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The ’90s Revisited: TMNT Adventures: The Year of the Turtle #3

90s_revisited

tmnt_adventures_year_of_the_turtle_003Year of the Turtle Chapter Three: Story’s End!

Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Hugh Haynes
Inker: Elman Brown, Phil Sheehy
Colorist: Chia-Chi Wang
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Cover Artists: Ron Lim, Elman Brown, Heroic Age
Interior Separations: Graphic Colour Works
Production Manager: Caryn Antoniuk
Production: Joe Pepitone, Pat Spaziante, Frank Gagliardo
Editor: Freddy Mendez
Managing Editor: Victor Gorelick
Editor-in-Chief: Richard Goldwater
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: March 1996
Cover Price: $1.50

While I’m pretty certain I’d read this issue once before (over 20 years ago, though) other than a couple of broad, key details it didn’t see all that familiar; it was more like reading it for a first time after having read ABOUT it or some such.

We pick up with Splinter (no mention of Hamato Yoshi?!?) in "man form" (human) getting reacquainted with his human specs and realizing the turtles are in trouble, so rushing to their aid. The turtles, meanwhile, reel over the shock of Michelangelo’s transformation while trying to keep the villains from getting the final piece of the amulet. Long story short ("it’s comics") they wind up teleporting to Shredder’s lair and fighting the villain, having realized that the only way to save ("restore") Michelangelo is to see that the amulet is put together, but that they get to use it instead of Shredder. "Chaos" ensues and at the appointed time and place, the amulet is literally on Michelangelo…and its phenomenal, cosmic power is used to enlarge a slice of pizza. Shredder is so angered that he goes catatonic, while Splinter and the other turtles are able to use the amulet to "restore" Michelangelo…albeit without his memory. So we see that it IS Mikey who is the "child" Splinter has been telling the stories to. And while it was the "last" turtles story…we see that it should have been tempered with "so far" all along.

As with the previous issues, the art works well enough. It’s not great but not horrible. It certainly fits the characters and story in general, even if it’s fairly generic design-wise. As I’m not overly-engaged or thrilled with the story, my lack of enthusiasm carries over to the art, perhaps unfairly. I’ll take it readily over certain other designs for the turtles…especially thinking of the more recent Rise of the TMNT character designs that I do not care for.

Story wise I feel like this was a bit of a waste…like a failed pilot or some such. Rather than even being left with the idea of Michelangelo having to re-learn everything and who everyone is and his part of the group dynamics…we see Splinter revealing that his arms are getting hairier as the effects of the artifact wear off and thus implies he’s going to revert to his mutated form again…so we’re left to assume the same for Michelangelo (Which makes me wonder why Splinter and the turtles had to act to restore Mikey if the changes wrought by the artifact are wearing off on their own?) It’s tied up TOO neatly, and as only a 3-issue thing with no follow-up (ever, that I’m aware of) it goes from something with huge promise and potential impact on the characters should its continuity be used to a forgettable 3-part story of all of 70-ish pages.

Granted, some of my feeling on the thing is the past 18+ years of having "decompressed storytelling" as the "norm" and the rise of the rigid 4-issue and 6-issue arcs for convenient "graphic novel" packaging. In 2020, 3 issues seems way too short, like there should have been a lot more space for exploration of characters, situations, and so on…and like this should have been the start of something longer with the turtles having to adjust to a new status quo of Splinter as a man, and protecting(?) Mikey while he re-trains and relearns everything…and perhaps see personality stuff for him in being TOLD what and who he WAS vs. who he now IS and such.

As a whole, this Year of the Turtle mini is an interesting curiosity while not having anything crucial or lasting. It’s more a "footnote" in the history of the TMNT property.

I don’t recall how much I had paid for #3 here; certainly no more than $10 and almost certainly quite a bit less as I’d remember a significant price. I know I paid $5 for #2 at some point last year (the price sticker was still on the bag/board), and $8 for #1 earlier this year (recency/email receipt for that detail). Essentially, I  paid probably under $25for the 3 issues, putting it well on-par with just any 4-5 issues of a present-day series. I’m also a completist and want to have every TMNT issue published by Archie.

I’m not aware of this story being REPRINTED anywhere, so the actual, physical single issues are–I believe–the only way to read this. But if you’re a casual fan or otherwise not interested in "everything," you can definitely pass on this without truly missing anything significant. If you’re a fan of Dan Slott and want to read some of his early stuff, that’d be another reason to track these down. Overall, I’d recommend some of the later IDW collected volumes of the Archie stuff for more depth and weight of story…or perhaps some of the actual IDW TMNT content that "counts" and "matters" in the present ongoing TMNT continuity.

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The ’90s Revisited: TMNT Adventures: The Year of the Turtle #2

90s_revisited

tmnt_adventures_year_of_the_turtle_002Year of the Turtle Chapter Two: Snow Way Out!

Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Hugh Haynes
Inker: Elman Brown
Colorist: Chia-Chi Wang
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Cover Artists: Ron Lim, Scott Koblish, Heroic Age
Interior Separations: Graphic Colour Works
Production Manager: Caryn Antoniuk
Production: Joe Pepitone, Pat Spaziante, Frank Gagliardo
Editor: Freddy Mendez
Managing Editor: Victor Gorelick
Editor-in-Chief: Richard Goldwater
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: February 1996
Cover Price: $1.50

Even as this issue opens, I know more than I "should," as I remember having read the 3rd issue two decades or so back. It’s interesting to notice the fact that we never actually see the child Splinter is interacting with. Already knowing that takes some of the wonder of it away, but isn’t a huge deal kicking the issue off.

There IS a "previously" page that sums up the previous issue…but with far more specific detail and context than was even conveyed IN the issue. Basically a TELLING rather than SHOWING, that lends a bit of (1) weakness to that issue in retrospect and (2) influenced my (retroactive) understanding of that issue, that I’m sure influenced my write-up. I’m not too keen on that fact, but…hey. Comic books.

Story-teller Splinter (the man) finds the child’s room a mess, but being a man of his word, continues his telling of the last Ninja Turtles story. Shredder has 2 of the 3 parts of the artifact, so it’s a race to the final piece. After his ambush of Splinter, Shredder has scrolls that detail the hidden fortress the piece is in, meaning that his hench-people know where traps and such are, while the Turtles are seeking blindly. Though they survive some surprises and locate the final piece…T.K.O. uses telekinesis to liberate it from the turtles. All have to escape the ninja-monks guarding the facility. Once outside, trying to show off, the villains go to add insult to injury, which gives the turtles an "extra" chance at retrieving the artifact…when an explosion happens. The turtles check in with each other but can’t find Michelangelo at first. Then, amidst ninja gear (a familiar orange mask and dual nunchakus) they find…a turtle. An ORDINARY non-mutant turtle. (Remember the artifact piece Shredder had undid SPLINTER’s mutation last issue). And speaking of…story-teller Splinter tells his child that that’s enough of the story for now, and if the room is cleaned, the final part of the story is next.

Even though the characters are turtles, I can’t think of MANY examples of them overtly utilizing their shells in any creative fashion. Leo and Mikey pulling into their shells while Raph and Donnie use them as snowboards makes sense in a way, though can’t be comfortable (and one MIGHT wonder at a broken shell if they hit a rock or such!).

The villains are cheesey ’90s-themed characters in names and abilities. I ought to leave it at that. I suppose I appreciate them a bit more than Waster, Fist, Dead-Eye, and Lynch–the "EXTREME!" villains that did in the Mutanimals during their backup run in TMNTA 48-54. They’re still dumb and cheesey, very dated as of 2020 (granted, this is from 24 years ago!), so whatever.

I don’t really care for this Shredder. He doesn’t come off as much of anything from before–comics or movies, despite having the look of the 1990 film Shredder. We also have a fair bit of having to take stuff at face value with the hench-folks…though their ease of getting the artifact and then blowing their advantage to try to do in the turtles does seem like the stupid, bone-headed move Bebop and Rocksteady would do in the cartoon that would allow the turtles escape/survival when they otherwise would not have done either.

For my memories of the original cartoon (especially the early episodes) I recall the turtles straddling the line between Splinter’s mutation (Hamato Yoshi stuck as an animal) being a curse while their own (regular turtles to sentient humanoid turtles) was a blessing, and the "threat" of ever coming in contact with Mutagen again as that would turn them "back" into ordinary turtles. Seeing Michelangelo thus reverted is a new/original development for an actuality in the story; and holds great potential. At least, in the sense of opening a lot of possible stories and ongoing development. The character was not KILLED, but was unexpectedly and suddenly removed from the equation, and opens a load of questions.

As with the previous issue, the art’s not bad…though it lacks the charm of the ongoing TMNTA series. I do look forward a bit to (re) reading the third and final issue to "close the loop" with this series, even though with reading THIS issue, I believe I’ve now technically read the whole thing.

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The ’90s Revisited: TMNT Adventures: The Year of the Turtle #1

90s_revisited

tmnt_adventures_year_of_the_turtle_001Year of the Turtle Chapter One: Go, Go Mutant Turtles!

Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Hugh Haynes
Inkers: Harvey Mercadoocasio, Phil Sheehy
Colorist: Philip Lynch
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Cover Artists: Ron Lim, Harvey Mercadoocasio, Heroic Age
Interior Separations: Graphic Colour Works
Production Manager: Caryn Antoniuk
Production: Joe Pepitone, Pat Spaziante, Frank
Gagliardo
Editor: Freddy Mendez
Managing Editor: Victor Gorelick
Editor-in-Chief: Richard Goldwater
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: January 1996
Cover Price: $1.50

I’m not CERTAIN when I discovered this mini-series. I have some vague memory of reading the third issue "back in the day," most likely from the library…so it’s likely been at LEAST 20-22 years (it came out in late-1995/early-1996). I only just (early-2020) acquired this first issue, and though I’m years behind in writing up my TMNT Revisited posts on the Archie series, I decided to dive into this one as something pretty much all-new to me.

This came after the ongoing Archie Adventure Series TMNT Adventures, and is functionally "volume 3," as there was a 3-issue mini-series, then the 72-issue ongoing series, and then this. I expected this to be a continuation/follow-up…perhaps like a "tv movie sequel" to a long-running series. However…expectation didn’t match reality!

We open on a man telling his child(?) about the last story of the Ninja Turtles. We find Shredder seeking some mystical artifact, and though his Foot Soldiers have failed against the defenses arrayed before it, he single-handedly takes down the defenders and claims the piece. Meanwhile, Splinter and the turtles are seeing another piece, and realize that one of the Mighty Mecha Power Raiders on tv seems to have it in/as his belt buckle…so they head to Radio City (where the MMPR actors are performing) to claim it before Shredder does. Shredder has some new hench-people includig Cyberius, and T.K.O. that he sends to get that next piece of the artifact, while he personally descends into the sewers and sneaks up on and catches Splinter unaware. The two battle, and while Splinter manages to escape/survive, he is by no means victorious over the villain. The hench-folks manage to get the piece of the artifact…not a good day for the turtles and Splinter! On returning home, the turtles find Splinter has been transformed! Somehow due to the artifact, his mutation has been undone…leaving him a man once more! Closing out the issue, we see that the storyteller from the opening of the issue is indeed Splinter…

From the cover, I knew there was some sort of reference to the Power Rangers. In the issue itself, within the turtles’ universe, these are the Mighty Mecha Power Raiders. Obviously meant to represent the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers…only without being anything official, and drawing on the popularity of that franchise and its notoriety in popular culture…especially for the time! What ESPECIALLY drew my attention with it was having JUST a couple days before reading this issue read Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers/TMNT #4–the 4th issue of 5 being published in 2020 by Boom and IDW!

Story-wise, this issue quickly reveals itself to not be a continuation or follow-up to the long-running series. For one thing, it’s an entirely different creative team. It also uses rather bland, generic versions of the characters…particularly the Shredder. The villain is shown with a look more akin to the 1990 film than the ’80s/’90s animated series, further separating from the TMNTA ongoing; and is back to evil for evil’s sake–no real or apparent motivation other than BEING evil.

There’s no real depth to any of the characters, though some weight is added in the storyteller’s reference to the "last" Ninja Turtles story, as if this WAS the FINAL ADVENTURE or such. Certainly the throw-away of the bested, defeated Foot lends to that. They could be slaughtered, if there’s no need to have them available for later stories! April is relegated to a tv news reporter ON TV without even interacting with the turtles; after her evolution throughout the ongoing series. And though we do find that the storyteller IS Splinter, we’re left hanging as to who the apparent child is he’s telling the story to and how they came together. Biological child? Adoptive? How much time has passed since Splinter was with the turtles? Are we to think this is another reality where Splinter and his turtles are just a series of stories being told to a child?

I do NOT know if this is Dan Slott‘s first writing gig in comics…but it’s certainly an EARLY gig. It’s not truly bad or anything, and structurally works pretty well (despite my questions in the paragraph above). Framing sequence that plays into/comes back out of the main story; we’re introduced to the villains, the heroes, the situation, and see some movement through the situation (gathering the artifact), etc.

The art is also by no means horrible, but lacks something from the ongoing series. Even though this is a completely separate series, creative team, etc.–it came after a 72-issue run with lots of characters and development, and being ONLY 3 issues (a mere 4% against the ongoing) would have a LOT to "live up to," especially without even the built-in depth of adapting episodes of the cartoon.

All in all, while the issue wasn’t particularly enjoyable to me, it was interesting to finally read. It’s also very possible that I’d built it up in my mind over two decades and so "expected" a lot more from it. Ultimately…it’s a TMNT comic book. I don’t believe it’s ever even been reprinted (IDW hasn’t even reprinted the TMNTA Specials, and also skipped most of the Mighty Mutanimals issues as well as 5 issues of TMNTA itself) so there’s some incentive to tracking the issues down as a completist or out of curiosity. Story-wise, it doesn’t seem to be anything significant, and its generic-ness and timing doesn’t do it any favors.

tmnt_adventures_year_of_the_turtle_001_blogtrailer

Collected volume pricing

Disparate Pricing

marvelbooks20101211 While collected volumes of comics are priced based on their contents…I’m finding more and more lately that paper quality and format lend a different sort of visual perception to the mix.

Take The Heroic Age TPB. $24.99…yet, it’s about twice as thick as the $14.99 Deadpool: Secret Invasion volume. Twice the size, but $5 less than twice the price.

Compare that to Deadpool Classic vol. 1: The Heroic Age…roughly the same thickness is $24.99…yet Deadpool Classic is $29.99–$5 more.

hardvssoft Looking at Deadpool & Cable, there’s a similar thickness—a little more to it than the Classic volume, granted—but it’s $39.99…a $10 difference for not a lot of difference in size.

Those have different contents, though, by several issues at least. Bringing a hardcover into the mix…look at the Invincible Iron Man by Fraction and Larrocca vol. 1 OVERSIZED hardcover. 19 issues in this volume for $39.99…and 18 issues in Deadpool & Cable…which is a paperback, but also carrying that $39.99 price.

With all interests in characters/series (and consideration of quality) being equal…The Iron Man volume would seem to be a much better value for number of issues’ content and physical size/format for the price.

Of course, I do know there are reasons (which may not come to me off the top of my head or that I—in terms of simply purchasing books—don’t even care about) for the varying prices. Print runs, quality of paper, creator royalties, projected profits, and who knows what all.

While I lack a photo at present for the visual…another point of interest are the Vertigo $4.99 TPBs that collect the first issue of many of their popular series. (Additionally, Top Cow recently put out a $4.99 volume with the first issue of several of their soon-to-debut series). Of course, it’s a much different thing to have an “anthology” type volume with a single chapter from multiple series. These serve more as samplers, as opposed to a volume that collects an entire story.

Though Top Cow has recently hooked me with their bargain-priced premiere volumes of Witchblade, Witchblade: Redemption, and The Darkness, collecting an entire arc (5-6 issues) of each for only $4.99. That’s 4-5 “extra” issues compared to the $3.99 single-issue pricepoint of far too many comics out there these days.

Disparate Trade Dress/Editions

variededitions

On a much different note, but dealing with thick volumes and a little with pricing (getting more expensive through the years for successive reprints of the same content/volumes)…Knightfall, and Essentials.

I have all three Knightfall volumes…but each is a different printing. Vol. 1 is the original printing from the mid-1990s. Vol. 2 is from the later printing…maybe early 2000s or late-1990s. And the third volume is from the last few years, whenever it was reprinted after DC changed to their present version of the DC “star” and trade-dress.

The Essential Uncanny X-Men vol. 1 I bought the week before I went off to college, back in August 1999. After the Essentials’ trade dress was revamped, they continued reprinting those earliest X-men issues as Essential Classic X-Men, but numbered the volume as 2, picking up from Essential Uncanny. And finally, under the newest revamp of the trade dress (AND pricing), they put out a 3rd volume.

While the price that I paid was right—I got vols. 2 and 3 of both sets for at least half-off—I’m the sort of person who likes it when a series actually looks like it goes together…whether first editions, second prints, or 10th-print and beyond.

On The Shelf

dragonlanceshelfActually looking like a single series, my Weis/Hickman Dragonlance volumes sit together on a shelf. Ultimately, this is an ongoing series of core characters by these authors. The books all go together, and in this particular edition, they look like it.

Most of these books have seen numerous different editions in paperback with successive printings and even different publishers. Dragons of Autumn Twilight was originally published in the mid-1980s, while Dragons of the Dwarven Depths wasn’t published until about 20 years later.

I don’t collect books—or comics, or collected volumes/TPBs/graphic novels/whatever for value.

But I am very much a collector in wanting to read the stories (I prefer bookshelf editions to single issues these days, given choice and feasibility) and enjoying when the volumes that I get look good together, on the shelf.

Uncanny X-Men: The Heroic Age #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

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

The Death of Dracula #1 [Review]

The Death of Dracula

Written by: Victor Gischler
Penciled by: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes by: Onofrio Catacchio
Colored by: Frank D’Armata
Lettered by: Jeff Eckleberry
Cover Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli and Marko Djurdjevic
Associate Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Executive Editor: Axel Alonso
Published by: Marvel Comics

I’d seen this image in ads for a couple weeks or so, and assumed–knowing the coming X-Men #1 will have the mutants fighting vampires–that this ‘event’ would be taking place in X-Men #1, setting up that arc. Turns out this is its own separate one-shot, serving as a prologue to the upcoming run. This is one of the few issues where having only seen a couple ads–nothing near enough to get “old” nor “annoying” or otherwise turn me off to the concept–and as a regular cover with the black and reds contrasting handily with the blue and yellow of the The Heroic Age banner across the top I was actually drawn in BY the cover. The issue felt thicker than an average issue, so though I was gritting my teeth and feeling a little dirty for going against my anti-$3.99 principles I bought the issue anyway.

Rather than only 22-30/32 story pages, we have 40 pages of story, which alleviates SOME of the concern with the cover price…this is a special one-shot with more pages than a standard issue of a regular, ongoing series…so the higher than $2.99 price has some merit.

The story is quite detailed, with a lot going on–a lot of setup, context, exposition…and general foundation-building for the new status quo of vampires in the Marvel Universe. We find the sons of Dracula, each part of different vampire factions/families/clans/sects/covens/whatever attending a regular meeting of all these groups–an event that takes place every century or so. One of the sons launches into a savage strike against their father–Dracula, intending to spur change from the status quo for all vampires. Rather than hide behind “the way it’s always been,” he seeks to initiate change to “how things can be, moving forward” (though without the vampires and murder part, sounds like something from a motivational speech for a corporate environment). With Dracula dead (hey, it’s not a spoiler if it’s the title of the one-shot, on the cover!) the vampires have to determine where they’re headed–do they reunite under a single leader, split into two groups to war against each other, or some other option?

I read the few issues of Blade that came out back in ’98 or ’99 shortly after the first Wesley Snipes film, but that’s about the extent of my familiarity with Marvel’s vampires. The way they’re portrayed visually in this issue has a certain air of the familiar…nothing seems like it’s really out of place or should belong elsewhere. The idea of these multiple factions, the occasional reunion, etc. does not seem far-fetched (though it does have a sense of being borrowed from elsewhere). I chalk that up to something fairly standard in literature regarding vampires…a familiar aspect that generally ought to be present unless one is trying to radically reinterpret the very genre.

So I not only have no problem with the art, I like the art…it fits the story very well, and conveys so much of what is necessary to getting things across to the reader in short order, in terms of the differing factions and lifestyles of all the different vampires. They come from all over the world, all walks of life and cultures; the common thread being–wait for it–they’re all vampires.

The story itself is–for what it is–fantastic. Gischler found his way onto my radar with Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth, and though I have no interest in getting back into the X-Men beyond following Second Coming, seeing his name attached to a major X-Men book was encouraging.

What Gischler does in this issue is introduce us to the vampires, lay foundation for who and what they are, where they’ve come from…and set up where they’re going, the new status quo that will allow for them to operate in the open, such that they even could reasonably interact with the X-Men and other general Marvel Universe characters not typically associated with the shadows of the universe. He also manages to avoid the route that I thought he was taking things. keeping to the familiar yet avoiding an exact predictability. And partially for that…I now, thanks to this one issue, have an actual interest in seeing where these characters go.

Though this serves as a prologue, presumably, to the coming X-Men story…it works very well on its own as a single-issue/one-shot. You get a complete story from beginning to end…just that as with virtually any film, the ending is left open such that there “could” be a sequel or continuation from what was laid down here.

Highly recommended.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Overall: 9/10

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #1 [Review]

The Panic of the Composite Creature

Writer: Matt Wayne
Penciller: Andy Suriano
Inker: Dan Davis
Colorist: Heroic Age
Letterer: Randy Gentile
Editor: Rachel Cluckstern
Cover: James Tucker
Publisher: Johnny DC / DC Comics

I decided to pick this issue up, having enjoyed the last several Johnny DC books I’ve tried. Unfortunately, I found myself somewhat disappointed with what I got in this issue.

The issue opens at the tail-end of an adventure shared by Batman and Aquaman, before Batman learns of a monster tearing apart London. Joined by Power Girl, he faces this composite creature, formed from civilians in a several-block radius of one of Luthor’s devices. The story resolves in a fitting manner for the style, and leaves things ready for the next issue.

The art seems to be a mix of classic Batman from the silver age, the Super-Friends cartooney-style, and a hint of the Adam West Batman. Of course I assume it’s also inspired by the cartoon this series is based on, but not yet having seen an episode of that, I reference what I know. The style works, as it lacks the dark, grim, and gritty style that would likely be fairly inappropriate for kids and hams up the almost cheery, lighter style that could draw the younger crowd in while not traumatizing them if they move on to the mainstream DC version.

The story is simplistic, but that’s me as an adult pushing 30. I’m sure it’s well within range of appropriateness for the target audience of this book. Simplistic though it may be, it is not unenjoyable–just slightly cheesey/hokey…but I expect that going in. My main complaint with the issue is the lack of Blue Beetle and so little of Aquaman.

If you’re looking for a “fun” version of Batman, this seems a good one to go with–plus you’ll have other familiar characters along for the ride. I would be curious as to kids’ reaction to this issue, as it seems perfectly appropriate for the younger crowd–I just can’t speak to their actual enjoyment.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

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