Wednesday, September 30, 2009

TMNT Adventures #19 – April 1991

The Man Who Sold the World

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Garrett Ho (pencils), Dan Berger (inks), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

Following the previous issue, the Turtles and Mondo Gecko are on the rooftops, observing the skyscraper where Donatello caught a glimpse of floating meteorites. Splinter and April arrive, after doing research into the skyscraper’s owner. His name is Null, The Kid’s employer and the man behind the undersea base that was dumping toxic waste. Inside Null’s office, he’s meeting with Maligna’s children, Scul and Bean. They’ve set up a deal that will give the Earth to Maligna, while Null is given otherworldly business opportunities. (Hence, the title of this issue, a reference to an obscure David Bowie song that he had forgotten himself until Nirvana later covered it.)

Meanwhile, Man Ray investigates the strange meteorites that have landed in the ocean. One of them suddenly comes alive, hitting Man Ray in the stomach and carrying him to a distant beach. Conveniently enough, he lands near Jagwar and Dreadmon. I’m sure Man Ray and Jagwar could just spend hours talking about the horrible things people are doing to the environment, but their first meeting gets off to a rocky start.

Meanwhile again, the Turtles’ rooftop conversation is interrupted by The Kid. He tries to explain that he’s here to warn the Turtles, but that doesn’t stop Raphael from dramatically returning in his original outfit.

Soon, Scul and Bean arrive to fight the Turtles. The fighting is fierce, but it abruptly ends when Bean…ahem, “drops a load.”

Finally, Null turns to the imaginary camera, revealing his face.

Get it? Because corporations are like the devil. To be continued in Mighty Mutanimals #1.

Review in a Half-Shell: It’s admirable to see the way Clarrain/Murphy is pulling various threads together again for a big story. I like the way smaller stories can stand on their own, while still serving to add to a larger picture. There’s a lot going on this issue, taking advantage of Archie’s twenty-eight page length. I also like the fact that Raphael managed to keep his own unique uniform for over a year, which from my perspective as a kid, was practically forever. Garrett Ho debuts as artist this issue, keeping the Turtles very “on-model” with their look from the animated series, while still maintaining the fluid cartooning of Ken Mitchroney.

What the Shell? : Dropping a load? And it makes a “plop” sound when it lands? What?

Monday, September 28, 2009

TMNT Adventures #18 – March 1991

"Mondo Metal"

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Ken Michroney & Marlene Becker (pencils), Dan Berger (inks), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

Hey, it’s the hair metal issue of Adventures. And it managed to be published almost a full year before Nirvana became mainstream. The Turtles and April reach America’s shore, saying goodbye to Man Ray (who is leaving to investigate “stars” that have fallen into the ocean…more on this next issue). April and the Turtles arrive in New Orleans, and ride the trains until they reach New York. There’s only time for one environmental message on the trip, as April just has to comment on the awful oil and gas refineries in New Jersey. Every rose has its thorn, just like every Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures issue has tacked-on environmental messages. Yeah, it does.

They reach New York, and in the sewers discover the heavy metal band, Merciless Slaughter, has overtaken Shredder’s old base. Their lead singer, Mondo, carries a pet gecko on his shoulder (and, guess what, his lyrics have environmental messages). While trying to do a Dave Mustaine guitar move (yup, he’s referenced by name), Mondo accidentally overloads the circuits and kills the power. When he tries to turn it back on, he accidentally unleashes an army of Foot Supersoldiers. While the Turtles face the Supersoldiers, one of them escapes with Mondo’s girlfriend, Candy. While trying to save her, Mondo is knocked against a vat of mutagen, and shockingly enough…

…he mutates into the gecko-man, Mondo Gecko. Not particularly bothered with his mutation, Mondo carries on like a youth gone wild. He chases the Foot Supersoldier and Candy to the top of a large building (why does this robot want the girl anyway?). Mondo defeats the Supersoldier with his radical skateboarding moves, but is quickly rejected by Candy.

Don’t know whatcha got ‘til it’s gone, right, Mondo? Actually, Mondo doesn’t seem too bothered by this either (you’d think he was on something…). After Donatello briefly notices two flying objects near a skyscraper (see the previous issue), the Turtles return home with Mondo. They’re reunited with Splinter, enjoy a pizza, and everything is okay. After so far away, the Turtles are home sweet home.

Review in a Half-Shell: Is it too obvious to compare Mondo Gecko to Poochie the Dog? He skateboards, plays guitar, and speaks in only the coolest lingo. As crassly commercial as he appears to be, I remember liking Mondo as a kid, so I guess they did something right. This is highly reminiscent of the early issues of the series, which occasionally sacrificed storytelling for toy commercials. Mondo just screams “corporate creation tacked on to existing toy line” -- so much so that making fun of him seems unnecessary. Giving him braces actually is a nice touch, though. I don’t know where Ken Michroney’s art ends and Marlene Becker’s begins, but it’s another issue with solid cartooning. The giant Foot Soldiers are handled particularly well. I also liked seeing the Turtles sneaking their way through America through the traintracks. The idea that the Turtles always had to hide themselves and operate in secret was one of my favorite elements about the comic and cartoon as a kid.

What the Shell? : Mondo suddenly grows a pair of braces after he mutates into a gecko-man. He clearly didn’t have them before the mutation, so where did they come from?

Pizza References: Aside from the pizza party on the last page, Michelangelo also dreams of pizza while riding the train home.

Turtlemania: There’s an ad for the NES adaptation of the classic TMNT arcade game. Many months of my life were dedicated to this game.

I Was Not Aware of That: "Merciless Slaughter" was the name of an album by the metal band Flames back in 1986.

Friday, September 25, 2009

TMNT Adventures #17 – February 1991

Fight the Power

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Ken Mitchroney (pencils), Buz McKim (clean-ups), Dan Berger (inks), Barry Grossman (colors), Gary Fields (letters)

Looking at the cover, did you guess that this issue has an environmental message about sea turtles? Before that sermon begins, the issue opens with two of Maligna’s children arriving on Earth, which was promised to them by Krang. While reporting to Maligna, they can’t help but to mention that humans have “choked” the planet with “numbers and industry” (I guess they’re still caught up in the overpopulation hysteria of the ‘70s), the forests are burning, the planet is too warm, and atomic energy is causing disease. I hope you kids are now inspired to go save the Earth, and not slash your wrists instead.

The scene shifts back to the Turtles, who are still sailing the ocean with Man Ray and April O’Neil. As the Turtles try to contact Splinter telepathically through meditation, Man Ray and April go swimming. They come across fishermen casting their nets into the water. Man Ray explains that Turtle Extruder Devices are legally required to keep sea turtles out of the shrimp nets. When April asks to see the nets up close, Man Ray makes a heartbreaking discovery.

Man Ray flies into a blind rage and attacks the ship, which is lead by the old timey sailor, Captain Mossback. April recruits the Turtles for help, which leads to this somewhat self-important response.

The Turtles and Man Ray quickly dispose of Mossback’s men, leaving Mossback alone with Man Ray. Mossback, afraid that the devil fish will steal his soul, accidentally falls overboard. (Raphael has the line of the issue: “Who said anything about even wanting his soul?”) Mossback’s saved by a gigantic, kindly sea turtle, driving home the point that animals are pure and good and we humans are just awful. Speaking of evil humans*, the issue ends with Mr. Null introducing The Kid to Maligna’s children, Scul and Bean.

*Yes, I know more about Mr. Null is revealed later.

Review in a Half-Shell: It’s another “issue” issue, which is already tedious by now. The action works surprisingly well, considering it’s another issue of the Turtles fighting villains who shouldn’t be that much of a threat. And I like the designs of Scul and Bean.

What the Shell? : Raphael mockingly calls Captain Mossback “Cap’n Moss-Sac” on page twenty-one. Is this a pube joke?

I Love the (Early) ‘90s: While communicating telepathically, Splinter tells Raphael (who is now wearing only the bottom of his black wrestling costume), “nice jams.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

X-MEN - The Animated Series, Volumes Three & Four

I’ve written about the ‘90s X-Men cartoon before, so I won’t spend too much time repeating myself. Basically, the designs are from a different era, the animation is often stiff, and the voice acting is hit or miss. It’s also one of the most loyal comic to cartoon adaptations ever, and most of the episodes do manage to maintain the themes and characterizations that made the series so popular in the first place. The DVD releases continue, collecting most of the episodes through the fourth season. For unknown reasons, the DVDs are collecting the episodes in the order they originally aired, which is going to create some continuity issues later on. (“No Mutant Is an Island” ends with the X-Men learning that Jean Grey didn’t die at the end of “The Phoenix Saga,” which means it has to happen before “The Dark Phoenix Saga.” It aired two years late due to a series of animation errors, apparently.)

The episodes in Volume Three include the cartoon’s adaptation of “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” which has removed anything unsuitable for Saturday morning, but remains a remarkably faithful retelling of the comic’s story. Anyone who’s read the story will notice a dozen or so scenes directly taken from the comics. If the producers of the third X-Men movie had shown this much respect for the source material, maybe that franchise wouldn’t be so far off the rails at this point. “Cold Comfort” features the return of the same studio that animated the lively “Out of the Past.” There’s no shortage of animation errors here, but the movement is very fluid, and fans are treated to an appearance by the Peter David-era X-Factor. The animators have even picked up on a Steve Lightle drawing of Polaris and attempted to recreate his distinctive rendition of her neon green, straggly hair in every cel. “Nightcrawler” is an episode that FOX originally didn’t want to air, due to its forthright depiction of the character’s Christian faith. It ends with Wolverine reading out of the Bible, which probably increases its camp appeal, but the episode does give him some decent character work. It’s interesting that Gambit is portrayed as an atheist, considering that Fabian Nicieza would go on to establish him as a believer in his solo series. “Weapon X, Lies, and Videotape” adapts large sections of Larry Hama’s Wolverine run, and features a strong performance by Cal Dodd as the tormented Wolverine. The low-point of the set, and the show in general, has to be “The Juggernaut Returns,” which is a regrettable comedy episode about a feeble nerd gaining the Juggernaut’s powers. The new Juggernaut accidentally smashes some things, buys a white leisure suit, and tries to pick up women at a nightclub. After you hear Norm Spencer’s painful reading of “Women like guys to be themselves” as Cyclops, you can never un-hear it. The episode does get points for faithfully recounting the Juggernaut’s origin from the comics, though.

Volume Four opens with “Proteus,” a heavily sanitized version of the classic Claremont/Byrne storyline. The dark themes of the original story don’t lend themselves to this type of an adaptation, so it doesn’t really work. Proteus’ various zombie forms are even replaced with a non-threatening energy being that looks like something that should’ve been chasing the Amazing Chan Clan. “Sanctuary” is largely inspired by the final story of Chris Claremont’s original run, and its portrayal of Magneto is preferable to anything done to the character in the comics since Claremont’s departure. “Beyond Good and Evil” tosses in virtually every X-related character who hasn’t appeared yet, reminding me of the five-part season openers of G. I. Joe and Transformers that used to introduce the latest wave of action figures. Since this was apparently going to be the series finale, most of the major characters from the previous episodes also appear. Rather than feeling like a mess, it’s actually fun to see the various characters brought together in one large story. Unfortunately, the rest of the set features some forgettable episodes. Everyone from the High Evolutionary to the Brood to the Silver Samurai appears, but none of the episodes really click.

Once again, the sets have no special features. It shouldn’t be too hard to toss in things like the Chris Claremont interview that was already used in a previous release of Wolverine-centric episodes, or the Japanese openings for the show. A gallery of the covers of the VHS releases, which has some memorable work by Ty Templeton, would also be nice. If the rights are available for the ‘80s pilot “Pryde of the X-Men,” that definitely needs to be included before the series is finished. That complaint aside, it’s great to see the series finally on DVD, with over sixty episodes released in less than six months. If you’re willing to forgive some of the flaws, I think both sets are worth checking out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TMNT MEET ARCHIE – Spring 1991

Green Legs & Gams

Credits: Ryan Brown & Dean Clarrain (plot), Dean Clarrain (script), Ken Mitchroney & Stan Goldberg (pencils), Ryan Brown & Rudy Lapick (inks), Mary Kelleher (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

It had to happen…the Turtles meet Archie. Plus, Josie and the Pussycats (but not Sabrina). The story begins as Cudley drops the Turtles off in a parallel Earth to have fun for a few hours. They’ve entered the strange world known as “Riverdale.” Archie and Betty just happen to be nearby, engaging in a G-rated makeout session in Archie’s convertible.

Their sinful lust is interrupted when they witness a giant cow’s head spitting out four little green men. This understandably unnerves them, but they find that the locals at Pop’s Malt Shop are hardcore skeptics. After thoroughly mocking their friends, the teens leave for a Josie and the Pussycats show. Meanwhile, the Turtles disguise themselves and explore Riverdale. They run across Veronica, who doesn’t make a great first impression.

The Turtles watch as she’s taken into custody by “Infernal Revenue Service” agents who allege that she failed to claim several cash gifts on her last return. The Turtles explain the situation to the Archie gang when they come looking for Veronica. Jughead astutely points out that Veronica actually has no taxable income, being a rich daddy’s girl who doesn’t work, which makes the gang suspicious. Archie overcomes his fear of the little green men, as everyone crams into his convertible and looks for Veronica.

The Turtles soon spot the car belonging to Veronica’s abductors at a seedy motel (as seedy as it gets in Riverdale, at least). Jughead risks his life playing pizza boy, which distracts the kidnappers while the Turtles break into the motel room.

(Jughead’s really putting himself out there for someone who’s only shown him contempt in the past. Why isn’t Archie doing this?) The Turtles quickly defeat the kidnappers, just as Veronica’s father arrives with the ransom money. Mr. Lodge thanks the “oddly-dressed” heroes and offers to treat them to pizza at Pop’s. Everyone enjoys pizzas and malts, as poor Hot Dog watches enviously outside. Plus, it looks like Veronica has made up with Raphael. Enjoy it while you can, Raph. It’s only a matter of time before she realizes that there’s no money in ninja turtling.

Review in a Half-Shell: The Turtles meet Archie, and the story covers most of the things you would expect it to in twenty-two pages. Ken Mitchroney draws the Turtles while Stan Goldberg handles the Archie characters, which is similar to the way Archie treated the Punisher/Archie crossover. It’s really the best representation of both styles, and while there’s nothing that notable about the story, the characters are given enough room for some entertaining interactions.

I Love the (early) ‘90s: Veronica tells Archie and Reggie not to engage in any “slam dancing” at the concert when she sees Reggie hassling Archie.

Red Sails in the Sunset

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Don Simpson (art & letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

In this backup story, which takes place in-between issues #16 and #17, the Turtles and Man Ray are still on the beach after Bubbla’s funeral. Man Ray uses his Aquaman powers to call out to any nearby humpback whales that might be able to offer a ride. Instead, a mysterious pirate ship arrives. Onboard, the Turtles discover old skeletons and a locked treasure chest. Raphael opens it, inadvertently freeing the souls of the skeletons.

The Turtles fight the skeletons while Man Ray and April try to decipher the message left in a bottle onboard. They eventually realize that they have to bury the engraved woman on the ship’s masthead in the sand. After they follow the directions, the skeletons and the ship soon dissolve into nothingness.

The Turtles aren’t willing to forgive Raphael just yet, though. He must be punished.

Review in a Half-Shell: This actually has more action than the average issue of Adventures, and it’s only a few pages long. I guess zombie skeletons are the type of villains the Turtles should be facing in this series, since they can be slashed and hacked mercilessly without offending anyone. The real standout is Don Simpson’s art. He draws the strangest Turtles I’ve ever seen (with bug eyes, overbites, and scales…and I’m still not sure how I feel about them), but his depictions of the pirate ship, the skeletons, and the overall setting are fantastic. As ugly as his Turtles can look, he also manages to draw the most attractive April O’Neil yet (through his website, I see that Simpson has also done “adult” comics, so I guess he has experience with the female form). I honestly think this issue is worth tracking down just for this backup.

Pizza References: Raphael hopes to find coupons to Pizza Shack in the treasure chest.

Storm Drain Savers

Credits: Stephen Murphy (script), Jim Lawson (pencils), Peter Laird, Dan Berger, Michael Dooney, Steve Lavigne, & Eric Talbot (inks), Mary Kelleher (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

This originally ran as a give-away Earth Day comic from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project. It mainly consists of the Turtles walking through the sewers, pointing out garbage and telling you not to litter. It’s notable for Stephen Murphy being credited under his real name, and the five people it took to ink a four-page mini comic. There’s a “no plastics” stamp on the bottom of one of the pages, which is amusing. I guess all of that TMNT merchandise was made out of fairy dust and the innocence of a child’s dreams.

Origin of the Species

Credits: Ryan Brown (story), Doug Brammer (script), Dave Garcia (pencils), S. R. Bissette (inks), Mary Kelleher (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

In a story from the recent past, Bebop and Rocksteady steal a frozen caveman from a capsized ship. Shredder attempts to mutate him, which creates an out of control Mastodon Man.

(If this guy was never an action figure, that is a true shame.) The Turtles run across him in the streets, but soon realize that he’s hurt and confused, not evil. Bebop and Rocksteady arrive and blast the Mastodon Man into the frozen river. The Turtles try to save him, but the mutant drowns. Bebop and Rocksteady proudly fly away, leaving the Turtles to wonder who the real monster is.

Review in a Half-Shell: I’m not that familiar with Dave Garcia’s art, but the combination of his pencils and Stephen Bissette’s inks is very impressive. The story’s very straightforward, aside from the twist that the mutant is just misunderstood, which is actually pretty standard by this point. (How many of the mutants Shredder created actually ended up working with him? He should probably think about this.) The story’s just an excuse for the Mastodon Man to run around for a few pages, and it looks great.

What the Shell? : A young girl writes in to say that we should all learn from the animals, since they don’t kill, rape, and steal like people do. I’m not getting into the sheer naiveté of her statement, but I am wondering if this was the first (and only) time the word “rape” showed up in an Archie comic.

Monday, September 21, 2009

TMNT Adventures #16 – January 1991

Dreadging the Ocean Blue

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Ken Mitchroney (pencils), Dan Berger (inks), Barry Grossman (colors), Gary Fields (letters)

Man Ray returns! Although he has to throw in that “some know (him) as Ray Fillet,” which was the name used in the cartoon and toy line. The Turtles are reunited with him after they’re kidnapped by a strange vehicle while sailing home. Man Ray explains that since the last time he saw the Turtles, he’s been exploring the ocean and learning more about his powers (conveniently enough, he’s discovered that he has an organ that lets him breathe on dry land). While exploring the sea, he also discovered Bubbla.

Bubbla belongs to the hidden world of Glublub, which is being poisoned by evil polluters. When Man Ray and Bubbla investigated a nearby toxic waste dumping site, they became sick and blacked out. They awoke inside their current prison, which they soon escape with the Turtles’ help. Their captor is Mr. Null’s henchman, The Kid, and his goons, the Oceanauts. They don’t put up much of a fight, but Kid does get off one good shot.

Man Ray, enraged by Bubbla’s death, destroys the entire underwater base. The Turtles and April O’Neil escape on the backs of some helpful sea turtles (returning the favor of a few pages earlier, when Donatello rescued one from a plastic six-pack ring). The Turtles reunite with Man Ray on the beach, and hold a memorial service for Bubbla. Poor Bubbla…

Review in a Half-Shell: I don’t know if introducing a cute and cuddly sidekick for Man Ray and killing him off a few pages later was intentional black comedy, but it’s certainly not something you see coming. This issue runs twenty-nine pages, and Man Ray doesn’t even show up until page eighteen. I wouldn’t call it decompressed, but there is a relaxed pace in most of the issue. Splinter spends a page meditating about the Turtles’ return, The Kid searches for the Turtles for two pages, the Turtles hang out on the beach for a few pages, say goodbye to Jagwar and Dreadmon, then have fun in the ocean for awhile, etc. It doesn’t feel as if the story’s wasting time, as Clarrain/Murphy makes the characters likable enough, the setting is something you rarely see in comics, and Mitchroney’s art is very clean and attractive.

I Was Not Aware of That: Man Ray was renamed “Ray Fillet” because Stephen Murphy and Ryan Brown objected to using him as a villain in the cartoon and toy line. Since they created the character, they had final say over his appearances in other media, and remained adamant that he stay a hero. Renaming him “Ray Fillet” and altering his design technically makes him a different character, which I guess was the condition that allowed him to appear outside of the comics. (More info here and here.) Bubbla, by the way, is based on a tiny figurine that came with the Ray Fillet toy.

“Cowabunga!” Count: I considered doing this category when I began reviewing the TMNT comics, but didn’t even see a usage of the word in the early issues. Unless I missed one, “Cowabunga!” shows up for the first time in this issue. Michelangelo says it twice, once while surfing at the beach, and later when his body is used to break the glass imprisoning the Turtles.

Friday, September 18, 2009

TMNT Adventures #15 – October 1990

The Howling of Distant Shadows

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Ken Mitchroney (pencils), Dan Berger (inks), Buz McKim (clean-ups), Barry Grossman (colors), Gary Fields (letters)

The Turtles are still in the Amazon with April O’Neil and their new friend, Jagwar. After the story spends several pages exploring the area with detailed drawings of the environment and wildlife (which is apparently the type of material Clarrain/Murphy dealt with in his Puma Blues series), the Turtles run across the Coipacu tribe. The Coipacu believe that the Turtles are descendants of the Great Turtle, a central figure in their creation story. The tribe asks the Turtles to stop the pirate miners who have been kidnapping tribe members and forcing them to work in slavery.

Before the Turtles can learn the entire story, they overhear loud howling. It belongs to Dreadmon, an anthropomorphic wolf with a Jamaican accent. The tribe’s been leaving overripe fruit and a pate made of monkey bladder to feed him, which also sounds appealing to Michelangelo.

Soon, Dreadmon joins the Turtles and Jagwar in defeating the miners. Their activities are reported by The Kid, who is another employee of the sinister Mr. Null. Null orders Kid to stay on the Turtles’ trail, as they return to the tribe for a celebration. Did I mention that the tribe lives amongst dinosaurs? Because they do. (This actually reminds me of that Wolverine two-parter in the early issues of Punisher War Journal.)

Review in a Half-Shell: The story makes nice use of the Amazon environment, and it’s obvious that Clarrain/Murphy has spent a lot of time researching the area. Mitchroney’s art seems a little rushed in a few places, but he does a great rendition of Dreadmon (particularly his Wile E. Coyote-style facial expressions). It looks like Dreadmon didn’t get an action figure, either, which is a real shame. Playmates pumped out so many of these toys, yet chose to overlook such a cool-looking character.

Pizza References: Michelangelo wonders if the Coipacu have a Pizza Shack in their village. Why not directly name-check Pizza Hut? I’m sure they paid good money to sponsor the Ninja Turtles concert tour.

I Was Not Aware of That: The Coipacu’s belief that the world is an island borne on the back of the Great Turtle is apparently a reference to the Iroquois story of creation.

What the Shell? : This fan letter from Columbia, SC is very concerned about the future of Wingnut’s race and has a theory about what can be done.

Meanwhile, in Riverdale… : Jughead’s Diner is having a bowl-a-thon. Mr. Weatherbee is on the lookout for Archie with his new surveillance system in Archie 3000. The alien, Zark, becomes a student in Archie’s classroom in Riverdale High.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TMNT Adventures #14 – September 1990

Leave Heaven Alone

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Donald Simpson (pencils), Dan Berger (inks), Barry Grossman (colors), Gary Fields (letters)

And now, a very special issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures. Cudley returns the Turtles to Earth, but instead of taking them home, he drops them off in Brazil. They quickly run into Jagwar, a humanoid jaguar who is a target of armed mercenaries. They retreat to Jagwar’s temple, where he explains that the rainforest is under assault from greedy developers. They killed Jagwar ‘s friend, a local labor leader who spoke out against the development. They’ve also kidnapped an American TV reporter was sent to investigate the murder.

The Turtles nourish themselves with the fruit of the jangala tree as Jagwar gives a monologue about the beauty of the rainforest.

The Turtles track down the developers with Jagwar, and learn that the kidnapped reporter is April O’Neil. Raphael is assigned to knock out the guard, which leads to my favorite scene in the issue:

Soon, Jagwar and the Turtles defeat the developers and rescue April. Jagwar mourns the loss of his friend, and the continued destruction of the rainforest.

Notice that Michelangelo and Donatello are actually crying, too. Raphael and Leonardo are just standing there awkwardly. In the epilogue, we learn that the man behind the developers is (of course) a greedy, skyscraper-dwelling, cigar-smoking businessman. His name is Null, and he’ll play a large role in upcoming issues.

Review in a Half-Shell: Do people still do rainforest stories these days? Does Sting still perform benefit concerts? I’m not sure if the situation ever changed (there are quite a few websites dedicated to the cause, and apparently some people skeptical about the "50 acres is lost each minute" claim repeated in this issue...looking online, I see people claiming anything between 30 acres and 150 today), but it seems like it’s an issue that you never hear anything about anymore. The story is obviously preachy (there’s actual crying!), but there is at least a brief acknowledgment that the situation isn’t as simple as “evil developers maliciously enjoy killing trees for fun.” Jagwar acknowledges that while some locals want the land left alone, others support limited development as it creates jobs and alleviates poverty. It’s the villains who don’t care about the locals at all. I think Jagwar is later given an origin, but in this issue he just appears as a talking jaguar. The fact that he has an ancient temple is the only clue about his origins, which bothered me as a kid. I was only able to get over my initial skepticism of the Turtles when I learned that there was a proper explanation for their human traits. I could accept talking animals, but only if there was some level of internal logic. I also had no idea what to make of Don Simpson’s art, which certainly has a…unique take on the Turtles.

Pizza References: Raphael wonders what the jangala fruit would taste like on a thick pan pizza, along with a list of toppings that includes earthworms.

Meanwhile, in Riverdale… : There’s a full page ad for the Archie 3000 series. It’s truly a thing of beauty. I like Archie’s rat-tail.

Monday, September 14, 2009

TMNT Adventures #13 – August 1990

Stump Comics Presents: The Final Conflict

Credits: Dean Clarrain & Ryan Brown (plot), Dean Clarrain (script), Ken Mitchroney (pencils), Buz McKim (clean-ups), Dan Berger (inks), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

The Turtles, along with Wingnut, Screwloose, Trap, and Leatherhead face the children of Maligna, as Stump’s cameras broadcast the event. During the fight, Leatherhead is tossed out of the arena, and conveniently lands right next to the missing Turnstone. He could use it to restore his human form, but decides to summon Cherubae. Using the Turnstone, he frees her from the Sons of Silence. Cherubae explains that she turned Jess Harley into Leatherhead knowing all along that he would be the one to discover the Turnstone. Leatherhead doesn’t believe her, but he does hand back the Turnstone.

Cherubae uses the Turnstone to paralyze the Turtles’ enemies and send them away. Bebop and Rocksteady are sent to a planet dominated by wild animals, which pays off Rocksteady’s dream from the previous issue. Shredder is sent to an Earth prison, while Krang is banished to the toxic waste planet of Dumpworld. Donatello, who’s apparently forgotten that Cherubae is a warlord, comments that this seems harsh.

Cherubae then summons the Turnstone out of existence, claiming it’s too powerful for anyone to hold. Stump’s men are given Krang’s ship to return home, while the Turtles are handed a one-way ticket on the Cudley Express.

Review in a Half-Shell: This is the all-action climax of the first lengthy story arc, and while the fight scenes work pretty well, there is the odd matter of Cherubae. Even within this issue, she’s referred to as a warlord, yet she’s seen smiling throughout the story (and it’s not an evil grin, either), behaving selflessly, and thanking the Turtles for helping her save billions of lives from Krang. What kind of a “warlord” is this? I also don’t know what role the Sons of Silence were supposed to play, as they essentially do nothing throughout the story, and we’re never told what their connection to Krang was, or what they wanted to do with Cherubae. Despite the nitpicking, Mitchroney handles the action well, and there are a few decent character interactions during the fight.

Absolutely Approved By The Comics Code Authority: Leonardo disapproves of Trap using guns against Maligna’s hive, claiming that guns aren’t “honorable.” I guess we’re supposed to believe that the Turtles’ ninja weapons are just as harmless here as they are in the cartoon (and how does Leo justify the guns on the Turtle Van, hmmm?).

I Love the (Early) 90’s: The fight with Maligna’s hive is described as a “whirlwind of flashing weapons amidst a slam-dance of wounded air.”

Pizza References: One. Michelangelo tells Cherubae that she should’ve conjured up some pizza before wishing the Turnstone out of existence. Leonardo and Raphael agree.

Turtlemania: TMNT skateboard pads are advertised, offering you a choice of four colors (guess which ones).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Finally..."The Juggernaut Returns" In Digital

Disney has provided me with comp copies of X-Men vol. 3 and vol. 4 on DVD. The release date is September 15, and you can find an episode listing here. I'll write more about them in the future, but I just wanted to point out that these volumes have cardboard sleeves with raised figures and foil effects. It seems appropriate to me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

TMNT Adventures #12 – July 1990

The Lost World

Credits: Ryan Brown & Dean Clarrain (plot), Dean Clarrain (script), Ken Mitchroney (penciler), Dan Berger (inker), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

The series really takes advantage of its twenty-eight page length with this issue, as the pace picks up considerably. The Turtles find themselves in Dimension X with Cherubae, the former warlord who disguised herself as Mary Bones on Earth. She explains that all warlords were banished in Dimension X once the theocracy took over. She somehow has possession of the legendary Turnstone (which, according to myth, belonged to the first woman and was given up when she used it to create the first man…alternate theology, folks), and is hiding out from Krang. Rather shamelessly, she’s using the Turtles to help protect the Turnstone from Krang.

Krang soon discovers Cherubae, and takes her down with a combination of X-Ray Lasers and a “Braak! BaDoom!” blast. Cherubae drops the Turnstone on the planet she left the Turtles on, and her body is soon surrounded by the Sons of Silence. The Sons disappear with Cherubae, much to Krang’s chagrin. He sends Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady to find the Turnstone while he seeks additional help. He contacts Maligna, the queen of a race of alien insects.

(Notice the pre-Comicraft crazy font.) Krang promises to give her Earth if she sends ten of her children to help find the Turnstone. Meanwhile, the Turtles’ search leads them to an empty coliseum. Cudley the Cowlick suddenly appears, offering to deliver help if the Turtles agree to another intergalactic wrestling tournament. They consent, and Cudley promptly delivers Wingnut, Screwloose, Leatherhead, and Trap (who had a one-panel cameo appearance back in issue #7).

Trap is a cigar-chomping tough guy who may or may not be a parody of the archetype that also gave us Cable in New Mutants at around the same time. He asks Leonardo what exactly they’re supposed to do, as Maligna's hive lines up to attack. To be continued…

Review in a Half-Shell: The issue opens with a poetic description of two rhinos at peace in Africa. On the next page, we learn that it’s Rocksteady dreaming of his past with his mate, revealing that Rocksteady has the memories of the rhino used in his mutation. It’s a brief scene that gives some depth to the character, and helps to signify the more sophisticated style the book is developing. This feels almost like a “season finale” comic, as elements from the earlier issues return to form the pieces of a larger puzzle. It reads more like a traditional “big two” superhero comic from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, while also retaining some of the odder elements of the Turtles canon. Plus, Cudley returns, and everyone loves Cudley.

Pizza References: One. Leonardo suggests conjuring up pizza with the Turnstone once they find it.

Turtlemania: You can join the Turtle Force Fan Club for $4.50. You get a newsletter, comic, bandanna, sticker, and official wall certificate.

Meanwhile, in Riverdale… : At last, Jughead has his own Double Digest.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

TMNT Adventures #11 – June 1990

White Light

Credits: Ryan Brown & Dean Clarrain (plot), Dean Clarrain (script), Jim Lawson (pencils), Gary Fields (inks & letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

Following last issue’s cliffhanger, the Turtles find themselves attacked by an army of sewer rats. The rats are called off by their leader, Ha’ntaan, the Rat King. (If “Ha’ntaan” is supposed to be a reference to something, it’s lost on me.) The Rat King accepts Leonardo’s apology for disturbing his kingdom and allows the Turtles to go free. Don’t be discouraged, kids. Even if Rat King didn’t do much in this issue, I’m sure you can have hours of fun with his Playmates action figure.

The Turtles continue to search the sewers for Shredder, and eventually discover a Foot Soldier sentry robot. I don’t recall this guy ever getting his own toy, but he does put up a decent fight for a few pages. Giving him skull and bones word balloons is also a nice touch.

After defeating him, the Turtles make their way to Shredder’s underground base. There, they learn that the Greys the Sons of Silence have rescued Bebop and Rocksteady from the mountain of debris.

The Sons, who are working for Krang, put the Turtles in a trance. Krang and Shredder are now free to search for the Turnstone; however, Mary Bones is using the Turnstone to spy on them. She takes her true alien form and uses the Turnstone to teleport the Turtles to Dimension X. Krang decides to chase Mary and the Turtles in his skull-shaped rocket ship.

Review in a Half-Shell: I guess having the Turtles fight rats is slightly more exciting than the X-Men fighting birds, but that’s not saying a lot. The Rat King doesn’t seem to fill a role in the story outside of making Playmates happy, which is too bad since I have fond memories of him from the cartoon. (Why exactly, I’m not sure. I think he was portrayed as a regal anti-hero who would occasionally aid the Turtles, but I could be wrong.) Since the Archie series has twenty-eight pages of story each issue instead of twenty-two, at least there’s still room to move the plot along after the Rat King diversion is over. I don’t remember how the Turnstone storyline eventually ended, but it’s interesting to see how various elements from the previous issues are coming together into a cohesive story.

What the Shell?: Krang’s ship is in orbit over this bum-what world?

Turtlemania: The TMNT role playing game, which has art from the original comics and is recommended for players age twelve and older, is advertised. I was intrigued by this ad, but couldn’t convince my mother to pay the $10+ price tag. Seeing artwork of the original, grittier Turtles always had an odd effect on me as a kid. I knew these were the “real” Turtles, but they seemed so different from the mass-merchandised version.

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