Sunday, May 6, 2018

Toy Boy Turtles


Publication date: February 23 - March 8, 1991
Originally published in: TMHT Adventures #29

Authors: Andrew W. Donkin & Graham S. Brand
Artist: Mick Austin

"Toy Boy Turtles"

Summary:

The Turtles have a dinner date in the lair with April, but she's late.  When she arrives, she's shaken, and explains that she was mugged by a clown.  The clown escaped into the back of a local toy store and the Turtles figure that's the best place to start looking.


At the toy store, the Turtles pretend to be inspectors and the Toymaker cooperates, leading them into the basement.  Suddenly, all his toys come to life, actually being robots, and attack the Turtles.  The toys trap them in a giant robot spider's web and the Toymaker considers selling his catch on the illegal exotic pet market.  Raphael accidentally lets it slip that Splinter, a giant talking rat, will come to save them and that gives the Toymaker a fiendish idea.


The "Turtles" return to the lair and try to get Splinter to come with them, but when they reject his offer for pizza, he realizes that they're robot duplicates.  This gives Splinter a fiendish idea of his own and he asks April to help him.


Robot Leonardo then returns with Splinter to the toy store, but much to the Toymaker's shock, robot Leo is actually April in disguise.  She and Splinter free the Turtles, who make short work of the robot toys.  However, the Toymaker escapes in a rocket ship loaded with all his stolen loot.  The Turtles give chase in the Turtle Blimp (which April and Splinter had apparently used to travel to the toy store) and Leonardo slices off one of the rocket's tail fins.  The rocket crashes by a police officer, spilling the Toymaker and all his stolen property out in front of the angry cop.


Turtle Tips:

*This story was published alongside "The Boss".


Review:

Now HERE'S the Fleetway weirdness the other story in this issue lacked.  Clown muggers and killer robot toys and a blimp chasing a rocket ship... You might not be able to categorize this as a good comic, but at least you can never accuse it of being dull.

Killer toy horror movies were a pretty big thing in the late '80s and early '90s, even if the sub genre has mostly died out by now.  The context of the era helps this story, with its distinct horror movie vibe, make a little bit more sense.  Personally, I actually have an affection for killer toy horror movies, even if most of them aren't very good.  I'm talking stuff like "Dolly Dearest", "Silent Night, Deadly Night Part V" or any "Puppet Master" sequel up until the fifth one (even I have a breaking point).  Just like those movies, this comic isn't very good but I like it anyway.

You gotta love some of the bizarre conflicts in logic and plotting that this issue offers.  April returns to the lair shaking and scared beyond belief because a clown just mugged her (understandable), but then she explains how she fearlessly pursued him across the city until he escaped into a toy store.  Did something scare her again on her way to the lair?  Then there's the matter of April and Splinter, on a covert mission to trick the Toymaker... traveling to the toy store via blimp.  Doesn't get less conspicuous than that.

But hey, all the weird crap that doesn't make any sense is part of the charm for the Fred Wolf era TMNT stuff.  Also, I have to agree with little Laura Cunningham of Londonderry:


Michelangelo IS magic.


The Boss


Publication date: February 23 - March 8, 1991
Originally published in: TMHT Adventures #29

Author: David Robinson
Artist: Sandy James

"The Boss"

Summary:

Down in the lair, Splinter instructs the Turtles on proper meditation practices.  Unfortunately, Raphael keeps falling asleep and Splinter warns him what his sensei used to do whenever he'd nod off during meditation (he'd whack him upside the head with a stick).  The Turtles then head over to Pete's Pizza Palace for dinner with April, only to find the place being worked over by mob goons operating a protection racket.  They stomp the goons, but Pete tells them that the mobsters have been running the racket on all the businesses in the area.


The next night, at Jack's Amusement Arcade, the Turtles stake the joint out and when the mobsters show up, they take them down.  The mobsters return to meet with the Boss, the most notorious crime kingpin in New York, and give him the bad news.  Irritated, the Boss hatches a scheme to kidnap April O'Neil and use her as bait to trap the Turtles.


The mobsters collect April at her apartment and leave a ransom note, which the Turtles find the next day.  They follow the instructions to an abandoned warehouse where the mobsters are all waiting at the front door to ambush them.  The Turtles come in through the back door instead and get the drop on the mobsters.  As Raphael and Michelangelo deal with the goons, Leonardo and Donatello go to rescue April from the room she's being kept in.  As soon as they enter, the room fills with poisonous gas.  Using their meditation techniques to calm their thoughts and think things through, they use their bandanas as gas masks and get April out before any of them can be poisoned.  The Boss and his mobsters are then left for the cops.


Later that night, as the Turtles sleep, they're awakened by a light coming from the living room.  Leo, Donnie and Mikey find Raph staying up all night reading comic books, which explains his dozing off during meditation.


Turtle Tips:

*This story was published alongside "Toy Boy Turtles".


Review:

"The Boss" is a truly ho-hum story about mobsters kidnapping April in order to bait the Turtles into an ambush.  Not especially ambitious, no, and it certainly is disappointing seeing as how the only thing I look forward to when I open up one of these Fleetway Hero Turtle books is the assurance that I'm gonna get something really weird.  Or at least a guy in a gorilla costume.

Sandy James' art is a plus, even if the story a zero effort ordeal.  The impact he draws with all his punches and kicks leaves you with the impression that the Turtles are just murdering these goons with every blow.  Or at the very least, those mobsters are going home with serious brain damage.

It didn't come across in my summary, but the bit about Raph constantly falling asleep is a running gag throughout the issue.  He doesn't overcome it in any meaningful way to help resolve the conflict, it was just included so the story could have a droll punchline at the end.  Though it is a little funny when the Turtles are in the Party Wagon, racing to save April from certain doom, and Raph is catching Zs in the back because he couldn't give a damn.

And lastly, I would like to bring attention to this panel:


Run, mobsters!  The Turtles are going to take you from behind and then blow you!


Sunday, April 22, 2018

TMNT Universe #21


Publication date: April 18, 2018

Writer: Paul Allor
Artist: Mark Torres
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Greg Goldstein

"Lost Causes, Part One"

Summary:

MAIN STORY:

Commander Zom and her Triceratons arrive on Burnow Island, coming in peace, but are immediately fired upon by the Utroms.  Unfortunately, there has been something of a power struggle in the wake of General Krang's death, resulting in "misinterpreted" orders.  Ma'Riell convinces Kleve to hold his fire and Zom convinces her soldiers to put their weapons down, as well.  The Triceratons are then welcomed as refugees, but tensions run high due to space constraints as well as the rocky history between the races.  To help broker peace negotiations, Donatello is brought in as a mediator.


The talks between Ma'Riell and Zom don't make much progress, stemming mainly from thelimited space on Burnow Island and the failed attempts by Triceraton scientist Yot and Utrom scientist Churk to grow crops in the post-Technodrome terraformed fields.  Churk knows that the Triceratons have grown crops on less hospitable worlds than this one, but Yot refuses to share the secret.


Meanwhile, Kleve attempts to revive war criminal Ch'Rell (and Ma'Riell's brother) from his stasis, but fails to override the security measures.  He is attacked by a Triceraton, Drell, and survives the assault.  Kleve refuses to name his attacker so that all Triceratons ultimately come under suspicion and Donatello grows more suspicious of Kleve's intentions.  Donnie begins monitoring him while also mediating the peace talks.


Eventually, progress is made on the peace talks and Ma'Riell and Zom agree to sign a treaty on Unity Field that evening.  Out in Unity Field, Zot finally concedes to tell Churk what the Triceratons' secret was to growing crops on inhospitable worlds during wartime: They ground up Utroms and used them for fertilizer.  As this shocking revelation is made, an unseen individual puts Zot in the scope of their sniper rifle.

BACK-UP:

Writer: Caleb Goellner
Artist: Pablo Tunica
Colorist: Patricio Delpeche

"How Woody Spent His Triceraton Invasion"

As the news announces that "terrorists" are attacking Manhattan, Woody gets a call to deliver a pizza across town.  Hopping on his scooter, he throws caution to the wind and drives off.


He narrowly maneuvers his way through a Triceraton/EPF battle and arrives at the 2nd Time Around shop, where Mr. O'Neil thanks him for the delivery and tips him $5.  Hopping back on his scooter, he heads back to work, just missing a battle between the Triceratons and the Purple Dragons.


Turtle Tips:

*This issue is continued from TMNT Universe #20.  The story continued in TMNT Universe #22.

*The main story takes place after TMNT (IDW) #80.

*General Krang was killed in TMNT (IDW) #75.

*The back-up takes place just after TMNT (IDW) #78.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Cover A by Freddie E. Williams II and Jeremy Colwell, Cover B by Mark Torres, and Incentive Cover by Nathen Greno and Sabine Rich.


Review:

"Invasion of the Triceratons" was an epic storyline that unfortunately suffered from a hasty conclusion.  The Triceratons being teleported to Burnow Island was a sloppily convenient resolution, with the negotiations between the Turtles and Ma'Riell happening entirely off-panel.  It felt... cheap.  Luckily, this two-part epilogue to "Invasion of the Triceratons" is here to try and add some substance to that quick-and-dirty resolution.  So far, it's actually doing a pretty good job.

Allor writes a grim and suspenseful story centered around peace negotiations between the pitiful remains of two historically warring races.  There isn't too much action in this issue, but the tension is thick-enough to cut with a knife.  Kleve's deceitful machinations provide much of the obvious conflict, but my favorite moments were the smaller exchanges that better exemplified the longstanding hostilities between the Utroms and the Triceratons.  Moments like Drel and the Utrom processing him getting into a spat over a previous battle, or the stinger ending where Zot reveals to Churk that they used Utroms for fertilizer.  These are two races that have long HATED each other and now they're trying to pull a "can't we all just get along?" shtick.  Reality is hardly that simple, and even without Kleve's scheming to exacerbate the conflict, any hope of putting water under the bridge is remote at best.

Mark Torres provides the art and his dark, inky style is an excellent fit for this drab and joyless tale.  Ronda Pattison's colors hem a bit closer to what Fotos did with Torres's pencils back in Infestation 2.  She doesn't try to brighten things, like what we saw Delgado apply to Torres's work on TMNT/Ghostbusters 2, so the moodiness makes it through intact.

"Lost Causes" is looking good so far.  I'm hoping it doesn't go for any easy answers at its conclusion next issue, as going for the most convenient solution was what hurt "Invasion of the Triceratons" and made this epilogue necessary in the first place.


UPDATE: It seems I forgot to review the back-up strip.  Hmm.  Maybe the fact that I forgot to review it can tell you everything you need to know about my feelings toward it.

Batman/TMNT II #6


Published by: DC Comics

Publication date: April 18, 2018

Plot: James Tynion IV
Dialogue: Ryan Ferrier
Art: Freddie Williams II
Colors: Jeremy Colwell
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover: Williams II and Colwell
Variant cover: Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga
Assistant editor: Liz Erickson
Editor: Jim Chadwick

"A Knight in New York, Part 6"

Summary:

Donatello arrives at the Statue of Liberty in the Turtle Blimp while his brothers and the Bat-Family arrive in the Party Wagon (via ferry).  Bane dispatches his Elite Guard to attack the Blimp, but Donnie detaches the glider and explodes the balloon, releasing his Anti-Venom gas.  All of Bane's Foot Soldiers, as well as Bebop and Rocksteady, then revert back to normal.  Meanwhile, Batman, Splinter and the Shredder confront Bane in the statue's head.


Karai and her Foot Soldiers then take on Bane's army at the base of the statue.  April uses the Turtle Launcher to catapult the Turtles and the Bat-Family into battle where they use Donnie's stun weapons to incapacitate the Foot Soldiers.  April and Casey then work to free the New Yorkers whom Bane captured and get them onto ferries.


Batman, Splinter and Shredder destroy Bane's Venom pack and knock him down to the ground, but Bebop and Rocksteady choose to stay loyal to him and fight by his side.  The Shredder then gives a speech to the remaining Foot Soldiers, urging them to abandon Bane and follow their true leader.  The Foot Soldiers then cease fighting, leaving the Turtles and Bat-Family to take on Bebop and Rocksteady.  Donatello confronts Bane and darts him with Anti-Venom laced with elephant tranquilizers and he goes down for the count.  The battle won, the Shredder agrees to go back to prison without a fight, following his arrangement with Batman, and Bebop and Rocksteady are also carted off to the slammer.


Later, in the sewer lair, Raphael and Michelangelo want to know what Batman and Shredder's arrangement was.  Batman explains that in exchange for his help and his vow to return to prison, Shredder wanted only a rematch against Batman.  They had their fight and the Shredder honored his end of the deal.  Donnie then apologizes to everyone for causing all of this, but Batman assures him that he has learned from his mistakes and became a better person as a result, so it's all good.  With Bane in tow, the Bat-Family returns through the portal to Gotham City.

That evening, Donnie finds that Batman left him a gift before leaving.  It's the "training protocol"; the regimen that Batman makes each Robin go through during their training.  Donnie can't wait to get started on it, while his brothers all beg to be included.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from Batman/TMNT II #5.


Review:

Donatello sure got a lot of people killed because he felt sorry for himself, to say nothing of the millions of dollars in property damage and the broken lives left behind.  But it's okay, because he learned his lesson and improved himself along the way!  Whew, I'm glad THAT's been resolved.

I haven't been too kind to this miniseries over the past six months and, no, I'm not going to start being nice now, either.  The narrative was sloppy, full of mischaracterization, and the protagonists inexplicably acted like morons just to enable the plot.  Drama was introduced and then flippantly resolved, sometimes completely off-panel, because no actual effort was put into developing those sources of tension.  The plot was thin and predictable, the dialogue was overwritten, and Batman honestly seemed to get lost in the whole thing.  If this story had just been about Bane coming to New York and the Turtles taking him down on their own, I don't think much about this script would have been fundamentally altered.  The Dark Knight felt like a hanger-on most of the time and existed just to offer Donatello emotional validation during his pity parties.

To go Devil's Advocate for a moment, I suppose you could say that the thin premise with slapdash tension and shallow characterization felt sort of like a "plot" a child would come up with while playing with their toys on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  Indeed, the entire sequence wherein the Turtle Blimp and the Party Wagon contribute pivotal roles, right down to a recreation of the 1987 TMNT cartoon's title sequence, definitely has that "kid playing with his toys" feel to it.  It's certainly not sophisticated, not by a longshot, but I guess if you want to be generous then you can view it as having that sort of feel.  But it still means that the thing reads like it was written by a 7 year-old (who really, really didn't like Donatello).

But oh man, that art.

If you pick this volume up for anything, it's going to be for Williams' art with Colwell's colors.  I suppose when you have visuals this nice, you don't really need a solid script to go along with it.  Well, that's not true, a solid script would have been a nice bonus, but I DO feel like I got my $24-worth from the artwork alone.  So I'm not feeling buyer's remorse even if I thought the story sucked.

The first Batman/TMNT crossover was very good, overcoming its crossover gimmick to give us a solid story about hero and villain team-ups with some surprises at the end.  Batman/TMNT II is dull, predictable and shows a distinct lack of understanding for these characters, which is so puzzling, considering Tynion wrote them just fine in the first mini.  If there is a third one, I'm going to take to it with caution.