This is a big week for comic books. Scott Snyder started another weekly title for DC in the spirit of Batman Eternal titled Batman and Robin Eternal; over at IDW, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles put a close on their main story arc; Image released two Brian K. Vaughan issues (Paper Girls #1 and We Stand On Guard #4); and if you like to make yours Marvel it looks like a bunch of books either ended or started anew this week. I leafed through as many comics as I could and decided to present you with my personal favorites of the last week.
By the way, with all these Eternal titles floating around, I’m personally holding out for Alfred Pennyworth Eternal. In fact, if you’re reading this, Bob Harras, I have a heck of a pitch for this possibly future weekly title, so hit me up.
If you’re reading something that is blowing your mind this week, hit me up. I am currently only keeping up on Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, and Marvel comics, so I don’t know much about some of the smaller publishers and there are many titles under these imprints that I haven’t checked out because I don’t know much about their creative teams. I’m always in the mood to be inspired. Feel free to be the one who sets me up with my latest inspiration!
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #50 (IDW Comics), Unspoiled Edition
This new series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has quite a few parallels with the original Eastman and Laird title, so the main reveal of the momentous fiftieth issue might seem predictable. After all, the final battle pitting Master Splinter and sons against Master Shredder and his mutant goons is bound to have some casualties. However, the “war to end all wars” that takes place under the Manhattan moon is not without its surprises, and its conclusion may leave you wondering about the future of the title. I have much much more to say about this issue, but you’re going to have to delve into the spoiler zone below in order to read it.
2. Paper Girls #1 (Image Comics), Unspoiled Edition
Brian K. Vaughan revealed his plan for a post-apocalyptic Canada in the mini-series We Stand on Guard a couple of months ago. In 2012, Image began publishing his space opera Saga, which is likely to eclipse Y The Last Man as his magnum opus (at least from where I stand). With these two data points, I assumed it was going to be another three years (approximately 2018) before we could expect anything remotely earthshaking from BKV. Paper Girls, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang has introduced me to the joy of being wrong.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #50 (IDW Comics), Spoiled Edition
While DC and Marvel have worked to wrangle decades of comic book history into a neat continuity with different methods and varying success, IDW comics has pretty seamlessly woven together elements of the Mirage and Archie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic series with the 1987 CBS cartoon and the result has varied from solid to outstanding. I white knuckled my way through the final battle between Splinter and Shredder, and thought I’d share with you the four moments when my jaw dropped. You get that I really enjoyed this issue, yes?
Donatello, in the Flesh
This is probably one of the more predictable, yet no less monumental, moments in the issue, and yet I was right there with Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael in their moment of terror as they watched the inorganic shell housing their brother’s consciousness self-detonate to take out the nigh-invincible Bebop and Rocksteady.
The previous issue proved that Donatello would be returning to the flesh shortly, after we saw the first of two cameos of a mutant who we can only presume to be Leatherhead holding a vile of mutagen. As I mentioned in the no spoiler zone above, the future of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle title looks like it is going to be a big old question mark, but the Donatello story arc provides us with two obvious plots as we move forward. First and foremost, (a mutant who is likely an alligator named) Leatherhead just saved Donatello’s life and that is a debt that won’t go long unpaid, but second, and probably more importantly, Donatello is going to be struggling with the limitations of his flesh. While he was Metalhead, his processors worked much faster than the human brain, and he had magnificent weapons built into his synthetic body. Now, he’s got a space age shell and bow, but there’s bound to be some depression and frustration coming as soon as Donatello sees some down time.
Shred Head, Dead
The creative team working on IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles over the years has proven their boldness time and again, so I was fully prepared for them to turn the old stories on their head and kill off Master Splinter. If that happened, my wife was probably going to see me crying while reading a comic book. (It wouldn’t be the first time. While reading Geoff Johns’ “The Sinestro Corps War” story arc in Green Lantern, I not only cried while reading about Coast City supporting Hal Jordan with green lights in their windows, but I cried once again while describing the issue to Amy as we got an oil change in Lowell.) It didn’t happen. As predicted, Shredder bit the dust. This is a big deal, and it is really the take home message of this issue, but it is nothing new to a non-casual TMNT fan. Normally, this would be followed by a City at War arc where the gangs of New York are trying to fill the power vacuum left by the Shredder, and this might just happen, but there are some other turns of event that make me question if it will happen exactly as we expect…
I may have been the most disturbed by Michelangelo leaving the group. Turtles fans are used to Raphael storming off and leaving the band of brothers for a night, a week, a month, or longer. That is just who Raph is. We have seen Leonardo depart from his family when he was brainwashed into becoming Shredder’s chunin (second in command). We even recently saw Donatello bid farewell to the team shortly before his apparent death by the hands of Bebop and Rocksteady. But there was something stomach-turning about Michelangelo leaving. Even the concept of Michelangelo, the happy, fun-loving brother, stepping out of character and bidding this lifestyle farewell is uncomfortable, but his reason for leaving makes this all the more destructive for Splinter and Company. Michelangelo witnessed his father kill Shredder, a man who was once his brother, and though it is thought of as the only honorable end for a warrior, watching your father decapitate an incapacitated enemy can’t be an easy thing to watch.
When the other turtles took a sabbatical, it became difficult to imagine anything getting in the way of their reunion, but under this circumstance it has become difficult to imagine Michelangelo ever being able to come back. Michelangelo is the heart of the team, and his absence will be felt heavier than any of the others in the months to come. Perhaps more important, it is unclear where he could possibly go. He has always had his buddy at the pizza parlor to talk to, but who could possibly commiserate with what this turtle has seen, what he has been through. This move is more gutsy than teasing audiences into thinking Donatello is dead, and it makes for good writing, but as much as I admire this change of direction I’m not sure it is a world I want to be a part of.
The King is Dead, Long Live the King
In yet another unexpected turn, Oroku Karai’s first decision as Master and general of the foot clan army is to not only honor Splinter’s detante order, but to hand over the reins of the organization to Master Splinter. I half expected the rat to don the helm of Shredder, suggesting a possible future corruption a la the Star Wars: Episode I photo of young Anakin Skywalker on Tattooine with his shadow taking the shape of Darth Vader. The foot clan was once an honorable school of warriors in feudal Japan, and perhaps it can return. However, there are clearly going to be problems. Many of these ninja have grown accustomed to crime, vendetta, and the will of a seemingly undying master, and that is an influence that will be hard to break. I expect to see splinter groups (I made a funny!) arising, possibly assassination attempts, and shaky footed run-ins with Hun and the Purple Dragons.
I have never been more excited to read Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
2. Paper Girls #2 (Image Comics), Spoiled Edition
Our first view into the world of Paper Girls shows a 12-year old brunette girl named Erin crouching on the moon, dressed in a one-piece swim suit and holding a large red apple, the first segment of a dream sequence that she is having just before she awakes to “Hell morning” on November 1, 1988. Erin is a paper girl, and she has a job to do. At 4:40 AM she begins preparing a stack of The Cleveland Preserver so she can mount her bicycle and deliver the Tuesday edition to her neighbors.
While most people I know were sold on this comic simply because writer Brian K. Vaughan was associated with the project, it was actually this first panel that told me I was going to enjoy this comic. During the current decade, I have enjoyed few comics more than DC’s New 52 Wonder Woman with the team of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, and here was a young, strong woman drawn by Chiang himself who reminded me of a pre-teen Wonder Woman. There was a feeling of continuity there, and that was enough for me to commit.
The Paper Girls themselves are fantastic. They are strong, non-sexualized girls, comparable to Chris Claremont’s early Kitty Pryde or Louise Simonson’s female Power Pack members, Julie and Katie Power. The story is driven by the obligatory banding together of young female “paper boys” during the dangerous period following Halloween. I will say that I am in this book for the characters. There is nothing wrong with the plot. The mutant alien ninjas (?) and the strange (organic?) device and the possible transportation to another place in the cosmos are all fine and good — it feels a little bit like the beginning of LOST with the mysterious island full of smoke monsters, charging polar bears, and ghosts from the past, and this is not unsurprising since Vaughan helped the creative team at LOST as they steered the hit success toward its conclusion — but ultimately the tone of urgency, danger, and uncertainty drives home a much bigger punch than any of these plot devices.
If I’m giving the creative team due diligence, I would have to say that I’m excited to see how Vaughan’s new epic is going to unfold, but if I’m being honest with my first opinion on this comic, I would be happy just to see some dazzling splash pages by Cliff Chiang. Truthfully, I’d probably keep picking up Paper Girls even if all I did was flip through the pictures every month.
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This review does not exactly take into consideration solid comics that are holding the line, so issues like Batman and Robin Eternal #1, We Stand on Guard #4, Amazing Spider-man #1, and Star Wars #10 perhaps didn’t get the praise that they deserved. We need comics like those to keep the industry running, and it is within these series that we are likely to see some of the best issues in the coming months. However, I really want to focus on those comics that are really bringing everything they have, staying true to the characters and histories that they are a part of while also presenting enough depth and excitement to bring in new readers. In other words, if you are not reading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Paper Girls you are missing out, plain and simple.