A TMNT #1320 Deep Dive – Classic Characters, New Layers

***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 #1320
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman (Story), Tom Waltz (Story & Script)
ARTISTS: Andy Kuhn, Ben Bates
COLORIST: Ronda Pattison
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
COLLECTED IN: TMNT: The IDW Collection, Vol. 2 (shown right)
RELEASED: August 2012-March 2013

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Open Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #13, and it’s evident a pretty big change has occurred. It’s very much the same series. But it looks very different.

Issue #12 had been Dan Duncan’s last as regular penciller (Though he would continue to do cover art for the IDW Collection TMNT books.). His were large shoes to fill, as he’d been with the series since its beginning. He’d introduced us to almost all the characters (not counting the ones introduced in the TMNT Micro-Series issues) and their world. Throw in that he just happens to be one of the best to ever draw the Ninja Turtles, and virtually any artist to pick up the pencil in his wake would have a daunting task ahead of them.

The responsibility ultimately fell on Andy Kuhn, who for the record, is quite good. That’s evidenced by his scenes between Shredder and Karai, Baxter Stockman and the Utroms, and his renderings of Slash later on. But the transition between Duncan’s take on the Turtles and Kuhn’s toothy, inky renderings of the boys in green is a jarring one. As such, his work in TMNT is an acquired taste. Still, he’s more than capable of telling compelling stories in his own right.

Compelling stories continued to be the M.O. for TMNT as it entered its second year of publication. As we discussed last time, the best Ninja Turtles stories often center around themes of family, both the ones we’re born with and the ones we choose. That continued to be the case in issues #13-16 as Waltz and the TMNT crew took an in-depth look at the different, and not always so good, paternal relationships on display. We had Casey Jones and his drunk, abusive father. We had Shredder’s strict, often harsh relationship with Karai (though he’s technically her grandfather). One can even make an argument for Baxter Stockman and Slash.

But of course, the preeminent paternal dynamic in this book is between Splinter and the Turtles. Historically, Splinter in his many incarnations has had one prominent character trait: He’s wise. As such, writers have focused more on the Turtles when it comes to character development. But these issues, #14 in particular, give Splinter an added layer that I don’t think any of us were expecting.

When Casey Jones comes to April’s apartment having been beat up by his dad once again, Resident hothead Raphael goes into a rage. He sets out to teach Arnold Jones a lesson, and is unknowingly followed by Splinter. After Raph has roughed up Casey’s father, Splinter arrives on the scene and shockingly puts a blade to Jones’ throat. He asks, “Would you have me execute this man, my son?” Naturally, this brings Raph out of his angry fit.

Splinter goes on to say that as a young man he, like Raph, was once prone to intense anger, and even thirsts for revenge. Thus, father and son are able to relate to one another in a new way. We even see later on that Splinter’s anger issues have not subsided completely…

As we’ve seen the IDW team do with so many other classic TMNT characters, this move doesn’t change the essence of Splinter. Rather, it adds a new layer to what was already there. It allows him to keep doling out wisdom and fatherly advice, while reminding us that Splinter is wise for a reason. He’s fought many of the same battles as his sons, and faced many of the same demons. This move gives Splinter credibility, as opposed too simply making him a fountain of platitudes.

The artistic highlight of Kuhn’s four-issue run comes in issues #15 and #16 with what I’ll call the “church fight.” The Turtles find an underground rec room at an abandoned church, and hope to set it up as a base. There they run into Slash, a mutant snapping turtle created at Stockgen using an “impure” dose of mutagen. Ergo he’s wild and far more animalistic than our heroes.

The fight with Slash takes place in the dark, with the only light source being flashlights. It’s here that Kuhn is truly in his element. He turns the book into a horror show. Slash has never looked more menacing or terrifying than in some of these under-lit shots. Colorist Ronda Pattison’s contributions to this sequence can’t be understated. She creates a dim, hazy yellow glow that perfectly compliments the inky blackness of Kuhn’s shadows.

Let’s also talk about Woody, a side character introduced early in the series who works at a pizza place. He gives the Turtles their pizza fix via a friendship with Michelangelo. Woody’s introduction into the book was charming, but seemingly random. Even in a world as detail rich as IDW’s TMNT, did we really need to know where the Turtles got their pizza from? Maybe not. But the book ultimately wound up better for it.

In issue #15, shortly after one of Mikey’s pizza runs, Woody gets attacked by Slash. Toward the end of issue #16, he abruptly breaks off their friendship. Juxtaposed with some dialogue from Splinter explaining the nature of Mikey’s kindness and sensitivity, we get a heartbreaking few panels in which he finds a note from Woody and then departs in tears (shown above). A heart-wrenching moment coming from a character who seemingly meant very little at the start.

That’s the thing about Michelangelo in the IDWverse: He’s not just a party dude. He’s a sensitive guy. So once again, we see the layering of a classic character. The reason Mikey’s emotions often come off so big is because he feels them in a big way. We aren’t altering or subtracting, we’re simply adding…

Heading into issue #17, Kuhn tags Ben Bates in on pencils and inks. Bates has a more traditional take on the Turtles, in that they’re more in line with what someone like Kevin Eastman or Jim Lawson might turn in. They’re a little bit shorter, with faces that are expressive and nicely proportioned. His work here actually made him into one of my favorite artists on the series.

Issues #17-20 take us directly into space opera territory, as the Turtles are accidentally transported to Dimension X and find themselves caught in a war between General Krang’s forces and the Neutrinos. At the center of the conflict is the android Fugitoid, whom Krang believes holds the secret to constructing his ultimate weapon, the Technodrome.

For TMNT buffs, it’s all very familiar. Fugitoid has been part of TMNT lore since the early days of the comic books, has been adapted into various media. The Technodrome, meanwhile, was a staple of the ’80s cartoon, as were the Neutrinos. It’s not necessarily surprising to see the Neutrinos, but it’s interesting that they made it in so quickly and relatively unchanged. Then again, without the zany hairstyles they’re not really the Neutrinos are they?

This four-issue Dimension X story is the first time Krang, who’s been a fixture in the book since early on, really takes center-stage as the primary villain. There’s a lot to like about IDW’s take on a character who, in the ’80s cartoon, was often played for laughs. First and foremost is how he’s drawn and designed. Kuhn and Bates both draw utroms (the alien species Krang belongs to) very well. But they each go out of their way to make Krang himself look ruthless and sinister. That’s not a small feat, as he’s essentially just a pink blob with tentacles. Also, gone is the colorful and flamboyant robot body Krang wore in the cartoon. What we get here is something that looks much more mechanical, not to mention dark and foreboding. We’re reminded that Krang is a warlord, and very much someone to be feared.

He’s got big, bad plans too. This series repurposes the Technodrome as giant terraforming device to forcefully change Earth’s atmosphere to that of Krang’s destroyed home planet, Utrominon. By virtue of scope alone, at this early point in the series Krang may have been outperforming Shredder on the bad guy scale.

On that topic, one thing that impressed me from a writing perspective was that while they’re not the primary villains, Shredder, Karai, and the Foot Clan still have a presence during these issues. They don’t hog the spotlight away from the main story, but we also don’t go too long without seeing them. By the time we get to the Dimension X storyline, Karai has taken on a more proactive role in a very organic way. Make no mistake about it: There’s an art to keeping all these characters and plot threads relevant to the larger story of the series. To a large extent, TMNT has proven itself to be a masterclass in how to keep all those proverbial plates spinning.

When I look at these eight issues together, the word that comes to mind is versatility. Traditionally, the Ninja Turtles are written and portrayed as all-ages action-adventure characters with a knack for comedy. We get all those ingredients here. But we also get a horror element mixed in with Slash, and then a very strong dose of science fiction courtesy of Krang and the Neutrinos. There’s also a touch of YA romance mixed in there via April O’Neil and Casey Jones. What that tells me is that these characters and their universe are far more versatile than the general public will ever give them credit for. What this IDW comic book series does is expand on that potential in long form, and in a way no other medium has even come close to.

How fitting that the Turtles owe that expansion to the very art form in which they were born: Comic books.

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

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.

Weekly Comic 100s: TMNT #114

***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 #114
AUTHOR: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consulting), Sophie Campbell
ARTISTS: Campbell, Ronda Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 10, 2021

The time-traveling Lita meets the child version of herself in this issue. Doc Brown would not approve!

Campbell gives us the IDW take on the “traditional pre-fight donut” moment from The Secret of the Ooze. It’s an amusing little nod.

We see Renet, a “timestress,” in this issue. I don’t recall ever having seen her in the main series before. Apparently she was in Bebop & Rocksteady Destroy Everything!

Apparently next issue we get Bebop and Rocksteady against Tokka and Rahzar. As the latter were seemingly stand-ins for the former, there’s tremendous meta-appeal there.

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

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.

Weekly Comic 100s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #113

***”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 #113
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Consulting), Sophie Campbell
ARTISTS: Campbell, Ronda Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer). Variant cover by Eastman.
RELEASED: January 20, 2021

They’re incorporating Tokka & Rahzar from TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze into this series now. Because these IDW guys are going to cram every ounce of TMNT lore into this book! They will not be denied!

Campbell has a strong outing here. They’re doing a story where Lita (one of the kids in Mutant Town) comes back from the future to “fix” things. She uses, of all things, the time scepter inspired by TMNT III. Indeed, the ’90s vibes are strong in this one.

Does Leo have a little scar over his eye? I’ve never noticed that before…

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman, Bendis’ Superman Finale, Spider-Man, 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: Batman: The Adventures Continue #16
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Josh Reed (Letterer). Cover by Mirka Andolfo.
RELEASED: December 18, 2020

This issue and issue #15 are weird in that they essentially repeat a story from the New Batman Adventures episode “Double Talk.” Arnold Wesker, the Ventriloquist, tries to reform and ultimately fails. That’s a really strange thing to have happen, as these guys obviously worked on the old shows as well…

This story seems primarily like an excuse to put Harley and Ivy together. On the upside, we get a cool villain Christmas party at the Iceberg Lounge with plenty of cameos. Including, oddly enough, a panel where Captain Boomerang and Roxy Rocket are making out.

TITLE: Superman #28
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Danny Miki (Inker), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Variant cover by Kael Ngu.
RELEASED: December 15, 2020

I’d love to know when Bendis’ run on the Superman books was originally supposed to end. Or if they even had an endpoint in mind. In the grand scheme of things, this feels like a fairly abrupt finale. But at the end of the day, Bendis did right by Superman. That’s more than a lot of writers can say. I respect him that much more for that.

Reis and the artistic team did too. There’s a beautiful panel in here of Lois looking lovingly at her husband. Amongst all the space alien grandeur in this issue, it’s an unlikely highlight.

TITLE: Power Rangers #2
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio.
RELEASED: December 16, 2020

A neat issue, conceptually. Jason, Zack, and Trini against a bunch of space vampires. But this series is having trouble holding my attention even earlier than I anticipated. The foundations of a good book are there, but I think Power Rangers needs a stronger hook. Here’s hoping this book can up its game in a big way soon.

There’s a pretty cool splash page early in this issue. It’s just Jason posing with a sword. But between the pose, the framing, and the lighting, it’s got an epic feel to it that works really well.

TITLE: Spider-Man #5 (of 5)
AUTHORS: J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams
ARTISTS: Sara Pichelli, Elizabetta D’Amico (Inking Assisant), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Olivier Coipel & Stewart.
RELEASED: December 9, 2020

This story was compelling enough, and the premise was enjoyable. Plus, Sara Pichelli was apparently born to draw Spider-Man. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: The presence of the Iron Man characters took away from Ben Parker’s journey as Spider-Man. Especially here in this final issue. This was supposed to be a family story about Peter Parker, his son, and the passing of the proverbial Spider-Man torch. Instead, the waters got a little too muddied.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #112
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story), Sophie Campbell (Script)
ARTISTS: Jodi Nishijima, Ronda Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 9, 2020

Just when I think these TMNT issues can’t add any more depth, we get a story about a fight breaking out during an “I used to be a  human, but now I’m a mutant” support group meeting. Love it.

To help differentiate between the Turtles without their multi-colored bandanas, Ronda Pattison is giving them different skin tones. The IDW Turtles have had different skin tones since issue #1. But note they aren’t given such tones on this otherwise pretty cool cover.

TITLE: Star Wars #9
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Jan Bazaldua, Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, & Rain Beredo.
RELEASED: December 9, 2020

You’d think a story about Lando and friends trying to break into a museum on Coruscant would be a lot more fun than this. But somehow this issue managed to bore me with it.

I’ve been on the brink of dropping this Star Wars title for a long time. This might have been the issue to push me over the edge. There’s a certain fun, a certain spark, that’s missing here.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #11
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Variant cover by Jeremy Roberts.
RELEASED: November 24, 2020

I’m not a Harley Quinn mark the way a lot of people are. But even I’ve got to admit: That’s an awesome cover.

In hindsight, this series was better than it had any right to be. As expected, Taylor leaves the door open to work more with the characters he created in Suicide Squad. He and Redondo are about to start a run on Nightwing. So I expect we might see them there.

In the end, this may go down as one of the more underrated runs Suicide Squad has ever seen.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #14
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Max Raynor, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez & Sanchez.
RELEASED: November 24, 2020

“I’m calling for my Bat-spaceship to come get us.”

*cringe* That feels like a line out of a post-Wertham comic in the ’50s.

Still, while this story looks uninspired on the surface, it manages to be a decent amount of fun in its execution. A fairly interesting take on the composite Superman/Batman concept, with some fun art by Max Raynor and beautiful coloring by Alejandro Sanchez. I’ve seen much better. But in all fairness, it could have been much worse.

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

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.

Weekly Comic 100s: Superman, TMNT, Something is Killing the Children, 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: Superman #25
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Julio Ferriera & Danny Miki (Inkers), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 8, 2020

Apparently in the post-New 52 continuity, or whatever continuity we’re in right now, Clark Kent and Lana Lang haven’t been in touch for awhile. Though apparently she was still Superwoman at one point…

For a couple pages here, Ivan Reis gets to take on Clark’s Smallville days. That’s pretty cool. Less cool? He also draws the New 52 Superman costume. Though thankfully it looks less like armor.

I’ll be sad to see Bendis’ run on the Superman books end in December. He did right by the Man of Steel.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #109
AUTHOR: Sophie Campbell, Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Jodi Nishijima, Ronda Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 9, 2020

It continues to amaze me how this book is breaking the mold of what a TMNT story can be. What we’ve been getting lately is something more akin to a later issue of The Walking Dead. They’re trying to build a new society from the ground up.

Michaelangelo, for all intents and purposes, starts a Mutant Town podcast in this issue. That. Is. Genius.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #10
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Werther Dell’Edera, Miquel Muerto
RELEASED: September 9, 2020

“While you worry about the rules, real people are getting hurt.”

Good line.

This is the first issue of Something is Killing the Children that I think went a little too far with the gore. We actually see a child get murdered in supernatural, yet still pretty brutal, fashion. I still dig the book at large, but that took me right out of the issue.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #12
AUTHOR: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Kubina (Colorist), Josh Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 11, 2020

We start getting into the nitty gritty of what the Joker does to Jason Todd in this issue. Harley Quinn is written as having a problem with it. That’s the first move Burnett and Dini have made that I really don’t buy.

I love that for the flashbacks where Jason is Robin, they switched Batman’s costume back to the old Batman: The Animated Series design. Great little continuity touch.

All in all, I really like the DCAU spin they’ve put on A Death in the Family. And it looks like they’re about to stick the landing.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: “Joker War,” Billionaire Island, Fantastic Four, 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: Red Hood: Outlaw #48
AUTHOR: Scott Lobdell
ARTISTS: Brett Booth, Danny Miki (Inker), Arif Prianto (Colorist), Troy Peteri (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora & Tamra Bonvillain.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

These “Joker War” tie-ins are giving me New 52 flashbacks. When “A Death in the Family” was running in Batman, it seemed like they couldn’t crank out enough tie-in issues.

But as far as Joker-themed tie-in issues go, this is a pretty decent one. It’s suitably focused on Jason, pits another Bat-family character against him, and incorporates a location that’s been a mainstay in the book.

On the downside, they kill off a character for no good reason. One that I thought had a decent fan following too…?

TITLE: Detective Comics #1026
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Kenneth Rocafort, Daniel Brown (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

There’s a panel on the opening page of this issue that’s markedly similar to an Alex Ross painting of Batman standing between stone gargoyles. Anyone else notice that? Or am I just an Alex Ross buff?

Actual exclamation in this issue: “Murderize him!”

I’m not the biggest Kenneth Rocafort fan. But in this atmosphere, Batman vs. Killer Croc in the Gotham sewers, he’s at home. His work here is enjoyable.

Tomasi, who has run hot and cold on Detective, is on his game too. This is the best issue this series has seen in many weeks.

TITLE: Batgirl #48
AUTHOR: Cecil Castellucci
ARTISTS: Robbi Rodriguez, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters). Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

I’ve been away for awhile (mostly because I don’t like Batgirl’s current costume)…since when does Commissioner Gordon call his daughter “Babs?” That feels weird to me.

After reading this issue, I feel bad sleeping on Cecil Castellucci. She writes a damn good Barbara Gordon. Robbi Rodriguez and Jordie Bellaire are a great team too. There’s a really nice fluidity to the work here. And as this issue happens to be the first of a new story, I just might stick around.

For all the good it’ll do. This series ends with issue #50.

TITLE: Billionaire Island #5
AUTHOR: Mark Russel
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

The art by Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry has highlighted Billionaire Island for me. Almost every expression is exaggerated to the point of caricature. But in a dark comedy you can do that.

I’m not sure who that’s supposed to be on the cover. I mean, it’s the President of the United States, obviously. But I thought Billionaire Island had cast a Kid Rock stand-in as POTUS. This guy looks more like Carrot Top with blond locks. *shudders*

I wouldn’t say this book has maintained the same level of interest from me, but it’s still worth a look.

TITLE: Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
ARTISTS: Neal Adams, Mark Farmer (Inker), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

This book gave me not-so-nice flashbacks to Adams’ recent Batman work. That’s a shame, as Adams is legitimately an innovator who’s earned his place in American comic book history. His art looks great here (though Thing’s face looks a little awkward), and Laura Martin’s colors pop beautifully. I just wouldn’t hire Adams as a writer.

Thankfully, you won’t find many writers (if any) better than Mark Waid. So Adams is in good hands for what is apparently his first-ever full-length FF story.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #8
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Daniel Sampere, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

Deadshot has a puppy named Dogshot? That is absolute perfection, and needs to be in both the new video game and the new movie.

Given both the announcements we just got at DC Fandome, it’s surprising this book is on the recent list of casualties over at DC. It’s a shame for so many reasons, not the least of which is the effort the creative team have put into the creation of new characters. Case in point, this issue, in which we dive into some backstories. Hopefully we can bring them back at some point.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #108
AUTHORS: Sophie Campbell (Story), Ronda Pattison (Script), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Nelson Daniel, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

This issue brings up something I never, ever thought we’d have in a TMNT story. With Mutant Town now existing essentially it’s own city within a city, our heroes are now pondering if they should form their own government and police force. Are the Turtles getting into politics? By God, some things are too evil for even the boys in green to take on…

For whatever reason, since issue #101 the Turtles have been wearing clothes more. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #761
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Carlo Barberi, Matt Santorelli (Inker), Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez & Sanchez.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

Barberi does a fine job on this issue. To the point that I wouldn’t mind him being the regular artist. But because he drew the last two issues, I quickly found myself missing Mikel Janin.

As for Tamaki, she gives Maxwell Lord a great “history is controlled by the victors” speech. Diana refers to him as the villain, and she talks about the Justice League controlling “the flow of justice in this world.” In the context of the story it’s very convincing, and a great character moment for Max.

Then I got to the last page, and my heart broke.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #53
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Moises Hidalgo, Walter Baiamonte & Katia Ranalli (Colorists), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

I’m diggin’ the designs of these new Dark Ranger suits. Their identities seem like a missed opportunity to introduce new characters. But then again, this series is ending soon. That seems to be a theme this week…

This is the first issue where Moises Hidalgo impressed me. He gets a nice, long battle sequence between our good and evil Ranger teams. So he’s able to really spread his wings, and it shows.

Grace (Remember her?) makes a truly stupid suggestion in this issue. So stupid, in fact, that I’m sure it’ll come to pass.

TITLE: Action Comics #1024
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

There are a lot of Super-people in this book. We’re up to five. If the “Superman family” gets too big, it pretty much makes the Justice League obsolete, doesn’t it? Plus, they spend part of the issue flying over Metropolis, scanning it with X-Ray vision. Creepy much? We’ve also got all the usual problems with John Romita Jr’s sloppy art.

Why am I still buying this book?

TITLE: Batman/Superman #11
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

This story about the Ultra-Humanite and Atomic Skull is essentially three issues of filler. But it’s good filler, I’ll give it that. Clayton Henry and Alejandro Sanchez turn in work that crackles with that great comic book superhero energy.

There’s a subplot in here about Superman not asking for Batman’s advice before he revealed his true identity to the world. It’s a little too far in the background for my taste, though. I’d have liked to see them explore that with some of the page space they used for textbook hero/villain dialogue with the Ultra-Humanite.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: TMNT Double-Feature, Wonder Woman #759, 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 #107
AUTHOR: Sophie Campbell (Story), Ronda Pattison (Script), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Nelson Daniel, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer). Variant cover by Eastman.
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

The Turtles have an “old days” moment here where they head down to the sewers and fight a bunch of Mousers. It’s just a couple of cutesy lines. But it does serve as a reminder of just how different this series is from the standard TMNT status quo. Instead of four Turtles striking from the shadows, we’ve got five Turtles living openly in a town full of mutants.

As they roam the sewers, the Turtles mix it up with what basically amounts to an undersea monster. It’s played like a horror movie. Kinda fun.

TITLE: TMNT Annual 2020
AUTHOR: Tom Waltz
ARTISTS: Adam Gorham, John Rauch & Michael Garland (Colorists), Shawn Lee (Letterer). Variant cover by Kevin Eastman and Fahriza Kamputra (Colorist).
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

This annual mainly serves as a check-in with our villains. Most notably Shredder, who we haven’t heard much from since issue #100. They color his costume purple and silver, like the old cartoon. I won’t complain about that…

As the cover indicates, they’re doing a symbiosis story with Krang and Leatherhead. Yet another example of how this series continues to bring these characters into uncharted waters. Given how much has been done with the Ninja Turtles universe, it’s pretty amazing to see how much hasn’t been done.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #759
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez.
RELEASED:
July 28, 2020

So we’ve got Mariko Tamaki, who wrote Supergirl: Being Super, and Mikel Janin, one of the stars of Tom King’s Batman run. On paper, this new team should be great.

Their first issue is pretty ground level. Lots of flowery narration about what a hero is, what heroes do, etc. My only big problem is that Tamaki gives in to the temptation of putting Wondie in an everyday situation, shopping for furniture, and making it seem foreign to her. She’s been in “man’s world” for so long, yet she has no idea how to shop for furniture? Yeah, right.

TITLE: Darth Vader #3
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Inhyuk Lee.
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

How many times have we seen Darth Vader cross paths with characters from the prequels and then get all feelingsy? Enough that I rolled my eyes when Captain Typho showed up in this issue.

However, as someone who read Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, I appreciated the inclusion of Sabe and another character from that book. It’s a nice little tie-in that doesn’t take anything away from the story being told here.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #9
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer). Cover by Paolo Rivera & Joe Rivera.
RELEASED:
July 30, 2020

In this issue we finally get into Jason Todd’s origin story, his connection to Batman, etc. It’s not drastically altered from the comics. But it’s altered just enough to distinguish it. I liked what I saw.

Frankly, I hope they portray Jason Todd as having been with Batman for only a short time. In the DCAU I’d like to see him portrayed more as a tragically failed experiment than a lost son. Again, it would be different. But not so much that it’s unrecognizable. That’s the formula that seems to work best.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #52
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrot
ARTISTS: Moises Hidalgo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

We’re still following Jason, Zack, and Trini, despite the events of this issue occurring after “The Power Transfer.” Not a bad thing, but not what I expected either. Especially since they’re getting their own book in a few months.

I’m not sure how I feel about the way Jamal Campbell posed Aisha on the cover. It’s like she’s showing off her butt or something…

We introduce a civilian character in this issue who worries about the holding the Rangers accountable for their actions. Sort of a “don’t trust the Power Rangers” mindset. Very curious to see where that goes.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #9
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 28, 2020

In almost 20 years, I can count the number of Ultra-Humanite stories I’ve read on one hand. So this story is cool for me in that sense.

This issue, and this team, have a really nice energy. Joshua Williamson is often hit-or-miss. But he, Clayton Henry, and Alejandro Sanchez make for a winning combination with these characters. Not a perfect combination per se, but a winning one.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #7
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Daniel Sampere, Juan Albarran (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Variant cover by Jeremy Roberts.
RELEASED:
July 28, 2020

Our Tom Taylor original characters get a new team name in this issue: The Revolutionaries. Not bad. I don’t know how much of a life they’ll have out from under the Suicide Squad name. But still, not bad.

For at least one issue, Taylor brings Floyd Lawton’s young daughter into the sandbox and gives her a a bow and arrow and a hero name: Liveshot. She almost reminds me of a kid version of the Kate Bishop Hawkeye. Interesting…

TITLE: Billionaire Island #2
AUTHOR: Mark Russell
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 2, 2020

It seems that in addition to the absurdly rich, Billionaire Island is home certain rich, famous, and disgraced. We get an actual Kevin Spacey cameo in this issue. Yes, I wretched. But it’s also a funny little moment.

We haven’t gotten into the bloodshed yet. But the book does crank up the action a little bit with this issue. Something tells me it’s going to be worth the wait.

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