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Tales of the TMNT #69 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Dark Shadows

Shadow seeks out her old sensei as her world falls apart around her.

talesofthetmnt069Script/Art: Dan Berger
Letters: Eric Talbot
Frontiespiece: Michael Dooney
Cover: Dan Berger and Steve Lavigne
Published by: Mirage PUblishing

Continuing the usual format of the book–with stories from all different points in the TMNT timeline–this story picks up sometime in the future. Shadow, now a young adult, fights her way through the Foot to confront her Sensei. Upon reaching him, the two exchange bitter words as hints abound as to some major stuff having gone down, leading this girl and a mutant turtle to the point they find themselves at in this issue.

In many ways, the story is quite cliche. We have an enormous global disaster that leads to the in-story “present” being a sparsely populated wasteland with the Big City nearly deserted, and what remains of destroyed/fallen-apart buildings is covered in plants, with survivors operating on a fairly gang-like means of living…survival of the fit.

We’re given vague glimpses at things–cryptic comments and hints at what’s gone down during the time between this issue and the last chronicled point in the Turtles’ timeline; the family falling apart and what drove them–and kept them–apart.

The art itself seems both familiar and yet slightly “off”–as a story that seems pretty core to the TMNT mythos, I’m used to seeing Jim Lawson‘s depiction of characters here. Berger provides visuals that are not entirely dissimilar to Lawson‘s, and more than holds its own in establishing a tone for the story and getting across what’s going on. He gives us a rather brutal panel toward the end, that seems to indicate that a certain disfigurement is practically a “given” for a particular turtle, as I’m pretty sure this is the third time (across the various comic continuities/universes) this has been a point the character’s wound up.

Shadow is pretty much the youngest of the extended TMNT cast. She was introduced in the final story of the original TMNT series, and has been a firm fixture ever since–on a level very similar to her father Casey and characters like April or Splinter. Seeing her as an adult lends to the fact of much time having passed, and experiencing the world through her eyes–glancing back to events that have unfolded particularly in the main “Volume 4” TMNT series–makes her “present” that much more real and believable in this story.

This is only the penultimate issue–there’s one more to go–of this series. But the way this issue unfolded, we get a sense of history for the characters; a sense of destination for where they’re going to wind up, and yet there’s also a sense of hope, that the future is ever-changing with every choice we make.

The initial read-through is quick, particularly with the action sequences…but sitting back and thinking about what was going on…this is very much an issue for the long-time fans, and particularly those willing to consider deeper stuff between the lines and not simply taking the story at its surface/face-value.

Not exactly a timeless classic or other “instant classic,” nevertheless, this issue would serve as a fine cap to the entire Mirage continuity even if there were no more issues due out.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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Tales of the TMNT #67 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Schooled

Shadow starts at a new school, and must resist the urge to tell everybody about her mutant “uncles.”

talesofthetmnt067Script: Dan Berger
Pencils and Tones: Dario Brizuela
Inks: Andres Ponce
Letters: Eric Talbot
Cover: Dario Brizuela and Steve Lavigne
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney
Published by: Mirage Publishing

Unfortunately, this series has what I can only describe as a “lame duck” feeling about it. There are just a couple more issues due out before the series goes away completely. And being the sole presence of the TMNT in comics for the last few years, there are no other books for these characters to show up in, or co-feature in, and so on. With the property having been sold off, and zero word on any new comic series and whether any of the existing/ongoing continuity would be maintained or if the entire property would be restarted if comics are done…it makes the long-term effect of this issue seem pretty low-key and like it has little point to it. Of course, taken by itself, this is quite an enjoyable story.

This issue sees Shadow–the adopted daughter of Casey Jones and April–getting into a new school, and everyone dealing with that. At the same time, Mikey and Don are out and about on the streets, keeping each other focused as to what’s right and wrong. When Shadow’s first day at school arrives, her family is excited and proud, though they warn her of the danger that would come by her talking about her “uncles” and whatnot…which of course leads to trouble. Still, the resolution is mostly satisfying…at least in keeping with the nature of Casey in particular.

I’ve realized throughout this series that despite the differences in the various visual styles of the artists involved, each largely has something to really like. For example, this issue reminds me of the recent TMNT animated series–particularly Casey’s appearance. The turtles themselves look quite different in detail but still seem like they’d fit in rather well with the animated series’ visual style. My only real gripe is that I don’t think I’ve ever pictured Shadow as a blonde–and I don’t know if that’s me simply never noticing, or what the deal is–but other than that, the art’s good stuff.

As with many issues of this series, this is a done-in-one tale, so you don’t really need earlier issues to follow the story (though they’ll add plenty of context). You can pick this up by itself and enjoy it as a one-shot thing, or as another untold tale from this period in the Turtles’ lives.

It’s just unfortunate that this doesn’t seem like just the latest untold tale to add context to a present-day story…nothing’s really going to come of this or refer back to this.

Recommended for TMNT fans in particular…and whether this issue or most of the prior issues, this series in itself is well worth reading, and its lengthy run these past 6 years is second only to the TMNT Adventures series from Archie back in the 1990s.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Tales of the TMNT #64 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: The Burning Man

The turtles race all over the city to deal with a number of threats, and ultimately, a demon-from-a-bottle released in a botched attempt to stop the Foot from stealing its container.

talesofthetmnt064Script: Tristan Jones
Pencils: Jim Lawson
Inks: Steve Lavigne
Letters: Dan Berger
Cover: Jim Lawson & Steve Lavigne
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney
Editor in Chief: Peter Laird
Managing Editor: Dan Berger
Design: Eric Talbot
Published by: Mirage Publishing

Michelangelo narrates this issue, as we find out that he and his brothers wound up fighting some sort of demon. This demon was released after Leonardo accidentally broke an urn the Foot was trying to steal. We go from the turtles’ lair as Leo chews Mikey out for stuff going wrong; then see Mikey’s side to things. With the urn broken and the demon having disappeared, there wasn’t much for the turtles to do, so they went about usual business; these distractions led to Mikey being the one to come across the demon again first, and thus Mikey confronts it alone. The others are brought into things in their own way, as the motivation of the demon is determined and attended to. While Mikey won’t take the blame for everything that went down, we do find out at the end of the issue the one thing that he WILL take responsibility for.

Visually, this is the version of the turtles I tend to enjoy most, and the visual style that I’ve come to primarily associate with them over the past 7-8 years or so. It is a bit stylistic, and detail seems to vary a bit, as dictated by the story and what we’re to focus on as the story progresses.

The story itself is quite good, and I really enjoyed a lot of the verbal and visual cues provided by having the story from Mikey’s point of view. I could almost hear the voice of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series Mikey recounting these events, and that just made it all the more fun.

Jones has written some of my favorite issues of Tales, and I find it a real shame that this will be his last issue, given the change of ownership of the TMNT property and uncertainty of where things go from here.

This is not a dense book…the story is a nice little done-in-one, mainly focused on Mikey but still involving the other turtles such that it is by no means a solo issue. If you can get the issue, it’s very much worthwhile.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Tales of the TMNT #61 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Sometimes They Come Back

While helping to investigate the destruction of several buildings in the city and rising violence of an ongoing gang war, the turtles find more of their past back to haunt them.

talesofthetmnt061Script: Tristan Jones
Art: Andres Ponce
Letters: Eric Talbot
Cover: Andres Ponce & Steve Lavigne
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney
Editor in Chief: Peter Laird
Managing Editor: Dan Berger
Design: Eric Talbot
Publisher: Mirage Publishing

This issue picks up on a story thread that’s been touched on at a few points in recent years. The introduction on the inside front cover provides a quick recap to give context, and then we launch into the story. One of the turtles makes contact with a police detective investigating a collapsed building. As we continue on, the turtles all find pieces of the “puzzle” that comes together in a fairly fast-paced piece of action before quickly winding down as the turtles find themselves facing the small–but terrifyingly plentiful–mousers they’d faced years ago.

It might just be the immediacy of having just read the issue, with its enjoyment fresh in my mind…but this is one of the most enjoyable TMNT reads I’ve had in awhile. Jones builds a story that is both fresh and yet drawn from existing continuity. The result is that the reader is provided not just a peek into a random moment in the turtles’ lives, but a growing story, and (dare I say it) continuity within the “gap” presented when TMNT vol. 4 launched nearly 8 years ago.

The story moves at a pretty quick pace…in some ways, I’d certainly like to see more build, as we do largely just get snippets of stuff as the scenes move along from one turtle to another with the occasional moment from the police throughout. At the same time, the story in this one issue could probably be stretched to at least 2 and maybe 3 issues without feeling padded…but rather than have to buy 3 issues, we get the entirety of the given story right here. Reading through the issue, I get a distinct feel of the turtles being older and rather independent (no Splinter found nor referenced), and the way they’re shown interacting throughout the issue shows where they’ve grown up from the earliest TMNT issues.

Ponce‘s art gives me the impression much of this book takes place at night–there’s a certain feel to the imagery with shadows and overall tone giving that feeling. Unlike a lot of other black-and-white books, where the art looks like it’s ready for color, here it almost appears to have been done in color and printed in greytones. The overall style puts me in mind of the animated series–this certainly does not duplicate that series’ style, but is somewhat similar, and that works very well for me here, as I can easily see the action of this issue being animated.

Probably because this issue is the latest of a several-part ongoing “arc,” newer readers may not get much from this. I think this issue is more for longer-time readers (whether just of this volume of Tales of the TMNT, or going back to the 1990s or even the mid-80s when the turtles first appeared). As one of those longtime readers, this issue was a blast, and very much worth its price.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Tales of the TMNT #60 [Review]

Quick Rating: Not Bad
Story Title: Nobody Does it Better

As Raph and Casey spend some time together, a figure out of their past returns…changed.

talesofthetmnt060Script: Dan Berger
Art: Jim Lawson
Letters: Eric Talbot
Cover: Jim Lawson & Steve Lavigne
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney
Publisher: Mirage Publishing

This issue gives us a tale of an apparently “new” version of the character known as “Nobody.” This character has a history with the TMNT, going back quite a number of years–more than half their existence, really. Yet, he’s made very few appearances (one should note that there’s a handy recap/intro on the inside front cover: enough to remind you of the past appearances/stories if you’ve read them, or just enough to give you a bit of context like the opening text of A New Hope gave before launching you into the story).

We come upon Raph and Casey in the wee hours of the morning–Casey having had a few too many drinks, Raph playing the part of the good friend…as they meet Nobody, who has been ejected from an alien the US government had allied with years ago. While Nobody explains how he came to be present, another alien attacks our group, and ultimately, Nobody has a new status quo while Raph and Casey wind down their night.

This issue’s art is provided by Jim Lawson, the regular artist on the core TMNT book. This story itself is set between-issues of that series, but has a great visual consistency by Lawson‘s work. Berger‘s story actually feels like it goes alongside the Laird-penned pages of TMNT…and given the rarity of new stories from Laird himself, this chapter set within that continuity is extremely welcome.

The visuals, unfortunately, do seem to suffer a little bit from lack of color–there are points that things blend together, and a splash page that I felt like I had to study to make much sense of what was happening (I gave up and trusted to context on that point). Other than that, Lawson‘s version of the characters–especially Raphael’s mutated appearance–is one I associate very much with my enjoyment of a number of TMNT stories.

The recap page did a lot for me in establishing context–I’m almost entirely unfamiliar with Nobody as anything other than some throw-away character that–in retrospect–I actually have read before, though didn’t recall by name.

If you’re a fan of the TMNT–or specifically Casey and Raph–or just this series, this is another par-for-the-course issue. If you’re not familiar with the characters or primarily enjoy the turtles-as-a-team in-action…or are otherwise new to the TMNT-verse, this doesn’t make a good jump-on point.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Tales of the TMNT #58 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: All Tomorrow’s Yesterdays

The TMNT and the C.O.W.Boys of Moo Mesa team up again, this time to face the ultimate threat to the C.O.W.Boys’ Earth.

talesofthetmnt058Plot: Murphy & Ryan Brown
Script: Murphy
Art: Dario Brizuela
Lettering: Eric Talbot
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney
Editor in Chief: Peter Laird
Managing Editor: Dan Berger
Design: Eric Talbot
Front Cover: Dario Brizuela and Steve Lavigne
Back Cover: Fernando Leon Gonzalez

This issue is the latest installment in a series of teamups between the TMNT and the C.O.W.Boys of Moo Mesa.

Picking up from the most recent installment a few months ago, Utromi Preservi (an elite/secret society of Utroms) has gathered what they need to awaken a cosmic vampire, Galactose (think “Milky Way galaxy” for the joke). While the Turtles and their allies rush to try to save the C.O.W.Boys’ Earth, Donatello may have the secret that will save everyone. We also have a brief appearance by Cudley the Cowlick, who longtime TMNT fans will recognize from the TMNT Adventures series…nothing too significant about the appearance, but a great nod to said fans. There’s also a moment where the Turtles are shown other incarnations of themselves, which was VERY cool to see.

The art by Brizuela is very good. The style is enjoyable, though different from other TMNT artists (while keeping the characters recognizable and other expected things with a comic). The comic’s interior is black-and-white, but as the front cover is done by the same artist as the interior pages, one can see what everyone looks like in color and almost forget the interior is not in color.

One of the thing that’s been great about this title shows through with this issue’s story. For the most part, each issue is its own standalone story. However, creative teams will re-visit and expand upon earlier stories, building larger stories, even if they’re not consecutive issues in this title (which is almost an anthology, except that each story/creative team gets a full issue rather than having multiple stories/creative teams in a single issue).

The story is fun, though one has to really suspend disbelief on a few points. The cosmic vampire as a nod to Galactus is–while derivative–also kinda cool if one recognizes the association–on a metatextual level it adds plenty that there’s not time for otherwise in a single-issue story.

This isn’t the best single issue for one jumping aboard clueless about the characters; but so long as one isn’t looking for lengthy, drawn-out continuity and depth, it’s a fun issue with plenty of action and some jokes thrown in.

Additionally, as I noted when I reviewed the prior chapter of this story, another thing Mirage gets right is not only including a pin up page in the back of the issue with an image related to the story but a color alternate image also related to the story is presented in color on the back cover…no need to seek out extra copies of this comic for these bonus images.

All in all, this continues to be a strong title, telling TMNT stories from throughout their continuity by different creative teams, keeping the book always fresh and with some real heart behind the individual tales.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

Tales of the TMNT #57 [Review]

Quick Rating: Decent
Story Title: Gangs All Here

The Turtles all have different ideas when it comes to what they should do about their housing situation.

talesofthetmnt057Script: Dan Berger
Art: Jim Lawson
Lettering: Eric Talbot
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney
Editor in Chief: Peter Laird
Managing Editor: Dan Berger
Design: Eric Talbot
Cover: Jim Lawson and Steve Lavigne

This issue gives us a glimpse into a time after the color TMNT series from the mid-1990s and the series from the early 2000s, where the turtles were trying to figure out where to live. The argument involved safety–of April, Casey, and Shadow; of the turtles keeping themselves secret from society around them, and so on. Of course, the turtles also find themselves involved in goings-on they’d rather not be a part of, as they encounter a new gang–the Madhattan Maulitia, battling it out with the Purple Dragons for turf.

The art for this issue is classic Lawson–very much “the” visual style that I associate as the “standard” version of these characters…it’s a bit stylistic, and won’t be for everyone, but with these characters, it works quite well.

The story is fairly standard, and felt a bit short. It’s really very enjoyable getting to see the turtles interact this way, seeing some of what happened between series. But the major hangup I have on this issue is that there’s an eight-page “silent” fight sequence–I understand there’s an atmosphere or even “cinematic” effect probably being conveyed….but I just felt like I was turning page after page of action panels trying to find where the story itself with dialogue and such would pick up again. Multiple-page silent action/fight sequences would be fine in a single volume of a manga series, but as something that takes up a quarter or so of an entire issue, not so thrilled.

All in all, an issue that has a lot of potential, but isn’t all that dense or deep. “Worthwhile” for the more hardcore readers. For newer readers not all that steeped in TMNT history, this issue’s probably one to pass on.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

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