Saturday, March 24, 2018

TMNT Universe #20

Publication date: March 21, 2018

Writer: Ian Flynn
Artist: Dave Wachter
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Greg Goldstein

"Service Animals, Part Two"



Inside the Null Corporation laboratory, Raphael and Alopex have their hands full dealing with Zodi and Krisa (the snake mutant).  As Alopex wails on Krisa, she notices that she seems frightened of actually fighting.  Alopex gives her the same speech she'd previously given Zodi about freedom and not being anyone's pawn and Krisa is receptive to it.  Meanwhile, Zodi gets the upper hand on Raph and is about to put her stinger through his brain.  Krisa coils around Zodi, incapacitating her ant tells Raph and Alopex where to find the stolen pet shop animals.  The pair promise to come back for Krisa, and leave the room.

As Raph and Alopex beat up more Null Homunculi and secure the cages of pets, Zodi talks Krisa into reconsidering her defection.  She tells her that they can consider themselves "agents" instead of "product" if they want, but that this is what they were mutated for and is their purpose in life.  And furthermore, considering what Null has planned for the Earth, being mutated is the only way ordinary animals will ever be able to survive.

Raph and Alopex stop by the room and tell Krisa to come with them.  She says she has to stay and keep Zodi at bay, so they must leave without her.  Reluctantly, they abandon Krisa and escape in a stolen van with the pets.  Alopex is distressed at having to leave Krisa behind, but Raph assures her that she's a tough fighter and they'll save her someday.  They then ponder how they'll be ditching the van full of pets for the cops to find.

Back at the building, Madame Null herself is dressing down Zodi and Krisa.  Zodi takes full blame, covering for Krisa, insisting that she misread the situation and put a "product" that wasn't ready into battle.  Null lets Zodi slide in consideration of her past record, then warns Krisa that she will not get another chance to make a mistake and dismisses both mutants.  She then contacts a mysterious individual and assures them that they remain on schedule to purge the planet for their arrival.  Outside the office, Krisa asks Zodi why she covered for her and Zodi says that she sees a lot of potential in Krisa to be a "killer product".


Writer: Matthew K. Manning
Artist: Adam Gorham
Colorist: Brittany Peer

"Through Red Eyes"

After a long night of beating up thugs with Casey, Raph returns to the lair to try and get some sleep.  Instead, he's kept up all night by Michelangelo and his loud video games.  Angered, Raph confronts Mikey and they get into a fight.  Raph asks Mikey what he's really upset about and Mikey admits that with everything going in involving the Pantheon, Bishop and Leatherhead, he just hasn't been able to sleep.  Tired after their fight, though, Mikey decides he's ready for some shut eye.

Satisfied, Raph goes back to bed.  Unfortunately, as soon as he shuts his eyes, he's woken up by the sound of Donatello loudly soldering electronics in his lab.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Universe #19.  A new story begins in TMNT Universe #21.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Cover A by Freddie E. Williams II and Jeremy Colwell, Cover B by Dave Wachter, and Incentive Cover by Tim Laddie.


I think this is probably the best storyline Alopex has been in since... since... Alopex finally has a good storyline!

As a character, she's been all over the map since her introduction and the writers haven't been able to settle on what they want her to be and where they want her to go.  So she's had a shaky allegiance that ran for almost sixty issues and was a plot element that overstayed its welcome by at least thirty of that number.  She's been in a trio with Harold and Nobody, but bad writing has often wound up giving her stilted dialogue where she has to explain the depth of her friendships for the audience's benefit rather than let the storyline show those friendships naturally.  Then there's her whole romance with Raph that's been incredibly hard to swallow considering they're rarely afforded the opportunity to say more than two words to each other a year.  Then there was that violent personality shift she received in the wake of TMNT #66, where we learned that the characterization she'd been displaying since her debut was not her "real" character, just what her brainwashing had turned her into, and that Alopex's "real" personality is actually that of a giggling ditz who behaves nothing like how she'd been portrayed up until that point.  All of that was seemingly done to dissolve her of accountability for being shown enjoying killing people in her earliest appearances.

Alopex has had the capacity to be a good character, all the elements are there, the writing just hasn't been coordinated enough to pull it all together.  She's a different person every time a new writer picks her up and you can't get invested in a character that has no stable personality elements.

I hope that moving forward, Flynn's depiction of Alopex, and especially her relationship with Raphael, is viewed as the standard.  She's got a fun dynamic with Raph and they come off more like close friends who get each other than lovers.  And that's good, because if we're going to get this romance angle, then it needs to be built up from scratch (as it never had a solid foundation to begin with).  Bad writing is when the characters have to awkwardly state their relationship to one another so the reader knows that such a relationship exists.  Good writing, such as this, shows us that relationship in the way they interact and the chemistry they develop.  I can tell you more about Alopex as a character and her dynamic with Raph just from these two issues than I could after reading her two dozen previous appearances.

We're spoonfed a bit more of the Madame Null storyline.  And I do mean spoonfed.  The little itty bitty morsel of progress we now have is that Null plans to help some outer space entity take over the Earth.  Not a whole heck of a lot to go on, but considering that for the past two years, Null's angle could be summed up as "she makes mutants and she's evil", I guess this is something.

So the question remains: WHICH extraterrestrial faction is Null scheming with?  "Service Animals" takes place before the "Invasion of the Triceratons" storyline, but I don't think she's cooperating with them.  The likeliest suspect would be Maligna, who made her IDW debut during the "Trial of Krang" arc.  Null worked with Maligna during the Archie TMNT Adventures comic, so re-teaming them for the IDW continuity would seem like the most intuitive option.  There are other alien factions out to take over the Earth, but again, this story takes place a while back in the timeline, actually before "Trial of Krang", even.  So the Triceratons wouldn't be after the Earth yet and the rogue Utroms on Burnow Island wouldn't be out to revive Ch'rell yet, either.  It kinda has to be Maligna (or somebody new) in order to keep continuity straight.  But then again, she wasn't introduced until "Trial of Krang", so how does she know about Earth?  Aww, whatever.  We'll find out in six years or however long it takes this arc to develop.

Krisa, the new character, could have potential; a conflicted being caught between her conscience and her misguided loyalty to what might be a genuine friendship with Zodi.  Hopefully she gets developed further at some point in time, but this comic barely has the time to develop the characters who have been around for four years.  Take a number, scaly.

The back-up by Manning was fine, but I'm suspicious that it was a script he wrote for IDW's Nickelodeon TMNT comics that just got slightly revamped and recycled for the main IDW continuity.  It reads the same way as his back-ups in those comics, right down to the droll punchline at the end.  I think the biggest tip off that this was a reworking of a New Animated Adventures or Amazing Adventures script is what Donnie is working on in his lab.  It's a Mini Metalhead, just like the one that appeared in the TMNT Amazing Adventures #9 back-up.  Still, hey, there was a decent amount of blood in this back-up; betcha that wasn't in the script when it started as a Nick TMNT comic.

When all is said and done, "Service Animals" is a good comic for how it treats the characters, not so much for anything involving the plot or the development of ongoing storylines.  If anything, it comes off as a proof-of-concept pitch, trying to sell readers on the idea that Alopex CAN be a good character and her relationship with Raph CAN be fun... it all just has to be written well.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Batman/TMNT II #5

Published by: DC Comics

Publication date: March 21, 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 5"


A Foot Elite Guard returns to a Foot Clan HQ to rally the other Foot Soldiers, claiming that Bane's time is now at hand.  Suddenly, a Venom-enhanced Donatello comes storming in and begins to tear through all the Foot Soldiers, saying that he's been destroying their bases all across the city on his hunt for Bane.  Before he can kill the Elite Guard, Batman and Leonardo leap in and try to hold him at bay, urging Donnie to calm down and fight the raging influence of the Venom.  He refuses and begins to fight them.

In the lair, Raphael keeps a vigil over the comatose body of Master Splinter.  Robin stops by and apologizes to Raph for his harsh words earlier, telling him that he also has anger issues that he needs to work through.  April, Casey and Michelangelo then call Raph to tell him that the portal is operational, but the window of time for it to keep running is slim.  Raph and Robin then take Splinter through the portal and promise to return soon.

At the Foot HQ, Batman tries to calm Donnie down by telling him the intel on Bane's plan.  Evidently, Bane plans to add Venom to New York's water supply, hooking everyone on the highly addictive super steroid.  Bane will then use the population of New York as his new army to conquer outward from the city.  Batman tells Donnie that they need his brains, not his firsts, to help them stop Bane.  Donnie still won't listen and continues attacking.

Beneath Gotham City, Batgirl and Nightwing lead Raph and Damien to a Lazarus Pit which can be used to heal Splinter.  The downside is that Splinter will go temporarily insane after emerging.  The other downside is that the Pit is still being guarded by Ninja Man-Bats who have begun descending on the heroes.

Meanwhile, Leo decides that the best way to reach Donnie is to remind him of his intellect, so he has Batman project a hologram of Baxter Stockman's mutagen-laced Venom formula.  Donnie analyzes it and immediately detects a weakness in the formula that could present an opening for an anti-toxin to flush it from the systems of the infected.  Now back to his senses, Donnie agrees to go back to the lair and put his intellect to good use.

On Liberty Island, Stockman hooks up some broadcasting equipment so that Bane may address the city.

Back in the lair, Raph, Robin, Batgirl and Nightwing return with the healed Splinter.  At the same time, Batman and Leo return with Donnie.  Batman is impressed that Splinter has recovered from the Pit's madness so quickly, but Splinter explains that his mastery of zen meditation allowed him to maintain control so he could help fight off the Ninja Man-Bats.

Just then, Bane's address to the city appears on TV.  He issues all of New York an ultimatum: To join his army willingly or be crushed.  Those who want to join are instructed to gather on Liberty Island.  People begin to flock to Liberty Island, where their arrival is overseen by Bebop and Rocksteady.  Unfortunately, the two mutants don't notice Karai is among those coming through.

And in the lair, Donnie has come up with an Anti-Venom and tests it on himself.  He is immediately cured and returned to normal.  Nightwing suggests that while the Anti-Venom will cure the innocents corrupted by the Venom, the Foot Clan will remain a problem, as they'll still be loyal to Bane unless someone stronger comes along.  But Batman has a plan for that, and heading to Riker's Island, he springs Oroku Saki from prison.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from Batman/TMNT II #4.  The story concludes in Batman/TMNT II #6.


So back when I reviewed the second issue of this miniseries, I predicted how the storyline was going to go down.  Pretty much precisely what I precognitively summarized has since happened, much of which came to pass in this penultimate issue.  I'm not too proud or smug about it; I only bring it up in that the plot of this miniseries has been that blatantly telegraphed since the beginning and, one issue away from the conclusion, no curve balls have been thrown our way.

I suppose an even bigger grievance I have is with how flippantly these big cliffhanger conflicts have been resolved.  So last issue put Splinter into a coma and left us wondering if he'd pull through.  This issue heals him off-panel and summarizes his recovery in a brief one-panel flashback.  There was no point to Splinter's coma; he might as well have just not gotten hurt at all, for all the lack of suspense this comic treated it with.

Then there's Donnie getting hooked on Venom.  He put it in his veins as the stringer ending the last issue and gets it out of his system by the end of this issue.  If they were going to implement this idea as a major source of tension and the means for Donnie to learn a Very Important Lesson, then it needed to last longer than an issue.  Donnie should have been struggling with the Venom for a few issues, maybe even dabbling in small doses to improve his strength before going full Rage Beast.  Instead, what we get is Donnie doing something very obviously stupid and then getting over it almost immediately.

I've complimented the art on this mini since it started, but there needs to be a storytelling component to go with it.  This has been a very sloppy, lazy script.  The story beats were telegraphed in detail by the second issue and we've just been going through the motions ever since.  The protagonists have to constantly make stupid, out-of-character mistakes in order to help the villain, because otherwise their evil scheme just isn't very good and would never pose a credible threat.

Honestly, I'm not sure why this miniseries has been so lousy.  It's made by all the same people who did the first one and that one was great!  I guess they just didn't have enough creative juice for an encore.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Filled in the review for TMHT Poster Mag #1 (UPDATED 3 DAYS LATER!)

Went back and filled in the review for TMHT Poster Mag #1.  Because sure, I got the time.

Expect Rocksteady in drag, an inexplicable hang-glider battle, friendly fire, and an overuse of the word "gondola" on my part.  Apologies in advance.

BREAKING NEWS! (3/22/2018)

Turns out you were supposed to read the cover of the comic as the lead-in to the first story page of the interiors, which explains why "story page 1" starts so awkwardly if you only glanced at the cover (like I did).

You wily Brits...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Il Giornalino (1995) #16

Originally published by: San Paolo
Publication date: April 19, 1995

Story: Federica Montanari
Art: Giuseppe Montanari and Claudio Piccoli

"Train Assault"


Davos, Switzerland.  The Turtles are enjoying a ski trip when they're suddenly attacked by several armed goons in masks.  The goons chase them over a cliff and leave, assuming the Turtles are done for.  Luckily, the Turtles land in a safety trampoline at the bottom of the cliff.  The Turtles aren't surprised that they're being attacked, as they recently took a job for the Swiss government protecting a shipment of UNICEF cargo.  They decide to cut their ski trip short and get back to guarding the cargo, now that they know evildoers are after it.

Elsewhere, the goons return to their cabin base and are revealed to be Foot Soldiers working for Krang.  Krang wants the UNICEF cargo, as it is actually state-of-the-art lab equipment.  Though intended for medical science, Krang has deduced that he can use it to make chemical weapons.  And with the Turtles gone, nothing can stop him from stealing it.

On a back road, the Turtles are driving their Jeep to the train station when they're run into a tree by the Foot Soldiers in their own Jeep (who don't know it was the Turtles they sent into a crash).  Recognizing that it's the Foot Clan they're dealing with, the Turtles give chase.  To stop them in time, the Turtles "borrow" a Swiss army helicopter.

They spot the Foot Soldiers attaching explosives to the train rails and repel down from the helicopter to stop them.  They beat up the Foot Soldiers and remove the explosives just in time to let the UNICEF train pass by unscathed.  As a reward, the Swiss government gives them a week-long ski holiday in Davos.

Turtle Tips:

*The last TMNT story published in Il Giornalino (that I know of) was in Il Giornalino (1995) #8.  The next TMNT story published in Il Giornalino (that I know of) is in Il Giornalino (1995) #19.

*In January 2018, TMNT fan Nortock Diab coordinated a translated edition of this story after coming into possession of the original black and white pages.  Released unofficially as Tales of the TMNT Special by ND Publishing, it featured a new cover by Benjamin Carret, frontispiece and epilogue by Nortock Diab, and an English translation with script revisions by Diab and Sera Leggett.

*You can find the PDF of the translated edition from ND Publishing here.


So a very big thanks goes out to Nortock Diab and his team for translating this comic and making it available for fans!  And another big thanks to Adam Winters, who shared a number of other Il Giornalino TMNT comics with me.

An index of the Italian Il Giornalino TMNT comics is something I've wanted to put together for a while, even though it would be incomplete (info on these comics is surprisingly scarce).  But there just aren't enough hours in the day.  I still have to finish my reviews for the Fleetway UK TMNT comics and I haven't even gotten started on the index for the Dengeki Japanese TMNT manga.  I should get paid for this shit.

But one of the reasons I would LIKE to get this info out there, even if I can't read Italian, is because the art in Il Giornalino's TMNT comics tended to be very, very good.  I often can't make heads or tails of the stories, but they sure are nice to look at.

It's cool to have this story translated, at least, to give a better idea of what these comics were legitimately like.  As you can see, they're inspired by the Fred Wolf TMNT cartoon but don't ascribe to its continuity.  Or any OTHER continuity.  The Turtles are more like celebrity heroes or special agents who can be hired by governments to perform security tasks.  That's a new one.

Though when I got to the part of the story where the Turtles were risking their lives to see a UNICEF delivery through, all I could think about was this:

Some of the other anomalies in this story are worth taking a look at.  You've got human Foot Soldiers, for instance, and they all report to Krang who is operating independently of the Shredder.  One of the weirder plot holes is that the Turtles don't recognize the Foot Soldiers when they're on the hill (despite the Foot logo on their jackets), but they recognize them immediately when they're in the Jeep, even though they never changed clothes.  Also, the color version of this story made Krang green, apparently:

The art by Montanari and Piccoli is very crisp and expressive; it's nice to see it in black and white so you can better appreciate the line work.  The colors in Il Giornalino were never so bad they inhibited the art, but I think green Krang up there might give you an idea at how much quality control went into that aspect of the comic.

Well, hopefully one of these days I'll be able to put that Il Giornalino index together.  It's a little daunting since I don't know all the issues that had TMNT content in them, so there'd be gaps, and I can't read any Italian, so my summaries would be thin and vague.  I'm better off focusing on the Fleetway stuff, since it's in English, and the Dengeki stuff, since I speak Japanese.  And don't even get me started on the Spanish TMNT comics from Division.  I wouldn't know what to do with those even if I had any.