Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ocktober-Fest of Best Shots

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles Part 1 and 2 Written by Joshua Sternin & J.R. Ventimilia Directed by Michael Chang Premiered Sept. 29, 2012 Review by Lan Pitts 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10 As a child born into the early 80's, there was never quite something as powerful as Turtlemania (well, aside from Hulkamania, but that's a different story). Growing up, the Turtles took on a few different versions along the way and here we are again. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the newest adaptation that debuted this past weekend on Nickelodeon. First CGI-animated series of the franchise (though not the first CGI-adaptation. That goes to the 2007 movie simply called TMNT) and it definitely has a different feel from anything else. But is it any good? Yes, but it's not like we're treading on new ground here. "Rise of the Turtles" essentially acts as a reintroduction to the team, the supporting characters, and sets the stage for old familiar enemies to appear soon. The animation itself looks fine. It definitely sets itself apart from any other production by Nickelodeon Animation Studios with the boys having a more blocky look to them, almost similar to Clone Wars. The show has been promoted for about a year now with Sean Astin and Jason Biggs providing the voices of Raphael and Leonardo respectively. In addition, there is TMNT alumni and voice actor veterans Rob Paulsen (who was originally Raph in the first series) portraying Donatello, and Greg Cipes (Teen Titans and Ben 10) as Michaelangelo. Everybody really works in their role, except it did take a small amount of adjustment to see Donny and hearing Raph's voice. Jason Biggs is almost unrecognizable as Leo and does a pretty decent job. Hoon Lee provides the voice of Splinter and is nothing new in how Splinter usually talks. Kevin Clash set the standard for that years ago and still holds a place as my favorite version. Kevin Michael Richardson makes a brief cameo as the Shredder at the end and let's us know he's coming soon. The most surprising turn about the series is how young they made April. In the comics, she had more of a science background before changed into a reporter. Here, she's a scientist's teenage daughter and has an instant bond with Donny. This time around she's voiced by Mae Whitman (Arrested Development, Scott Pilgrim, Avatar: The Last Airbender). There are some really neat things that they've done with the boys to set them apart aside from weapons and characteristics. Donny has a gap between his teeth, I guess playing up the nerd and brains of the group. Raph has a chip on his front, as well as his mask is a bit tattered and worn showing he's a bit of a hot head and gets into his share of fisticuffs. Mikey is the youngest and innocent, so he has some freckles under his eyes. Each has a different shade keeping with the custom. They've changed their weapons up a tad, too. Mikey's nunchunks also become kusarigamas, and Leo wielding not just his traditional katana, but also a wakizashi. Though that was more traditionally used by Samurais and not ninjas, but I think it still works. I think they're overplaying Mikey as the goofball. Yes, he's the more juvenile one, but there's a moment where Splinter basically admits he's not that bright. Storywise, as forementioned, it's nothing really new. It takes the approach from the old cartoon with Hamato Yoshi once being human and being exposed to mutagen the same time as the boys and now living in the sewer. Oroku Saki/The Shredder's rivalry with Splinter/Yoshi stays intact. We even get to see some Foot soldiers briefly and possibly a hint of Karai showing up later. One thing they did here for the Kraang, was mix them with the Utrom origins. I almost think it's too much at once, but for almost an hour, I had a good time. I'm interested in how things progress and where they want to go with the April/Donny relationship, as well as see who else makes an appearance. If you haven't seen it yet, Nick.com has both episodes on their site. I think it's a solid interpretation, even if it's something older Turtles fans have seen before, it's a good gateway for the younger crowd.


Halloween Eve #1 
Written by Brandon Montclare 
Art by Amy Reeder 
Published by Image Comics 
Review by Lan Pitts 
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
With Halloween right around the corner, this would seem like a perfect quick read to get one in the mood for the incoming swarm of trick-or-treaters and spooky decor. Yet, sadly, this comic that sprang from Kickstarter left me wondering why it wasn't as good as it should have been. The premise is cool: imagine Wizard of Oz meets Nightmare Before Christmas with a slice of A Christmas Carol mixed together. However, something falls flat halfway through.
I'm not too familiar with Brandon Montclare's work, but I've been an Amy Reeder fan since her Madame Xanadu days. Her line work and great use of facial expressions has never been better. The cast of characters all have a distinct look that mirror a little bit of their personality. When Eve wanders into Halloween Land (also the name of the shop she works at), the details are full of whimsy and Halloween fun. The parallels of her co-workers and their counterparts in the magical land is a nice nod and really thought out. Reeder, who was the one-time artist for DC's Batwoman, is better off with projects like these, which give her a true spotlight to be herself. 
There seems to a be a lot of development into the characters themselves and their particular design, but the interactions among them are just not interesting. Eve is probably the biggest victim here. She's just not likable. By the end of the book, I didn't really care what happened to her, Most of the dialogue just doesn't work, either. It's either too cliché, or just juvenile. We're really not quite sure the reason of Eve's hostility towards Halloween and it's never really explained. From the notes of the book that Reeder and Montclare have a great friendship and rapport, but I just feel something better could have come from their creative union. Some pages seem too cluttered and while Reeder does her best to maintain control, some details get lost along the way. Reeder is a one-woman show here taking on all artistic and lettering duties. Her choosing her own palette paid off wonderfully; nothing is too over-saturated and looks great on the page. Her letting is a bit rough, and I caught myself once or twice trying to figure out who is saying what, but nothing overly distracting. 
The behind-the-scenes look at how certain characters evolved is fascinating. You can see that Montclare and Reeder really went into this with guns blazing and excited to make a comic that they wanted to do. I think that level of enthusiasm is sometimes lacking from creators going into certain projects. I just feel Reeder's art here only elevated this story so far and didn't quite mesh with Montclare's script. I think the main problem was that it's too condensed. Had this been a mini, it probably would have worked better giving the creative team a little more to expand on. Instead, we're given a box of raisins in our candy bowl. 


Creator-Owned Heroes #5

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti. Justin Gray, Steve Niles, and Jay Russell

Art by Andrew Ritchie, Jerry Lando and Paul Mounts

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Talk about some deja vu. 

Creator-Owned Heroes definitely fills that void of spy thrillers and tactical espionage with a flavor of old-fashioned cool, but this being the fifth issue of the series, I feel like we've been here before. At least in the first story entitled "Killswitch" anyways. The duo of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are back with another take on suave assassins and other tropes of the like, backed by artist Jerry Lando. With "Black Sparrow" by Steve Niles and Andrew Ritchie, Niles dives back into his horror roots and gives a proper cliffhanger. 

This all seems like a treaded road, however. Especially harkening back to the first issue of the series with "Trigger Girl 6" and "American Muscle." Palmiotti, Gray, and Noto opened the show and Niles and Kevin Mellon closed it. I just think this time around, "Killswitch" dominated the issue while "Black Sparrow" barely had time to take a breath. Not complaining, I just want to see the books evenly published. "Killswitch" is what you think it would be about and Palmiotti and Gray certainly have a knack for this type of story: a sexy assassin with an aura of mystique doing what he does best. But the mystery to it at the end if is a nice added layer. Jerry Lando does some great layouts and art here, even though he uses a lot of talking head shots as the book progresses. Everything is rendered wonderfully and Paul Mounts' colors work well with the line art giving it a certain depth and moodiness to the world.

Steve Niles, Jay Russell, and Andrew Ritchie make a supernatural old pioneer tale with "Black Sparrow." It's a good beginning but asks too many questions, that I'm certain will be answered in due time, but there's not a lot of dialogue to explore or to get an idea of who these characters are. Ritchie has a great Mike Mignola/Matthew Dow Smith vibe with his art, and a muted color palette to boot. 

In the middle of the stories to act as a sort of intermission, is a terrific interview with Amanda Conner. We learn about her Kubert School roots and some defining moments in her career as well as some of her artistic techniques and gives advice to any and all up and comers. It's a real warm read, and Conner comes across as sincere and personable about her work. That alone is almost worth the price of admission. 

I've been digging COH since day one, but I'd like to see something new and different from Palmiotti and Gray. They certainly know their audience and are great at these tales, but this book is all about taking chances. Let's see if they can liven up.