turtles

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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Recommended Books of 2011

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Here are my top books of 2011, with a couple of bonus mentions at the end. It’s a shorter list than my usual Top Five, but that’s because much of my reading this year was published prior to 2011, and the list only covers books published this year. If you’d care to read previous years’ lists, you may do so here. The books aren’t listed in any particular ranking, except for the Squee.

SQUEE OF THE YEAR: Livia Llewellyn’s ENGINES OF DESIRE. A provocative, arousing and diverse collection of speculative fiction. Hell, I even loved the cover. I’ll definitely be re-reading this one, and I almost never have time to re-read these days. This is Livia’s debut book, and I can’t wait to read more from her. You can read my full review here, and buy the book here.

THE REST OF THE BEST:

1. Weston Ochse’s MULTIPLEX FANDANGO. Even if Weston wasn’t a career Soldier who started his writing career while in the Army (sound familiar?) and one Hell of a guy, this book would be on my list. But he is, so instead of just telling you to buy one copy, I’ll recommend you grab two. It’d be worth picking up a copy for a friend, anyhow, especially if you or your friend haven’t read Weston before. MULTIPLEX serves well as an introduction to a talented and extremely hard-working author at the top of his game and as a damn-near epic, and career-spanning, collection of his short fiction. You can read my full review here and buy the book here.

2. Kelli Owen’s WAITING OUT WINTER. This is a limited-edition chapbook, so copies might be hard to come by, but this is a fun read you should snap up if you get the chance, and a story I’d expect to see in a collection of Kelli’s short fiction. It’s an apocalyptic story without zombies, as impossible as that may sound these days, and more importantly, it’s a human story, with a fun and ironic twist at the end. You can read my full review here, and if you have a Nook, you can pick up a digital copy.

3. Stephen King’s 11/22/63. King, even at the top of his game, has a habit of being a bit long-winded. His last novel, UNDER THE DOME, was a thousand-page brick and also, in my opinion, disappointing as Hell. I really wanted to like this epic-length story of a guy going back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination–and I did. Alot. As much as an unnecessarily padded book can aggravate me, nothing satisfies me like a long book done well, that I can lose myself in for a big chunk of time. This book did that, admirably well. King didn’t beat the mechanics of time travel to death, which I greatly appreciate, and Jake’s relationship with Sadie is at least as poignant, and somewhat reminiscent of, BAG OF BONES, another favorite King of mine. The bonus visit to Derry during the first quarter of the book is the cherry on top.

HONORABLE MENTION: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Dan Duncan. This isn’t a one-book sort of deal, where I can just throw up one pile of stapled-together pictures and words and call it good; it’s an ongoing comic series, hence the special mention. I’ve been a Turtles fan since forever, grew up watching the cartoon and have read the bulk of the original Mirage and later Archie comics turtles series’. I was stoked beyond words when I heard IDW was going to be doing the Turtles; even moreso when I learned that original creator, Kevin Eastman, was going to be on board. I’ve read the first three issues and I’m loving it. The first trade, which I’d imagine will collect the first four-issue arc, will be on sale in February, but I’m sure you can track down the individual issues at your local comic shop. Any concerns about the comic being cartoony, or for kids, or that the writers will just be rehashing what’s already been done..? Lay them aside. Already, we’ve had an entirely different Turtles origin and not a Shredder in sight, though even I’d be disappointed if we didn’t see the ol’ Shred-head eventually.

 

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