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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!

tmnt_idw_0073_blogtrailer

TMNT/Usagi Yojimbo (2017) One-Shot [Review]

tmnt_usagiyojimbo_oneshot_2017Story, Art, and Letters by: Stan Sakai
Colors by: Tom Luth
Collection Design by: Shawn Lee
Edited by: Bobby Curnow, Philip R. Simon, Megan Walker
Published by: IDW/Dark Horse
Cover Date: July 2017
Cover Price: $7.99

I’ve looked forward to this since it was announced, whenever that was–a couple or a few months ago, perhaps. "Knowing" this was going to be a more expensive issue, I just naturally "assumed" it would be a "prestige format" book–squarebound and such–like the two annuals or the big 50th issue! Instead, for the steep $7.99 price point, we get a slightly-thicker-than-usual standard-feeling issue, staples and all. So that was an immediate bit of disappointment format-wise, and a bit of a shock.

Another initial, pre-story immediate complaint I have is one that’s usual for me: there are TOO MANY DARNED COVERS! Instead of having UMPTEEN different covers, all for the same single one-shot single-issue, why not have a "gallery" included in the issue as a true, actual, real BONUS to those buying the comic, with extra pages by whatever artist(s) showing the characters involved? Instead, we have a number of variants and "exclusives" that are REALLY getting very "old" and extremely off-putting to me as a guy who just wants the entire content-story and iconic, singular covers, not generic incentive chase covers all the darned time!

The story of the issue is fairly basic: increased earthquake activity rocks the land, and we come to find out that everything could be destroyed if a piece of rock isn’t replaced from where it was broken off. Because of the rock’s brokenness, a giant catfish named Namazu is no longer properly held, and HIS movement underground will tear the land apart. Usagi meets Kakera-Sensei and knows what must be done. He gathers four turtles at the river, and Kakera-Sensei works his magic, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are summoned–into or replacing or in place of the four regular turtles. Usagi immediately recognizes them all…but they fail to recognize him. The group sets off, with Kakera-Sensei explaining the situation as they go. Despite a terrible battle with Jei and the forces he’s rounded up, they all manage to save the day. The Ninja Turtles are sent home and the regular turtles returned, and Usagi and Kakera-Sensei go their own ways.

The most noticeable thing for me about this issue–beyond the price and umpteen covers–is the art. This is Stan Sakai working on both his own long-running character (introduced roughly the same time as the TMNT themselves, back in 1984!) and the TMNT for the first time in quite a number of years. At first, the visual style was a little bit off-putting for being different–notably the turtles’ teeth–from what I’m used to of late on the main/ongoing TMNT comic. But after just a few pages, I settled right in and enjoyed the art. I loved some of the "symbolic"-ness of art, showing where someone’s killed on-panel, but it’s far from gratuitous violence and such, and more fact-of-the-matter without being graphically so or gory, etc.

Story-wise, though I had expected this was to be more a story with Sakai‘s Miyamoto Usagi being brought to the Turtles’ world, it was the other way around with the turtles brought to Usagi’s. As I realized this, the art grew on me even more, for being that much more "authentic," given Sakai‘s continued involvement on the main Usagi Yojimbo title. That this felt like what I expect such a story would feel like with just that title, the inclusion of the turtles is like a bonus. The story is rather timeless–at least as far as the turtles–and though it can be pretty safely "assumed" that these are "our" turtles, the current IDW turtles–there’s no particular reference or anchoring point to the current TMNT continuity to bind this to any particular point. There also did not seem to be anything overtly binding this to any fixed point for the Usagi Yojimbo title, either. As such, this would seem like a prime sort of special for fans of either property without needing any particular familiarity with the other…and also one that fans of either could get in on without having to worry about being "up" on any of the other comics of the last few years.

The main hurdle, perhaps, would be that pesky, premium price point. For me, personally, I ultimately will give TMNT stuff a "pass," of sorts that I won’t any other series/property, carried over from the Mirage days, and this would be little exception. That the crossing-over of TMNT and Usagi Yojimbo has been essentially a "tradition" dating back to the earliest days of the properties, of which this is (hopefully) "just" the latest iteration makes this issue that much more of a special thing, worthy in its way of the higher price point.

In the end, if you can get past the price point and the variant covers, I’d highly recommend this to fans of Usagi Yojimbo, fans of the TMNT, fans of both properties/series, and even to "lapsed" fans of either. I’d also recommend it to anyone with any interest in either property, looking for a truly one-shot experience. There’s no "continued FROM" for this, there’s no "To Be Continued," this is just truly a done-in-one, singular stand-alone issue…and a mighty fine one at that.

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Astonishing X-Men (2017) #1 [Review]

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001Life of X – Part One

Writer: Charles Soule
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego, Walden Wong
Colors: Richard Isanove, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jim Cheung & Richard Isanove
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editor: Christina Harrington
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: September 2017
Cover Price: $4.99

I was a sucker. I’d seen a poster-image of this issue’s cover, and I vaguely recall the image grabbing me initially when it was first debuted with solicitation or shortly after. Archangel has always been a striking figure for me, and despite the last ten or so years, Bishop (especially looking as he does here) rings quite nostalgic for me. Then there’s Rogue, and while I don’t much care for the “Old Man” version, seeing ‘a Wolverine figure’ here drove it home. But in addition to that, there’s something about the blending of the coloring–the rich orangey-yellow background and the yellow and blue of the logo…and that the logo may not be the “classic” X-MEN logo, but it has a certain blend of the old and new while being its own thing…and NOT coming off as “pretentious” (as if text CAN be pretentious) to me.

I was ALSO a sucker because a local comic shop had sent out an email informing us that any Marvel purchase would get a free “cosmic cube,” and while I am actively disinterested in the current comics Event, I’m a sucker for plastic comic artifacts (such as Lantern Corps Rings), and the Cosmic Cube goes way back. And with Astonishing X-Men #1 being out this week and already having the against-my-better-judgment interest, I figured hey…fine. I tried X-Men: Gold #1 and X-Men: Blue #1, so I could give Astonishing X-Men #1 a go. Especially at $3.99.

After I’d bought the issue (amidst my other purchases), and gotten it home AND read it…THEN I realized that no…this was NOT a $3.99 issue. It was $4.99…so for that, I’m not a happy camper. But where even comic shops are lucky to return comics, it’s not like I can “return” the issue, so I’m sorta stuck with it, whatever “principle” I want to take with it.

I’m not happy that my inattention to detail had me ignorantly buying yet another $5 #1 issue from Marvel (in an industry when other publishers proved $10 vol. 1 collected editions with 5-6 issues).

Buuuuuut…

I enjoyed this issue.

I actually did!

We open on a quick scene, learning that mutant psychics all over the world are dying. Then we come to Betsy Braddock–Psylocke–who is one of the STRONGEST mutant psychics, and the force that’s killing the others isn’t able to subdue her until after she’s sent out a psychic cry for help. We’re also (re) introduced to Bishop; to Angel/Archangel, Gambit and Fantomex, Old Man Logan and Rogue; four of whom are on the receiving end of Psylocke’s cry for help; which draws them all in to her location. The force that’s been attacking the psychics is concentrated, and no longer constrained to just the local psychics. As the group converges, they must face the psychic energy-outlash while saving civilians and surviving themselves. Working together, the immediate, outward threat is resolved…but Betsy reveals that she now knows who is behind it–and that things are worse than even this was. Some of the group must go to the Astral Plane to stop the Shadow King. No time to seek shelter or plan–she sends them immediately, with Angel and Bishop remaining behind to protect them all. Meanwhile, we confirm that yes indeed, this is definitely Shadow King. And he’s got quite a secret…which provides a major “hook” for me regarding subsequent issues of this series!

While I was incredibly skeptical of X-Men Prime, X-Men Blue, and X-Men Gold, I bought the one-shot and #1s to “try,” to go against my anti-Marvel negativity and give the things “a shot,” an ISSUE, at least. And that way I could at least judge for myself how things seemed, and feel like I had more room to criticize–at least I’d have bought the big, over-priced first-issues, and have SOME hands-on “experience,” not just second-hand stuff.

And so, too, I figured for this. $4.99 is too much for a single issue, for a first issue. MAYBE for an Annual, or an oversized special/one-shot. But a $5+ issue should be rare and special…not plentiful as water. Marvel has abused the price point to where I virtually NEVER even bother to look at their comics, because I just KNOW they’re basically the most ridiculously-priced premium-priced things in the market. Real or perception, but that’s where I am.

But I’ve got the issue, I read it, and I actually enjoyed it. We have some prologue. We have character introductions. We have an immediate threat, and we see a group of disparate mutant figures come together, face the threat, and emerge victorious. We then have the setup for an even bigger threat–the one that carries beyond “just” this issue…and it looks to involve other nostalgic elements that work organically with the Shadow King character, as well as perhaps grabbing onto continuity and yanking on a loose thread, in preparation of some re-stitching and mending.

The story is engaging and keeps stuff moving; I can and will allow any “inconsistencies of character” to be credited to the last decade or more of mutant comics and lack of continuity and the apparent attempt here to play with the existing status quo. Visually, I dug this issue. Everyone’s recognizable and I like the visuals; there’s a sense of modernity with the aforementioned nostalgia; new and old, simply making this a good-looking comic. The multiple inkers do not take away from that–I only even know there were multiple inkers due to seeing the credits.

I don’t want to like any Marvel series right now. The X-Men are old favorites, and I’ve felt largely let-down by everything that’s been done with, to, and involving them for years, such that many of them are hardly recognizable to me anymore. I do not TRUST Marvel to not “yank the rug out” from under me, or some sorta bait-and-switch with this. I’ve already seen one or two of the other X-titles tie in to a major crossover event…and I want nothing to do with that, either. So…I might come back for the next issue of this arc, or at least check it out if I notice it on the rack. I am honestly very interested in what this particular story arc holds, and if I’m gonna pay Marvel‘s too-high inflated/”premium” price point, I can justify it a bit easier in smaller doses as single issues than collected volumes.

I actually don’t feel I can really speak to whether old fans or new fans or both would care or not care about this issue…I’m a weird creature when i comes to Marvel, and the X-Men. Suffice it to say that even at that $5 price point and $3.99 otherwise with possible bi-weekly shipping, I’m hooked here where even the likes of Blue and Gold didn’t grab me at this level. That makes this a definite “light in the darkness” of X-Books, and if you can stomach the $4.99 price point, this is about as good an issue for that as any that Marvel‘s put out of late!

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001_blogtrailer

The Weekly Haul – Week of July 12, 2017

This was a pretty good week’s haul…fairly straight-forward, a couple special orders and a book from last week, and some surprise quarter-bin finds!

weeklyhaul_07122017a

The usual Superman issue for the week in Action Comics. The appropriately-shiny cover for Dark Days: The Casting. A #0 issue for Mage: The Hero Denied (which has me really interested in acquiring the earlier Mage stuff!) Special-ordered Calexit #1 cuz hey…I’ve got my views. Beginning to (against initial plans and judgment) accept The Sovereigns…might be the third iteration in about as many years from Dynamite of the Gold Key characters…but at least they haven’t screwed me on the "complete story-run" if I just buy one of each issue (yet)! (Unlike Valiant).

And the second-to-last issue of Letter 44…which means I’m one issue shy of having a complete run of something like this…and at 35 issues…I think that’s some kinda record for me!

weeklyhaul_07122017b

I’m giving these Atari comics from Dynamite a shot…a bit for the nostalgia, a bit for the weirdness, a bit cuz hey…at least they’re new to me and not pulling the crap that Marvel does!

…and yet, I’m still getting the $1 True Believers issues. I like most of these reprints, even if some of the $1 reprints are of 25-cent books. Or of stuff I previously wouldn’t touch, period (Brand New Day).

weeklyhaul_07122017c

Then there’s the weekly Comic Shop News, which I don’t usually showcase in these posts, but why not? It’s part of the weekly haul! Special-ordered Riverdale Comics Digest, which I believe reprints four or five of the #2 issues of "New Archie". I saw in the indicia that this is published four times/year…so quarterly. I really hope this lasts quite awhile…cuz I’m very willing to pay $6 for 4-5 issues’ content (and only one freaking cover!!!) rather than $3.99 per issue with umpteen ridiculously-plentiful variants!

And though I have yet to acquire any of the starter-packs…another Star Wars Destiny booster pack, because hey…I can justify one pack at a time here and there, while I’m not gonna load up on a bunch of them all at once! And once I do get starter packs, I’ve got a few extra dice and cards to customize the game.

weeklyhaul_07122017d

And finally…found on top of the quarter-bins (and asked someone who was already going through the bins if he’d pulled them–he said no, they were not his), some more digests. I’m not terribly concerned about the condition at this point…just figuring as I come across these sorts (especially cheaply) I’ll grab ’em…maybe eventually I’ll make a concerted effort to hunt them all down. For now…I’ll just add to the collection!


And thus, another week of comics. A mix of publishers and genres…ongoing and one-shot and such; even a mix of formats.

Not a huge week, but not a tiny week; far less sticker shock than recently!

Um…Oops? (Or, The Unexpected Quarter-Bin Haul)

Apparently there was a snafu with Diamond and shipping this week in the US, with the holiday and all. I’m not sure actual details, but with Carol and John’s doing New Comic Day on Thursday, I decided I’d stop by real quick, see if they had one issue I was after. And maybe I’d find a second issue for the heckuvit.

I was gonna be in-and-out real quick, buying maybe 2 comics, if that.

cnj_comics_07062017

They’d put out several longboxes of 25-cent comics. After half-heartedly flipping through one, I decided to take on the next, and then a couple more. I had a decent stack going.

Then another longbox was brought out. So, sure, I’ll look through that. Then another.

Bought my stuff, they gave me a box to cart them out in…and here’s another longbox, with the promise of yet a couple more.

Ultimately, I bought 148 comics…only 1 of them "current."

flash_by_waid_rebirth_action_comics_deluxe_01

And on getting home Thursday night, I had a package waiting for me: my latest InStockTrades order.

While I’m waffling on how I feel about the "deluxe hardcover" treatment for Action Comics (as opposed to a "thick" paperback), it’s still a cool volume. And as far as I know, these are the only two Flash by Mark Waid volumes out thus far, and two excellent additions to my Flash shelf.

Finding time to read ’em all, though…that’s gonna be another thing entirely!


With the extra purchasing this week and last, though…I totally blew whatever might have become a "convention" budget or a "sale" budget, so I plan to attend to the recent purchases–and hopefully some solid reading–and am foregoing a convention that would be little fun anyway going alone, and a sale that…well, I’d surely spend way too much at (given half a chance) and other expenses that’d be involved.

C’est la vie and all that. Another week closing out…and we have the new Spider-Man film!

The ONLY trailer(s) I have seen for it thus far were theatrical–and really, I think it’s only one, and was before Wonder Woman or Guardians vol 2. I know OF some stuff, from casting to images forced in front of me…but by and large, I’ve managed to avoid stuff, and intend to continue to do so, even if it means trying to "stay offline" for the day or such.

A Glimpse of the Art Wall

I finally managed to work out lighting and an angle to get a photo that–though it doesn’t manage to show off everything actually hanging–at least shows off a bit more of the size and "shape" of my "Art Wall."

art_wall_from_below_06222017

Basically, it’s one of the walls of the staircase down to the basement. I started out just pushing pins into the wall to hang a couple frames for safekeeping–it was gonna be temporary placement–but then I started adding more frames, as I found ones that worked very well for holding posters from old ’90s comics and such–from Batman issues, Robin III: Cry of the Huntress, and Reign of the Supermen as well as others. I’ve also placed some frames with comics–particularly variants that were actually display-worthy "prints" to get and such.

There’s no real "order" to the wall, as I pretty much just keep adding toward the bottom of the stairs as I find/frame something new. I may eventually get to where I replace some posters for other stuff, and might swap out the comics to keep the wall more of an "art" wall than a "show off comics" wall…but time will tell!

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This second photo’s another attempt to capture an angle of the wall…this time from the top of the stairs looking down.

I feel like the photos are really crummy compared to what I’d usually post…but these frames are basically a sheet of glass over the front, and are quite reflective at certain angles: so with better lighting, there’s more glare and reflection than viewing the actual art. But actually walking down the stairs, it’s easy to see and enjoy the art.

Just one of those things, I guess, where the real-life experience can’t be duplicated with photos online…c’est la vie and all that!

The Weekly Haul – Week of June 21, 2017

Well, this turned into a far larger week price-wise than I’d had any intention of…of course, a lot of that goes to some deals, and a couple more of DC‘s $4.99 DC/ILooney Tunes books! And a back-issue.

weeklyhaul_06212017a

Of course, the weekly Superman book–in this case, this week it’s the actual Superman title itself…pretty much concluding the Black Dawn story in an "oversized" "anniversary" #25 issue. Then we have Lobo/Road Runner and Wonder Woman/Tasmanian Devil which, so help me, intrigue me. Super Sons has another issue–I need to make sure I’m caught up to the previous issue. I think I am, but I’m not 100%.

Then just for the novelty of it AND so I won’t have to HUNT for the first issue later, SwordQuest as I’m just curious how the story really will go after the #0 issue…though I don’t like the $3.99 price point. I’ve been getting God Country, and probably should have just waited for the collected volume, as I don’t think I’ve actually read #3 to present.

And finally, because of that darned cover, and figuring if nothing else it’ll go with the last #1 Darth Vader I bought, I figured I’d give the thing a try, now out of the "first week sales figures" range and all that, and it was there, and still cover price. I did NOT, however, buy #2 that came out this week.

weeklyhaul_06212017b

As expensive as three $5 issues and several $4 issues were…I’d had no expectation of finding any great deals on more collected volumes. But for less than the price of 2 Marvel issues, got the oversized hardcover of Wolverine: Sabretooth, collecting two stories. While I’m not the biggest fan of the stuff, it’s still Wolverine, the actual, genuine, regular, true, original character.

Then for roughly the same as seven Marvel single-issues, got the three volumes of Excalibur Visionairies: Warren Ellis. I don’t know if I knew these existed, but all three available together and for this pricing…I couldn’t pass ’em up. And hey…they’re all ’90s or early-2000s X-stuff…especially the Excalibur volumes.

These even put Half-Price Books to shame…and really put convention pricing to shame.

All in all, a big week and plenty of reading to do, and I’m still a hugely long way off from ever catching up. Such is the life of a comic person, I guess…

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