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The ’90s Revisited: Eclipso #1

90s_revisited

eclipso_0001The Count

Plotter/Breakdown Artist: Keith Giffen
Penciller: Bart Sears
Scripter: Robert Loren Fleming
Inkers: Ray Kryssing, Mark Pennington
Letters: Gaspar
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Assistant Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editors: Michael Eury, KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November, 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

Though I was aware of The Joker and probably Catwoman and the Penguin, as well as Lex Luthor, Bizarro, and Mr. Mxyzptlk to name a few comic book villains…MY first wide-spread, "universe"-threatening villain was Eclipso.

Yeah.

See, I was introduced to comics in 1988, began "collecting" comics myself in 1989, and was just starting to "get back into" comics in the summer of 1992. While hanging out one day, a friend shared with me a couple new comics he’d gotten–including "a" Superman #1. With Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1, I was introduced to Eclipso, and the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story that was taking place in the various annuals that summer.

Get to the end of that crossover, and I remember an ad for Eclipso and Valor–two series "spinning out" from the "event."

Nearly twenty-five years later, I’ve finally READ Eclipso’s first issue!

I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly–perhaps some extension of The Darkness Within, but with newer or lesser-known characters, given the "big event" was over with. Perhaps I expected some loose-knit "team" to have been assembled, perhaps Bruce Gordon gathering folks together to go after Eclipso. What I GOT, though, was a story of Eclipso possessing an outcast and slaughtering a village, essentially reminding himself that he was capable of this, particularly when not hampered by super-heroes. Later while checking out the slaughter, a black diamond is found and taken–with the hopes that its value will make up for the loss of the village and prevent some Count from shooting the messenger. Of course, this being Eclipso and that a black diamond…well, Eclipso feeds on the Count’s anger and possesses him…and slaughters the Count’s household. When the police arrive to investigate this…Eclipso is ready. The black diamond is flipped to a sergeant who is goaded to anger…and thus Eclipso has another minion with whom to continue to kill. And for him…it’s a good day to be a villain.

While we have a narrative story here, the issue is particularly interesting to me as the issue is "hosted" by Eclipso himself, essentially venting to the reader about stuff and showing off to the reader–as he’s got no one else to do it with. He shows us where he came from, what he’s capable of, and lets us in on a bit of his thinking and reasoning and plans for the future…namely, he’s learned from recently-transpired events and is trying a different means of getting whatever he wants.

Story-wise, I really dug this issue. As said, it took me nearly 25 years to get around to reading this, and where I’d expect it to be a letdown for so many years of NOT being disappointed by it to actually read the thing…I really enjoyed this quite a bit, in what it is. Not for the slaughter and casual taking of lives, but as a first issue about a villain that sets him up for his own series. This isn’t making the villain into an anti-hero…it’s the villain BEING a villain. He doesn’t even need a super-hero to fight to do nasty stuff, to be vile and dark and all that. He’s just that regardless of a bright foil. And having the character talking to the reader, aware of us following him through these pages…it’s like a dark take on the usually-lighter way I think many think of for Deadpool, She-Hulk, or Harley Quinn. Plus there’s the nostalgia of the notion of the "hosts" of the House of Secrets books, and here’s Eclipso "hosting" his own book. I later realized that it makes sense, too…the character first appeared IN House of Secrets!

Visually, I really liked this issue. This is Eclipso as I think of the character by default…perhaps because this issue has Bart Sears as the artist, and I believe he was the artist on the bookend Eclipso: The Darkness Within #s 1-2, which adds a great consistency from that mini-series/event into this ongoing series.

Story and writing, I think I really enjoyed that there were no heroes here. It gives room for the Eclipso character to be shown–if not at his WORST–then at his default. And bad as that is, it at least hints at how bad he can be if he’s actually worked up or challenged.

For years, I’ve thought that an Eclipso: The Darkness Within omnibus would be fantastic. Now I’m even more convinced of that…but adding to it the wish for an Eclipso omnibus for this series, and perhaps other appearances through the years. It’s also interesting to note that this was a first issue of a brand-new series, spinning out of an EVENT, with high-end talent creatively…yet it is a standard-sized, standard-priced single-cover first issue. No variants, no fancy gimmicks, no extra-pages to lure someone in or jack up the price…it’s just a comic, that happens to be a #1, that gives a good start to a new series coming off an event.

I won’t say this is by any means a "happy" issue…but it stands alone quite well, and is worth snagging if you can get it for $1 or less, just to read this issue, regardless of anything else read of the character…provided you’re interested in Eclipso. As for me…this has me psyched to read the rest of the series, as well as increased interest in finally going through my Showcase Presents volume and perhaps hunting down some other Eclipso issues.

The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #14

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0014Yesterday’s Sins 4 of 4: Guys and Draals

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

We open on narration from Guy talking about his opponent–his decidedly duplicitous Draal duplicate. He and some fellow Draal prisoners–Green Lanterns–are acting on an escape attempt, but find themselves facing the newly powered-up evil duplicate of Guy Gardner! As the battle rages, Guy-Prime recognizes a notice from his stolen ring…it’s about to run out of power. This leaves the dupe on even terms with the original, and Guy lays into it. He’s eventually taken down by the Draal, who realize they still need more from him, and so once more, Guy faces the brain-drain Xanagryph critter. Flashback-wise, we pick up with Guy in the hospital with his older brother Mace–who’s been shot. His parents are there, lamenting their favorite son. While there, they learn that Mace wasn’t "on the job" when he was shot–he’s dirty, and even if he lives, he will no longer be a cop. Soon after, when he does wake up (and learns he’ll never walk again, let alone have a career as a cop) he kills himself. This sends the parents into a downward spiral that Guy can’t do anything about…so Guy gets out. He graduates from college, works with disadvantaged kids, and even winds up involved with the Green Lantern Corps. Injuries end that for a time, but then a great Crisis led the Guardians to heal him, and Guy does become a Green Lantern, becomes a part of the Justice League, and gets to be an actual super-hero! Eventually the Guardians take his ring, though, and he winds up seeking out the yellow ring that once belonged to Sinestro, and currently gives him his powers. Back in the present, the Draals are mostly defeated, the prisoners control the ship…but the Evil Guy is on Earth, and Guy himself isn’t presently sure how to defeat it…but knows that going to face it will also force him to face his past in-person.

As is so often the case, there’s loads of potential built to, so much expectation I can build up based on the opening chapters, that it’s rare for a conclusion to be truly satisfactory anymore. And that applies here to this 24-year-old story as well. Some part of me was hoping the conclusion would be more memorable, more DEFINITIVE, more CONCLUSION-Y. Instead, the issue basically ends on a cliffhanger, as well as a note to check out an issue of Justice League, to boot! And that’s rather annoying for an issue billed as "4 of 4."

BUT.

But, this issue is #14 of an ONGOING SERIES. This is NOT the final/fourth issue of a four-issue MINI-series. This is the latest monthly issue of a monthly series. So of COURSE it’s not gonna be close-the-book, total finale, that’s all that’s wrote, absolutely concluding possible events. So this actually does well for itself: we get conclusion on the IMMEDIATE story: the Draal are defeated, Guy is no longer their prisoner, they’re no longer using the creature to access his memories…we’re done with the flashbacks and such with the present day being like a framing device. Story-wise, we’re good…some of my expectation is SURELY from subconsciously latching onto the YEAR ONE, even though I’d consciously noted that to begin with as being tacked on and NOT applicable here in the way it was with other stories.

And this issue is definitely a success in that, even all these years later, re-reading it right now, I want to read that Justice League issue. I want to track down and read Guy Gardner #15. And isn’t that a sign of a good comic? That a reader wants to read the next issue? That there’s enough story hook, enough investment in the character(s) to want to know what happens next? I mean…I have the long-view; I know what comes shortly when the title gets re-branded, and Zero Hour, and then stuff a few years later with Our Worlds At War, and a craptastic story in one of the Superman titles not long after, and then Green Lantern: Rebirth, and the whole Johns run and New 52 and all that. It’s been 24 years. But I don’t REMEMBER #15. I don’t remember that Justice League issue (a bit of deja vu so I’m sure I knew OF it). And I want to read those, even though they might not have any singular significance at present.

Dixon finishes giving us some key "backstory" of Guy, fleshing the character out and enriching who he is, why he is, and so on. Whether it’s the "brand new as of 1993" detail I think it is or not, this being Guy’s first solo series, and being relatively fresh off Crisis on Infinite Earths and his being "just another member" of the Justice League title, it makes sense to me that this’d be where a lot of this was either inserted into his mythology, or fleshed out and expanded from basic, broad details.

Staton‘s art continues with consistency, and nothing stands out as wonky or weird to me about human anatomy, everyone continues to be recognizable and familiar, and I have no trouble following the action. It’s just good art.

So ultimately, as a concluding chapter of a specific story within an ongoing series, I think this does quite well. It wraps up key points of the main story, but opens the door on stuff to come, having set stuff up and contextualized and built more drama for the main character to deal with. And though I only "signed on" to read a four-issue arc–had no intention of "caring" to go beyond this arc–I want to read more.

I also had mis-remembered the timing in part of this arc, and was thinking things were already a bit past Emerald Twilight somehow, not realizing that this is still a few issues before that point in the continuity, which also reminds me of another story in this title that I was AWARE OF but not certain if I actually read years ago or not (if I read it, I read it around the same time I read this, previously).

I think on the whole, I definitely would recommend this arc if you can find all four chapters to read in one go. It adds a lot to Guy’s character, makes him a lot more sympathetic and well-rounded as a character…it makes him likeable, so help me. Whatever the case…I enjoyed it, and I now have a couple other comics to seek out in the near future.

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The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #13

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0013Yesterday’s Sins 3 of 4: Inside Out/Outside In

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

This issue takes the introduction/cliffhanger of the previous issue and fast-forwards a bit. Or in tv terms, we come back from the commercial a bit further in. Adult Guy and Teen Guy are bustin’ heads at Scotty’s, and we come to realize that after popping into the car with Teen Guy, Adult Guy has come along with his younger self to save him from getting his butt kicked. Having taken care of that, Adult Guy moves on to explaining his plan–since he can stop the Draal’s memory-siphoning Xanagryph’s accessing his memories, perhaps he can at least exert an influence over what gets programmed into his double…like a codeword that’ll make it go nuts, revealing itself as NOT the true Guy Gardner. Adult Guy is ripped out of the memory before that can happen…busted! Of course, the Draal still aren’t done, but having disrupted Guy’s plan, they have another go at him–this time we see a still-older Guy who has just turned 18. He’s nabbed by the police…but instead of being given a slap on the wrist or taken to jail, his older brother Mace–who has pulled his own life together–roughs Guy up a bit to set him back on a path for good. Guy gets a job, gets his high school equivalency, and even gets into college–where he redirects his anger at life into football. And at the height of his "glory," where he should have won his parents’ attention and praise at last…it turns out that Mace has been shot. Back "in the real world," Guy and the other Lanterns manage to execute their "plan B" escape plan…but the ‘element of surprise’ they’d counted on is turned on them as they meet…Guy Gardner!

The further I’ve gotten into this story, the more certain I am that I’ve read this before, and that the feeling is not merely deja vu. As of this issue, I feel like I AM re-reading something. And it is something I’m enjoying. I’m also realizing that whenever it was that I read this, it must’ve been at least early during the Johns run on Green Lantern, because I’m pretty sure this did "color" my view of Guy, and actually make the character likeable. For years, the character had been largely some caricature or 2-D ’90s roughcase, but either this story or at least this story’s influence carried into other stuff that made the character much more a well-rounded figure that could be identified with and understood–not just some jerk anti-hero or such.

At this third of four chapters, this definitely feels like a Dixon sort of story, fitting right in with Batman, Robin, Nightwing, etc. in getting details of a backstory that influences the character’s present and all that. While I can see DC having an issue at present with re-presenting certain comics headlined by Gerard Jones…I’d certainly love to see a modern collected edition of Dixon‘s Guy Gardner, or at least of this particular story! It could even be re-branded somehow to fit whatever status quo for present…but having the content brought back would be great.

I’m also somewhat amazed at the consistency–this is the THIRD ISSUE in a row with the same creative team! In 2017, I’d swear that’s practically unheard of! Maybe you keep the same writer on for a number of issues, perhaps an inker or letterer or colorist…but the entire team remaining the same for three issues? At this point, that just SCREAMS "high quality!" to me. That I’m enjoying this story as much as I have been adds to that as well. That said…not much else to say about the art except to reiterate that it’s clear, consistent, and recognizably the characters involved, with no wonky silliness or abstraction/experimentation/etc. Just forthright art that conveys the visual aspect of the story and doesn’t take me out of the story by anything weird.

As also said previously–while the first issue of this story seems a great jump-in point that one can do so "cold," as the third chapter of a 4-part story, I’d highly recommend starting with that first chapter, and not merely jumping in here. At the same time, this IS a ’90s comic…back when every issue COULD be someone’s first, and there’s a hint of context and such where even AS a third-of-four chapters, this is not MERELY a third chunk of pages that collectively make up some seamless whole–this is still a comic book, an issue, and reads as such…this is years before the serialized graphic novel.

guy_gardner_0013_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #12

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0012Yesterday’s Sins 2 of 4: Dream a Deadly Dream

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

We open on a scene of an "evil" Guy Gardner taking on other familiar heroes: Batman, Flash, Hawkman, with already-defeated Aquaman, Sentinel, and Blue Beetle on the ground around him. Narration lets us see that this is actually Guy considering what it might be like for the other heroes to see what he’s TRULY capable of, when the Draal unleash his double on them. That he–the REAL Guy Gardner–has held back and kept himself in check, though they haven’t treated him with the respect duly his for that. In the "present," Guy begins to form a plan with the other Lanterns…while in the course of a couple more encounters with the creature siphoning his memories, we get two scenes of Guy’s past: first, seeing that his brother Mace is still his father’s favorite, to Guy’s exclusion; and then that Big Brother Mace isn’t nearly as perfect as his father or younger brother believed him to be. Then, acting on the start of an escape plan, Guy and the other Lanterns fight, which brings the Draal in to "protect" their star resource–Guy himself. Of course, this gets him put back under for more memory-siphoning…but he aims to use it to his advantage. As we see a young Guy (though a few years older than the previous glimpse) driving a stolen car and picking up a police tail…the younger Guy is surprised when the present-day-Guy pops into the seat beside him…having inserted his present self into the memory!

Dixon‘s story begins to feel particularly formulaic, and the Guy-gets-captured-by-memory-viewing-aliens can be rather cliché. It becomes a framing device for isolated flashbacks…rather than our just simply being given an entire story set IN the past. But this is Dixon, this comic is from the ’90s, and for as clichéd and caricature-like I’d seen Guy initially…this story is quite "deep," really grounding and humanizing the character, inserting this detailed backstory that really helps explain Guy’s cockiness and attitude and driving need to seem like the best, and so on. That the "current" story is largely a generic framing sequence adds to the accessibility of this story–it’s not particularly drawing on continuity points that’d be overly important to the understanding of the story. You just know that Guy is in a fix, and while he and fellow prisoners seek escape, we’re seeing glimpses of his past as the alien creature sucks the memories from him to feed into the duplicate Guy that’ll be the Draal’s "sleeper agent" on Earth.

Visually, this is again a solid, consistent take on the characters. Everyone looks fine as they are, and familiar and distinct, with nothing weird or out there or such that takes me out of the story while reading. This is simply ’90s Guy, embodying the character as he was at the time.

I continue to enjoy the story as it unfolds, and though I somewhat knew it was coming, I either didn’t recall or know for sure that Guy (present day) would pop into his own memories to interact with his past self, so that’s got some fun potential, to say nothing of loosely firing up my own imagination on the topic in general beyond just this comic or its story.

Once more, a solid single issue and well worth getting as part of this four-part story (Yesterday’s Sins aka Guy Gardner: Year One). While the previous issue could be picked up "cold" and be relatively accessible, as the second part of the story, this one’s less so. However, this adds to my feeling overall that one can pick up this story arc by itself or as a first introduction to the ongoing Guy Gardner and do quite well with it!

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The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #11

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0011Yesterday’s Sins 1 of 4: Back in the Days

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

Picking up this issue is like picking up a piece of history–literally and figuratively, as well as some shades of variance on the meaning for me personally. My earliest conscious recollection of Guy is one of the Eclipso Annuals back in 1992 (Adventures of Superman Annual #4, I believe–as I learned after the fact, the ‘transition’ for the character back from his prestige-format limited series where he GOT the gold ring to begin with). And his #1 issue–the first of this very series–was one of several issues I got at a Waldenbooks while out with a friend and his mom, using money my dad gave me (though I got 6 or so comics and had some change left, I recall his being a bit surprised he didn’t get MORE change…but that’s a story for another time).

Getting to the issue itself–the branding is given the Year One treatment…at the time, very much cashing in on the likes of Batman Year One, but still this was one of the earlier instances of the "branding," when it was still rather distinct and not a line-wide shorthand.

Despite the cover branding…the story itself is actually titled Yesterday’s Sins, and though it FITS the Year One stuff, it is not simply a story told entirely with the early version of the character…it just happens to touch strongly ON his past!

We open on the capturing by some other aliens of an alien Green Lantern–Graf Toren. Graf’s grabbed by some ugly Beholder-looking aliens that are very much aware of the Green Lanterns’ weakness to the color yellow. We then shift to Guy Gardner fighting minions of Kobra with General Glory. (I have some vague recollection of the character in relation to Guy…from a previous reading of this story or some Who’s Who or some other mash-up of prior DC half-knowledge). The two emerge victorious…the younger Guy showing off, while the older General is stricter and trying to get Guy to keep it closer to the book. The aliens that got Graf are watching, and teleport Guy to their ship, where he is left highly disoriented by the suddenness and surprise of it all…as well as what he sees! Before long, the stunned Guy finds himself with some de-ringed Green Lanterns, and learns he’s a prisoner of the Draal. The aliens are apparently replacing Lanterns with replicants…but need to capture the original and siphon their memories in order to enable the duplicates to pass muster for whatever mission they’re being sent on. Guy gets a short taste of the memory-siphoning process…which basically provides us as readers a look back to Guy’s life as a kid. An insight into his early life and (frustrating to say the least) childhood. (This is where the Year One designation apparently kicks in/earns some appropriateness). As would be expected, Guy’s none to thrilled at all this, and is not about to just roll over and take what the Draal are giving out, whether or not any of the other Lanterns are with him on the matter.

To me, Guy was always largely a caricature of sorts…a character I was loosely familiar with, but never particularly a fan of, nor overly knowledgeable about. He’s just some cocky jerk that happens to do the "right thing" even if he’s not the "typical" do-gooder hero-type.

Here, we begin to see him made a bit more human, given more of a backstory and motivation, elements in a past that (especially to the adult me) really would "explain" a lot about the character’s "present-day" self. That this comic is from 1993 kinda screws with my perception of time-frame for Guy’s flashbacks. I’m not exactly sure the character’s "present age," but would assume he’s at least late-20s or early-30s. Which in 1993 would put his childhood in the ’60s…while in 2017 present-day my mind "naturally" wants to put 20-some years in the past as 1980s!

I’m pretty sure this is the first issue of the series written by Chuck Dixon…and his name is very much a selling point to me, especially on ’90s material. And in what feels (to me) like typical fashion…this has a certain level of high quality to it FOR his writing. I’ve read a few issues of this series over the years…years after publication, not necessarily in order, and never the complete series, and this just feels like a solid Dixon ’90s story from this first issue.

The art is not bad, either. Nothing about it really stood out as some glaring weirdness, no wonky anatomy, and nothing that just stunned me with horribleness. Which is my way of saying that I didn’t notice the art all that much…I just enjoyed the story as I read the issue. The visuals are rather familiar, as I HAVE read some of this series in the past, and there’s no overly fancy attempt to be "experimental" in depicting Guy or any of the other characters.

This just makes for a single, solid issue that can largely be picked up cold, and one can figure characters out as they go along. I get something extra out of it for being aware of the character, his ’90s depiction, and all that. But in this particular reading, I jumped in cold–no reviewing prior issues, no covers of other issues to scan past to refresh myself. Just happened to have the four-issue arc this starts off, and jumped in to see where it takes me!

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TMNT Artisan Edition–Finally!

I’ve been looking forward to the TMNT Artisan Edition for a number of months now! I was looking forward to it, and thought I might’ve missed it, back in March or April, and then thought it was due out around the end of April, and it kept not being on the week’s shipping list, and on and on til now.

tmnt_artisan_edition_book

I’d eventually ended up pre-ordering it via Amazon, just to make certain I wouldn’t miss out on it, and was quite surprised recently when I got a notification that my order had been "upgraded" to get the book day-of-release, August 8th. Of course, given that it seems like most of the time anymore, Amazon gets "access" to stuff a week or two AFTER comic shops, and this is from IDW, I just "assumed" then that I’d be able to get this from a shop mid-late July, but it wasn’t.

Then this week, I find out it WILL BE in shops…this week. But my copy, from Amazon, has already arrived.

This is a huge book, and quite the attractive volume! It contains original layouts and notes and such on the original first TMNT comic, as well as the finished version, and some extra art and such (a couple original ads for the first issue and sketches and such). Not a huge quantity of material, but enough to pad this out and make it highly worthwhile, at least to me.

tmnt_artisan_edition_tmnt_shelf

As said, this is a huge book…it’s even larger than the TMNT Ultimate Collection volumes IDW put out a few years ago, and this book will not fit on the shelf with these–it’s too tall! So it’ll perhaps get some special display spot, be relegated to laying on its side on top of the books on the shelf, or perhaps I’ll move all the TMNT stuff to a shelf with a bit more space when I next reconfigure my ‘library’.

tmnt_artisan_edition_spread1_sketch

Here’s one of my favorite double-page spreads, and (to me at least) one of the most iconic images of the issue! Interesting how recognizable it is even in the sketch/layout stage…

tmnt_artisan_edition_spread1_finished

…and yet how much more detailed the finished version is! (pardon the compressed/curve in the photo, the pages didn’t want to stay quite as open).

tmnt_artisan_edition_origin_sketch

Here’s the rough layout of the origin/introduction of the turtles…

tmnt_artisan_edition_origin_finished

…and the finished.

tmnt_artisan_edition_shredder_sketch

Shredder’s introduction in rough…

tmnt_artisan_edition_shredder_finished

And flipped for the final version in more detail.

I still really dig that this original issue was only ever intended as a one-shot thing, and that Shredder–the real, actual, not-a-clone/etc Shredder–had his first and last appearance in present-day here.

At the same time, I have come to really dig the IDW Shredder across a 50-issue run and appreciate that sort of longevity to that version of the character. But that’s a post for another time.

tmnt_artisan_edition_book_and_tmnt73

Here’s the book next to the latest issue of IDW‘s run. Fitting…a version of the original issue, with what is now the highest-numbered-ever TMNT issue. 1984 – 2017 and still going!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) #73 [Review]

tmnt_idw_0073The Trial of Krang, Part One

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Cory Smith
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams
Cover: Cory Smith, Ronda Pattison
Published by: IDW
Cover Date: August 2017
Cover Price: $3.99

It’s been awhile since I reviewed an issue of this series. [ Note: yeah, the last issue I reviewed was #44, back in 2015! ] And a lot has happened over these last 30 issues or so, including the apparent death of Shredder, and the book feeling a lot like a new volume of a series since then. But perhaps most significant for this issue–this is the first TMNT comic series to hit #73! The second volume of Tales of the TMNT ended at #70 back in 2010 (though apparently there was a foreign-published ~100-copies issue put out as a #71, but that’s for another post entirely), and the Archie-published TMNT Adventures ended at #72 back in 1995. The original volume of TMNT, that started everything, ended at #62 back in 1993.

Over the past six years, 73 issues of this title, numerous mini-series, several specials, and a year of a monthly companion title, we’ve had the development of probably the richest, deepest TMNT continuity to date, with this series’ creators drawing in elements from pretty much every previous iteration of the series–be that comics, cartoon, movie, and even the (as of August 2017) current animated series.

The cover itself is a bit of a celebratory thing: we see the turtles standing triumphantly, crowds of (alien) people cheering them from all around, as they stand open in the city. Granted, this is an alien city, and not Earth, but hey…it works. And on the "meta" level, the celebration is also appropriate AS celebrating this being the longest-running TMNT comic ever (at least numerically), with no signs of slowing down.

Opening the issue, we see Krang–who outside of the FCBD 2017 issue, I don’t think we’ve seen in a couple years at least–firming stuff up with an assassin, as he sits in a guarded cell awaiting his trial. Neutrinos arrive on Earth to get the turtles and Fugitoid back to Smada city, where they’re surprised to come face to face with Leatherhead! After some initial testiness, the situation is explained as to why he’s there and that they’re all on the same side…for now. The Neutrino Royal Family celebrates the turtles as heroes of the Krang War in a huge gathering that they weren’t expecting. Later, they get a smaller, more private time with them, where they learn of other problems approaching…like Maligna and her Malignoids, seeking to fill the power vacuum left without General Krang. The group is joined by Counselor Apap, who reveals how important it is for the turtles and Professor Honeycutt (the Fugitoid) to retrieve the key witnesses…without them, they don’t have nearly what’s needed to keep Krang locked away! However, Krang’s assassin Hakk-r strikes, and Apap is killed. After a skirmish with the assassin (who escapes), it becomes the turtles’ mission to seek out the witnesses, as Honeycutt must remain behind…he’s suddenly become one of the most valuable players in things himself, with Apap gone…so the turtles head off to collect the witnesses.

This issue is really, truly, things Done Right, to me! If you’d told me several years ago I’d like the Neutrinos in a modern context, I’d’ve been quite skeptical. As they are here, in this series…I quite enjoy them! I "hear" echoes of the classic cartoon iterations of the characters, but really dig this series’ reinterpretation and presentation of them…and their society. I also really like that this Krang is a much deeper character with a fleshed-out background (compared to the cartoon, anyway!) and seems much more capable, and highly dangerous…far more of a threat than "just" some recurring, bumbling villain.

Visually, while this issue’s art is by Cory Smith rather than Mateus Santolouco, it’s similar enough to avoid being jarring, and is really some beautiful stuff! Over the years, I’ve gotten very used to radically differing visual interpretations of the turtles, so that in itself rarely bothers me. Having the art so similar is a real treat, and to be singularly attractive in itself is even better!

The issue’s story is also quite a treat to me…I really like that we’re (finally!) getting back to more "familiar" territory, while pushing the overall narrative FORWARD. I often complain about repetition and titles not "letting _____ go" and such…but the way Shredder was developed, and Krang, I very much like stories with them in this iteration of the TMNT. Having had what in some ways has felt very "generic" villains/antagonists for a couple years, it’s really great to have this picking bac up on stuff that I’ve missed.

Having recently been excited at the introduction of more classic Mutanimals characters (Jagwar and Dreadmon) being introduced (reinterpreted) into current IDW continuity, I’m also very excited at the prospect of what seems to be on the immediate horizon, with a couple of very recognizable "cameos" in this issue (that I presume will be touched on at length in the TMNT: Dimension X mini-series) and an outright mention of another "classic" villain that I believe may come into play next issue, given the "Next issue" box at the end of this issue.

While this may not be an ideal "jumping on" point for someone unfamiliar with the characters, it’s definitely a great point to come back if you haven’t cared much for stuff the last couple years (since #50, for example). It’s also not a horrible point to jump in, though, even if you haven’t followed this title since its inception back in 2011 or such. There’s a lot of context, and if you don’t mind stories where you jump in and "figure things out" as you go, it’ll probably be fairly enjoyable.

And, as said earlier…this is the highest-numbered TMNT issue ever, so even symbolically, this series has now surpassed every previous run and can truly come into its own, pushing the TMNT property forward with a pedigree more than equal to everything else!

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