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TMNT New Animated Adventures #4 [Review]

tmntnewanimatedadventures004Story: Erik Burnham
Art: Dario Brizuela
Colors: Heather Breckel
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Dario Brizuela
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

After April brings cell-phone video of a lone Foot ninja sneaking around, the turtles investigate. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a trap, as the Foot test a newly-rendered poison on them (delivered via blow-darts). Raphael is hit, which leads the turtles to race to find ingredients for the antidote. Of course, archnemesis the Shredder is behind things, and sends Dogpound to prevent the turtles from obtaining the final ingredient.

Story-wise, this isn’t all that deep…but then, being based on the animated series I wouldn’t expect much depth. As this continues the trend of the done-in-one format, there’s also not much room for a lot of depth…and I’m ok with that. This issue particularly (over the previous issues) feels like it would fit in equally well with the original ’80s animated series or the current, and I even found myself “hearing” the ’80s voicecast as I read the turtles’ dialogue (Dogpound was a mix of Bebop and Rocksteady).

Visually, this continues to be one of the best-looking “adaptations” I’ve seen as Brizuela‘s art continues to carry the spirit and design of the animated series while keeping its own look that just “is.” I find myself increasingly preferring Brizuela‘s visuals to the animated series itself.

All in all, yet another solid issue, likely enjoyable by any fan of the current tv show, and even a bit to those who prefer the original animated series.

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.

TMNT Villains Micro-Series #2: Baxter [Review]

tmntvillainsmicroseries002baxterScript: Erik Burnham
Art: Andy Kuhn
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Tom B. Long
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Tyler Walpole
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

I hate the $3.99 price point. I’ve said that before, and I’ll keep saying it until it finally drives me to actually, totally give up on new comics completely. Broken record that I am, hating the price point is something that’s there, even when I don’t point it out this redundantly, even when talking about comics I otherwise enjoy.

I’m thoroughly enjoying IDW‘s TMNT reboot. I do kinda miss the classic stuff…and yet, we’re getting the monthly TMNT Color Classics series, which kinda scratches that itch. This new iteration is bringing together the strengths of numerous incarnations of the property, and making even the ridiculous, stupid stuff relevant and workable (take Krang and the Neutrinos, for just two examples). And I wish there was more. Maintaining its level of quality I’d be thrilled to have new in-continuity, pushing-the-overall-events-of-things-forward basically weekly.

But since we have a monthly title, I highly enjoy the companion series–first the “good guys” micro-series, then we had the Secret History of the Foot Clan, and now we’re getting a Villains micro-series. So I’m relatively content with that.

All of the above to get to the point here: this is another great issue of TMNT from IDW. Officially a #2 of a series spotlighting villains (the first having spotlighted Krang) this is also “the” Baxter Stockman “one-shot” or “micro series.”

We get some definite insight into Baxter here–but it continues his ongoing “subplot” in this continuity, as he works on tech stuff, assisting in the building of the Technodrome, the infamous war machine fans of the 1980s’ cartoon series will know quite well. But while the genius works on it, we see that he’s not just some simpering lackey, but has purpose behind his actions, and he’s not some fool playing into the end of the world with any true belief that he’d get anything worthwhile out of his current deal with Krang.

We see moments of Baxter’s past, his dealings with his father–who was a profound influence on him–along with the developments of the “present” plot points. We have the signature mousers about him in his lab, and we get a new toy–a “Flyborg,” a mutant fly armed with cybernetics…the fly being an almost too-obvious (to me) “nod” at the ’80s cartoon (and one that led me to fear Baxter’s fate in this issue). By the end of the issue we see Baxter’s agenda advanced, and pieces on the board have shifted ever so slightly as the ongoing battle situates itself for the larger things yet to come.

The writing keeps to the overall continuity, presents some insight into the character, and reminds me that this is a very good character, and I like it far more than I do the version displayed in the current tv series. I find Baxter far more interesting in control of himself, an intelligent (if a bit mad-scientist-y) individual, clever and not just some whining lackey or mutated bug or bumbling fool.

The art’s not entirely to my liking, though it’s not horrible. It comes off a bit cartooney, if not slightly abstract, and is done a great disservice by the fantastic cover that plants the idea of what the interior OUGHT to be. The story is conveyed and I’m not left scratching my head over what’s going on, really…but this issue definitely is carried on the strength of the story over the art.

Of course, as I’ve also stated numerous times–the TMNT get a sort of “pass” from me on things I typically won’t put up with in any other comics; one of those things is the visuals, as I’m more used to numerous visual interpretations of the characters, even issue-to-issue, due to the simple history of the characters and so many artists working on ’em.

While this issue certainly works best in context of the ongoing continuity, you still get a core story in and of itself in one issue; and if you’re following the TMNT stuff in general, this is well worth snagging.

Finally: this cover would be an excellent poster image…or at least, I’d not be opposed to having a poster of this image on my wall.

TMNT New Animated Adventures FCBD 2013 [Review]

tmntnewanimatedadventuresfcbd2013Story: Erik Burnham
Art: Dario Brizuela
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow
Cover by: Dario Brizuela
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $0.00

I’ve been “expecting” this series for quite awhile. I recall thinking it’d be one of the first TMNT things put out by IDW, and precede the new animated series. Obviously I was wrong in that expectation, but that also made me all the more curious about this issue, having watched most of the episodes so far of the tv show serving as inspiration.

I was quite gratified to find that this issue totally fits–for me, anyway–within the continuity of the show. It was like an adaptation of an episode, yet even better–because it’s an original story, with some really good art, that simply captures the spirit of the show while doing its own thing.

We open with Mikey showing off some new moves and getting teased by his brothers. Splinter steps into things, and uses the brotherly rivalry as a teaching moment–the turtles are all quite good with their chosen weapons…but what’s their skill level with an unfamiliar weapon? Ordered to maintain a temporary weapon swap, the turtles head up out of the sewers, and wind up fighting some Purple Dragons before encountering an even larger menace, and learning the wisdom Splinter set forth.

The story has these characters nailed–the personalities from the nick tv show shine through on all involved characters, and some of the quips are highly true to the show. I was especially impressed at a moment with Raphael and Donatello where Raph grabs Donnie and instructs him “Don’t you EVER try and finish that sentence”–the context and hearing the voice from the cartoon in my head nearly made me laugh out loud in a way that so rarely happens.

Visually I really enjoyed the art. Brizuela‘s name is familiar to me from work on a number of issues of Tales of the TMNT from 2004-2009. It’s very cool to see another “veteran” of Mirage TMNT doing some new TMNT work for tmntnewanimatedadventuresfcbd2013backIDW…something I hope to see more of from creators with any interest in doing so. The characters all look like their animated counterparts (though admittedly CGI to 2D); but the art’s still got a certain uniqueness about it. It’s obviously based on the cartoon, but it’s not trying to BE the cartoon. It’s also quite a lot better-looking than stills taken from the cartoon itself.

This is easily my favorite Free Comic Book Day issue this year, and I’m really looking forward to the first issue of the actual ongoing series this summer.

If you can only grab one FCBD issue this year, I’d highly recommend this to fans of the TV show or fans of Burnham or Brizuela‘s other work, and general fans of the TMNT as a whole.

Secret History of the Foot Clan #1 [Review]

Secret History of the Foot Clan #1 coverStory: Mateus Santolouco
Script: Mateus Santolouco & Erik Burnham
Art: Mateus Santolouco
Colors: Joao “Azeitona” Vieira
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

For me, the Foot Clan has simply always been. The Foot were robots in the ’80s cartoon–a fact I simply accepted. They were human in the live-action movies, and the Eastman/Laird comics, and the 2003 and 2012 animated series. And to be honest, I’ve never really given them much thought, as far as their history goes, how some “ancient clan” came to be what they are in the present. They’re just an element of the whole of the TMNT universe.

Until now.

This issue is part flashback, part stranger’s tale, part Splinter’s tale. We open with narration over flashback, and come to find April, Casey, and the turtles in a lecture hall listening to a history professor speak of the Yuu clan, and eventually pages from a book detailing a ninja order known as the foot Clan. This obviously grabs the attention of our heroes, though in different ways. Once the turtles bring this information to Splinter, he relays information of his own. Meanwhile, the Shredder’s forces also show interest in this professor who seems to be getting a bit too close to home, as we make an interesting discovery via yet another character and their involvement in the history of things.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this mini-series. I guess I figured it would be something fairly typical, unearthing some singular secret or something that would turn the present understanding of the Foot on its side, maybe something for shock value. But the narrative style, the details of actual history not only interest me in the history of this fictional Foot Clan but also leave me wondering what’s actually real–recognizing much as essentially historical fiction, such that I could see doing some research of my own on Japanese history.

You kinda have to have the turtles present–after all, though this is a mini-series emphasizing the history of the Foot, the regular TMNT logo is more prominent on the cover, and if this weren’t #1 it would appear to be just another issue of the ongoing series. I quite like that there’s a lot of looks at the past while we have present-time development of things within the usual, still-developing continuity. I’d actually probably be perfectly happy if this series was set entirely in the past, simply following figures from the past, and not involve the present at all.

The visual style is interesting–I’m not sure what it reminds me of, but there’s something vaguely familiar, even while it’s got its own style that makes it fairly distinct from the current ongoing TMNT book. While the difference is noticeable and I’m definitely reminded of how varied the individual visual interpretations of these characters can be, there’s plenty familiar that doesn’t stray unrecognizeably far from the ongoing series, which I definitely appreciate.

From just this first issue, I’m not sure what the full story is going to be–whether it’ll overall fit into the “historical fiction” category or just in usual TMNT-type stuff. I do know that I enjoyed both the story and visuals and the way they worked together–we get a literal origin of the Foot from just a visual, for example–making for a very well-done comic.

I’m unfamiliar with Santoloucos and Vieira, but their story and visuals seem poised to be a highly welcome addition to IDW‘s TMNT continuity. While I’m a bit dismayed at IDW‘s standard high $3.99 price point and constant over-use of variant covers, for the story and (standard) cover alone, I definitely recommend this to anyone enjoying the ongoing IDW TMNT stuff, and cautiously recommend it even to those interested in Japanese history/historical fiction.

Ghostbusters (IDW) #1 [Review]

Written by: Erik Burnham
Art by: Dan Schoening
Colors by: Luis Antonio Delgado
PCOC Pages by: Tristan Jones
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Associate Edits by: Bobby Curnow
Edits by: Tom Waltz

I vaguely recall picking up a premiere issue of a Ghostbusters series a few years back…maybe 2004 or so. Unfortunately, I never kept up with it, and pretty much lost track of the property again. Earlier this year, I was ever so slightly reintroduced to the Ghostbusters through the 2-issue micro-series tie-in to the Infestation event. And now, here…a premiere issue, picking up with the characters, sometime after the films.

The lead story of the issue introduces us to the characters where they are in the present…and even though it’s been years since I’ve even seen the films…these felt like those characters. After introductions are out of the way, things get moving, as a series of interactions lead to Winston taking on a pro bono case and dragging Peter into it…where they find themselves faced with a familiar ghost messing up an apartment building.

After this lead story ends on its cliffhanger, we’re given a brief scene as officials discuss the need for someone to oversee the activities of the Ghostbusters and those like them, inducting an old face to head the group: the Paranormal Contracts Oversight Commission.

I’m not familiar offhand with Erik Burnham, at least not consciously by name. Which I think makes this that much more an enjoyable read: I’m here for the Ghostbusters, period. Not the Ghostbusters as written by _______. And as said above…reading this issue, I really got the feeling these are the characters from the films, with a touch of the animated series The Real Ghostbusters. Burnham seems to have a great grasp on these characters, and does a fantastic job of reintroducing me to them, setting up the current status quo, and introducing the group’s first threat here.

Schoening‘s art reminds me a lot of contemporary cartoons…rather stylized and not terribly realistic…but not devolved into goofy caricature. He makes these characters his own…and yet manages to capture the essense of the actors who’d portrayed them. The coloring seems a bit heavy and computerized, almost too “shiny” overall for my tastes. That makes me wonder what the art would look like in strict black and white…probably have a definite manga feel to it at that point. Despite the extra shininess…really can’t complain, as mixed with the writing, this was an enjoyable story overall with a nice cliffhanger.

Jones‘ scene at the end provides an interesting concept, and I look forward to seeing how this aspect of things will play out in the coming issues. The writing and the art have a much more serious, gritty feel to them than the lead…but that makes this work. It’s a much different style than the lead feature…but then, it feels like it could be setting up its own series set in the Ghostbusters universe; Sort of like a Marvel Knights to the Marvel Universe, for lack of a better analogy offhand. Same universe, fits together, but quite different…yet a good mix.

Even with my “limited engagement” with Infestation: Ghostbusters a few months back…this is the third IDW book in the last couple months to fully engage me, hook me, and leave me very much anticipating the next issue.

If you’re familiar with the Ghostbusters, this ought to be a fun ride, checking back in to the characters with a fresh-ish start. At the same time, if you don’t know the characters…this seems a solid point to jump in.

Recommended!

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8.5/10

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