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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

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtles_deviations0001Deviations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) #44 [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw044Attack on Technodrome (part four)

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Cory Smith
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Cover: Cory Smith, Ronda Pattison
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Published by: IDW
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

It’s been a few months since I’ve covered an issue of this title–I think it was the end of the previous arc. Here we are at the end of the next arc–already! Though we’ve had Krang since the earliest issues, this arc and issue is where the “long arc” of stuff pays off.

The Leo, Raph, and Mikey tangle with some of Baxter’s flyborgs, before the scientist recalls them to make his escape…which leaves them free to get the mousers away from the Fugitoid…though this does not go over well with Krang. Meanwhile, Bebop and Rocksteady have been ordered to kill Donatello, and take great pleasure taking on the turtle and Metalhead. While the other turtles face Krang directly, Splinter is aided against Karai by Alopex and Nobody. Back on Burnow Island, Shredder’s mutants fail to help him, and escape…not realizing Baxter has designs on an alliance with their (probably now former) master. The turtles and Fugitoid end Krang’s plans for the Earth though they’re unable to prevent the island from being terraformed. The legacy of their battle is a space on Earth that can be a haven to surviving Utroms. While Honeycutt returns to Dimension X to see Krang answers for his crimes…the turtles return home to find that everyone was too late to save their brother.

Even long as the above summary is…it hardly does justice to the feeling I had reading this issue. I was expecting something big–I may have seen something hinting at a major event, or might’ve just felt like there’d “have to” be something big given all the “buildup” to the Technodrome activating and that it’d be a letdown if “all” that happened was that the turtles defeated Krang with no other lasting repercussions.

The art and writing together made for quite a scene between Bebop and Rocksteady vs. Donatello…and I honestly felt a bit sick reading it, at seeing Donnie take such an outright beating from the two. Gone are the overblown words and threats and no-one-actually-gets-hurt notion of the turtles facing the supposedly-dangerous lunkheads as we got throughout the ’80s/’90s animated series. Here, as I turned the pages I had a mental flash to Batman: A Death in the Family…exacerbated by the panel of Rocksteady’s hammer-swing quite looking like a crowbar. And though we don’t get detail, we get enough–the crack and crunch on the shell, and my realizion that I’d just been contemplating before that I’d never really read any TMNT story with any of the turtles truly having their shell damaged. They’ll be shown with scratches or cuts and such but the shell is generally shown deflecting a sword blade or some other object…but they’re not superhuman or invulnerable.

And we’re shown just enough to SEE that yeah…this is bad. VERY bad. Of course, that itself is made worse by the two talking over what they’d just done, remarking on the damage and what it looks like…definitely solidifying that it wasn’t just some “visual sound effect” and not just some visual angle.

And the end of the issue certainly suggests that the turtle family has been truly reduced by one…and yet no one comes out and says the “d-word” here, and I’m reminded of a key scene in the original Eastman/Laird series when Leo’d been horribly beaten by the foot and his near-lifeless body thrown through a window to the floor amidst the rest of the turtles. While mentally processing as I read the rest of the issue, I’d also thought immediately of the Image TMNT series, in which Donatello wound up a cyborg after a horrific accident all but killed him…the specifics remain a blind spot in my TMNT knowledge but given how much this series has drawn from prior incarnations of the property, I certainly have some expectation of where things can go from here…it’ll be the details and pace that are gonna hold my attention in a big way.

The immediacy of the issue–it’s the current issue as of this writing; it just came out this week; there’ve been no other new TMNT issues SINCE–certainly lends to a sense of importance by itself. Yet, I do truly think that in the long run, this may well be a key, defining issue in the series as well as moment for all the characters…something that’ll be referenced and relevant and to some degree inform the heart of the characters and the series for a good long time.

There’s not much “context” given, this is the fourth chapter of a four-part story, so it’s not particularly a jumping-on point. I certainly recommend the series, whether you backtrack to #41 and the start of this arc or pick up the entire series in collected format. Though I hurt for the characters, look forward to seeing how they get through, this remains one of my favorite comics being published currently by any company, and just about the longest I’ve kept up with any single series consistently on a monthly basis for such an extended time since the late-1990s.

While not the foundation/building blocks of the property, in terms of story quality, development, longevity, consistency, and quality…this is probably my favorite TMNT series, period…and after this issue I am all the more eager to see what comes, and even at the $3.99 price point, would likely enjoy weekly issues as long as the quality was maintained.

[ “The Scene” behind the cut. ]


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Superman: Doomed #2 [Review]

Superman: Doomed #2Evolutions

Story: Greg Pak & Charles Soule
Art: Ken Lashley, Szymon Kudranski, Cory Smith, Dave Bullock, Jack Herbert, Ian Churchill, Aaron Kuder, Vicente Cifuentes, Norm Rapmund
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover: Guillem March & Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor: Anthony Marques
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

[———- Please note: I will spoil this issue’s ending below, denoted by a further note. ———-]

This issue is late. I believe it was originally solicited/scheduled for at least a month ago, sometime in August. I’m not certain of course, but I’m guessing that also accounts for so many involved on the art team for the issue. With all the one-shots I’ve been reading this month on the Futures End stuff, in some ways I’d even forgotten about this story for several weeks, only last week realizing “Hey…Doomed #2 never DID come out, did it?!?”

This issue sees the “last stand” of Earth and its heroes against Brainiac. With Superman having given himself over to Doomsday, his “essence” is basically a passenger along for the ride, or in the mind or such, where Brainiac reaches out, showing how much better things would be with Brainiac free to do his thing, why he should be allowed to, etc. Perhaps most pressing is that if Doomsday–Superman–“Superdoom”–destroys Brainiac, it’ll mean the destruction of all human life on Earth, as the stolen minds will be done for and not returned to their bodies.

While showing Superman visions of what could be, Brainiac continues taking down the last remnants of Earth’s heroes–having apparently utilized Superman somehow to “find” them and get through their defenses. He also reveals his core, true motivation to things, which on one hand could be sympathetic but for the notion of “the good of the many outweigh the good of the few” and all that. Lois plays a key part in things, and ultimately the minds–and thus lives–of all on Earth rest with Superman and a gambit to take down Brainiac before he can remake the universe itself.

Visually, this issue is a jumble. A lot of artists involved, but that can be forgiven as they seem to be utilized for the visions of what-could-be and such. I’ve never been a fan of the “Superdoom” look and have found it ridiculous–still do–so that lends a visual weirdness to stuff for me anyway on top of numerous artists. That said, having made it through all the tie-ins and such to this point–all those styles and renditions of involved characters–I can’t complain too much here. The issue is what it is, and whether utilized to show alternate realities or that’s just a fortuitous element given so many involved, I’ll take it at face value. The only point that I REALLY consciously noticed a huge difference was a sequence that reminded me of Darwyn Cooke‘s art.

Story-wise I’m left with a fair bit of frustration at the sheer length of this “event” and such. It seems that SO MUCH was made of the “Doomsday virus” and Superman fighting it/becoming a Doomsday and so on–that Brainiac’s involvement feels like a bait-and-switch. Like this whole thing could have been done in just a couple issues–perhaps Doomed #1, a single month’s slot of tie-ins, then this #2.

Then there’s the fact that this issue itself doesn’t even definitively end but rather kicks down the door onto something else.

[——————————— Spoilers below ———————————]

In “trying to find a place for” Brainiac, Superdoom–powered by all that Brainiac had sought–pushes Brainiac’s ship into a black hole of sorts, ready to sacrifice himself as well to see that Brainiac’s threat to the universe is over. But in this we see shards of something broken, and in those shards, we see what look to me like glimpses of the pre-52 DC Universe…particularly recognizeable to me are Nightwing and his classic first costume (circa 1989) and of course, Superman himself with the “trunks.”

Like this week’s Futures End: Booster Gold issue, this sees to show that in some fashion or another, the DC Universe that *I* grew up on is still out there somehow, and perhaps something involving Brainiac would be a key to–if not bringing it “back,” then at least accessing it.

[——————————— Spoilers above ———————————]

Despite the enormity of what we see on the last pae of the issue, I still don’t feel this story warranted all the chapters it carried, and that this could have been handled in just a handful of issues. Chances are, with the likes of Bleeding Cool and other online spoilers, this issue will wind up being fairly signifiant in the long run and thus in that regard probably worth seeking out, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it in and of itself unless you’ve been following the story in general.

I’m actually (overall) glad I went and hand got it–despite that hefty $5 cover price–for the feelings elicited by that last page, for capping things off, and giving me an “out” to drop back to spending far less each month.

Except that this issue–and event–leads directly to an aftermath issue in October’s Action Comics, at minimum. The story isn’t over. And rather than a definitive conclusion, an actual “bookend” to things…we’re simply propelled on to “The next thing.”

Superman: Doomed will probably make for a nice, thick hardcover collection, similarly thick paperback eventually…and really, that’s gonna be the way to go. If you haven’t followed stuff so far, just wait for the collected volume. If it’s priced around $30 for this entire thing, that will be quite a bargain compared to the price paid for the single issues involved, and will put the entire story between two covers instead of the umpteen ones across five-some months for the single issues.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) #37 [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw037Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Cory Smith
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Cory Smith
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

This is easily one of my favorite issues of the series so far…yet it’s not exactly one that would stand alone entirely as an introduction to the book. The fact that it deals deeply in established continuity, bridging the previous arc(s) and leading into the next is a huge strength for the issue.

When I first saw this cover (I get the “A” covers as a matter of principle) I almost grinned. Shredder and Krang facing each other as if an uneasy alliance or entering an alliance, with the under-construction Deathsta…er…Technodrome in the background? This could easily be a poster, and one I would frame and hang if I had it. So to say that the cover caught my attention in and of itself is an apt bit to note in an age of generic interchangeable covers and variants.

The interior art is similarly eye-catching, which makes sense–Cory Smith provides the interiors as well as the “A” cover. The characters’ appearances all look very good, fit established appearances from other artists, and on the whole I just can’t find anything disconcerting or off-putting that drew me out of the story or any negative reaction. I’m not typically an art-focused reader, but to put it simply: I really enjoyed the visuals to this issue.

The story opens on Shredder and Krang and immediately had me curious what they’d be up to in this issue, and half-wondering if it’d be a “talky” issue. We then shift to see what Alopex is up to, with Kitsune, and see that there’s definitely something building there. The story returns to Shredder and Krang’s conference, which doesn’t get either very far before violence breaks out and it becomes quickly apparent that the two will be at odds with each other even while having a common foe in the turtles.

This was indeed a bit of a “talky” issue…though moreso, it was Shredder vs. Krang (with a bit of Shredder’s goons vs. Krang’s goons thrown in for good measure). From the characters’ exchange I’ve realized I definitely–as I’ve somewhat suspected for awhile–missed an issue of the Utrom Empire series somehow. I found myself rather engaged throughout the issue, enjoying it immensely and wishing it wasn’t quickly drawing to a conclusion.

That the story credits three creators is something that I think has made this series extremely enjoyable for me: Eastman as original co-creator of the property, and three years in Curnow and Waltz have certainly established themselves. As a team they’re providing stories and character moments and concepts that have made IDW‘s TMNT continuity possibly the most well-rounded and pretty much my favorite of the myriad TMNT continuities out there.

There’s a definite nostalgia factor for me with Alopex–I’d initially thought she’d be a stand-in for the Ninjara character that appeared in the ’90s TMNT Adventures series…though that could yet be, just (like everything else with IDW‘s continuity) developing a bit slower and with more detail as we go along. I also far prefer this version of Krang to any other version, much as I prefer the comics Cobra Commander to the GI Joe cartoons’ version(s) of the character.

Koya and Bludgeon also remind me of TMNT Adventures characters–Koya of a character whose name I don’t recall offhand, and Bludgeon of the time-travelling shark Armaggon…whether or not these current characters have any bases visually or otherwise on the classic characters doesn’t much matter as I simply enjoyed seeing these, and have the freedom to “hope” there’s some sort of tie.

While I wouldn’t really recommend using this issue as a cold jumping-on point, it’s a strong done-in-one “interlude” that carries itself while bridging arcs and reminding readers of what’s come before that presumably will come into play in the next arc. If you’re a fan of Shredder and/or Krang this isn’t a bad issue, either, even if you’ve been away for an arc or few. 

(However, if you’re looking for the turtles themselves? They don’t appear in this issue’s story. And I’m more than fine with that–the conflict with Shredder and Krang was so engaging that as I read, I was hoping this’d be the case so as to not steal page-time away from the villains.)

As much as ANY comic is these days, this is definitely worth its cover price for the read, particularly as an ongoing reader of the series/continuity. Highly recommended.

TMNT Villains Micro-Series #5: Karai [Review]

tmntvillainsmicroseries005karaiWritten by: Erik Burnham
Art by: Cory Smith
Colors by: Ian Herring
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Tyler Walpole
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

I tend to use the ComixologyPull List” app these days for keeping tabs on what’s coming out in a given week that I’ll be getting (mainly to know how much the week’s likely going to take from my budget). This issue’s release surprised me, as I don’t think I’ve even seen it listed–early or delayed.

Karai visits an old mentor for counsel, and we learn through their interaction of her background. Her father was not a good steward of the Foot legacy, and she found a way to bring back the Clan’s glory. Growing up, she met her parents’ expectations by day, though by night she secretly trained herself in the ways of the ninja, and eventually learned how she could restore the Clan, resurrecting a figure from the past–one she’d come to know as “Grandfather”–Oroku Saki. In the present, though, things have gone awry, and Karai has been “replaced” as Saki’s #2, and she finds herself facing the new #2–a corrupted Leonardo.

This issue continues to illustrate how well continuity can work between creative teams and series. We get a story focused on a major character, giving us some real depth that there truthfully would not be room for in the main series, yet the story ties in very nicely with the ongoing story (City Fall) such that one reading “everything” gets the broad picture, and one simply picking this up gets “a story” in one issue.

I like learning more about Karai’s place in things…this issue drives home just how central she actually is in IDW‘s current TMNT continuity, and casts her beyond some “named figure” for the sake of a named figure being present.

I really like Smith‘s art, and aside from the story, the visuals alone were a real treat to take in. Other than this not being an Annual or graphic novel-length issue, I have nothing negative to say about the art!

Two years in–and multiple Micro-Series minis and such functionally giving two ongoing series of TMNT books is (despite the $3.99 price point) very welcome, and keeping to the quality that’s (thus far) been maintained makes me think I’d wholly welcome a third such issue each month, just to continue with new expansion of the stories and characters that much faster, as my impatience grows to have a far lengthier “history” behind us with all this.

Ultimately, that means that IDW‘s doing something very, very “right,” not only holding my interest with more than one book per month but keeping me consistently eager for more.

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