Thursday, August 03, 2023

A Month of Wednesdays: July 2023

So this is weird. This is the first month since I've been writing this blog that I bought absolutely zero new comics in a single calendar month. None. I've switched to graphic novels for my reading, and have been consciously trying to buy fewer and fewer books, as the space in my apartment reaches its maximum ability to accommodate new books, but I was still surprised to find zero new comics come in this month. That kind of defeats the purpose of this column, in which books I deemed exciting or interesting enough to buy instead of borrow from the library are highlighted by their place in the Bought, Borrowed or Reviewed hierarchy, and, if it keeps up, I may need to rethink the format of my now monthly-ish posts.

In the mean time, here's the (fewer than ever!) books I read this month....not counting Batgirls Vol. 1, which I gave its own post.


Komi Can't Communicate Vol. 25 (Viz Media) Komi, Tadano and Najimi are starting their third and final year of high school, which means Komi's goal of making 100 friends is now on a deadline. The trio are in a new class, one in which almost no one they know has joined them in. That gives Komi the opportunity to make a whole new batch of friends, of course, but this group all has their own communication disorders of various kinds, and none seem eager to sign Komi's notebook.

The volume is dominated by a weird beginning-of-the-year ceremony, an every year vs. every year battle royale performed with Nerf, er, "Enough" guns. In the midst of the battle, Komi has an argument with one of her classmates, whose cynical and adverse to doing things in groups or following others. 

With lots of new characters, and a weird, standalone storyline, this actually feels like a good jumping-on point in a long-running narrative, although with manga, there's no real need for jumping-on points, as that's what the first volume is. Still, Komi remains a really fun regular read. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Armageddon Game—Opening Moves (IDW Publishing) I had been planning on completely ignoring IDW's TMNT event story "Armageddon Game," as I've ignored the majority of the publisher's expansive "Volume 5" of the TMNT (at least the parts not written and/or drawn by EDILW favorite Sophie Campbell). I didn't get much of a choice though, as the events intruded on Campbell's TMNT ongoing in its latest collection (Game Changers, reviewed here), which included the Tom Waltz-written, Campbell-drawn TMNT FCBD 2022: The Armageddon Game, a carefully created remix of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's original 1984 TMNT #1.  That so intrigued me that it actually interested me in the event series, as big and unwieldly as it seems, and this seems to be the start of it. 

A Marvel-style trade collection presumably compiled specifically for those interested in the crossover who haven't been following IDW's massive TMNT publishing slate since the beginning (I only lasted nine volumes of the series before wandering away, picking up the occasional crossover or miniseries only until Campbell took the reins with the re-branded "Reborn" run). The 160-page tome includes not just the two-issue "Armageddon Game" prequel series Opening Moves, but also the 2020 and 2021 annuals, all written by Tom Waltz,  as well as issues #84 or the regular TMNT series by Waltz,  Eastman and Bobby Curnow, and something called "Kingdom of Rats Prelude," by Curnow. Six different artists are responsible for the contents: Pablo Tunica, Dave Wachter, Adam Gorham, Casey Maloney and Maria Keane and Fero Pe.

The throughline is the Rat King, who, in IDW's iteration, is a god of mischief, part of a pantheon of gods that includes a version of the old Archie Comics character Jagwar and other, original creations. The Turtles have apparently had dealings with all of these before, with the Rat King being a particularly frequent antagonist. 

The stories here establish the character through his interactions with the Turtles, The Shredder and his fellow pantheon members. There's a battle with the Turtles, which happens simultaneously on the physical and astral planes, an attempt to recruit a reformed Shredder, a visit to Krang, who is somehow stuck in Leatherhead's abdomen and in semi-control of the character, followed by visits to many of his siblings, trying to interest them in the resumption of the titular Armageddon Game, some sort of game of gods involving real  people (and/or mutants and/or aliens) as pawns, the rules of which aren't laid out with the same attention as the players and potential players.

He ends up recruiting from the Turtles' villain pool: Evil scientist-turned-mayor Baxter Stockman, interdimensional warlord Krang and alien businesswoman Null. Meanwhile, the Shredder, who is in a relationship with the Rat King's sister Kitsune, is warned of the impending game, and he and Kitsune assume astral form to investigate the new players in astral form, revealing the same hodgepodge of pre-extant characters from various continuities and original concepts that was a hallmark of Waltz's long run on the series (Triceratons from Mirage, the Neutrinos from the original cartoon series, Cherubae, Cudley and the Turnstone from the Archie comics). 

As a read, it definitely achieved its goals. As a relative novice, I now know the Rat King, his pantheon and some of their interests in (or lack thereof) the Turtles and other players in IDW's Turtle universe. I know about the existence of the Game, and I know the identities and something of the histories of the new players, and their various enemies beyond just the Turtles. 

I can't say it was terribly engaging though. Waltz in particular writes the Rat King as an interesting character, but there was a degree to which volume felt a bit like homework, like studying comics in order to enjoy an upcoming comic, which, I guess it is. The Turtles are mostly absent from the proceedings,  their most heavy involvement being the single issue from the TMNT series that is collected, and comes quite early in the proceedings.

The visuals match the quality of the writing. The art is all serviceable, but nothing really knocked my socks off, and it was most interesting to see how characters and concepts I was familiar with from various earlier iterations reinterpreted my new artists for a new universe of stories. This likely betrays my own prejudices about TMNT stories, but the moments of the book that most interested me were Eastman's variant covers for the proceedings. It was interesting—read weird—seeing things like Eastman's style, so familiar from the earlier, grittier, alternative comics version of the Turtles, applied to characters from a later, kid-friendly iteration like Cherubae. 

This dampened my excitement for Armageddon Game a bit, elevated though it was by the last volume of Campbell and company's TMNT, but at least now I feel thoroughly prepared to read it. This was a bit of a slog, but then, it was practically designed to be such, a semi-necessary cram session of a trade paperback. 


Fann Club: Batman Squad (DC Comics) Prolific kids' book creator Jim Benton (Dear Dumb Diary, Franny K. Stein, Cat Wad) produced a graphic novel kinda sorta about Batman, or at least Batman through the eyes of Batman mega-fan Ernest Fann, who starts a Batman fan club with those closest to him (his best friend, his babysitter, his dog) in order to bring justice to his world. It's really funny; trust me. More here