Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Amazing Heroes #107


Originally published by: Fantagraphics
Publication date: November 15, 1986

Cover: Peter Laird


Contents:

*Turtle Boys (interview with Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, conducted by Thom Powers with an introduction from Mark Waid)


Turtle Tips:

*The Mirage Studios two-page spread seen at the opening of the interview was originally done for the Fantagraphics title New Age, but went unused for that publication due to its cancellation.  It would eventually be reprinted in TMNT (Vol. 1) #15.


Review:

Well, it's another one of THESE things, though I think I'm finally nearing the bottom of the random indie books the Turtles appeared in throughout the '80s.  By God, I have to be.

This appearance doesn't feature any comic material, only an interview, but it does offer some original art that was new at the time.  The cover is especially interesting, as you get to see Laird's renditions of a number of mainstream comic book characters like Superman, Batman and the Hulk.  There's also this one piece that I'd never seen before (by Peter Laird and Ryan Brown), Leonardo vs. a Xenomorph from Alien:


Think of it as a sequel to the cover from Anything Goes #5 that merely hinted at an encounter between the Turtles and the Aliens.

Though it's funny, seeing all these trademarked characters and IPs like Superman, Spider-Man and the Aliens being used by Eastman and Laird for crossover and satire art, all without permission.  It's a reminder that this was 1986 and the TMNT weren't on the mainstream radar yet.  Marvel, DC and 20th Century Fox couldn't give a shit if some nobody indie comic was using their characters for covers and insert artwork.  But let's see the Turtles try to get away with swiping those characters NOW and see what happens.  Lawsuit city.

Coming out in '86, there's a quaintness to the interview, as the Turtles were still a year away from hitting it big with their cartoon and toyline.  Eastman and Laird's egos are still fairly grounded and their boasts are extremely modest.  The interviewer asks them about their success in licensing and the pair gush over how exciting it was to get those Dark Horse pewter miniatures.  Like I said, "quaint".

If you've ever read an Eastman or Laird interview then there aren't many insights here that you won't find elsewhere.  They tell the same stories and answer the usual questions in their alarmingly consistent way ("Who are your inspirations?"  And they always, ALWAYS say Miller, Bode', Corben and Kirby).  The interest comes more from their attitudes being more terrestrial, a year before they were rocketed into multi-millionaire status and transitioned from artists to businessmen.

But that's all there really is to this thing.  It's a trade magazine that specializes in indie books, so the other features can be fun/bewildering to page through.  You'll find a few titles that withstood the test of time, like Elfquest, but the majority of this stuff is straight up "not even a Wikipedia article" territory.

Anyway, take this along with the Turtlemania one-shot and the earliest Palladium RPG sourcebooks, all of which were released in that 1985-86 timeframe, and you'll come away with a fairly colorful image of what the Turtles were like in that brief window between introduction and superstardom.  It was a time when the most exciting thing going on in the "franchise" were pewter miniatures.

"Quaint."


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

TMNT (IDW) #70


Publication date: June 14, 2017

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

Summary:

At the ruins of Stockgen, the Turtles, Sally and Mondo lay in wait in the brush, waiting for Hob to make his move (as indicated in a message he sent them earlier).  Bishop and Dark Water arrive with both ground and air support as Hob steps out of the ruins with his two hostages: Bishop's father and Colonel Knight's wife, Pam.  Holding them at gunpoint, Hob demands the immediate release of the Mutanimals.


Enraged, Knight confronts Hob, but the Turtles take out his snipers and chopper backup (thanks to Donatello and one of Harold's old anti-gravity gauntlets).  Before the negotiations can go any further, Bishop unleashes the mind-controlled Slash who stomps the opposition.  Speaking through Slash, Bishop goes on a paranoid rant and the mercenary Knight realizes that his employer has a screw loose.  Hob informs him that Bishop has been keeping secret files on all of Dark Water, which is how he got the information about his wife.  Knight signals Sergeant Winter, who pulls a gun on Bishop and forces him to power down Slash.


The Mutanimals are set free by Dark Water (though Mutagen Man has been reduced to a head in a jar, Herman has received a cybernetic pincer).  Dark Water then leaves, abandoning Bishop to his fate at the hands of the Mutanimals.  Bishop isn't out of tricks and contacts Dr. Shevlin, who reactivates his neuro-link with Slash.  Hob takes a gun to Bishop's father and threatens to kill him unless Slash is released.  Bishop reveals that he thinks his father truly died years ago and the senile old man in the wheelchair is just an empty husk.  To prove his contempt, Bishop has Slash stomp his father to death.

Enraged, Hob claws half of Bishop's face off, revealing that he's actually a cyborg.  Bishop tries to regain the controls for Slash, but Leo chops off his cybernetic hands.  With the police on the way, the Turtles and the Mutanimals are left with no choice but to leave Slash behind with Bishop.  The Mutanimals flee in the stolen military vehicle while the Turtles escape in Hob's old van.


Hitting the highway, the Turtles tell Leo that they're impressed with his plan and how well it worked.  Leo says that it's his duty to keep "Clan Hamato" together.  He then asks Donnie if he has any new tech ideas up his sleeve.  Donnie says that their new van is giving him some ideas.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #69.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #71.

*Old Hob blew up Stockgen in TMNT (IDW) #26.

*This issue was originally published with 7 variant covers: Regular Cover by Santolouco, Subscription Cover by Eastman and Tomi Varga, Retailer Incentive Cover by Chris Johnson and Mark Englert, SDCC Funko Bundle Exclusive Chase Cover by Dave Alvarez, Comics and Ponies Exclusive Cover by Eastman and Varga, Brave New World Exclusive Cover by Johnson and Englert, and Yesteryear Comics Exclusive Cover with Leo Funko Pop photograph.


Review:

The departure of Dark Water from the narrative was sudden and, I dunno, I don't think I'm going to miss them.  With the EPF and all those government resources at his back, I'm not sure why Bishop needed them in the first place.  They didn't amount to much other than a means to provide a convenient out for (most of) the characters.  Who knows if Knight and Winter will turn up later, but I won't shed any tears if they don't (though Winter's betrayal might make a good catalyst for Bishop capturing him, experimenting on him and turning him into Megavolt, ala his Fred Wolf cartoon counterpart).

Bishop being a cyborg provided a nice visual surprise.  He's always been more than human in his other incarnations: His 4Kids version was functionally immortal and bled green while his Nickelodeon counterpart was an Utrom in an exo-suit.  Making him a cyborg seems like a middle-ground between the two other versions, making him an enhanced human (ala 4Kids) but also giving him robotic body parts (ala Nickelodeon).  But even if you expected Bishop to be something other than a normal dude, the way Santolouco framed the reveal had some real startling power to it (for the audience, I mean; the characters don't comment on nor seem to give a shit that he's revealed to be part robot).

The climax to this issue confirms the IDW Bishop as being far more villainous than his other interpretations, who both became allies to the Turtles toward the end of their respective cartoons.  I don't see this lunatic Bishop joining forces with the TMNT anytime soon.  Still, even when he's committing patricide, there remains that glimmer of "heroism" to the character.  He really is just trying to keep his country safe from an external threat.  He's just a paranoid, geriatric-stomping nutjob about it.

How Hob steps away from this storyline leaves him in an interesting place.  Though he didn't kill either of the hostages, he was pretty damn vicious about (dragging his claws across Pam's neck, drawing blood).  And yet, you're still left wondering if he really would have pulled the trigger on them.  By the time Bishop starts rambling like a madman and the crisis reaches a fever pitch, Hob transitions from a cruel negotiator to somewhat pleading with Knight to see reason and walk away from everything.  The execution keeps Hob firmly entrenched in that grey area where he does some REALLY shitty stuff, but he never goes quite far enough to become a legit villain.

As for the Turtles, they walk away from this arc with a few changes.  Leo's gotten comfortable and confident as the sole leader of "Clan Hamato".  While it seemed like a bit of an artificial form of growth, as we've seen Leo come to terms with the burden of leadership so many times, I guess the context of there being no Splinter to fall back on gives this go-around some extra oomph.  But if he keeps sneaking off to see Splinter for advice, it's really going to undermine what this story arc was trying to do for the character.

Also, Donnie's got a van and he wants to trick it out.  To be frank, I'm a little surprised the IDW series has taken seventy issues to get to the Turtle Van/Party Wagon (or at least sewn the seeds for it).  Admittedly, the van has always been one of the more impractical and toyetic aspects of the brand, but even the Mirage TMNT had April's Volkswagon, so it is something of a staple.

So I don't have much to complain about with Desperate Measures.  In many ways, it was paced better than most IDW arcs, spreading the action out with each chapter instead of clumping it all in the back end.  But it also has some spontaneous, awkward exposition cluttered together in the first half, like Bishop's weird oration about his father or Knight taking a phone call from a wife who never existed until she was needed to facilitate this climax.

If Desperate Measures didn't do it for you, then the next two arcs look to run the remaining gamut of the IDW TMNT-verse.  There's a two-parter with the Pantheon followed by a four-parter with General Krang.  I'm especially looking forward to the latter.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Remember that One Time...?


Originally published in: TMNT Amazing Adventures #14
Publication date: September 21, 2016

Story: Matthew K. Manning
Art: Jon Sommariva
Colors: Leonardo Ito
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

"Remember that One Time...?"

Summary:

While out on patrol, Michelangelo sees that his favorite comedian, Jimmy Guffaw, is doing a routine at a local comedy club.  He begs Leonardo to let him go see, but Leo tells him it's too risky and they all go back to the lair.

Pouting in his room, Mikey whines that he never gets to have any fun.  Suddenly, a time window opens up and Renet enters, saying she saw how down in the dumps Mikey was and wants to take him back to the funniest moment in his life.  Mikey knows exactly when that was, the day Leo slipped on a banana peel, and together they travel back in time one year.


They arrive in the tunnels, just as the past-Turtles are returning to the lair.  Mikey suddenly changes his attitude and makes Renet hide.  He tells her that this was the funniest day of his life, but also the scariest, as shortly after Leo slipped, Mikey encountered "the Mud Man from Beyond."

Mikey peeks around the corner and catches Leo slipping, but fails to contain his fits of laughter.  Slipping, Mikey falls into a pit of mud and gets covered from head to toe.  Past-Mikey hears the commotion and goes out to the tunnels to check, spotting the "mud man" and running away in terror.  Mikey and Renet share a good laugh and return to the present.


Mikey thanks Renet for cheering him up and bids her farewell and she steps into her time window.  Leaving his room, he finds his brothers all laughing at Raph, who has slipped and fallen into some spaghetti.  They tell Mikey he shouldn't have missed it, but Mikey insists he'll just catch "the rerun".


Turtle Tips:

*This is the last issue of the series.  The next IDW comic based on the 2012 Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon will be Batman/TMNT Adventures #1.

*The Turtles first met Renet in the Nickelodeon TMNT season 3 episode, "Turtles in Time".

*In the past segment, Donnie and Raph are talking about their latest encounter with Newtralizer.  Since the Amazing Adventures comic was telling stories around the time of season 4, the past segment probably takes place shortly after their season 2 encounter with the villain in the episode, "Newtralized!"


Review:

Not the best back-up Amazing Adventures has done, but it was better than the A-story.  I'll stand by my earlier assertion that the back-ups were the real gold in this series, though I'm not sure if that's as wonderful a compliment as I want it to be.  When the A-stories were often so bland and forgettable, the back-ups didn't have to try very hard to be better.

As for Amazing Adventures as a whole, I guess my final thoughts on it are that it was a major let down.  When it was announced, and even when it began, it seemed like it was going to correct the course the previous series, New Animated Adventures, had been headed down.  The editor had said they'd been given license to deviate from the continuity of the cartoon and the opening storyline seemed to be making use of that freedom.  We got a new villain who was intimately connected to the origins of the protagonists and even a direct showdown with the Shredder (something New Animated Adventures had refused to do out of fear of contradicting the cartoon's canon).  Even the second storyline showed some ambition, recounting the origin of the Mighty Mutanimals whereas the cartoon had glossed over that bit of backstory.

But from there, Amazing Adventures recoiled right back into the formula from New Animated Adventures.  Fun, light-hearted stories, yes, but no ongoing narrative, no deviation from a status quo, and no ambition whatsoever.  As I'd said a hundred times before, Amazing Adventures lacked a hook, and now you understand why I'm reviewing the last issue a year after it was published.  Who the fuck even CARES?

The thing is, these comics aren't BAD.  I'm complaining that this title isn't what I want it to be, and for what it IS, Amazing Adventures was perfectly fine.  But that's all it ever was.  "Fine".  Not good, not bad, not even memorable save for a few of the more clever back-ups.  It never shot for anything more than "fine".

IDW's comics based on the 2012 Nick cartoon will survive Amazing Adventures in the form of two consecutive miniseries.  What I don't get is why IDW decided to introduce ongoing, serialized storytelling at the very end in the form of those last two minis?  Perhaps if they'd let their ongoing comic based on the show tell an ongoing story, the audience would have been more excited about the book.

Ah well.  What's done is done.  And I bet if you picked up one of the trade collections and gave it to a kid, they'd love it.  It'll read like an anthology of inconsequential one-shot stories, but they're enjoyable inconsequential one-shot stories.  That's not a terrible legacy, I suppose.