Sunday, April 22, 2018

TMNT Universe #21


Publication date: April 18, 2018

Writer: Paul Allor
Artist: Mark Torres
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Greg Goldstein

"Lost Causes, Part One"

Summary:

MAIN STORY:

Commander Zom and her Triceratons arrive on Burnow Island, coming in peace, but are immediately fired upon by the Utroms.  Unfortunately, there has been something of a power struggle in the wake of General Krang's death, resulting in "misinterpreted" orders.  Ma'Riell convinces Kleve to hold his fire and Zom convinces her soldiers to put their weapons down, as well.  The Triceratons are then welcomed as refugees, but tensions run high due to space constraints as well as the rocky history between the races.  To help broker peace negotiations, Donatello is brought in as a mediator.


The talks between Ma'Riell and Zom don't make much progress, stemming mainly from thelimited space on Burnow Island and the failed attempts by Triceraton scientist Yot and Utrom scientist Churk to grow crops in the post-Technodrome terraformed fields.  Churk knows that the Triceratons have grown crops on less hospitable worlds than this one, but Yot refuses to share the secret.


Meanwhile, Kleve attempts to revive war criminal Ch'Rell (and Ma'Riell's brother) from his stasis, but fails to override the security measures.  He is attacked by a Triceraton, Drell, and survives the assault.  Kleve refuses to name his attacker so that all Triceratons ultimately come under suspicion and Donatello grows more suspicious of Kleve's intentions.  Donnie begins monitoring him while also mediating the peace talks.


Eventually, progress is made on the peace talks and Ma'Riell and Zom agree to sign a treaty on Unity Field that evening.  Out in Unity Field, Zot finally concedes to tell Churk what the Triceratons' secret was to growing crops on inhospitable worlds during wartime: They ground up Utroms and used them for fertilizer.  As this shocking revelation is made, an unseen individual puts Zot in the scope of their sniper rifle.

BACK-UP:

Writer: Caleb Goellner
Artist: Pablo Tunica
Colorist: Patricio Delpeche

"How Woody Spent His Triceraton Invasion"

As the news announces that "terrorists" are attacking Manhattan, Woody gets a call to deliver a pizza across town.  Hopping on his scooter, he throws caution to the wind and drives off.


He narrowly maneuvers his way through a Triceraton/EPF battle and arrives at the 2nd Time Around shop, where Mr. O'Neil thanks him for the delivery and tips him $5.  Hopping back on his scooter, he heads back to work, just missing a battle between the Triceratons and the Purple Dragons.


Turtle Tips:

*This issue is continued from TMNT Universe #20.  The story continued in TMNT Universe #22.

*The main story takes place after TMNT (IDW) #80.

*General Krang was killed in TMNT (IDW) #75.

*The back-up could take place almost any time during the "Invasion of the Triceratons" arc, though personally I would place it between TMNT (IDW) #77 and TMNT (IDW) #78 along with the other interlude chapters that were set there.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Cover A by Freddie E. Williams II and Jeremy Colwell, Cover B by Mark Torres, and Incentive Cover by Nathen Greno and Sabine Rich.


Review:

"Invasion of the Triceratons" was an epic storyline that unfortunately suffered from a hasty conclusion.  The Triceratons being teleported to Burnow Island was a sloppily convenient resolution, with the negotiations between the Turtles and Ma'Riell happening entirely off-panel.  It felt... cheap.  Luckily, this two-part epilogue to "Invasion of the Triceratons" is here to try and add some substance to that quick-and-dirty resolution.  So far, it's actually doing a pretty good job.

Allor writes a grim and suspenseful story centered around peace negotiations between the pitiful remains of two historically warring races.  There isn't too much action in this issue, but the tension is thick-enough to cut with a knife.  Kleve's deceitful machinations provide much of the obvious conflict, but my favorite moments were the smaller exchanges that better exemplified the longstanding hostilities between the Utroms and the Triceratons.  Moments like Drel and the Utrom processing him getting into a spat over a previous battle, or the stinger ending where Zot reveals to Churk that they used Utroms for fertilizer.  These are two races that have long HATED each other and now they're trying to pull a "can't we all just get along?" shtick.  Reality is hardly that simple, and even without Kleve's scheming to exacerbate the conflict, any hope of putting water under the bridge is remote at best.

Mark Torres provides the art and his dark, inky style is an excellent fit for this drab and joyless tale.  Ronda Pattison's colors hem a bit closer to what Fotos did with Torres's pencils back in Infestation 2.  She doesn't try to brighten things, like what we saw Delgado apply to Torres's work on TMNT/Ghostbusters 2, so the moodiness makes it through intact.

"Lost Causes" is looking good so far.  I'm hoping it doesn't go for any easy answers at its conclusion next issue, as going for the most convenient solution was what hurt "Invasion of the Triceratons" and made this epilogue necessary in the first place.


UPDATE: It seems I forgot to review the back-up strip.  Hmm.  Maybe the fact that I forgot to review it can tell you everything you need to know about my feelings toward it.

Batman/TMNT II #6


Published by: DC Comics

Publication date: April 18, 2018

Plot: James Tynion IV
Dialogue: Ryan Ferrier
Art: Freddie Williams II
Colors: Jeremy Colwell
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover: Williams II and Colwell
Variant cover: Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga
Assistant editor: Liz Erickson
Editor: Jim Chadwick

"A Knight in New York, Part 6"

Summary:

Donatello arrives at the Statue of Liberty in the Turtle Blimp while his brothers and the Bat-Family arrive in the Party Wagon (via ferry).  Bane dispatches his Elite Guard to attack the Blimp, but Donnie detaches the glider and explodes the balloon, releasing his Anti-Venom gas.  All of Bane's Foot Soldiers, as well as Bebop and Rocksteady, then revert back to normal.  Meanwhile, Batman, Splinter and the Shredder confront Bane in the statue's head.


Karai and her Foot Soldiers then take on Bane's army at the base of the statue.  April uses the Turtle Launcher to catapult the Turtles and the Bat-Family into battle where they use Donnie's stun weapons to incapacitate the Foot Soldiers.  April and Casey then work to free the New Yorkers whom Bane captured and get them onto ferries.


Batman, Splinter and Shredder destroy Bane's Venom pack and knock him down to the ground, but Bebop and Rocksteady choose to stay loyal to him and fight by his side.  The Shredder then gives a speech to the remaining Foot Soldiers, urging them to abandon Bane and follow their true leader.  The Foot Soldiers then cease fighting, leaving the Turtles and Bat-Family to take on Bebop and Rocksteady.  Donatello confronts Bane and darts him with Anti-Venom laced with elephant tranquilizers and he goes down for the count.  The battle won, the Shredder agrees to go back to prison without a fight, following his arrangement with Batman, and Bebop and Rocksteady are also carted off to the slammer.


Later, in the sewer lair, Raphael and Michelangelo want to know what Batman and Shredder's arrangement was.  Batman explains that in exchange for his help and his vow to return to prison, Shredder wanted only a rematch against Batman.  They had their fight and the Shredder honored his end of the deal.  Donnie then apologizes to everyone for causing all of this, but Batman assures him that he has learned from his mistakes and became a better person as a result, so it's all good.  With Bane in tow, the Bat-Family returns through the portal to Gotham City.

That evening, Donnie finds that Batman left him a gift before leaving.  It's the "training protocol"; the regimen that Batman makes each Robin go through during their training.  Donnie can't wait to get started on it, while his brothers all beg to be included.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from Batman/TMNT II #5.


Review:

Donatello sure got a lot of people killed because he felt sorry for himself, to say nothing of the millions of dollars in property damage and the broken lives left behind.  But it's okay, because he learned his lesson and improved himself along the way!  Whew, I'm glad THAT's been resolved.

I haven't been too kind to this miniseries over the past six months and, no, I'm not going to start being nice now, either.  The narrative was sloppy, full of mischaracterization, and the protagonists inexplicably acted like morons just to enable the plot.  Drama was introduced and then flippantly resolved, sometimes completely off-panel, because no actual effort was put into developing those sources of tension.  The plot was thin and predictable, the dialogue was overwritten, and Batman honestly seemed to get lost in the whole thing.  If this story had just been about Bane coming to New York and the Turtles taking him down on their own, I don't think much about this script would have been fundamentally altered.  The Dark Knight felt like a hanger-on most of the time and existed just to offer Donatello emotional validation during his pity parties.

To go Devil's Advocate for a moment, I suppose you could say that the thin premise with slapdash tension and shallow characterization felt sort of like a "plot" a child would come up with while playing with their toys on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  Indeed, the entire sequence wherein the Turtle Blimp and the Party Wagon contribute pivotal roles, right down to a recreation of the 1987 TMNT cartoon's title sequence, definitely has that "kid playing with his toys" feel to it.  It's certainly not sophisticated, not by a longshot, but I guess if you want to be generous then you can view it as having that sort of feel.  But it still means that the thing reads like it was written by a 7 year-old (who really, really didn't like Donatello).

But oh man, that art.

If you pick this volume up for anything, it's going to be for Williams' art with Colwell's colors.  I suppose when you have visuals this nice, you don't really need a solid script to go along with it.  Well, that's not true, a solid script would have been a nice bonus, but I DO feel like I got my $24-worth from the artwork alone.  So I'm not feeling buyer's remorse even if I thought the story sucked.

The first Batman/TMNT crossover was very good, overcoming its crossover gimmick to give us a solid story about hero and villain team-ups with some surprises at the end.  Batman/TMNT II is dull, predictable and shows a distinct lack of understanding for these characters, which is so puzzling, considering Tynion wrote them just fine in the first mini.  If there is a third one, I'm going to take to it with caution.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

TMNT (IDW) #81


Publication date: April 11, 2018

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, and Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Dave Wachter
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Greg Goldstein

"Kingdom of Rats, Part 1"

Summary:

Simultaneously, Splinter and Leonardo meditate and see the same vision: The disheveled populace within the ruins of New York being hypnotized by the piping of the Rat King and led off a bridge to their deaths.  Splinter chooses to contemplate the vision further, while Leonardo rallies his brothers to action.


At the Skara Brae, Hun and Casey have a chat.  Casey thanks his father for helping him in the fight against the Triceratons, but reminds him that he's in command of the Purple Dragons now.  Hun says he doesn't want to get in the way and he's actually proud that his son has turned the gang around into a neighborhood watch again.  Suddenly, they're ambushed by the Garden State Wreckers (led by Bullet and Fade) who want to loot the city in the wake of the invasion.  Jennika and the Foot Clan join Casey and Hun in the fight, protecting their allies at Splinter's behest, and drive the Wreckers away.

Jennika then joins Splinter for their meeting with Agent Bishop (still using Slash as his mind-controlled muscle).  Splinter accuses Bishop of failing to honor their deal, as the EPF were supposed to leave the city once the Foot Clan had eliminated the threat of the Triceratons.  Bishop reminds him that no one yet knows where the Triceratons went when they disappeared, and until that is determined, the EPF will remain in the city as a safeguard.  Splinter then vows to prove that the Triceratons have left, but warns Bishop not to test him.


Elsewhere, the Rat King observes this meeting and then plays a song on his pipe, hypnotizing dozens of children into following him.

At TCRI, Burne Thompson finishes an interview with Baxter Stockman while April sneaks away to meet with the Turtles.  Baxter goes outside to bid Burne goodbye, but is then "asked" by Detective  Kara Lewis to join her for a meeting with Agent Bishop.  Back inside, the Turtles convince April to use the teleporter to transport them to the one place where they know they can get information on the Rat King: The Den of Delights. 


The Turtles arrive, but are immediately attacked by the Toad Baron's minions.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #80.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #82.

*A prelude to this issue was published as the back-up in TMNT Universe #19.

*This issue was originally published with 6 variant covers: Cover A by Dave Wachter, Cover B by Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga, Retailer Incentive Cover by Mark Torres, The Nerd Store Exclusive Cover (color) by Eastman and Varga, The Nerd Store Exclusive Cover (black and white) by Eastman, and Conque Variant Cover by Humberto Ramos.


Review:

A story arc about the Rat King: My prayers have been answered!

It's no secret that the Rat King is my favorite TMNT villain, and I've been digging IDW's incarnation of the character for what little we've been glimpsing of him over the years.  It's exciting to finally see him step out into the spotlight as a main antagonist and not just some cryptic trickster lurking in the margins.  While he's had to wait his turn for a while, as a followup to the devastating "Invasion of the Triceratons" storyline, an arc dedicated to him couldn't have been timed more perfectly.  The imagery of Rat King leading scores of people to their deaths off a destroyed bridge is one of the darker moments in this title's run, even if it was all just a dream.  As a prelude, it's a solid way to get you ready for the arc.

But then there's all the other stuff.  Like a lot of arcs in IDW's series, the titular plot is usually only 1/4 of what you get and the rest is everybody else's ongoing drama.  So the lion's share of this issue has nothing to do with the Rat King and is instead about Agent Bishop's truce with the Foot Clan, Hun and Casey making amends, or Baxter Stockman shmoozing it up with the media.  Not dull storylines by any means, but this arc wasn't titled "Kingdom of Splinter's Contractual Obligations".

I'm liking the proactive approach the Turtles are taking with the Pantheon (they even say as much directly in the dialogue).  They certainly have been passive with this looming threat and I'm pleased that they're actually DOING something with the intel they gathered from their last mission to the Den of Delights.  It was one thing for that past adventure to illuminate the facts for the readers, but it means so much more when the protagonists use that info to their advantage.

Wachter is back on art and his extremely dark, heavy inks perfectly suit the tone of this story, set in the aftermath of a citywide invasion.  Then again, exactly how ruined is New York City supposed to be?  The dialogue talks about mass looting in the chaos following the invasion and the Rat King vision presents a near post-apocalyptic Manhattan... But Wachter draws a rather pristine New York, looking no worse for wear than before the invasion.  The text seems to want to present the city as a total disaster zone, but that didn't get communicated to the pencils.

"Kingdom of Rats" has the potential to hit me in my wheelhouse and I'm hoping that it does.  I love me some Rat King and the creepy, atmospheric imagery is right up my horror movie enthusiast alley, too.  There seem to be some discrepancies between art and script regarding the shape New York should be in, and the Rat King element is getting lost behind all the other ongoing melodramas, but I've got my fingers crossed they pull it together over the next three issues.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Issue 2 of my comic, Black Hops: USA-GI, solicited for July!


I announced last month that artist Timothy Lim and I will have our very first miniseries coming out through Antarctic Press.  Issue #2 is now solicited and available for preorder!  And like issue #1, we got legendary Star Wars artist Dave Dorman to do the cover!

Issue 2 hits shops July 25!



If you're into fuzzy animals in two-fisted combat, consider it!

You can still preorder issue #1, too!  That one will be in shops on May 30.