series

IDW’s Mighty Mutanimals!

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My love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knows no bounds. I’m a huge X-Men fan–the first comic I remember reading was the Heroes for Hope charity one-shot–and still remember my first issues of Superman and Punisher, but even those comics don’t stack up against the Turtles. Those properties were decades-old by the time I was born, you see, but the Turtles and I grew up alongside each other. They were conceived of when I was two years old, and hit the mainstream with a cartoon series and figures right when I was old enough to enjoy them.

Of course, I didn’t become familiar with the original comic series from Mirage until adulthood. This is just as well, because it wasn’t suitable reading for a child. But, along with the show and an entire fleet of action figures, I had the TMNT Adventures comic from Archie. It had a lighter tone, more like the show. And while it borrowed generously from the source material, Adventures also spun off into some different directions on its own. Along with the original storylines, the comic introduced some characters of its own. Some of you might remember Ninjara (can’t help thinking Alopex was influenced by Ninjara, but can’t help thinking both would be better than just one!)

 
Another group of characters were the Mighty Mutanimals. The team consisted of new characters Dreadmon and Jagwar and cartoon characters Ray Fillet and Mondo Gecko, along with new versions of Mirage characters Wingnut, Screwloose and Leatherhead. If I remember right, all of them were killed off near the end of Adventures’ run. Another plotline and group of characters introduced in Adventures were Null, a major Turtles enemy, and Maligna, Scul and Bean, an invading alien queen and her henchmen who figured prominently in a story arc.

When IDW announced their new Ninja Turtles comic in 2011, I promise there was no happier comics–or Turtles–fan on the planet. Not only was original series creator Kevin Eastman going to be involved, but the creative team promised to draw heavily on various aspects of the previous Turtles cartoon and comic incarnations. So far, they’ve promised in a big way. We’ve gotten Shredder, Stockman, Rat King (though not nearly enough), Slash, Metalhead, Krang, the Neutrinos and Bebop & Rocksteady, amongst other adaptations. But the IDW series hadn’t really touched any of the Archie characters (I don’t count Slash or Bebop & Rocksteady because they originated with the cartoon).

They were slow to arrive in the IDW universe, but SO worth the wait.

Until now. The new Mutanimals limited is a natural progression of the “Hob’s Army” seed that was first planted…well, since TMNT #1, really, since that’s when Hob was introduced. IDW’s version includes a second original character (Herman, alongside Hob) along with Slash, Mondo Gecko, and Pigeon Pete (the latter was brought over from the current Nickelodeon cartoon). The first issue teases Null and introduces a new (to IDW) mutant, the Mutagen Man from the original tv show. I still remember his action figure, and as an adult, am a little surprised they unleashed Seymour Gutz on little kids. The second gives us a full first appearance for Null and her (they switched Null’s gender for this new version, a pretty cool move) organization, and gave us a quick look at IDW’s Ray Fillet and another brand new character, Sally Pride.

I’m seriously stoked at the possibilities this limited series opens up. I’ve wanted to see the IDW take on some of the Turtles’ space adventures since the comic debuted. If they’re giving us Null, could Maligna or even Cudley the Cowlick be on the horizon? Both could easily be done with the characters currently in play. IDW still hasn’t given us their Leatherhead or Wingnut & Screwloose, either, and they tie into the original Cudley storylines, as well (by the way, IDW, if you’re reading this–I’d KILL to write some of this stuff, just sayin’).

As much as I want to see a new take on some more of these old friends, the group of Mutanimals put together in this limited is a decent crew. They’ve already been tested and proven capable against Bebop and Rocksteady in TMNT #40, and they offer a good range of powers and abilities: you’ve got the brains (Hob), the brawn (Slash), a long-rangle attacker (Herman) and a nimble, melee/rogue-type (Mondo Gecko). If I absolutely had to have a qualm about something, it’d have to be with how intelligent Slash is compared to his usual portrayal. This was handled in-universe back in TMNT #35 though, and if he hadn’t gotten a boost, there wouldn’t really be anyone for Hob to play off of. I’m not much of an art critic, but some of the panels could probably have used a bit more contrast/separation–however, it’s a small price to pay compared to how much I appreciate the subdued palette counterbalancing what could play off as some pretty goofy material.

It goes without saying that I can’t wait to see what the rest of the series has to offer, and of course, what sort of ramifications these events will have on the Turtles themselves. At the time of this writing, there’s not much more than basic solicitations available for the last two issues (#3, #4). But I have high hopes. And of course, hat’s off to Paul Allor and Andy Kuhn for delivering the goods!

Let’s just hope they don’t die and go to Hell like the Archie Mutanimals did.

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rowan

The Fantasy Series Fête

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Those familiar with my writing would most likely guess the books nearest and dearest to my heart, read during my formative years, would be the works of Stephen King. Now, the King of Horror is fundamental to my existence as a author and gets his very own Secret Origin installment next week, but before I ever cracked open a horror book, I was irrevocably altered by several series’ of books by fantasy authors.

Here are three that will always mean the world to me. I’m not sure you can call them obscure, but I do get a good amount of blank stares when I mention them to other people my age—even avid readers. When you read my books and wonder where I may have drawn some of my inspiration—this stuff here is some of the earliest. The first time I cracked into these books, I was between the ages of ten and twelve.

The Magic Kingdom of Landover series by Terry Brooks in some ways surpasses the Shannara series he’s better known for—not least of all because he quit writing them before they stopped being interesting–he waited fourteen years before releasing the sixth in 2009. The first three books: Magic Kingdom for sale-SOLD(1986); The Black Unicorn(1987) and Wizard at Large(1988) were released within a year or so of each other and are the best of the six, in my estimation. The main character is a middle-aged trial lawyer from our world who buys the throne of an actual magic kingdom from a mail order catalog. The plot of each book is rooted in both Earth and Landover, which makes for an exciting and novel read. High King Ben Holiday deals with such crises as a demon knight who seeks the throne, a group of disloyal barons, the seduction of his young daughter to the dark side by a vengeful witch and the twisted schemes of the exiled former Court Wizard who sold him the kingdom in the first place. His companions include a scribe who was magically transformed into a dog, a Court Wizard who isn’t always in full command of his magic and his wife, a sprite who turns into a tree a few days of every month.

 

The Tower and the Hive by Anne McAffery is a science-fantasy sort of series. Its set in outer space, and the planets are connected to each other by the mental powers of Prime Talents—powerful telepaths and telekinetics in the employ of FT&T. The Primes move spaceships and cargo and deliver messages with the speed of thought. The first three books: The Rowan; Damia and Damia’s Children, each deal with subsequent generations of a family began by the pairing of Talented orphan Rowan and untrained Prime Jeff Raven. The last two books pick up right where Children leaves off, continuing the story of Damia and Afra Lyon’s eight Prime-talented children and their fight against the alien invaders first faced by The Rowan and Jeff in the first novel. These aren’t detail-oriented, hard science novels, but instead are driven by characterization, romance and action.

 

 

 

 

The Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony was originally intended as an five-book series, and expanded to seven a few years later, with the edition of an eighth book over a decade after that. The first five deal with regular human beings assuming the physical aspects of Death, Time, Fate, War and Nature from their prior office-holders. The latter three books deal with changing of the guard of Good, Evil and Night, a popular and intriguing supporting character from the series. While the series isn’t airtight (I thought Time’s book kinda sucked, having more to do with the main character playing out fantasy story arcs than anything else), taken as a whole, its altogether fun. I enjoyed discovering the Incarnations’ powers along with their office-holders, and Anthony makes even Satan seem sympathetic in his own book despite the dastardly tricks and challenges he presents to the other Incarnations in their books. An added bit of intricacy is the manner in which the Incarnations are related to each other: by the end of the series, Death is the lover of Nature’s cousin, Nature is married to Satan and is a former lover of War, Nature and War’s daughter becomes God and is the former lover of Time and Fate is Nature’s mother. I’m not sure how Night figures into the picture, as I’ve yet to read her book.

Come back next week for a discussion of my first-ever Stephen King book and my solitary year of Catholic education.

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