Sunday, October 22, 2017

TMNT Universe #15



Publication date: October 18, 2017

Writer: Erik Burnham, Sophie Campbell
Artist: Sophie Campbell
Colorist: Brittany Peer
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

"Karai's Path, Part 4"

Summary:

MAIN STORY:

Hundreds of years ago, the gods gave mankind a weapon called the Kira no Ken.  When the gods demanded it back and mankind refused to relinquish it, the gods cursed the weapon and all who would use it.  To keep it safe, the Foot Clan hid it away for centuries.


The present.  Karai uses the Kira no Ken to subjugate Ocho, promising to help her return to her true form so long as she serves loyally.  Ocho accepts the terms and digs Karai, Koya and Bludgeon out of the cave.  Upon surfacing, Bludgeon notices that Koya has taken one of the talismans from the cave, but before the matter can be pressed, he smells blood.  The four find all of Toru's men slaughtered by Toshiro and Natsu.  Natsu tries to make peace with Karai and Karai is willing, but only after she shoots Natsu in the shoulder to even the score.  Karai then tells Natsu that she will be getting vengeance on Toru for his ruse and Natsu agrees to help.


With Natsu's aid, Karai infiltrates Toru's tower.  The mutants deal with all the mob goons, while Karai chases Toru.  He seals himself inside a panic room and taunts her, assuring her that nothing could get in after him.  Karai uses the Kira no Ken to cut through the reinforced metal door.  She tells Toru that she will be seizing all his assets, including his place in Tokyo's criminal underworld.  Toru warns her that using the Kira no Ken will come at the cost of her soul, but Karai just cuts his head off.


A few weeks later, Karai calls a meeting of all the heads of Tokyo's crime families.  She tells them that she will be running things from now on, and when they pull out their guns, she sics her mutants on them.  When the killing is done, Karai tells Toshiro and Natsu that once she is done conquering Tokyo, she will return to New York.


BACK UP STORY:

Story and art: Sophie Campbell

"Prey, Part 4"

Koya struggles with the power of the talisman and considers giving up, falling to her death.  However, when the bird spirit within the talisman mocks her as being weak, Koya fights back and slays the spirit, gaining control over the talisman's power.


Now equipped with spectral wings, Koya swoops down and breaks up the fight between Bludgeon and Ocho.  She thanks Ocho for helping her find the will to fight the spirit of the talisman and gain control.  Koya then declares that she's ready for vengeance.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Universe #14.  A new storyline begins in TMNT Universe #16.

*The Kira no Ken can be translated as "The Sword of Hate".

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Cover A by Freddie Williams II, Cover B by Sophie Campbell, and Cover RI by Kaori Matsuo.


Review:

"Karai's Path" ended in a way I think we all sort of expected it to, but not in a way that disappoints (too much).  Karai has her groove back and rekindled her motivation to, presumably, inconvenience the Ninja Turtles.  By the looks of things, she's going to be building her own personal criminal empire from the ground up and we can look forward to her bringing that force back into the main series sometime within the next ten years (some of these villain factions move slowly).  If anything, we may end up getting a battle between Karai's faction and Splinter's Foot Clan, and that ought to be something to look forward to.

There is a bit of an out in the narrative that removes much of the agency from Karai's character.  When she parted ways with the TMNT, it was on a hopeful sort of note; maybe she wouldn't be a thorn in their side anymore.  But now she's being mind-controlled by the Kira no Ken, so any evildoing she commits in future stories can be easily brushed aside as "not her fault, it was the sword".  IDW's Ninja Turtles series does seem to have a problem with giving female villains authority over their actions; far too frequently, there's an escape clause that leaves the door open for them to weasel out of accountability.

Sort of like how Alopex was introduced as a killing machine that genuinely enjoyed torturing her victims.  But then it was revealed that Kitsune was mind-controlling her all along; Alopex's real personality, as evidenced in the issues after she was freed from Kitsune, seems to be that of a sweet-natured, giggling ditz.  Or on a less spiritual level, there's Jennika, who again was introduced as a cold-blooded murderer for several issues.  But then we got her origin story, which was an uninspired pity party about how tough her life was so it really isn't HER fault that she kills people.  She's the REAL victim!

I dunno, it's a trend that's always bugged me in fiction.  No one thinks twice about making male villains accountable for their cruel actions without any sort of convenient mind-control bypass or sob story background to relieve them of responsibility.  Female villains, however, seem to constantly get that "it wasn't her fault" Get Out of Accountability Free card.  I guess because writers want to leave the option open for female villains to become love interests for the male protagonists.  It's a shame, but if you give Karai agency over her horrible choices then you can't ship her with Leonardo later on.

Anyway, that tangent aside, this arc did do a lot of character building work for the formerly less interesting Foot Mutants.  We've got a bead on Bludgeon's personality, now, and Koya has come out of all this as a far more interesting foe.  Restoring her flight almost seemed like a copout, since much of her arc has been about coming to terms with her handicap, but the visual of the spectral wings almost makes up for it.  Ocho is kind of starting from ground zero as a character and I do hope they characterize her as more than a snarling monster that yells "KILL!"  I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Natsu also joins Karai's party to give it some extra zing.  Her devotion to honor is a little hokey, and now that I ruminate on it a bit more, seems counterintuitive to her introduction in part 1 of this storyline.  She opened fire on a target in a crowd of people and nearly gunned down an innocent bystander (who happened to be Karai).  Doesn't seem particularly honorable behavior to me.  Natsu's infatuation with "honor" seems more like something that came out of the blue as a convenience to the plot, not something that organically grew from the personality we'd witnessed beforehand.

As for the art, Campbell's layouts are all great and Peer's colors are still top notch.  But man, as nice as everything else in this book looks, it's really hard to appreciate the finer things when the character model for the lead is so monstrously ugly.  I'm sorry, but this Karai looks nothing like the Karai we'd been seeing in any other issue of the IDW TMNT books.  For pity's sake, her nose seems to get bigger with every panel...







I don't know where that design choice came from, but I hope it isn't a keeper.

Overall, I think I'm being a little hard on "Karai's Path", but I do think it stumbled in the home stretch.  There are some great elements introduced in this storyline, along with solid character development and excellent artwork (save for Karai's face), but the cheats in the writing are also rather obvious.  You've got a character who shoots bystanders suddenly become obsessed with honor when it proves convenient to the plot, and you've got that old IDW standby of "mystic mind-control" that will no doubt come in handy down the line when Karai needs to be absolved of all guilt for her evildoing.  I think it's a case where you notice the shortcomings more easily when everything else is so solid.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

TMNT 2017 Summer Shorts festival review at AIPT


As eager as I am to review the third season of the 4Kids TMNT cartoon, I decided to take a detour this month and cover the ill-executed TMNT 2017 Summer Shorts festival. 

You can find my review (with embedded videos of each short) over at AIPT.

The series didn't live up to its promotional promises ("One new short every Sunday, all summer long"...?  Yeah right).  Be that as it may, some of the shorts they released were really, really good.  Let's try to stay upbeat.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Got another variant cover coming, this time for TMNT/Ghostbusters 2 #1


My artist buddy, Timothy Lim ("Ninjaink") came up with another IDW TMNT variant cover!  This time, it's for TMNT/Ghostbusters 2 #1 and I think the inspiration/reference should be obvious.

You can preorder one now from the Heroes & Fantasies website; the variant is limited to 1000 copies.

Looking forward to the miniseries, which begins November 1.

UPDATE:  Because apparently the inspiration/reference isn't obvious enough...


C'mon, people!  Ghostbusters II was a masterpiece!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

TMNT (IDW) #74


Publication date: September 27, 2017

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Cory Smith
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee 
Edits: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

"The Trial of Krang, Part Two"

Summary:

In Dimension X, the Hot Rod is being pursued by the Malignoid Swarm.  Zak and Kala call on Ace Duck to play gunner and he keeps the Swarm back long enough for them to reach backup in the form of Commander Zom and his Triceraton forces.  They fight the Swarm back, allowing the Hot Rod (containing the Turtles and the witnesses) to reach Smada City on Planet Neutrino.  Once there, Commander Dask has the witnesses escorted into protective custody, unaware that Hakk-R is watching from the rooftops.


At the royal palace, the Turtles reunite with Princess Tribb while King Zenter and Queen Gizzla get a sitrep from Commander Zom.  His Triceratons were successful in driving the Swarm's first wave back, albeit it the cost of several lives.  In exchange for the continued aid of the Triceratons, King Zenter vows to find a planet for them which the nomadic race can claim as their new homeworld.

As the trial begins, the Turtles join the royal family in the palace to watch the event, while Donatello joins the Fugitoid in the courtroom to assist with the prosecution.  Judge Gorath enters and opening statements are made.  The Fugitoid is confident that General Krang's misdeeds, all a matter of public record, are enough to seal his fate, but also says that the witness testimonies will prove Krang's guilt beyond any shadow of a doubt.  The defense attorney then makes his statement, reminding the court that Krang waged his campaign to save the lives of the Utrom people, and was successful in his endeavor.  Furthermore, all of his methods used during his campaign were within the boundaries of the war charters of the era (albeit those charters were written by the Utrom Empire, who were the prevailing dimensional superpower at the time, but the adherence to law still stands).


The first witness, B'een Go, is called to the stand.  He tells the court how Krang's men kidnapped him and used his empathic abilities to interrogate POWs.  The defense argues that Krang-himself was not present for the kidnapping or any of those interrogations and was unaware of the methods being used.


The second set of witnesses, Anemon and Eymo, are called to the stand.  Anemon tells the court how he served Krang in exchange for the safety of his people, only for Krang to destroy his entire homeworld of Akebono.  The defense then presents the contract Anemon signed when he entered into Krang's service, with a caveat that any testimony he should provide in a court of law must be rendered null and void at Krang's discretion.


The third witness, Stump, is called to the stand.  The Fugitoid asks him about the circumstances of how Krang clearcut his entire homeworld, rendering it a barren wasteland.  Stump shares his outrage, but not regarding the fate of his planet, but how he wishes he had negotiated a better deal with Krang when he sold him the lumber rights.  The defense declines to question the witness.

With things going badly, the Fugitoid decides to call in his surprise witness: Leatherhead!  Krang is worried and the defense attorney had not prepared to counter any of Leatherhead's testimony.  But before he can speak, the Malignoid swarm attacks Smada and the trial is postponed.  The Turtles join the Neutrinos in defending the city.  Meanwhile, Hakk-R attacks Judge Gorath in his chambers...


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #73.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #75.

*The Turtles collected the last of the witnesses in TMNT: Dimension X #5.

*The Turtles met Zog in TMNT Annual 2014.

*The Triceratons' history with the Utroms was chronicled in the TMNT: Utrom Empire miniseries.

*Judge Gorath originates from the 4Kids TMNT series, first appearing in "The Big Brawl, Part 2".  Obscure as obscure can be.

*This issue was originally published with 5 variant covers: Cover A by Cory Smith and Ronda Pattison, Cover B by Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga, Retailer Incentive Cover by Donny Tran and Pattison, Planet Awesome Collectibles Variant Cover by Marat Mychaels, and Yesteryear Comics Exclusive Variant Casey Jones FunkoPop photo cover.


Review:

Just when you think you've seen everything under the sun when it comes to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, something like THIS lands in your lap: The Turtles engaging in a courtroom drama.  See?  There's still room for new ideas in this decades-worn franchise.

The pacing of the "Trial of Krang" arc is a bit whacked, requiring you to read a separate miniseries in the middle of it and all, but the pacing of THIS issue is actually very nicely done.  It opens up with plenty of action, from Ace Duck gunning down Maligoids to an army of Triceraton commandos engaging the enemy.  It then leads into some behind-the-scenes intrigue, as King Zenter makes a questionable deal with Commander Zom in private.  And once all THAT'S over with, we get to the extended wordiness of the actual trial.

It was well-paced, I think, as it gives the less patient of us plenty of action going in, but then rewards the more curious among us with the legit trial we've been promised.  I've WANTED to see pages and pages of the alien witnesses getting cross-examined and I'm glad we weren't shortchanged on any of that (and we're only halfway through the witnesses, as a matter of fact).  I think everybody ought to get what they want out of this one, both in terms of action and the aforementioned courtroom drama.

We're also finally getting some payoff regarding the Triceratons.  They've been around in the IDW continuity since 2014, but haven't been the center of any plot lines yet.  They've just been... present.  Since we know the upcoming story arc is going to be called "Invasion of the Triceratons", I think we can put together what their participation in the IDW universe is finally going to come down to.  It was a bit of a wait, but I'm looking forward to it.

I suppose if there was anything absent from this issue, it would be any meaningful contributions from the title characters.  The Turtles are entirely passive in this installment, which isn't too major a trespass, since I love almost all these other characters and want to see them shine.  The Turtles will get back behind the wheel next issue, I'm sure.  Until then, it was kind of fun to see the Neutrinos and Ace Duck and the Fugitoid steal the show for a month.