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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtles_deviations0001Deviations

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Zach Howard
Additional Art: Cory Smith
Ink Assist: Joylon Yates
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams
Cover: Zach Howard
Published by: IDW
Cover Date: March 2016
Cover Price: $4.99

Aside from the price, I’ve enjoyed these Deviations issues (having read the Ghostbusters and the GI Joe issues prior to this one). My most obvious comparison to describe the Deviations designation is that these are IDW‘s version of the classic Marvel series What If..? That is, a key story point is chosen, an an alternative outcome is explored. For obvious reasons, IDW phrases it In a World… Where _______ happened! instead of What If… _______ happened?, but the result is functionally the same. This issue (as with the other four one-shots) carry a hefty $4.99 cover price…hefty in general, though admittedly not drastically beyond the standard $3.99 price point of regular-sized issues.

In a world where the turtles join Shredder, we find a hunted Splinter struggling to survive against his sons, who have been fully brainwashed into Shredder’s control and the world of the Foot. Old Hob is brought into things–the turtles getting Splinter’s location from him–and then the confrontation. The turtles capture Splinter, and present him to Shredder. Total victory nears for Shredder–the turtles have defeated rival gangs, brought Splinter (Hamato Yoshi) to him, and he is at the height of his modern power…and then things crumble. Splinter is not unprepared and–along with Hob and (separately) a revenge-bent Hun (father of Casey Jones, who in this continuity was KILLED by Shredder)–battle is joined, with results rather different from “actual continuity,” establishing a new status quo for this world while leaving us as readers to wonder where things might go from here.

While the Ghostbusters issue I read pivots on the original film’s story, and the GI Joe one is more of a generalized thing…this TMNT issue pivots on a specific event within current IDW Comics continuity, specifically the inciting bit of the City Fall arc…where Casey Jones was stabbed (but survived) in this issue, he died; and where Shredder gained control of only Leonardo, here he got all four of the turtles. As with the rest of the TMNT issues, this one involves multiple folks for the story, Waltz for the actual script, and mostly familiar art credits. Howard‘s art fits my memory of City Fall in that while this has its own style visually, it’s not any sort of jarring contrast to Santolouco‘s art. As such, and having followed the IDW series from its start through present I feel more “aware” of stuff with this story and like this is a perfect fit for my expectation of the Deviations books.

The story itself works and feels very much like any given issue of the ongoing series, and the art–as mentioned above–fit very well, making for an all around attractive package and enjoyable read. My chief nitpick with this issue is that it is too short and I’m not a fan of paying more for the sort of backmatter included in this issue, artificially inflating the feel of its size.  We have 24 story pages, and then 6 pages of The Anatomy of a Page where we see plot, script, layout/pencils, inks, colors, and lettering in progression.

I would very much enjoy seeing more exploration of this alternate timeline or even exploration of other alternative outcomes. A world where Raphael never reunited with his brothers. A world where the turtles failed to stop General Krang. A world where the turtles were too late to save Donatello. Etc. To me, this sort of thing would be great for some mini-series…four issues would allow more room than one and would provide for companion volumes to existing TMNT collected volumes. And if a creative team really got involved or an alternate take really hit with fans, it could be revisited multiple times and expand the alternate world.

I’d love to say I recommend this to “anyone,” as it IS a one-shot and thus not like one has to invest in multiple issues…but this really seems more like a treat for the longer-time fans. To really appreciate the story, one would have to have read City Fall…otherwise this is just some generic issue with bad turtles working for Shredder. That this hinges on City Fall inherently allows for a lot more context (the first 20-some issues of the series). Certainly recommended for anyone who has followed IDW‘s ongoing TMNT series at any length or at least enjoyed the first few volumes and City Fall. The $4.99 is steep even for the “extra” pages…but it IS a one-shot, cheaper than the 2012 and 2014 Annuals, and the paper stock is sturdy so it at least feels like a much better quality (physically) than many $3.99 books.

The Weekly Haul – Week of March 30, 2016

This week is both small and yet still managed to be a huge week for new comics stuff for me.

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The only actual new new comic this week is the Deviations one-shot from IDW–this week the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one, wrapping up their 5-week series (the other Deviations books were Ghostbusters, X-Files, Transformers, and GI Joe. I’ve been picking up the Walking Dead paperbacks soon after release for the last several volumes…I could get ’em cheaper on Amazon or other online retailers, but in a week like this, I don’t mind paying full price for the volume (still cheaper than even a $2.99 cover price for the contents). The Oni Press Starter Pack volume contains several first issues, it’s a sampler-pack of #1s. For $6 I’m absolutely game for checking it out; worst-case, I read the contents of some #1 issues I don’t have #2s or TPBs for and want to track something down.

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The Walking Dead vol. 25 comes shrink-wrapped with a reprint of Kirkman‘s Outcast #1… I hadn’t realized until I ripped the shrink-wrap off that it’s gonna be a TV series. I already have the first TPB as well as one of the Image Firsts reprint editions; but hey, no increase in price, and they included a one-sheet print of the cover over top, so that alone’s a nice bonus. Knowing/being reminded/learning of the new tv series and having this issue put right in front of me certainly goes a long way to getting me to finally sit down and actually read the thing, finally!

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An order I’d placed with InStockTrades.com arrived today as well. With special pricing, I got these for basically 50% off, which made them very much a worthwhile pricing for quick purchase. I’ve had my eye on the New Frontier for awhile; and the Infinity Watch and Superman and Justice League America (no of in that last one) volumes just hit last week, I think.

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All three volumes are a good size, especially for their price; I only paid a little more for the three than cover price for the New Frontier volume, and then shipping was less than the price of a single Marvel comic.

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Got the Superman & Batman Magazine issues for 25 cents each…they’re in crummy, battered, very much used condition…but hey, they’ll be interesting to page through! And while I vaguely recall the thing existing, I didn’t rememberuntil seeing these, so they are a neat random-find!

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Also snagged a few issues from an unsorted longbox bound for the quarter-bins.

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These Super books are a neat catch, I think…it’s easy for me to “forget” that there were whole “families” of Batman-related and Superman-related books even before the 1990s.

And the more I shift toward the notion of back-issues over new, I’m more and more interested in working backwards on the Super books of the early to mid 1980s, if not a bit earlier…and stuff like The New Adventures of Superboy and DC Comics Presents are very much on the likely list of stuff I’ll be actively pursuing.

The ’90s Revisited: Spawn #25

spawn0025Tremors

Writer: Todd McFarlane
Pencils: Marc Silvestri
Inks: Batt, Billy Tan
Copy Editor & Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Color: Brian Haberlin
Computer Colors: Brian Haberlin, Tyson Wengler, Ashby Manson, Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Background Assist: Nathan Cabrera
Production: Dennis Heisler
Production Assist: Peter Steigerwald
Big Gun: David Wohl
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: October 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

Like seems to be the case for me with what (relatively) few Spawn issues I’ve read, I don’t have an easy time summarizing it. This one, Spawn seems to have been “outed” in the media–the world now knows he exists–and so he has to deal with that. He’s living in the alleys amongst a number of other Homeless, serving as a protector to them, though he seems to be less than thrilled at their growing “reliance” on him. After being attacked by a rogue demon, he confronts the entity and learns its backstory–it’s not actually a demon, but a man who was experimented on, resulting in his current form. He seeks vengeance on a gangster named Tony Twist, and given the situation, Spawn sees more benefit in helping than opposing, if his people are left alone as a result.

I bought this issue with a number of other “quarter books” at a Half-Price Books earlier this year…and I suppose for that price, it was worthwhile. I have another copy–my original–of this somewhere in one of my too-many longboxes, but was interested in this issue this time the same as when I originally bought it: the cover, and it’s Spawn #25, one of those “special number” issues. I also remembered there being something else about this, like it being part of some “creator swap” month, but on reading this couldn’t tell if it was part of that or not.

The story is typical Spawn for me…I’m not really sure how else to put it. I recognize Spawn himself of course, Al Simmons; his (former) wife Wanda, and at least know of the man Wanda is married to here. I remember (vaguely) the sense of–at the time–having no clue what Spawn was ‘about’ aside from being this disfigured entity with a huge cape, apparently back from the dead with some sort of “deal with the devil” thing involving his powers and some kind of amnesia that resulted in his living with the homeless/street people.

The art is good overall…which I pretty much expect from Silvestri‘s work. I’m not overly familiar with it, but I’ve seen enough of it to know that I associate it with 1990s/Image stuff (as well as the Grant Morrison New X-Men story Here Comes Tomorrow back in early 2004). The art fits the book…though after reading the story itself and getting into some of the text/backmatter stuff, I gather that Silvestri was NOT the series artist at the time, and so that was probably the creator swap–the creators maybe kept on plot/writing, just swapped books for art duties or such. Whatever it was, it was over 21 years ago, and for Spawn, nearly 240 issues ago as of Spring 2016.

I was impressed with the cover’s visual as well as the physical issue itself–not quite a cardstock cover, but hardly some flimsy paper, and the interior pages seem good quality as well. Thus, for the physical product itself, the 25 cents I paid was mostly worthwhile. Though I read the issue in isolation, it brought back slight memories of having read it back in 1994, and given my attempting to follow recent/current issues of the title, I’d consider my money well spent…though I maybe appreciated the issue/reading experience more for the backmatter than the story content.

Among other things, while knowing the title has been notoriously late in its time, this issue seems to have come out at a time the book had had some major issues in timing, shipping in this order: 18, 21-24, 19, 25, 20, 26. There’s even an ad explaining things a bit, as well as a “cartoon” image “Todd Can’t Count” trying to poke fun at the situation. I find that morbidly amusing in a way at present, given recent complaints of books RE-numbering and such, and continued amazement that this title is presently–in 2016–the highest-numbered (legitimately) comic that I can think of published in the US (Regardless of returning to “legacy numbering,” Detective and Action from DC lost that designation in the 2011 New 52 reboot). I somewhat recall seeing mention somewhere of Spawn having shipped issues out of order, in some online discussion years ago, but didn’t recall exactly when that was, so coming across it hear piqued my interest, and I’d actually be somewhat interested in working on tracking those issues down. I actually already have the first 12 or 13 issues of the series, so can’t imagine it would be terribly hard to find the rest of the run up to this point; nor overly expensive given what a “hot” book Spawn was at this point in the ’90s. But I suppose that’ll be a back-issue quest for some other time, if it even still holds my curiosity by the time I’d get around to it.

All told…this was an ok issue, though not anything I’d encourage hunting down. If the cover strikes your fancy or you want a similarly randomish reading experience, it’s worth the 25-cent purchase, but I wouldn’t recommend paying more than $1, possibly $2 and absolute most for this (and it’s a 21+ year old issue with a $1.95 cover price).

My Thoughts on Batman v Superman

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[Be forewarned: this post is extremely lengthy, AND contains spoilers after the warnings, so if you don’t want stuff spoiled or don’t feel like reading much, you may not care for this post. I’m also not doing my usual formatting…this is just raw thoughts slightly organized, but not  really a formal/objective "review"]

Spoiler warning!

This post will contain explicit spoilers. I’m going to ramble a bit for a couple of brief paragraphs to add some "buffer space" for the spoilers, but consider this your warning.

I saw the film last Thursday evening after work. Left work, drove to the theater, and found that I had roughly forty minutes until the show was due to start. (Which meant including commercials and trailers, at least an HOUR). Show time was chosen as an "early" show while allowing some extra time for crummy traffic, as ridiculous traffic jams seem to crop up at least 2-3 times every week, forcing me to take alternative routes to avoid them.

(This post really does contain spoilers…this is your second warning!)

Though I’d tried to avoid trailers entirely for this film, I was exposed to a couple…I think at least one was in a theater, so not problematic the way I take issue with online trailers and so-called/supposedly "leaked" trailers. (Though that’s another post entirely) So I had some notion of what the film was going to entail, going in…plus observations from coworkers and others to whom I’m their "Superman guy."

So I was a bit annoyed by the time the film actually started, and felt a bit constrained: no one to see the film WITH, as well as the strong desire to see it ASAP in order to take it in myself, before taking in others’ opinions on it. I wanted to see and judge it for myself, separate from whatever influence others’ thoughts and analyses might have on my experience.

Final spoiler warning! If you read beyond this sentence, spoilers are on your own head!

Preamble and spoiler warnings out of the way…my initial thought as the end credits finished was simply "Really?" Like…"That’s how we’re gonna end?" And I felt a certain flat-out depression…the movie I’d just watched simply left me depressed. Both from the story itself, as well as my own thoughts on it…as it unfolded, and immediately following its conclusion.

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General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #4 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0004Lights Out

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Art Thibert
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

I’m not sure what I actually expected from this issue…but what I got wasn’t it. And this one’s actually very simplistic yet hard to sum up: essentially, it’s a couple of kids up late at night arguing over who is the better hero–Batman or Superman? Each has reasons, but ultimately it takes the intervention of another to point out that they’d actually work together if they’re both heroes, despite differences.

As such, more than any of the other issues, this one just seemed a bit “off” to me, and extremely “meta.” It’s the argument fans have had for probably three-quarters of a century. And an argument sure to come out of Batman v Superman the movie, regardless of the arguments going in. It’s a real-world argument, and one that honestly bugs me.

Long run of thoughts kept short, my answer to “who would win” is that the result is simply determined by the author and story being told.

Still, it’s interesting to see a handful of simple arguments–and to consider them from the point of view of a kid again (and likely at least a quarter-century my junior), and I can appreciate that. And like an earlier reference (that I made covering this series) to Batman: The Animated Series, this issue reminds me of an episode that itself adapted an earlier comic…one in which some young adults are sitting around a bonfire discussing Batman, and having a number of different interpretations of who/what he was (and whether it was in that comic or not I can’t recall, but my “memory” tells me in that story they dismissed the actual Batman as just some guy in a costume!).

Were this a full-size, bought-by-itself AS itself kind of issue, I’d not find it amusing or worthwhile. As something from a box of cereal, it was mildly entertaining, and did not make me feel like I’d wasted my time reading.

The art is quite good, and perhaps it was the influence of the story and that we aren’t in either hero’s head or actually involved in some ongoing story of either, the visuals just seemed to fit all the more, and differences in costume designs didn’t stand out to me along the way…perhaps taking any differences as being the kids’ own memories/interpretations. I also appreciated that even where we see an image of the two heroes about to collide in battle–that’s what it is: they’re about to, but we’re not given a “hint” one way or the other on a possible outcome…until they actually collide, one could “assume” either one could take the upper hand.

If you’ve got this issue, it’s worth reading–it’s a quick piece devoid of any continuity (and any need for continuity), doesn’t tie to anything else–outside this General Mills mini-series or otherwise, nor even other issues in this series. Other than perhaps wanting to complete a set if you have any of the others, or to complete the set by having a #4 and knowing #s 1-3 exist, I wouldn’t recommend putting much effort into tracking this (or the other issues) down. But for having them, I’m glad to have read them…though I wonder somewhat at these not being a quasi-adaptation of the movie…that would have given them a bit more weight, I guess (or mini-reprints of key issues related to the characters/movie). That these are original issues with a number of “known names” from DC and not “just” reprints is cool, despite the enjoyment I could also see in say, having a random Batman #1 or Superman #1. For that matter…any of the various Batman/Superman confrontations from over the years.

General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #3 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0003Picture Proof

Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Marcus To
Colorist: Irma Kniivila
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

While it’ll probably bite me on the next issue, I enjoyed this issue more than the previous two, suggesting that each issue is better than the previous. Whether that’s relational or incidental, I’m not sure…but it works for me!

This issue shows us Emily, a young student who happens to witness Batman in action, stopping some thieves and stolen discs…though her friends at school don’t believe her. “Pictures or it didn’t happen!” and all that. Having noticed a disc that fell to the side, she returns to the scene later, anticipating Batman would as well (a bit convenient) and sure enough, he does…and this time she gets a photo of him. When she’s at school again, she continues to be teased for believing in this bat-man…and later at home wonders to herself why she didn’t just show the photo. Seeing a distinctive shadow, she finds that Batman’s shown up to pay a visit–letting her know that he knows about the photo, but that he’s not going to take it from her…he trusts her (to do the right thing). And she does–she realizes that part of the effectiveness of Batman is criminals not believing he’s truly human. She tears up the photo, opting to let Batman remain a legend rather than drag him into reality.

By comparison to the first two issues of this General Mills Presents series, this is a fantastic issue and I thoroughly enjoyed it. That the main protagonist is likely a quarter-century my junior does not stand out to me as much here as in the prior issues. This one struck me very much as something that would work as an episode of the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series, reminding me a lot of the “I’ve Got Batman in My Basement” episode from that series. Something about that makes this more believable to me, even though we don’t get any kind of internal dialogue from Batman (and that’s something I only just noticed with this issue: none of these are from Superman or Batman’s point of view…they’re all from a kid’s point of view, likely to identify more with the reading audience of the issues!)

I’m not particularly familiar with Marguerite Bennett offhand by name…her name looks familiar to me, but that doesn’t mean an accurate memory on my part, and I’m also unfamiliar with Marcus To and Irma Kniivila. In some ways, I think that’s to the benefit of this issue…I wasn’t trying to be familiar with other work, had no prior expectations to set me up for disappointment, and thus it allowed me to read this the way I ORIGINALLY read comics when I was first introduced to them: by character/what’s on the page, and no real notion of the people who actually wrote or drew or otherwise were part of the creation of a given issue.

As said, this story reminded me of that BTAS episode, and works very well for me as a one-off story. It’s not beholden to anything…not continued from or continued into anything else (even prior issues of this mini-series), and though 20 pages is far too short a span to really get to know any of the characters, there’s just enough there to appreciate Emily’s plight, to identify with her and her friends, and to hint at the benevolence of Batman (he seeks to inspire fear in criminals, not random children). There’s a lot to be pulled “between the panels” in analyzing the issue, but ultimately, I simply ENJOYED reading this, and in the end, that’s what reading a comic’s supposed to be about.

I was neither impressed nor disappointed in the art…but it definitely lands on the higher side than low, for me. From the narration boxes to flying through several pages pretty quickly, this had a definite visual “feel” of a modern comic, and I definitely liked that the Batman we see here looks a lot more like what I’d expect of a comic book Batman than it did some “adaptation” of a live action version.

Of the three issues in this series that I’ve read so far, this is my favorite, and certainly worth checking out if you get a chance (without spending much or going significantly out of your way in order to do so).

Legends of Tomorrow #1 [Review]

legendsoftomorrow0001Cover Art: Aaron Lopresti with Chris Sotomayor
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 2016
Cover Price: $7.99

I hadn’t paid attention to this originally when I saw it solicited…I noticed the “title” and chalked it up as yet another soon-to-be-failed tv-tie-in of near-zero consequence, at least to me and my following the “regular” continuity of DC stuff. I’m not sure if the tv show had premiered yet or was just about to, but I had no interest in yet another digital-first thing seeing print, and thus ignored it. Then recently there was an ad for it that caught my attention, and left me curious. I was a bit put off learning the thing would be $7.99…even for a double-length issue, being frustrated with $3.99 price points, essentially $8 seemed a bit MUCH for just one issue of something I wasn’t overly familiar with. Still, I resolved to wait and see, not swearing to avoid the book but not intending absolutely to buy it, either. When it came out last week, it was a small week for me, so the $8 wasn’t terribly steep…plus the issue’s squarebound with the title on the spine, so it can actually go on a shelf like a mini tpb, and not simply disappear into a box.

While I’d expected a “lead” story and the others to essentially be “backup” features…if I counted correctly, we have 4 20-page stories in this issue, giving the thing excellent “value” for the content, if one is interested in or doesn’t mind what’s included (vs. say, wishing it was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, or Green Lantern content).

Firestorm – United We Fall part 1
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Rob Hunter
Letterer: Corey Breen
Editor: Jessica Chen

I remember checking out Firestorm: The Nuclear Men title at the launch of the New 52, and it didn’t hold me enough to stick with it past a few months. I’ve never been a huge Firestorm fan, but I’d been loosely aware of the character at points–though mostly it was after the introduction of Jason as the new Firestorm and the apparent demise of Ronnie in Identity Crisis that the character was fully on my radar; and then the Deathstorm stuff around Blackest Night. Now there’s been a fair bit on the Flash tv show and Legends of Tomorrow, so this “lead” story was a good enticement for me to buy the issue.

We open on Ronnie and Jason testing their powers, with something going on with them, and then the two split, and we get a glimpse into their personal lives–individually, and at school with a mutual friend. We also have the introduction of a new/old villain, and come to see that there is something up with Jason, and with the Firestorm Matrix in general, which leads to a cliffhanger promising imminent destruction.

In addition to the above preamble, I think another draw to THIS take on Firestorm is that it’s written by the character’s co-creator, Gerry Conway…with the added element that I’ve attended a panel where he spoke several years ago, so there’s that quasi-personal-ish connection for me.

I like that the Jason/Ronnie mix has not been scrapped, and that along with both of them we also still have Professor Stein…indicating, for my limited experience with the character, a certain mix of original/classic and newer character elements and an observance of history for the characters. Yet, this also reads as a first issue, showing us bits of stuff with Firestorm and that it requires two people, and there’s this “matrix” thing that allows them to join AS (a) Firestorm; We’re “introduced to” Ronnie and Jason and see a bit about them–Ronnie’s into sports, Jason’s more into academics; We see a bit of “supporting cast” in Stein as well as the boys’ mutual friend; as well as a bit of rivalry between them. I’m familiar enough to simply enjoy the re-introduction/”confirmation” of stuff I figured I knew, and I’m interested in where this story goes.

I’m not sure if I’ve seen Pansica‘s art before or not…but I had no real expectation going into this. I was not disappointed by the art…it’s good, and worked for the story, avoiding random weirdness that’d put me off or have me wondering at anatomy and such; and I was never left trying to figure out WHAT happened or was going on. It’s a good match for the story itself.

I’m not sure exactly how this would rate for me as a first issue wholly on its own…though I probably would not have bought a Firestorm #1. But this was only the first quarter of the issue purchased…

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