgens & Mikel Janin.
RELEASED:
March 2, 2021

Justice League: Wait, so is Black Adam’s name changing to Shazadam or not? I thought it wasn’t.

Batman: This one’s split into two parts. I’m liking this premise where Barbara Gordon mentors Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain in a Birds of Prey sort of way.

Also, Bane dies. Let’s see how long that lasts…

Wonder Woman: Apparently Wonder Woman did something super big and important in Dark Nights: Death Metal, so now she’s elevated to “the Quintessence” council with Phantom Stranger, the Spectre, etc., and we need a new Wonder Woman. Which is going to be…Wonder Woman’s mother Hippolyta? I think? Honestly, I don’t really get it…

Wonder Girl: So Yara Flor, the Future State Wonder Woman, is going to be the new Wonder Girl. That could be cool. But she only gets a few pages here. Frankly, I’d rather have spent more time with her than the ladies of Themyscera. We still don’t know much about her, after all.

Green Lantern: Alan Scott: In a very heartfelt scene, Alan comes out to his children as a gay man. That’s pretty cool. I’m also excited DC is borrowing from The New Frontier, and making it canon that the Justice Society was shut down during the era of McCarthyism.

Teen Titans Academy: Not much to go on here. But I continue to be optimistic about Teen Titans Academy.

Superman: Interestingly, we focus not on Clark Kent here, but Jonathan Kent. It looks very similar to what we saw in Future State. I’m not nearly as optimistic for that sort of thing here as I am with Wonder Woman…

Green Arrow & Black Canary: It looks like they’re undoing one of the deaths from Heroes in Crisis, which is a good thing. The less we have to remember from that book, the better.

Stargirl: Right off the bat, I love the art on this one. It reminds me of the original Young Justice book. A nice little teenager superhero outing by Geoff Johns. After all these years, I still miss him on Teen Titans

Green Lanterns: We see John Stewart, Simon Baz, and Keli “Teen Lantern” Quintela here. If they’re going to do a new Green Lanterns book, I wouldn’t mind one about the three of them as a team.

The Flash: This one gets a little far out in terms of cosmic scope. But it ends with some news that should make Wally West fans happy. I’m certainly intrigued.

Overall: A good outing, worth the $5.99 price tag. This is what I was hoping those Generations Shattered and Generations Forged books would be like. A jumping on point for various parts of the DCU.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

A Teen Titans: Beast Boy Deep Dive – Putting the “Teen” Back in Teen Titans

TITLE: Teen Titans: Beast Boy
AUTHOR: Kami Garcia
ARTISTS: Gabriel Picolo w/Rob Haynes, David Calderon (Colorist), Gabriela Downie (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Graphic Novels For Young Adults
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Teen Titans: Beast Boy brushes up against something I desperately wish it had explored further, as it’s something we rarely if ever see examined in superhero comics: Male body image issues.

That’s certainly not to say men have it worse than women in that department. Particularly as far as depictions in superhero books go. But it would have been a great route to take with a changeling superhero, and one that many a male reader could have identified with.

While not great, Beast Boy still turns out to be pretty good. Nothing Earth-shaking as far as YA books are concerned. But if you’re a Teen Titans fan, and especially if you enjoyed Teen Titans: Raven by this same team, it’s worth your time.

At it’s core, Beast Boy is about a kid who wants to fit in and be accepted. You’d be hard pressed to find a theme that’ll resonate with high schoolers more than that. It why our main character Gar Logan wants to change his image, change his body, etc. And of course, there’s a girl he wants to impress. Those two motivations cast a pretty wide net, making Gar a particularly sympathetic lead. Even when he starts developing animal shape-shifting powers.

Still, the book is able to find a nice balance between Gar’s teen angst, and portraying him as the light-hearted jokey character people know from the comics and cartoon show. This is true in terms of both Garcia’s writing and Picolo’s pencils, which more than once feel very reminiscent of how Beast Boy was drawn on the cartoon (see above). That comedy/drama balance can be very tough to strike, and I give the book a lot of credit for pulling it off.

Strangely, there’s a subplot in Beast Boy about a character with a learning disability that amounts to absolutely nothing. I’m all for representation and talking about these kinds of things. But shouldn’t it amount to something a little more than someone saying they have dyslexia?

Beast Boy is a sequel/spin-off to last year’s Teen Titans: Raven. As such, comparisons between the two are inevitable. Upon flipping through Raven, what immediately jumps out at me is the difference in the colors. David Calderon, our colorist for both books, used a largely muted palette of violets on Raven. There are similar muted tones in Beast Boy, but Calderon is also more inclined to make the colors pop more often. Gar’s skin tone, along with the green accent in his hair, are the most consistent example. There’s also a supporting character with really bright blue hair, making her particularly distinct.

The book takes a risk when Gar’s animagus powers start manifesting: His human body starts to mimic the animal he’s either channeling or about to change into. We see it with a mountain lion (right) and to a lesser extent with a bear. Whether it works or not is subjective. But I’m happy they didn’t overplay their hand with this trick. It could have ventured into silly territory very quickly.

For a long time now, I’ve argued that DC’s main Teen Titans series has lacked a sufficient amount of that “teen” element that’s supposed to distinguish it from books like Justice League. What these books by Garcia and Picolo do better than anything is put that “teen” back in Teen Titans. It’s a crucial, yet somehow often overlooked ingredient in their recipe for success.

For more DC Graphic Novels For Young Adults, check out Shadow of the Batgirl and The Lost Carnival.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Panels of Awesomeness

Panels of Awesomeness: Supergirl: Being Super

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

THE ISSUE: Supergirl: Being Super #1

CREATORS: Mariko Tamaki (Author), Joelle Jones (Pencils), Sandu Floreau (Inks), Kelly Fitzpatrick (Colors) Saida Temofonte (Letters)

RELEASED: December 28, 2016

THE SCENE: In the opening pages of this out-of-continuity take on Supergirl, we meet Kara Danvers and her friends.

WHY THEY’RE AWESOME: I’m a sucker for body language and certain subtle visual cues. Comic books are, after all, a visual medium. I wasn’t even two pages into Supergirl: Being Super when I found one I absolutely love.

The book reestablishes the character as a modern American teenager. One of the book’s best attributes is establishes strong connections early on between Kara and her supporting cast, specifically her friends. One of those friends is Dolly Granger. 

What I absolutely adore here is how perfectly the art and the caption boxes are intertwined. The one on the left is our set-up, as we get this information about Dolly’s parents. Then we have the reveal of her hair, which beautifully points to her non-conformist streak without saying a single word. We probably don’t even need the caption on the right. But it’s a nice bit of garnish. Incidentally, it’s probably not an accident that the background is rainbow colored.

One of the book’s best attributes is how real and genuine Kara’s friendships feel. They work wonders in making this otherwise goddess-like character feel very down-to-Earth. Often it can be cumbersome to get those supporting characters established while still doing the business of the plot. But Dolly’s introduction is quick, seamless, and masterful.

For more Joelle Jones, check out Panels of Awesomeness: Catwoman #1.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

 

Posted in Astonishing Art, Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Astonishing Art: Robin by Marcio Hum

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

My favorite Robin costume is the original one from 1940. The “pixie boots” costume, with the bare legs and the yellow cape. It may very well be the the most illogically flamboyant costume in the history of superhero comics. Especially in the context of Batman’s world. But its become iconic as the decades have gone by, no matter how much certain creators have tried to sweep it under the rug.

That’s why I love this piece by Brazilian artist Marcio Hum so much. It shows us the character in what may currently be his most popular (not to mention outrageous) incarnation from Teen Titans GO! It’s a really fun contrast with the classic Robin. Plus, the pencil sketch background makes the costumes bright colors pop that much more.

Hum has drawn similar pieces for Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy. They can be found on his Instagram. Hum is also the designer of Mini Co Collectibles.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.