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The ‘90s Revisited: Magic the Gathering: Gerrard’s Quest #1

90s_revisited

magic_the_gathering_gerrards_quest_001Gerrard’s Quest Part 1: Initiation

Written by: Mike Grell
Pencils by: Pop Mhan
Inks by: Norman Lee
Letters by: Michael Taylor
Colors by: Dave Stewart
Separations by: Lisa Stamp, Stu Hiner, Brian Gregory, Harold MacKinnon
Cover by: Mark Harrison
Editors: Peet Janes and Ian Stude
Cover Date: March 1998
Cover Price: $2.95
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

I’ve been “aware of” this series for over 20 years. The original MTG comics were published by Acclaim, under their Armada imprint. Those lasted a couple years with a number of mini-series and specials. This, too, is a mini-series…but by late-1997/early-1998, the license had moved to Dark Horse. Also by this point there was a move toward a unified “whole” in the MTG continuity/story, rather than everything being a mash up of fantasy tropes and generic fantasy-style stories.

Here we begin “Gerrard’s Quest.” Despite that being the story title (even in the indicia!) it is NOWHERE on the cover of the issue. While the “issue’s chapter” IS “Initiation” that is what’s on the cover…where usually it would be interior-only, or in addition to the series’ subtitle. This is solely billed (cover-wise) as Magic the Gathering #1 of 4. Nothing to indicate anything came before…nothing to indicate (now long after the fact) that this is the first chapter of Gerrard’s Quest (as the long-outta-print collected volume is titled and the story referred to in general).

Without even looking back, I’m quite sure that even the Armada books had subtitles on the covers and/or the subtitle logos of whatever set the issue(s) contained stories for. So that’s a huge dislike of this to me from the start. Having only the MTG logo and the title “Initiation” at the bottom of the cover, it suggests to me that the issue is ABOUT some initiation. Into what, though? Is it the reader being initiated into the “I-read-Magic-the-Gathering-comics” portion of the comics audience? Is it about someone joining some group of planeswalkers banding together to save the multiverse? By the cover alone, the ONLY thing really of interest to me would be the MTG logo. The rest of the cover just looks like some generic fantasy-ish thing and even knowing the broad strokes (having read loads of the novels and re-read a bunch of the novels in the last 17 months or so) I’m not immediately sure who any of the characters/entities on the cover are supposed to be, outside of Gerrard.

The story in the issue is choppy and all over the place. It’s rather loose, and really seems little more than hitting bullet points. I’d have to practically re-write the issue to give it a proper summary here. Suffice it to say that it picks up with Gerrard lamenting others dying for him, and the burden of the artifacts that are his birthright, the “Legacy.” The ship he’s on gets to Rath, a lotta fighting happens, someone he apparently knew dies, other stuff happens and…yeah. Having read the anthology/novel Rath and Storm at least twice now (once back in 1999 or 2000, once back in late 2018 or early 2019) I have a vague idea from memories of THAT as to who THESE characters are and what’s going on.

Early in the issue I get the sense that the crew is on their way to Rath and the Stronghold to save Sisay. And then there’s some scene with people related to Crovax and then suddenly the Weatherlight and its crew are there…and after Rofellos dies, Sisay is with them.

What the heck did I miss?!?

This feels like little more than a generic visual review/overview of a prose story. And sure, it ends on a cliffhanger-like note with a to-be-continued promise…but strictly in terms of this issue, I’m not invested in any of these characters. I don’t KNOW who any of these characters ARE from this issue. (I only know the characters because I’ve read the prose novels!) Other than the clear sense that Gerrard’s upset about involvement with his “Legacy,” it’s just…pictures and dialogue.

I like the art well enough despite my clumsy attempt to describe it ahead: the layouts get sorta interesting and creative. The inks and colors work well. The overall visual experience seems a bit rough and angular and almost “gritty,” if that’s the word I’m looking for. It’s not awful, but it doesn’t have the smoother, sleeker sense of shiny wonder and just SOMETHING I can’t find the words for.

I finally tracked this mini-series down recently via a site I didn’t realize I COULD order comics from. Pulling this issue to read, I had visions of covering this whole mini-series…but assuming the subsequent 3 issues are on par with this one…I’m gonna be floundering for words and repeating myself and it’ll generally be a mess! The only REAL reason I would even suggest anyone track this issue/series down is if you’re a COMPLETIST on MTG comics.

Seriously.

In place of this, I would recommend tracking down the book or ebook of Rath and Storm, edited by Peter Archer, and read that instead. And that’s disappointing enough to say, given this is written by Mike Grell. But if you like his writing in general…find something else he’s written and read or re-read that and you’ll probably appreciate it more. I may yet read the rest of this mini, and maybe I’ll change my mind. But as of just this issue alone…it’s a disappointment and far more in the vein of “early MTG” than the far more epic, storied stuff that would come not long after in the novels and such.

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The Weekly Haul: Weeks of 2/19, 2/26, 3/4, and 3/11/2020

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Another month, another "weekly" haul-update. I actually had planned on doing this post earlier in the week, but figured if I was gonna be behind and play catchup, might as well make it another 4-week post to match the last one.

But in a real rarity for me (and this blog!) of late, I actually had two full single-issue posts earlier in the week.

  1. First, I had my first non-Ultraverse ’90s Revisited post in ages, covering Uncanny X-Men #303.
  2. Then I had a (late to post, having written a couple weeks ago) review of the "new" comic TMNT: Jennika #1 (from the Week of February 26, below)…my first review of a newer-than-2010 comic in 14 months or so!

Anyway…onto the point of this post you’re reading…my documenting for myself (at least) what I’ve picked up in the way of new comics for the last few New Comic Day Wednesdays.


Week of February 19, 2020

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New post-#100 TMNT; new Spawn (we’re 6 issues in past the big #300!); and third/last American Jesus for this round. 3-issue mini originally, and this followup is also a 3-issue thing. Maybe we’ll get a new paperback with all 6 issues?

DC Dollar Comics brought a New Teen Titans reprint; and Marvel had some sort of (FREE!!!) Wolverine thing. I won’t turn down free Wolverine, even though I hate the "new logo" and refused to spend $7.99 on a #1 issue.

And since it was a relatively small week, I opted to splurge on the $9.99 DC: Crimes of Passion giant-issue; having developed a bit of a sub-collection of the squarebound not-quite-TPBs DC issues that actually go on the shelf.

(*come to think of it, if they’re not gonna do out-and-out trade paperbacks monthly as anthologies, why can’t publishers just do squarebound COMICS that contain the materials of single-issue titles as anthologies and see which sell BETTER? I’d gladly pay $9.99 for one of these with 4-5 X-books’ content rather than $3.99 apiece for 20-page batches of infographics + a few pages of stories!)

Finally for the week, having snagged Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 a week or two before, I’d ordered the Avengers Annual to cap off that arc, and check off another "minor grail" for myself.

And as almost-always…the weekly Comic Shop News.


Week of February 26, 2020

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The final week of February finally brought the first issue of TMNT: Jennika. I don’t know that I was looking forward to it, exactly, but I think it was late and I’d begun to "wonder" about it. See my review (linked above), though, for the issue in and of itself.

Usagi Yojimbo Color Classics #2 brings another (color) installment of early UY. While I understand the TMNT Color Classics to have rather limited material to pull from (especially as they focused specifically on Eastman/Lairdcentric TMNT) I a really hoping that this UYCC is an indefinite ONGOING thing that lasts for a lotta years. I’ll happily keep buying both this and the "new" ongoing.

I don’t even remember now why I’d wound up grabbing Dark Horse‘s The Little Mermaid mini, but I think this was the final issue? OCD/completist since I had the earlier issues. I’ve yet to READ any of them to determine if they’re a new adaptation of the film, or some sort of re-imagining, or what. But congratulations to Dark Horse: this is what CAN happen when something is put out that is NOT over-hyped, NOT sold on the quantity of variant covers, NOT some huge event, NOT begun with an over-priced first issue, etc.!

New issue of Hellblazer, which is yet another that I (sadly) need to catch up on reading before I have to kick myself for not just waiting for collected editions. Or perhaps to just decide TO wait for the collected editions and take my hit now.

Then the week’s "facsimile"/"replica" editions: Wolverine #1 and The Flash #123 (easy to remember as 1-2-3!). Though I already have an original edition of Wolverine, I’m glad to keep supporting these reprints! And the Flash issue is a great addition as well as what it is. (Though I did discover a day or two after buying it that I had a Millennium Edition reprint of the issue. I prefer this new one for being closer to what the original would look like…but the ME reprints are a good bit of nostalgia to me some 20 years later!)


Week of March 4, 2020

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March starts off with a bit of a whimper, with "only" 5 issues…two of those (40%!!!) being reprints. Mystery in Space is not honestly one I’d really care for or likely even be all that interested in from a bargain bin. But as said above…I’m happy to "support" these sorts of reprints, as I find far more VALUE in them than modern comics. And of course, $1 comics can hardly be beat as "new" comics, such as the DC Dollar Comics: Swamp Thing issue, reprinting an Alan Moore story.

Having heard a lotta good stuff about King‘s Vision series and Mister Miracle; and despite having bought the entirety of the latter without having yet read it…on the strength of 85 issues of Batman, I figured I’d give Strange Adventures a try. My primary complaint is the "dual" covers that could easily have been flip-book covers or doubled-up covers and gotten a similar effect withOUT making me have to choose one OVER the other. That’ll likely be the primary deciding factor in my picking up #2-onward…how cheesed-off am I at the nature of the existence of "basic" variants for this title?

Speaking of Batman… I’ve repeatedly pointed out (or meant to) my dropping the title with the end of King‘s run. Multiple reasons, varaints, likely pending reboot/relaunch, Something Generation with DC, and then over-hype and speculator/scalper crap with #89. BUT while out of state visiting a friend recently, happened across a copy (first print) of #89. For cover price. Despite all the hype and apparent sell-outs and over-priced flippage and such. I was NOT going to buy it in and of itself, though, even for cover price…not to leave a gap of 3 issues. So I checked. They also had issues 86-88. So in one fell swoop, I was able to catch up on the title (which I already had 1-85!) and as of then was fully caught up. So I emailed the local shop and added it back to my pulls beginning with this 90th issue, figuring fine…I’ll buy Batman and keep the run going, and so I can take stuff in for myself without having to "hunt" or play the "speculator game."

Finally, we’re getting to the tail-end of the TMNT Urban Legends run, reprinting the old Image TMNT series. I had two issues from later in the run that I bought back around 2000 or so; I’m not sure offhand but pretty sure at least ONE of those has now been reprinted in color in this series, and if this issue isn’t the other, then the next issue should be. And then we’ll get the first-time-ever published ending to the series (though how that jibes with a fan-produced ending, I don’t know, and that’s not a game I’m getting into on ridiculously-limited-edition completionist stuff).


Week of March 11, 2020

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And now we’re caught up to the current (as of this typing) week’s haul. And I’ve been halfway waiting for something like this to happen…here, it finally did.

Nothing but reprints for me.

Two DC Dollar Comic reprints of key Robin issues: the death of Jason Todd, and the first issue of the first TIm Drake mini-series. (More fitting would have been to reprint the final chapter of Lonely Place of Dying, where Tim first-ever dons the Robin costume) but for $1, whatever. And of course, I have both of the original issues and I’m still happy to buy these reprints, if only to "support" the reprints program. While I likely would have passed on Robin #1 as such, I still, repeatedly-to-be-said, would somewhat prefer these be done ALL as facsimile/replica editions. More on that below!

The definite gem of the week for me is the facsimile/replica edition of Detective Comics #38, the first appearance of the original Robin (Dick Grayson). I don’t recall now if there’s been a reprint in these recent replicas of #27, but this really makes me want one to go with it. Of the two, I think this is most appealing for me as such a fan of Robin.

Finally, we have a Thor replica/facsimile edition that again…I’ll buy to support the program, even if not every single individual issue is of specific singular interest or significance to me .

And Comic Shop News shows off some DC thing with the multiverse and maybe generations. I barely care at this point, with my only real interest in "new" DC being these reprints, and even Marvel isn’t getting me with non-reprint stuff (even though I SHOULD be an easy mark for their Marvels X and other upcoming Marvels stuff…I refuse to go in on the $4.99 pricing!)


Anyway…there we go. Another month in my "new comics" buying. I’ve bought some other stuff in the time, but those have been non-Wednesday purchases, stuff I consider to be "off" from the standard/regular/weekly "hauls."

As to my earlier-mentioned "idea" on the reprints:

For DC Dollar Comics, have a plain-color blank cover of some appropriate color; either say, standard black for all, or white for all, or something appropriate to the title/cover’s look. And have a small-ish image of the actual original cover (logos, pricing, blurbs, and all!) Whether it’s a small centered image, or nearly-full-size but with a distinct "border" for the flat color base.

Then for actual replica/facsimile editions, do as they’ve been doing with having then look as close to the original as possible.

I just don’t like the way the DCDC reprints are some weird mutant hybrid of original and new appearances. Familiar art, but the new DCDC trade dress, and weird numbers/number-placement on stuff. Like it more or less tells you what it’s reprinting, and yet you still almost have to know to be sure. Reprinting a New Teen Titans #2 with the new trade dress and a #1 on the cover.


This almost works out better doing these posts like this than feeling like QUITE so random/arbitrary as actual weekly things…especially buying so few comics every week.

Maybe I should try to aim for doing one more for March for the 18th and 25th…and then adjust to The Weekly Hauls and just go by month. Hm.

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The Alien/Predator Shelves as of 2/8/2020

I posted a couple weeks ago about discovering the Alien Collection toys from Lanard.

I had not initially bought the APC vehicle, but did wind up going back for that. I also purchased a $10 MegaConstrux egg thing shaped like an Alien egg that came with a packet of slime/ooze with pieces to build two "minifigure" Xenomorphs.

I also came across a couple online listings for classic Kenner Aliens figures, and got a "regular-sized" Alien Queen as well as a Gorilla Alien and a Bull Alien.

All together, my once rather sparse shelf filled up fast to the point of nearly overflowing. Such that I may end up moving the Predators off just to have a little more room for the Aliens…but time will tell!

Anyway, though I’ve shown off the collection in the past, here’s the most up-to-date version of my Aliens/Predator shelves!

aliens_collection_february08a

The figures and such get the top of the shelving unit for the maximum amount of space and to accommodate the rather large size of the Queens.

While I’m pretty sure I’m missing a couple books, I do at least have most of the Alien/Aliens line of novels, and most of the Predator ones, though I’m missing the Dark Hors Press (DH Press) novels as well as the most recent anthology and film adaptations.

Though for the moment Mage Knight and MechWarrior: Dark Age still share the shelf…a major MW acquisition last year means that series is going to have to get its own space…which will also allow a little more space for the Alien/Aliens books and such.

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The graphic novels have their own space on a different, larger bookcase to allow for the size of the Library Editions (and even the regular-sized graphic novel editions).

Adding purchases from the latter part of last year in, there’s no longer room for the films to all share the shelf, so I had to move the individual Alien films and a couple misc. items elsehwere. (Perhaps they’ll help replace MechWarrior on the novels’ shelf?)

As it is, I left the Alien Anthology blu-ray set and the newer films.

I’m not sure if Dark Horse is going to continue their full-size collections of the older Aliens material, so I’m not at all in any hurry to replace the omnibii.with those…though I’d prefer the newer format. Time will tell!

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Weekend Acquisitions: Weekend of September 6-8 2019

Over the weekend, I wound up with a lot of "extra" purchasing that’s a bit beyond "normal." In addition to weekend comic shop visits, I had an InStockTrades order come in, as well as having gone to Cleveland Comic Con 2019 (that’ll be detailed in another post).

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I jumped on the chance to get Savage Sword of Conan #1. As this was a "regular-priced back-issue" (and not a 25-cent/50-cent/$1 bargain-bin issue) I had no qualms with "just" getting #1 since it was available. Plus, it’s from a time when #1 MEANT something and was "special"–in this case kicking off an over 200-issue series! (Whereas modern Marvel seems to MOSTLY max-out at 50 issues before a new #1, if not multiple #1s for the same title (renumbered/new volume) within a single year (or 12-month span).

I also snagged Deathmate: Black, having seen something recently noting it as the first appearance of Gen13. And then at another shop, snagged 2 copies of Gen13 #1. These are for the ongoing series, and not the original mini-series of the same title…but still, for the novelty of it, I was happy to spend the $1.25 (total!) for the 3 issues (again).

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Being on an Aliens kick recently, I’d ordered some recent-ish collected volumes. Though I have the single issues for all but Aliens: Resistance, I was willing to pay the discounted online price, where the full price was not worth it to me. I’ve also been a bit resistant to these "skinny" paperback volumes in light of the various omnibus volumes and library-edition oversized hardbacks and such.

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I was, however, quite willing to pay full price for Spawn: Origins vol. 1 as it was already one of the "Image $9.99 vol. 1s" and so a bargain at cover price.

And Classic G.I.Joe vol. 15, which I believe is TECHNICALLY out-of-print and unavailable online except for massively over-jacked-up third-party scalper prices. This still leaves me missing vols. 10-14.

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The Complete Life and Death

I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time. It’s been well over a YEAR since the individual comics finished and it seems like forever that the individual skinny paperbacks have been out…and even a paperback edition collecting the entire series has been out for awhile.

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But this oversized hardcover "library edition" version of The Complete Life and Death is finally out.

This collects the entire Life and Death mega-arc, that spanned four mini-series, each touching on a brand: Prometheus, Aliens, AvP, and Predator.

Even the first issue of the story had comparison to/reference of the previous such mega-arc Fire and Stone…and it’s great to finally have this volume to add to my growing library of these beautiful hardcovers!

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Here’s the book with the other hardcovers and paired with Fire and Stone.

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…and here’s my entire Aliens shelf. Assuming I discovered the Aliens vs. Predator novels in 1995 (I don’t recall for sure as of this typing nor do I feel like looking up copyright dates), that’s less than a decade after the first Predator FILM. And it’s been 23 years SINCE then…so for the majority of the time I’ve even been aware of either property, they’ve been a "shared universe," particularly in the comics.

For me, they just go together.

This shelf is the comics/graphic novels shelf…I have several shelves of novels (I believe I most recently showed those off back in April for Aliens Day 2018.)

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New Aliens Books (March 2018)

I’ve updated my Aliens novels collection with four new-to-me volumes.

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Apparently I neglected to get either of the novels last year for Alien: Covenant…the "prequel" novel Origins and the novelization of the film itself (by Alan Dean Foster!)

And two more of the The Complete Aliens Omnibus series came out, each collecting two more older/out of print novels. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the fifth volume moves into the DH Press series of novels. I wasn’t sure if they were going to do those up, as they’re a bit more recent (albeit a good 13 years old now). And horribly out-of-print.

This gives me higher interest in the Predator side, that even if I can’t track down the older single editions, I can at least have the novels in my collection for that series as well.


Unfortunately, Amazon completely sucks at packaging stuff, and though I ordered all 4 books together, they sent them to me as two separate shipments. One shipment was just one of the novels, and the cover was horribly damaged (huge crease). The other shipment had the other novel and both omnibus volumes…crammed into a container about a half-inch too small for the width of the books’ combined width, side-by-side…which resulted in all three being damaged for shipment (and the package with two points open to the elements as it tried to be wide enough).

Amazon has also gotten even worse than before about the packaging, feedback, etc–removing the ability to leave packaging feedback without Googling a page or tweeting at them and being given a link: you can’t do it from the orders interface the way you used to. They’ve also apparently decided that if they damage your order twice they’re not gonna bother with replacing, and will simply want to refund your money, even though you pay $100/yr or whatever for Prime membership and they’re the ones using zero protection in shipping and even damaging the books TO ship them.

But I suppose that gets into another post complaining about Amazon

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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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