Tuesday, September 19, 2017

TMNT Universe #14


Publication date: September 13, 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 3"

Summary:

MAIN STORY:

At Toru's headquarters, he receives a call from his spy who reports Karai and the mutants heading into the cave.  Toru orders his forces to execute them if they make it back out.  Overhearing this, Natsu accuses her grandfather of being dishonorable, but he scolds her for being naive (and also conveniently drops exposition about Natsu's parents being killed because they were too honorable).  He tells Natsu that Karai was a threat that he needed to eliminate, so he sent her on the wild goose chase to find the magic sword just so he could have her ambushed and killed.  Whether or not she found the sword was immaterial.  Natsu storms out and Toru warns her that she won't be welcomed back.


In the cave, Karai, Koya and Bludgeon are approached by a bunch of Disturbed album covers.  The evil spirits cannot attack except in retaliation, so they begin taking provocative forms, like the Shredder and the Turtles, to provoke them into reacting.  Karai and Bludgeon ignore the taunts, but Koya begins getting irritable when a zombie-Leonardo mocks her inability to fly.

Meanwhile, Natsu sneaks into Karai's apartment and warns Toshiro of her grandfather's ambush.  Toshiro is inclined to believe her, but insists that she come along with him so they can warn Karai together.


Down in the cave, Koya snaps and attacks a zombie, giving the horde of the undead license to pounce.  Karai leads her team into the next chamber and Bludgeon seals the entrance with a stone slab so the zombies cannot give chase.  They find the sword at the other end of the chamber, but their path is blocked by a huge, three-eyed mutant mole named Ocho.  In the early 14th century, she was a human woman, but Kitsune cursed her to be a mole and guard the sword until someone worthy could claim it and return it to the heavens.  Karai insists on fighting Ocho alone, but Ocho trounces her.  Finally, she asks Bludgeon to give her a Fastball Special and he hurls Karai over Ocho's head.


Landing on the other end of the chamber, Karai claims the sword.  On the wall near the sword are a trio of talismans, one of which catches Koya's eye...


BACK UP STORY:

Story and art: Sophie Campbell

"Prey, Part 3"

Koya is still at Bludgeon's throat as he tries to convince her to fight the talisman's influence.  She becomes distracted when Ocho emerges from the earth and beckons her to do battle.


Koya and Ocho tangle, but Ocho repeatedly retreats underground and emerges, only to strike and vanish again.  Finally, Koya falls...


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Universe #13.  The story continues in TMNT Universe #15.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Cover A by Freddie E. Williams II, Cover B by Sophie Campbell, and Incentive Cover by Leila Del Duca.


Review:

Zombies?  Now you've really got my attention.  And a giant three-eyed mole-woman?  Aw, you shouldn't have.

Part 3 of "Karai's Path" has a lot of "cool stuff" in it, and I liked all that "cool stuff", but the "cool stuff" almost seems more a measure to create misdirection from some of the stock characterizations and predictable heel-turns that dot the other half of the issue.  Natsu and Toru's conversation about that old Japanese caricature cliche, "honor", was just a little bit excruciating.  The grizzled old timer thinks honor is for the naive, but the hip youngster believes there's still room for honor in this world.  She'll show HIM!

Also, there's that little info-dump where he reminds her that her parents are dead, because God knows, whenever you or me get into an argument with someone, they have to recite our life story back to us in case we forgot.  Of course, I complain about that now, but I'm sure I'll welcome it when I have Alzheimer's.

I'm beating up on this story a bit much, and that's not really fair.  It still has all that cool stuff I was talking about.  While the zombie scenario played out as we'd expect it to, there's no denying that the pencils and especially the colors on that sequence looked superb.  Koya being the one to fold under pressure went as anticipated, but what, did anybody reading NOT want someone to screw up and make the zombies attack?  What kind of comic would this be if we didn't get a zombie attack?  Though with the way Koya's been portrayed in this story arc, I'm thinking "Karai's Path" should have more accurately been titled "Koya Ruins Everything".

The effect used for Bludgeon's "sight beyond sight" is something in-between the "white silhouette floating in negative space" approach Jim Lawson loves and the heat signatures from Predator.  Maybe not the most innovative visual, but it has it's moments.  There's a panel where Bludgeon "sees" Ocho, but he can make out the silhouette of the human woman tethered to the figure of the mole monster.  What was nice was that the moment was left entirely up to the visual; no dialogue from Bludgeon describing what he was sensing or anything redundant like that.

Ocho is a big scary three-eyed mole monster.  I dunno; not much else to say, other than I dig the design and tying her into Kitsune's time menacing ancient Japan was a nice touch.  She mentions that she derives her name from the Ocho Period, one of Japan's shortest (spanning 1311 to 1312).  I dunno if there's any underlying significance to that, like maybe she won't be around for very long, but I have a tendency to read into things.

Oh, and raise your hand if you've seen Dodgeball.


The back-up consists of Koya getting punched a lot by Ocho.  Hm.  I'm thinking "Prey" will read a lot better altogether and as a sequel/epilogue to "Karai's Path".  Breaking it up and running it in tandem with the story it is intended to narratively follow hasn't been doing it any favors.

If I had any other thoughts on this issue, I suppose it's that Karai could really use some rhinoplasty.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

TMNT Amazing Adventures: Robotanimals #3


Publication date: September 13, 2017

Writer: Caleb Goellner
Artist: Chad Thomas
Colorist: Heather Breckel
Letterer: Christa Miesner
Editors: Peter Adrian Behravesh and Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

Summary:

At Baxter Stockman's lab, he has Casey stuck to a wall and is assaulting April with his nano-bots.  Once he roboticizes her, he'll unleash the swarm on the world and put everyone under his control.  April fights off the mind-control attacks with her psychic powers, but is losing strength.


Suddenly, the Party Wagon crashes through the wall and the combined Turtles and Mutanimals attack.  Baxter has an ace up his sleeve and unleashes roboticized versions of Antrax, Scumbug, Spider-Bytez, Cockroach Terminator, the Parasitic Wasp, Tiger Claw, Rahzar, Fishface, a Squirrelanoid, Bebop and Rocksteady.  The Turtles and Mutanimals fight their way through the horde, giving Donatello enough time to hack Baxter's computer and reprogram his nano-bot swarm.  The nano-bots de-roboticize the Foot Mutants and April, returning everyone to normal.


Not done yet, Baxter pulls out a vial of unaltered nano-bots and roboticizes himself into Robo-Stockman.  With his heavy armaments, he begins blasting everything in sight.  Donnie sics the de-roboticizing swarm on Robo-Stockman, but they can't return him to normal fast enough.  He then comes up with a new plan and rigs the lab's electrical equipment to cause an EMP.  Sensing what Donnie is doing, Robo-Stockman sets the whole lab to explode.  It does, but at the same time as the EMP, destroying the nano-bots once and for all.  Finding all the Foot Mutants alive but unconscious, the Turtles and Mutanimals pile into the Party Wagon and depart.


Later, down in the lair, the two teams get back to that pizza party they originally had planned.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Amazing Adventures: Robotanimals #2.  This is the last comic based on the 2012 Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon that IDW will be publishing.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Cover A by Chad Thomas, Cover B by Billy Martin, and Retailer Incentive Cover by Ryan Jampole.


Review:

The Robotanimals miniseries ends about as imaginatively as it began; everything is resolved by blowing shit up.  It was fun to see Baxter Stockman quit playing lackey for a story and go all-out as a major menace, and the designs for all the robotocized characters were cool (some cooler than others), but overall the miniseries was just kind of bland.

This is the last comic based on the 2012 Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon that IDW will be publishing, according to editor Bobby Curnow.  The parting image is a nice farewell, as all the heroes of the series chill out in a big happy group shot.  It won't make you weepy or anything, but it might remind you of the good times.

And on the subject of the good times, that's what I want to focus on with this review.  I've talked at length in past reviews about where I think IDW's Nick-based TMNT comics fell short, but who really wants to hear me repeat myself?  Instead, let's talk about the things these comics did well.

First, I want to say that throughout the combined 49 issues of Nick-TMNT comics that IDW published, they never once had a bad feature artist.  Maybe some of the back-ups artists weren't so hot, but the main artists were always good, and even the worst of the back-up artists were bland-but-competent.  Dario Brizuela, Chad Thomas and Jon Sommariva were all distinct in style, but found a perfect balance between animated "cuteness" and action-oriented layouts.  All of these comics looked great and I think if they ever made it into the hands of actual kids and not pathetic 30-somethings like me, the target demographic would find them very engaging.

While the storylines were never ambitious and always episodic, the writers they got for these comics knew how to add pep and humor to the dialogue.  At times, these comics could be legit funny and I think some of the best authors in that regard were Caleb Goellner, Landry Walker, Matthew Manning and Kenny Byerly.  And the characters were always, well, in-character with their cartoon counterparts.

And I guess that's one thing that should also be pointed out: The use of characters.  The Nick cartoon isn't perfect, as much as I've enjoyed it, and one of its more irritating issues is its habit of introducing characters and then never using them again.  These comics gave us a chance to see some of those one-shot villains and allies in return performances the cartoon wouldn't give them.  Okay, so maybe I wasn't dying to see Napoleon Bonafrog again, but I actually did like Spider-Bytez quite a bit and enjoyed his two or three extra stories in these comics.

Also, those back-ups were more great than not.  In a way, they were kind of the highlight of the run, making excellent use of limited space to tell fast-paced stories with innovative gimmicks.  I think my favorites were "Instru-Mental", "Acting Out", "Tag!", and "The Adventures of Ice Cream Kitty".

IDW's Nick-TMNT comics weren't what I wanted them to be, no; they never became a TMNT Adventures sort of deal.  But for what they were, they did it well.  I'm not sure if I'll ever go back to them for anything other than the Batman crossover and some of those back-ups, or just to look over some of the art I really liked, but they're not bad kid's comics by any means.  49 issues (that read more like 50 since the Carmelo Anthony special was double-length) is a respectable body of work.  With the series over, I think it's best to stop imagining what could have been and appreciate what they did right.  And they did do a lot right.


Friday, September 15, 2017

TMNT (2003) Season 3, Part 1 review at AIPT


Alright!  Season three!  I've been dying to get to this season since I started my 4Kids TMNT cartoon review series.

You can find my review of the first 4 episodes (and the awful Flash-animated shorts) over at AIPT.

Lots of Triceraton action in this three-parter, which is actually more the first half of a six-parter, but that's the 4Kids series for ya.  Also did the Christmas special, since even though it's cataloged as being in the middle of the season, it really has to take place at the start of the season.

And then there's those terrible Flashtoons that Fox used as filler between commercial breaks.  I got them out of the way.  I'm glad.



Sunday, September 3, 2017

TMNT: Origin graphic novel by Andrew Modeen and Jim Lawson, Indiegogo campaign!


On the off-chance you hadn't heard, Andrew Modeen and Jim Lawson have another TMNT graphic novel in the works.  TMNT: Origin.  You can back it on Indiegogo right now (one week left, so you'd better hurry!).

Andrew Modeen previously coordinated and self-published releases of TMNT (Vol. 3) #24 and #25, and TMNT: Odyssey.  If you didn't get in on the ground floor of those campaigns and were unable to get copies of the comic, now's your chance to pitch in on this one!

DISCLAIMER: The Indiegogo funds are only to cover printing and shipping, just as with the previous campaigns.  These are strictly fan-works, though many TMNT alumni are contributing (Jim Lawson and Dan Berger, in particular).  Andrew is paying the artists out of pocket and these are non-profit, done out of love for the old Mirage TMNT series and the people who made them.

I've put in my backing.  When the comic comes out, you can bet I'll review it!