Sunday, November 05, 2023

A Month of Wednesdays: October 2023


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Reborn, Vol. 7—Isolation (IDW Publishing) The tag on the cover says "The Armageddon Game", and the seven issues included in this collection are apparently those that were published in the pages of the main TMNT comic while the TMNT: Armageddon Game miniseries was unfolding. As such, it's clear that quite a bit of other stuff featuring the stars of the series is going on somewhere else, stuff that only occasionally intersects with the plotting of the stories collected in this trade. Still, it's surprisingly readable, with only two or three of the issues noticeably impacted by that other stuff.

The first five issues or so are relatively straightforward, focusing on the two ninja turtles still in Mutant Town, Donatello and Jennika, while the other three are off doing other things. Donatello is working a monitor array and trying to keep tabs on everything happening in town, while simultaneously protecting Triceraton regent, Seri. Jennika, meanwhile, is filling in as town constable, while Raphael is off participating in the event series. 

Mayor Baxter Stockman gives a state of the city address and he is attacked on camera by four white-masked mutant turtles with familiar-looking weapons (these seem to be the turtles Campbell drew in TMNT FCBD 2022: The Armageddon Game, which was collected in TMNT: Reborn, Vol. 6). This sets off riots in Mutant Town, as differing factions of the populace react violently in different directions. Meanwhile, the Utrom's from Burnow Island send an assassination squad to take out Seri, and Donatello experiments with a magic crystal that recalled the events of 1986's Donatello "micro-series" to an extent. 

Things get weird part-way through the fifth issue, wherein a bunch of other characters presumably from the pages of Armageddon Game join a fight scene, one which grows between issues to include more out-of-left-field participants, including the IDW version of Cudley from the old Archie Comics. I realize I'm reading this in the "wrong" way, and that the ideal way to read it is in the individual issues as they're published serially; presumably, this stuff would make more sense that way.

From there, the reunited five ninja turtles are whisked away to learn a new, tenth secret move from The Shredder and Kitsune, and, in the cliffhanger ending, face the Rat King, the prime mover behind the Armageddon Game.

Sophie Campbell continues to write the series, while Fero Pe provides all of the art. I, as always, would have preferred Campbell at least penciling the art to anyone else, but Pe is good, and the style is well within the range of Campbell's. My favorite bits of the collection, however, are the cover collaborations between Campbell and Kevin Eastman, of which there are seven. This is, in my mind, the ideal TMNT art team, and do hope IDW eventually has them draw a prestige graphic novel together, perhaps one that Campbell writes as well. 


Batman & The Joker: The Deadly Duo: The Deluxe Edition (DC Comics) Superstar artist, Image co-founder and Top Cow founder Marc Silvestri gets a special showcase series on DC's mature readers Black Label imprint, playing with two of the most popular toys in the publisher's toybox. 

Originally a seven-issue miniseries, Batman & The Joker: The Deadly Duo features the rather unlikely—and quite unequal—"team-up" between the two archenemies, written as well as drawn by Silvestri (Colorist Arif Prianto provides the color art). 

This is forced by the mysterious new villain, who spends much of the series hidden under a purple-ish hood and cloak (that's the villain on the cover, under Batman's right wing). By kidnapping Commissioner Gordon and Harley Quinn, the villain forces the pair to work together, giving them a series of impossible-seeming, almost Saw-like tasks involving deciding who should live and who should die. 

Meanwhile, a series of gruesome beheadings is being carried out by monstrously strong and tough creatures that physically resemble The Joker. The victims all seem related to a single incident, a botched armored car robbery-turned-hostage situation at a high society wedding, for which the father of the bride, who just so happens to be involved in cutting-edge genetic research, blames Batman, The Joker and the Gotham City Police Department in equal measure for its tragic, high body count ending. 

He would seem to be the obvious suspect, then, and, while it's not a mystery story, Silvestri does manage to throw a convincing curveball. So too is there some misdirection regarding The Joker's motivations for playing along. He's not really trying to save Harley Quinn, but get his greatest desire fulfilled by the villain, who has the means to deliver it. As to what that is, well, it's worth reading to find out, isn't it? 

The story is engaging enough, and Silvestri does a fine job writing the various players, which include Batman mainstays Harvey Bullock, Alfred, Nightwing, Catwoman and Batgirl Barbara Gordon. The set-up, bringing The Joker and Batman together as a sort of team, works, especially considering what a heavy story-telling lift that is, and the various riffs on the nature of Batman, The Joker and their relationship to one another are satisfying. 

Given Silvestri's reputation as an artist, I was honestly surprised by how good the writing was. It's hardly a revelatory or revolutionary comic, of course, but it is not bad at all. 

The real point of the endeavor is, of course, to show off Silvestri's artwork, and, specifically, apply it to Batman. This shouldn't disappoint any of the artist's fans, or, I would think, many Batman fans. While the storytelling isn't the greatest, and the images don't always flow together in a compelling fashion, the individual images are all generally strong, highlighting Silvestri's figurework and his particularly strong Batman.

I read the story in the "Deluxe Edition" hardcover format, which means that, in addition to 38 pages of variant covers in thte back, there's a similar amount of space devoted to Silvestri's original pencils, as well as an aftterword by Silvestri. 

As for the variants, they are by particularly high-caliber artists, and, chances are, your favorite Batman artist drew one of them. Among the EDILW-favorite artists to draw variants include Kelley Jones, Mike Mignola, Kyle Hotz, John McCrea, Simon Bisley and Guillem March, any of whom I would have turned a cartwheel if I heard they were drawing a 150-ish page Batman/Joker story for DC, although Deadly Duo would have been very, very different if any of them did; this is, after all, a Silvestri story through and through. 

Komi Can't Communicate Vol. 27 (Viz Comics) This volume is dominated by the dramatization of the kids playing an online game Amanjite Asu, which I think is an off-brand version of the game Among Us, (enabled by Komi finally getting a new, smart phone), but I know so little about video games that I'm just guessing. This takes up about 70 pages total, and given that I didn't really relate to the game and only had a marginal idea of what was going on, made this a less-than-enjoyable installment of the long-running series.

The rest of the volume involves some new phone shenanigans, the boy who can't talk to girls playing soccer, and the girls discussing kissing—climaxing with Komi bringing the subject up with Tadano. 


Ghost Book (Henry Holt and Company) Wanna hear a weird coincidence? I checked this book out of my library, knowing nothing about it other than the fact that it was by the great Remy Lai and that it had something to do with ghosts. I decided to wait until a trip I was taking to Baltimore to read it, as I knew I would have a lot of down time in a hotel room by myself and need plenty of reading material. A few weeks later, on my drive to Baltimore, I was listening to the audiobook version of Ken Jennings' 100 Places To See After you Die. During the section on mythology, there's a chapter on the Chinese afterlife, which mentions "ghoulish bureaucrats like Horse-Face and Ox-Head." Mere hours later, when I cracked open Ghost Book, who do I see within the first few pages but Horse-Face and Ox-Head! In fact, Ghost Book deals pretty directly with the Chinese underworld and superstitions about death. It's a fun kids adventure making great use of those sources of inspiration. You can read more about it here

Wildfire (Little, Brown and Company) Cartoonist Breena Bard puts the recent northwestern wildfires in the context of climate change in this melodrama about a junior high student whose family loses their home in a wildfire and must move to Portland to try to start over. She's not ready to let go of her anger though, or to see the wildfire as part of a bigger, more pervasive threat to the planet instead of an isolated event caused by some dumb kids playing with fireworks. Her participation in her new school's Conservation Club, and her family's embrace of local climate change protests, eventually changes the way she sees things, and gets her to ask for the help she needs. More here

No comments: