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The ’90s Revisited: Batman #497

90s_revisited

batman_0497Broken Bat

Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Jim Aparo
Inker: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Asst. Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late July, 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

This is one of the most iconic, “key” comics in my life. The writing is straight-forward, the art is superb, and when I picture Bruce Wayne, this is the version I see. Not necessarily the worn-down, beaten man the issue opens with, but the face, the body structure, the human trying to be more-than-human.

With a lead like that, what did I REALLY think?

This issue is only slightly past the midpoint of the Knightfall story. It’s 3 issues before the big 500th issue, and yet is more of a crucial, impactful issue than that, in terms of its effect on the series for a time. The cover spoils the issue, even though really, we already knew it was coming…such was the nature of the beast, even at that time before the internet as we have it now. The cover–at least for the edition(s) I’m used to–feature a half-cover overlay as a sort of “enhancement” or such; just a black-and-white thing mimicking the upper-left corner copy and first part of the title logo…but then has the partially-eclipsed Bat-logo with the text

“You thought it could never happen…

THE BREAKING OF THE BATMAN”

Flip that up, and you have the actual cover itself, the iconic image of a ridiculously-huge and disproportionate Bane pressing Batman backwards over his knee. While the image is NOT lifted from the interior, it certainly conveys its point, and the issue is thus blatantly, fully marked as “the” issue where Batman gets his back broken…even as this “middle chapter” within a larger 19-issue story.

The issue opens with Bruce Wayne just into the manor, surprised at the presence of Bane. The two actually talk, having a semi-civil-ish exchange, basically discussing recent events very matter-of-factly, before the “final battle” between these two is joined. Batman is virtually non-existent, as Bane essentially tosses Bruce Wayne in a Batman costume around, pummeling him nearly to death, the man’s feeble attempts at fighting back doing nothing to slow the villain. As Alfred escapes and seeks out Tim for help, Bane decides on a different course of action than he’d apparently originally intended.

“I am Bane, and I could kill you…but death would only end your agony and silence your shame! Instead, I will simply… BREAK YOU!”

Slamming the battered body down over his knee, Bane then drops him.

“Broken… and done.”

The visuals in this issue are brutal…and it’s almost painful to look at, and just really take in just HOW MUCH of a beating Bane dishes out…yet how resilient Bruce/Batman is, simply to actually SURVIVE the experience. There are subtleties that even just on this read-through I picked up that I hadn’t before (and this is one of the most repeatedly-read comics in my own life) which says a lot! Even a number of years’ worth of issues later, this is the same Bruce Wayne seen in A Death in the Family and during the New Adventures run of the title and others between. This is simply the iconic–to me–visual rendition of the character and by far my favorite.

Story-wise, on the surface there’s really not much. Bane is here, beats up Batman, in essentially an issue-log fight sequence ending with Bruce broken on the ground. It’s something that in the present I would be inclined to strongly dislike–after all, isn’t this just “padding” and “decompression,” having an ENTIRE ISSUE as a fight sequence?!? Yet rather than being a full 1/6th of a graphic novel or such, this is “merely” 1/19th of the Knightfall story itself; the ending of the first TPB of the original collected version, and appropriately-placed within the huger contemporary edition. This truly is just a small piece of a larger story, and so the fight being such a major thing, it does not FEEL padded-out. There are touches that I really liked, especially on this read-through, such as panel “flashbacks” to “recent events,” that I do recall from times I’ve read them, and jog my memory on stuff throughout the Knightfall arc thus far and stuff leading up to it. I could almost hear the somber music swelling as we see these interspersed with “now” and know we’re heading to The Fall, a defining moment for the character of Batman…the guy who can never be defeated, who is always fully prepared with contingencies for everything…but here, he’s gone, worn down as Bane intended, softened TO the point of defeat.

I know I got this copy that I read this time out of a quarter-bin, it’s an issue I’ve seen “hold its price” in terms of what dealers will ask for it…so it’s certainly worthwhile if you find it IN a bargain-bin! Given the full Knightfall story is available in multiple formats and collections, unless you sincerely want to own/read/experience this as a single issue, I would not say it’s actually worth anything more than $1 or so for print or (grudgingly for immediacy) $1.99 for digital.

However, if you’re grabbing this in-print…you MIGHT want to lift that overlay and check which printing you’re buying. I was rather surprised on this copy to realize I’m holding a 2nd print…perhaps that’s part of why it was “only” 25 cents. The only difference I can see outside of the Roman Numeral “II” is that the color of the bat behind the word “Batman” on the cover is yellow for this printing, but white on the first.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #18

tmnt_adventures_revisited

tmntadventures018Mondo Metal

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney, Marlene Becker
Inks: Dan Berger
Colors: Barry Grossman
Letters: Gary Fields
Music by: Merciless Slaughter
Transcribed by: Dan Edwards
Cover: Ken Mitchroney, Steve Lavigne
Editors: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: March 1991
Cover Price: $1.00

The turtles part ways with Man Ray in New Orleans–he heads off to investigate glowing meteors in the sea, the turtles and April head for New York. Upon returning, the turtles hear music and follow the sound to Shredder’s old lair where they find a band of kids. When the lead kid blows out the power, the place is plunged into darkness…but when the lights come back on, they’re surrounded by Footbots. The turtles leap into the fray, scattering the kids and taking down the ‘bots. A couple of the kids–Mondo and his girlfriend–get trapped in a room with one of the bots, which grabs Candy and knocks Mondo into a stack of mutagen barrels. While the Footbot takes off with the girl, Mondo mutates into a giant gecko (having most recently been in contact with his pet gecko during practice). He and Mikey take off on skateboards to rescue Candy. Though rescued, she can’t handle Mondo’s transformation, and the two part ways. Donnie notices some meteors behaving very un-meteorlike…but the group resolves to investigate later. Finally, the turtles make it home to Splinter (Mondo in tow).

I definitely remember getting this issue out of a back-issue bin at my then-local comic shop. The issue was a whopping $5…5x cover price, but it was bag/boarded in good condition, and at the time very definitely a BACK issue (I believe the series was at LEAST 20 issues further on if not more at the time I acquired this one). I bought this over several others because of Mondo Gecko (whose action figure I’d had awhile and had seen in the cartoon) being on the cover. I may have known this was his first appearance by then, but I’m not certain.

While the credits indicate Mitchroney was not alone in art chores, I’d have to go back and look for where his work left off and Becker‘s began. There are a couple awkward panels of Mondo, but by and large I simply enjoyed the art on this issue and didn’t give much heed to variances or such. The events are easily followed, so no problem from me.

As the turtles followed the sound of the band to Shredder’s old place, we get music/lyrics in the gutters of the page…I believe Mondo’s band is Merciless Slaughter, and I’m not sure if Dan Edwards is his real name (if Mondo is a nickname/stage name) or another character…or simply someone Clarrain & Co. had write some music/lyrics for the authenticity. I don’t really care either way…I’d have to spend more time looking closely and/or researching…though it might be a question worth posing to one of the creators if I ever have the chance.

The story itself is another “mutant of the month” (as I keep noting…) but we’re on the cusp of one of the largest “events” of the series (at least, I consider it so–due to the timing of when I got “into” TMNT Adventures beyond simply acquiring a couple random issues several months apart). Though I know that, the issue still feels rather full given everything that happens in it. I’ll take that gladly over it feeling decompressed, and certainly appreciate that it works in such a way as to provide quite a lot of stuff for the younger reader (my ~12-year-old self) to follow, while allowing an adult reader (my mid-thirties self) to “get” other stuff on a deeper level with more analytical thought.

Returning to my “season” analogy of this series, we’d be just about to the (in contemporary 2015 terms) “mid-season finale” with the “back half” of the season leading to the events of #25.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #17

tmnt_adventures_revisited

tmntadventures017Fight the Power

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney
Clean-Ups: Buz McKim
Inks: Dan Berger
Colors: Barry Grossman
Letters: Gary Fields
Cover: Ryan Brown, Ken Mitchroney, Steve Lavigne
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: February 1991
Cover Price: $1.00

Though we left off in the previous issue with the turtles on a beach and Mikey noticing a shooting star, we pick up a bit later here. Of course, that wasn’t so much a cliffhanger last issue as it was simply “where the issue ended,” with Bubbla’s burial. A meteor heads toward Earth, carrying Scul and Bean–agents of Maligna, the insectoid queen we were introduced to back just before The Final Conflict in TMNT Adventures #12. Though Krang was defeated and never followed through on his bargain with her, Maligna’s set her sights on Earth. Back to the turtles and April–Man Ray has them riding humpback whales for the final leg of their journey back to the US.

The group stops one last time at a derelict ship sitting out in the open, where Man Ray discovers some shrimp-trawlers are not using Turtle Extruder Devices, and ambushes the ship. He’s captured by the pirate captain of the ship, prompting the turtles to mount a rescue and put an end to the use of illegal trawling nets and subsequent killing of turtles and other sea life. Then as the issue ends, we learn that the mysterious Mr. Null has allied with Scul and Bean.

In a lotta ways, this is a fairly generic issue on the whole. We have the bookending of Scul and Bean’s arrival and revelation of alliance with Null; between we have a generic-ish one-shot of the turtles and a random “threat of the month” in the pirates’ illegal trawling. While we’d seen Scul or Bean before, I don’t recall either of them being named, so their appearance and naming in this issue qualify them for the “mutant of the month.” They’re also the main forward-movement of this issue’s story for the overall plot of the series.

Despite that, we DO get the turtles’ arrival back in the US after several issues away, and a lesson in nets used for shrimping and such, that devices exist to preserve sea life while allowing shrimp to be caught, and the threat posed to sea life when these devices are not utilized. And somehow I found this issue, this instance of such lesson-teaching far less preachy and a lot more “personal” than prior such cases. Perhaps that we see a dead turtle and our heroes are mutated turtles; perhaps it’s that this is shown as something much closer to home rather than on another continent, I don’t know.

This is another Mitchroney-drawn issue, maintaining a consistency for several issues now, that I’m definitely enjoying. No real complaints or problems with the art. The writing itself keeps things moving forward even though the “core” story is generic with a one-off villain/threat in the pirates.

Probably most significant for me is that this issue was the first single-issue of TMNT Adventures that I recall owning, bought at a flea market The Red Barn in Columbus (Ohio). I’m not sure if the edition I have here on-hand is the original copy I’d bought or a newer copy (without a barcode, perhaps) I picked up sometime since then. I went from this issue to my next being #25 some time after…whether this was new at the time or a “back issue” I’m not certain.

And probably FOR being my earliest issue, the cover stands out to me and is probably one of my favorites. There’s an ad in this issue for a poster one can get of the cover by joining a conservation group…I might have to see if I can track a copy down.

All in all, a good issue, the reading of which brought back some good memories, and certainly remind me that even as a 10-year-old I had no problem with the turtles looking a bit different than the cartoon; April not being dressed in yellow; this Man Ray character that I recall wondering at the name (I knew him as “Ray Fillet” thanks to the action figure), and had no idea about Scul, Bean, Kid Terra, Null, or why the turtles were “returning” to the U.S., etc. Yet I don’t recall any problem with it or not “accepting” it…everything just “was,” and didn’t discourage me from getting later issues once I figured out the series was ongoing.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #16

tmnt_adventures_revisited

tmntadventures016DREADging the Ocean Blue

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney
Inks: Dan Berger
Colors: Barry Grossman
Letters: Gary Fields
Cover: Steve Lavigne, Ken Mitchroney
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: January 1991
Cover Price: $1.00

The turtles and April part ways with Jagwar and Dreadmon here, as they reach the Atlantic. The beach they find is covered in trash, but Donatello’s able to whip up a couple of tube rafts with propulsion and the turtles set out with April. April journals the journey, allowing for narration to the readers without having her overstating the obvious to her travel companions. The group finds an island thanks to some dolphins, though they’re surprised by a submersible vehicle that grabs them. Once docked, the turtles and April are offloaded into a holding room where they meet Bubbla the Glublub and are reunited with Man Ray–the manta-man they met back in issue #5.

After Man Ray recounts his time between that and this, the group realizes one of the walls of their prison is a thin two-way mirror and break out, where they begin to fight their way out of the place. “Kid,” the person who has been following them for Mr. Null shoots at Man Ray but hits Bubbla instead, killing him and enraging the mutant manta, who tears the place apart. With the help of some sea turtles, our turtles and April escape, and later (with Man Ray) hold a burial for the fallen Glublub.

I’m liking the continuity here. Jagwar carried over from a couple issues ago, while Dreadmon’s still here from last issue. But rather than the characters be “dragged around” or such, they’re (realistically) left near their “home territory” as the turtles continue their journey toward–ultimately–New York. We also get Man Ray back in things with an accounting of what he’s been up to for the last 10-11 issues. There’s something to revisiting his character lately, these earliest of his appearances, where I’m seeing a different depth to him than I recall. The death of Bubbla is a major event in his life that I recall being touched on repeatedly later in the continuity…and it happens rather fast and on-panel here…no time for touching goodbyes or last words or such, and that’s fittingly real, I imagine. It’s also rather dark…and offhand, I believe it’s the first death of a named character in this series. So to take a character like that and kill the character on-panel definitely sets this apart from what we’ve seen before, and puts more “danger” in the story–not EVERYONE gets out alive, minor character or not.

I also like April’s journaling…it’s reminiscent of the original Mirage book, and it’s nice to see, as well as the exposition it supplies. However, given the mode of transportation for the characters and April joining them in swimming to shore…I’ve got to wonder exactly how she keeps the journal intact and dry! I don’t remember it from any prior readings of the issue, but when Man Ray introduces himself to April, he acknowledges that some know him as Ray Fillet…which is a nice nod to the action figure; same character but two different names. Which came first, I’m not sure offhand, and it really doesn’t matter to me.

Mitchroney provides the art again this issue, another two-in-a-row rather than the alternating of the earlier issues. There are a couple questionable panels of Man Ray, though by and large I love how he looks here. No real complaints or problems with the visuals that I haven’t touched in before and felt extremely nitpicky on…it works for this series, the story, is recognizable and all that…in short, it’s good.

Though I’d functionally read issues 1-2 and the original mini-series thanks to the Random House editions of Return of the Shredder and Heroes in a Half-Shell, I believe the next issue is the earliest issue I actually read of this series recognizing it as such. We’re also getting closer to further payoff with a number of the “mutants of the month” characters and one of the larger (that I recall) stories in this entire series…and I’m REALLY looking forward to it!

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #15

tmnt_adventures_revisited

tmntadventures015The Howling of Distant Shadows

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney
Inks: Dan Berger
Colors: Barry Grossman
Clean-Ups: Buz McKim
Letters: Gary Fields
Cover: Steve Lavigne
Editors: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: Month 1990
Cover Price: $1.00

This issue introduces us to Dreadmon, another of the Mutant/Animal characters that will soon play an even larger role in the series. As the issue opens, we find April, the turtles, and Jagwar using a raft they built as they journey through the land by river. They come to a village where they’re welcomed, and their aid requested. They’re also told of a half-man/half wolf the village has been feeding. The turtles and Jagwar find a strip mine operating on slave labor–the kidnapped villagers they’re to rescue. When one of the guards/enforcers gets the drop on Jagwar, he’s rescued by the “were-wolf” they’d encountered at the village, who reveals himself as Dreadmon. Villagers rescued, everyone returns to the village.

The cover is a bit “off” for me–not so much the art, but the imagery…we have Raph pointing at the wolf-figure like they’re getting ready to attack, Leo looking rather alarmed at Jagwar, while Mikey and DOnnie just look alarmed and unhappy. 

The interior art is good. April’s outfit looks similar to her cartoon version stylistically, just brown instead of the horrid bright yellow. Raph has ditched the top half of his black costume (keeping black pants, essentially). While he COULD look scary, Dreadmon actually looks rather happy for the most part, which could fit the personality as things develop…here, it works in showing that he’s not actually a threat to the turtles and friends.

The story itself remains somewhat simple, and in this issue certainly much less “preachy” on the environmentalism. We have another new “mutant of the month” in Dreadmon, and another new threat in humans vs. the land/environment. However…at least it isn’t yet another thing with Shredder. We also continue the subplot of whoever Mr. Null is, being fed information about the turtles, and I know where this goes, that it’s building to something big, though it’s not yet overly obvious just how big at this point.

Another issue that may not be tops on my list of stories and all, but we do get the introduction of another major character, and at minimum I can appreciate the issue for that fact alone. I do enjoy the “Lost World” and seeing the turtles in this kind of environment away from “the city” and their “usual” to this point. I’m also glad to see little moments, such as Mikey expressing that he trusts Cudley though his brothers do not. It’s little things like that that do build the larger tapestry around the characters, making them that much more “real.”

The ’90s Revisited: Warlock and the Infinity Watch #42

90s_revisited

warlock_and_the_infinity_watch_0042Win, Lose, Draw!

Writer: John Arcudi
Pencils: Mike Gustovich
Inks: Keith Williams
Colors: Ian Laughlin
Letters: Jack Morelli
Editor: Mark Gruewald
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July, 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This was a hard issue to read. I’m really not familiar with the art team, outside of perhaps earlier work on this title that I read 15+ years ago. While characters are visually familiar from the time, this is hardly the BEST rendition of them. The story is rather scattered and without much context (no "previously page" and not much in the way of in-story exposition). I suppose that’s a good thing by contemporary standards–not wasting much space on that…and this IS a "final chapter" of whatever the story is, as well as a series finale.

Unfortunately, this feels like a rushed, tie-up-as-much-as-possible finale that may have been something seen coming but not entirely "expected."

We basically have a scattered team, with a member physically hospitalized while her mind is active (psychically) with the team; a former member allied with Thanos, another member turned "traitor," and the team’s "home turf" facing a huge storm that could wipe the place out. Out of nowhere, the team’s Infinity Gems (hence "Infinity Watch") all disappear; Warlock is apparently killed; Maxam returns to his own time without further explanation, and the team is left with Warlock heading out on a solo quest to figure out where the gems went. The End.

Frankly, this is a horrible issue in terms of a context-less, isolated cold-read. As said, it’s a series finale, so it’s scrambling to try to wrap stuff up in a hurry as best as possible. For a series that started on such a high note, this is a pitiful whimper to go out on.

Context-wise, from what I recall of reading scattered later issues (I’ve never had the ENTIRE series to read in one go), I can imagine the team and book were headed for a status quo change and some new developments, perhaps plenty of positive, just that stuff got cut short. And a book NOT being given "time" or a new direction given time to shake out, etc. is something that I can "accept" for a story falling flat, even if I don’t like to. In a way, it’s a sign of the times, when series were not written simply as serialized graphic novels, but as episodic things with ongoing developments and actual "subplots" and the like.

A key factor of this issue, though, is its failure to even acknowledge Marvel‘s then "sister" company, Malibu, and its Ultraverse. See…in this issue, the Infinity Gems just simply, arbitrarily disappear out of nowhere, and that’s that. But, if one reads the Rune/Silver Surfer (flipbook Silver Surfer/Rune) issue, we see the Ultraverse character gain the Time Gem, stop time, and snag the rest. Given he steals them all WHILE time is stopped, that explains the sudden, simultaneous disappearance of the gems. It seems counter-intuitive and even a bit shameful to me that that event happens in another book entirely (Silver Surfer got a cartoon in the 1990s, so was more of a "hot" property–so I can see Marvel wanting the bigger brand "out there") with zero acknowledgement in this title…the title in which the Infinity Gems were housed, and the story of their place in the then-Marvel Universe was chronicled for over three years, a long-running title!

I actually found myself with two copies of this issue "handy," hence reading this as an isolated single issue. One copy I’d pulled when I came across it going through some comic box looking for something else in my collection; the other with a stack of 25-cent-bin issues; I’m certain I acquired both from 25-cent bins. And frankly, that’s what this issue is worth. There’s sentimentalism to be had if you’re fond of the title or Warlock or any of the other characters, but that’s about it. Outside of "free," this issue is perhaps worth the "base" price of 25 cents, but I wouldn’t say much more than that. On the other hand, the first issue is a great read (as I remember) as are a number of the early issues, perhaps through the Infinity War stuff.

Overall, I’d give this a pass; there’s a lot of better stuff out there to be read.

The ’90s Revisited: Captain America #436

90s_revisited

captain_america_0436Fighting Chance (conclusion): Everybody Hurts Sometime

Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Penciler: Dave Hoover
Inker: Danny Bulanadi
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Mike Rockwitz
Group Editor: Ralph Macchio
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February, 1995
Cover Price: $1.50

I’m not sure what I expected out of this issue, but what I got wasn’t it. I’d’ve sworn I read this before, some years ago…having borrowed the entire Fighting Chance storyline from a friend (who had a subscription that incidentally STARTED with the first issue of this 12-part story, which I’d thought was pretty neat at the time!) But this read-through felt like an all-new issue to me, completely unfamiliar and even if I did read it once before, I’d totally forgotten any details (even a bit after actually reading it this time, the details are fuzzy!)

Though it was years after the story was over and done with that I would have read it, I was acutely aware of it going on and remember it really sticking with me as a concept. A whole YEAR’S worth of issues dedicated to a single story! The very thing that gave Captain America his physical ability, to BE Captain America, was killing him! How would that play out? How would such a story end? Surely, the hero would triumph…but wow! What a journey that would be, and such a victory…

Nope.

This issue sees Cap being spit out of some drainage pipe that he was apparently dumped into in the previous issue…pursued by Cobra and Hyde. We get some exposition (super soldier serum killing him, Cap’s under doctor’s orders not to exert himself, he’s thoroughly exerting himself anyway, blah blah blah). Even with his body betraying him, he manages to avoid being killed by the two villains…but at great personal cost. By the end of the issue, he’s pushed himself too far, and with ghostly images of the Statue of Liberty and then-thought-to-be-dead-but not-really-though-we-wouldn’t-find-that-out-for-another-20-years-when-Brubaker-does-TheWinterSoldier-story Bucky flashing before him, Steve seems to lose his battle…he’s paralyzed, a mind trapped in a worthless body.

Hank Pym finds Cap, realizes the situation, and that’s that.

The final chapter, the twelfth issue of a 12-part story…ends on a cliffhanger.

Lovely.

Yeah, yeah…what else should or would I expect…especially reading the issue closer to 2020 than to 2000?

I know Gruenwald‘s name as being one of THE names of this title, and tend to myself think of him as one of the more important writers to handle the character (perhaps for longevity on the title if nothing else). I do like that this issue is squarely a "typical ’90s super-hero brawl" type thing, and Cap is just a super-hero figure, standard ’90s stuff, nothing overly complex (if not simple) about him (compared to sharper, "edgier," more "realistic" takes that would come later). But I found this issue to be rather generic, anti-climactic, and ultimately a disappointment overall.

Of course, as stated above, I think I’d read this once before but didn’t remember anything of it; and this particular reading (either way) was as a singular, isolated issue with no context from any of the introduction and build-up to stuff.

The art was fairly bland…I recognized the characters I would expect to, visually, with no trouble, and there was not much in the way of subtlety to the story being conveyed; any doubt of action was covered by story context.

I’d also forgotten ("realized" after the fact) that despite the initial impact the very notion of this story had had on me, there was an epilogue issue or two that were rather crucial to things, or made a more effective ending (at least looking at cover images and drawing on what I recall of this period in the title’s history).

So ultimately…I do not recommend this issue for a one-issue isolated read. It’s the supposed ending of a major story, yet leaves stuff hanging and just seems like a weak ending for a character such as this after such a long storyline. That said, I would have no problem recommending the run offhand if the entire story and the follow-up issues were found in a 25 or 50 cent bin, just on principle of getting the story for a fraction of the cost of a modern story that’s–at best–equally contrived.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #14

tmnt_adventures_revisited

tmntadventures014Leave Heaven Alone

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Donald Simpson
Inks: Dan Berger
Colors: Barry Grossman
Letters: Gary Fields
Cover: Ryan Brown, Ken Mitchroney, Steve Lavigne
Editors: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: September 1990
Cover Price: $1.00

After the last few issues that built to essentially a “season finale,” this issue marks a decent jumping-on point, much as a low-key “season premiere” of a tv show.

Cudley returns the turtles to Earth after their Final Conflict in Dimension X that saw the dismissal of Shredder, Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady from their lives. He drops them at a not-so-arbitrary arbitrary point in Brazil (rather than back home to New York) and quickly leaves them to their fate. Getting their bearings, the turtles quickly realize they’re not in New York, and are greeted by a new figure–a humanoid jagwar named…Jagwar. Greeting each other in peace, the group is shot at by some mercenaries and forced to retreat into the rainforest, to a temple Jagwar lives in. He explains that an American journalist has been captured, and he means to set her free…the turtles, of course, opt to join him in the endeavor. It turns out the journalist is the turtles’ friend April, and she’s quite glad to see them, having feared never to do so again. Meanwhile, in New York a businessman named Mr. Null (apparently the employer of the mercenaries) is told of the mutant animals’ interference and requests more information on them.

This series predates the days where EVERY comic was a chapter of a specific story arc (the eventual collected volume/”graphic novel”), so there’s not necessarily a “hard start” nor “hard end” to a series of issues. That said, this issue is definitely the start of a new series of issues, a new “story arc.” Taken as a “season premiere” this is a decent piece…we get our main characters back, April is back for the first time in quite awhile (and sporting a new look, away from the perpetual yellow getup), we get a new character (back to “mutant of the month”) in Jagwar, and the ominous hint of a new villain in Mr. Null.

Of course, I know where things go with the character…I suspect I’d have pretty much ignored his page back in the day if I had no idea what was to come. I’d wonder a bit at where things were to go from here if I were reading this in a vacuum, but knowing where things go I’m looking forward to how this plays into coming issues.

There’s a bit of what I now would consider heavy-handed lecturing on the issue of rainforest destruction and such, and overly-dramatic/preachy dialogue to that direction. As a kid I didn’t notice it or took it for granted or such…it was simply part of the story rooted in the real world with stuff I was only beginning to “hear about.” As an adult with a much different world-view and far more experience than I had as a kid, I don’t appreciate the lecturing, though I see where it’s a benefit in terms of telling a story as well as exposing kids to a real-world issue (the destruction of rainforests). Despite that, I’m glad to see April back in the fold, and it’s interesting to see the turtles in an environment that isn’t just New York or Outer Space.

Visually, I’m not a fan of the issue. Rather than Lawson or Mitchroney, we have a new artist on this issue–Donald Simpson. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure I recognize the art from some of the TMNT Adventures Specials and such…unfortunately, it’s a style I really don’t enjoy, and the turtles just look weird–slightly lumpy, and I don’t care for the hints of scales or such. It’s also quite a departure from the cover…I far prefer that look to the interior. As always in such “judgment,” I must acknowledge that the art is a far cry better than anything I could produce…I just don’t like it myself…personal tastes.

All said, this isn’t the greatest issue, but it’s not horrible. At the least, it introduces Jagwar…a fairly major recurring character in the TMNTA universe and kicks off this new adventure of the turtles in the Amazon.

The ’90s Revisited: Green Arrow #101

90s_revisited

green_arrow_0101Run of the Arrow

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Rodolfo Damaggio
Inker: Robert Campanella
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Darren Vincenzo
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October, 1995
Cover Price: $2.25

I’ve wanted to read this for years…maybe 20-21 (it came out some 21 years ago). I’d known THAT Green Arrow had died; that Superman was there, that it was a plane explosion; that his son took over, etc. But until this reading, I’d never actually read the actual issue. Not too long ago, battling insomnia, I bought/read (for the first time) #100 to "finally read the issue where Ollie died." Imagine for a moment my surprise that it DID NOT HAPPEN IN THAT ISSUE…yet had you asked me any time up until then, I would have simply told you, from "knowledge," that Ollie died in #100 and his son took over in #101.

But that leads us to the story of the issue: We open off the cliffhanger from #100 with Ollie pushing buttons on the device he’s trapped in. Remove his hand/arm, and it detonates, and lots of people die. Superman’s solution would be to amputate–save Ollie’s life. But Ollie’s having none of that, and so (knowing Superman would survive because hey, invulnerable!) Ollie detonates the device. Superman finds no remains…and the rest of the issue ties up loose ends from #100 and the story leading into that, apparently…while setting up Ollie’s son Connor to take over.

Really, there’s a lot going on in this issue (and the explosion is a 2-page spread as pages 2 & 3!) so the bulk of the issue is the aftermath (#100 was already a larger anniversary issue…not sure why it didn’t just get the extra pages to have the explosion happen there and repercussions pick up from the "cliffhanger" that would’ve been). I’ve not read a lot of stuff with Connor, but I knew of the character; I even connected a supporting character with an antagonist in the earliest issues of the Mike Grell run that kicked off this title. I didn’t care much for most of this development (so most of the issue), and felt that Ollie really got a crummy send-off…though I have to admit I appreciated the fact that that itself was touched on within the issue.

Visually, I’m not familiar with the Penciller/Inker team, and the art looks it: I recognize characters, obviously, and there isn’t really much of anything WRONG with any of them…but the visual style just doesn’t do anything in particular for me except have the appearance of "mid-’90s DC."

While I typically enjoy Dixon‘s work–especially on the Bat-titles in the ’90s–I did not here; and from this issue alone would only peg it AS a Dixon-written issue because of the name on the cover. Granted, this is an isolated issue read weeks after the previous issue was itself read in isolation, and I haven’t even read the first 4 chapters of the specific story this comes out of. But given that…outside of you either reading the entire story, or (like me) specifically wanting to read for yourself the actual issue where Ollie was killed off for a few years…there’s nothing of particular value to this issue. Alternatively, it might be worthwhile if you settle in to read the run with Connor as Green Arrow. But all in all, this was a disappointing read for me…I’m glad to have read it (past tense) now, but this feels more like an arbitrary thing than the culmination of an event or any truly "heroic" end.

That said…it’s worth 25 cents.

The ’90s Revisited: Batman #416

90s_revisited

batman_0416White Gold and Truth

Writer: Jim Starlin
Penciler: Jim Aparo
Inker: Mike DeCarlo
Letterer: Agustin Mas
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: February, 1988
Cover Price: 75 Cents

[ I wrote this up weeks ago, but never got around to editing and posting my text until now. Fellow blogger Chris Sheehan of Chris is on Infinite Earths covered this issue as well, a couple weeks after I wrote my text; you can find his (far more detailed) coverage here from early November of this year. ]

I’m sure I’ve read this issue in the past…though that was probably in the earlier days of my reading comics–like 1992 or so. I’m pretty certain I recall this issue being part of a 3-pack available at a department store (Hills?) as it’s a "back issue" even from that time, yet a random one I read early on. But it’s a much different thing reading it again now, all these years later.

To be perhaps over-simple in summarizing the issue: Robin (Jason Todd) is shown to be reckless, but rescued by Nightwing. Nightwing and Batman later have words, and then Nightwing helps Robin, with Batman’s hidden approval.

I would have already read A Lonely Place of Dying, and new that this Nightwing guy was "the original Robin" and that "the Robin who died" was Jason Todd, and as a back issue, here was an issue that had the two teaming up. Getting the Dick/Bruce confrontation here–and learning that they haven’t talked in 18 months–surprised me on this reading. Firstly, for having a specific timeframe given, and secondly that I didn’t remember it. Knowing what I do nowadays, but still having a blind spot from this period, I would guess that this is "the" issue that detailed the split and/or retconned things to Dick having been shot and ordered off the job, hence striking out on his own with the Teen Titans and becoming Nightwing instead of Robin. (Much the way #408 retconned Jason’s background to having been found stealing tires off the Batmobile). I would guess this is the Batman title’s explanation of things, whether or not it exactly fits with whatever was going on in the Teen Titans book at the time, and with the ripples/ramifications still being situated post-Crisis.

While the cover is kinda generic and not all that appealing to me, it’s definitely memorable…at least to me, given it was (as I remember) one of my earlier "back issues" long before bargain bins became such a thing for me as they have been the past decade or so. The interior art is "classic" to me, and more than once I had to remind myself I was NOT reading A Death in the Family. Part of me is partially amazed to realize this is the same creative team that DID do that story, even though it’s almost a year’s worth of issues off from this one…back in an age where it did not seem like creative teams shifted every several issues. Whining about that aside…I love the art here, as it clearly conveys the story, does everything I’d expect it to…and stirs up the nostalgia as well.

Story-wise, I felt like even here there was a bit of setup for Death in the Family, though it’s likely a bit of "reaching" on my part. Or in another way of looking at it…having the same creative team allowed for more internal consistency for the title both in characterization as well as visualization. Most often, I think of Starlin as doing Thanos/Warlock stuff, with the Infinity Gauntlet and all over at Marvel…but I think it’s safe to say that he’s also one of my favorite Batman writers!

This issue works quite well for me as a one-off, though I’m obviously a bit biased in nostalgia and remembering this…it’s a one-off for this READING but I’m hardly any sort of new reader or such, which makes this in its own way "just another issue" that I happened to read that I can partially contextualize without other issues. Yet we have a beginning, middle, and end…and though this certainly is not the final issue of the series, we do NOT have a cliffhanger or "To Be Continued…" We just get this as an episode that introduces us to the current Robin, the former Robin, contextualizes both, confronts Batman, and we get a bit of development with all the relationships, seeing that they all have different "history" with each other without (as a reader) absolutely having to KNOW the history.

All in all, this is good, solid issue…and one I would definitely recommend if you find it in a bargain bin! It’s certainly worth a quarter, and if the condition is good, I’d even say go up to $1 on it for the reading experience. The potential we see here gets really developed years later in the Dick/Tim dynamic…and we see the start of that here, had Jason lived.

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