Unboxing: Loot Wear - February 2017

By Dustin Cabeal

That's right, two in one day! Here's February's Loot Wear and yes I know it's March... see the part where I said I just got it and the January one on the same day. I didn't get the Power Rangers jogger pants, but I'm not an MMPR fan, so it's no love loss. I was curious about their comfort level, but oh well. Also, if you want to see the full reaction to this unboxing watch this week's Comic Bastards Podcast... it's explained on there.

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Unboxing: Loot Wear - January 2017

By Dustin Cabeal

Well, I finally fucking got it! I don't know what the hold up was, possibly the Dungeon and Dragons hoodie I didn't get, but hey... no wait that sounds great. Oh well, the rest is pretty baller too. I'm a huge fan of the Loot Wears so I'll take'em when I can. Check it out and check out this week's podcast to see an explanation of the weirdness of this one and why it's all rushed. Back to normal next time.

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Unboxing: Loot Crate - January 2017

By Dustin Cabeal

The theme this month should have been "comic books" since it was all comic book stuff... plus Mario Bros. because it's not a Loot Crate without something from Nintendo being in it. I think my favorite crate was last month because there wasn't any Nintendo shit in it. Anyway, you'd think that this one would be custom made for me but as usual, there was just that weird, dated bit of nerdom to this. A tiki glass? What the fuck am I going to do with that? I'm not going to collect them all that's for sure. A replica of Captain America's shield from the first Captain America film... that's the worst of the three! And it's the fake one he used for the play! Anyway, there was some okay stuff and some "what the fuck do I do with this" stuff. I am looking forward to the Loot Wear edition.

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Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #62

Dear Comic Bastards, It is with a heavy heart that I must resign from reviewing Turtles comics.

I do this for fun, you see, because a wide array of varying media contributes very heavily to one's critical spectrum. To find out what works and what doesn't work in storytelling, one must seek every avenue, must look to both good and bad and find out which pieces make the machine go and which make it stop in its track.

I'm done reviewing TMNT comics because I've learned everything that I can from them, namely boiling down to two separate things: Variety is, as ever, the spice of life; and you cannot escape one's origins. The best parts of the Turtles have never been its direct origins, the original comics were equal parts goofy in that they were a shockingly violent parody of Daredevil, and uncomfortable in that they weren't... particularly good.

tmnt62_cvraThe Turtles lineage, even as a cartoon, has always been soaked in its original parody-origins; the Turtles were never Batman in ever sense of the term: did not have the moral fiber, did not have the obsessive streak, did not have a stick up their collective turtle butts and they weren't quite as skilled as a man who's entire claim to legacy is being good at literally everything.

Whether you were laughing at the joke or laughing at the fact that the Turtles themselves act in fun, humorous ways, they always had a levity to them in a Deadpool sort of way that refused to conform to average comic stories. The fact that it was four turtles raised by a rat and in the ways of ninjitsu to fight a ninja clan leader and his mutated rhino and warthog lackeys was supposed to mean that, due to circumstance, the Turtles couldn't fall prey to feeling like every other goddamned comic.

Lo and behold, though, the clowns have all been shoo'd away, Shredder's gone, the main villain is Kitsune, an ancient Japanese god and the conflict revolves, in this issue, a human being kidnapped and Mikey coming back to his family after having left not even two issues ago.

Characters like Baxter Stockman, the Rat King, Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady and even new addition Old Hob are now revealed to not only have been great additions but, in reality, necessary to the Turtles universe. The turtles themselves can be corrupted by samey continuity-tying comic nonsense, the same kind you see in Average Evil-Fighter Issue #596. When the turtles' main enemy is both a boring Japanese god and their own inner conflict and nothing else, there is no situational barrier keeping the turtles being as boring as their writer is.

Is this particular issue bad? It's the same as the last thousand, little moves, character relationships are reinforced so if the last couple of issues were bad then you'd better damn well be sure that this issue's bad too. I would take any version of the turtles over this because every single version tried something new and untested, even the bad ones. The third Turtles movie brought them to Feudal Japan. Bad, but interesting. The CG Turtles movie put the Turtles inner conflict at front and center, with the bad guy being the side story for a change. Kind bad, but interesting. The New Mutation added a girl turtle. REALLY bad but it wasn't stale, Goddammit. Splinter being the head of the foot clan doesn't change anything for the story, it's incidental! This changes nothing for the minute to minute of how the Turtles comics read!

I should give this one a one out of five but it doesn't deserve it because the level of effort here is same consistent level it's been keeping for months. It's not Turtles that's changed, it's my growing annoyance with it.

Someone hit me up on Twitter if it starts getting interested again. Find me at @MrFistSalad. While I'm at it with the self-promotion, check out The Dolridge Sacrament, published by Alterna Comics! Give your money to me and not this goddamn Turtles comic. Or go get a burger with that money.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #62 Writer: Tom Waltz Artist: Dave Wachter Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital

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Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #61

I write comic reviews because I personally find it fun. I analyze stories and comics and movies in my spare time anyway and honestly, the people around me are sick of hearing it. Funneling this into written reviews is good, and I honestly look forward to it. So why did I have to drag my way through TMNT #61? I even have fun analyzing bad fiction, as the unique things that can make a story bad can be at least interesting to talk about, but I read Turtles #61 two days before starting this review, I didn’t like it then, and it’s only settled on my memory worse as the hours passed by. Don’t tell my editor it took me two days to get here. I mean it didn’t. I only got to it now. Because of time stress. Obviously. Don’t fire me.

TMNT61_cvrAI had to drag my way through #61 because it’s the worst kind of continuation issue: a boring, overly-wordy re-establishment of the status quo. They’re neither interesting to read nor are they interesting to talk about. The act of reading Turtles #61 reminds me of how it must feel to be the parent of a young child or my girlfriend, being told useless facts about comic minutia ad nauseum with none of the excitement of actually experiencing the work itself.

I’ve been put on record saying that comics are often better when they allow their "in-between" issues to stretch their legs and allow for the comic as a whole to feel more cohesive and well thought out, rather than panicking to make each and every issue an exciting series of climactic events in order to justify its entry fee.

The problem is, however, that this theoretical leg stretching should exist at the service of the plot, in order to give room to the individual moments that are important for feel or atmosphere. There’s not a person on Earth who genuinely wants the famous knight in the archetypal "saving the princess" story to skip over the journey to the dragon’s lair just so we can see the big fight with the dragon. Atmosphere is important. However, one of the most difficult tasks for any writer is to balance the acts of exposition and atmosphere because the two concepts are almost completely incompatible.

So answer me this: when an issue has exactly _ continuity points that it needs to exposit before moving on to bigger events, there’s a new gang in town, Alopex is missing, the world is becoming more dangerous, and Mikey is unhappy with how events are unfolding; why on Earth would you spend this much time expositing these things through dialogue? Michelangelo himself comments that the meeting that takes up the vast majority of the issue feels like ‘a stupid war counsel’ and I couldn’t help but agree. The "planning" scene of any war movie is usually very short for the same reason that heist movies usually overlay the monologue of the heist planning over the heist’s execution. Explaining a series of events that is going to come to pass so that you can be informed about them again as they’re happening is very, very boring.

What small bits of character development and recuperation from previous events we receive feels token and unnecessary. The Purple Dragon characters are as boring as they’ve ever been, much like the ancestral God characters, dragging the story and events down with them with their somber, dire attitudes. Master Splinter takes entirely too long to explain to Casey Jones the extremely simple concept of ‘you are going to be very important in coming events.' It’s a complete wash of an issue and the very definition of filler. The ending cliffhanger, the new gang kidnaps a new character who could be dangerous in some vague way, was completely token and served not even to excite readers into buying the next issue, but to in some way resemble other comics that are trying to do that.

There’s a new gang of techno-thugs. Michelangelo’s unhappy. Life is hard. You’re now completely ready for issue #62. Skip this one.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #61 Writer: Tom Waltz Artist: David Wachter Colorist: Ronda Pattison Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital

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Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Villains

I’ve always found it monumentally difficult to review short story/one-shot collections, or rather I’ve found it difficult to review them fairly as, due to their extreme diversity in creative voices and talents, you’re always likely to find at least one really good segment and one really bad segment, leading to most collections ending up as a middling review if taken on aggregate. Often it is the theme that allows collections to stand out, more so than a single one of the varied creative voices in a collection, due to its ability to draw out the best in these different creators. For example: a writing prompt such as ‘love’ would probably draw out more boring, indistinct stories than would a prompt such as ‘the rogues gallery of four mutated turtle ninjas living in the sewers of New York’, which is itself a strong premise.

Regardless, TMNT Villains is another one-shot collection that continues the habit of its strong entries and its weaker entries coming together to create something of a blur. However, the strength of the ‘Turtles’ set-up and the generally above-average talents of the people involved in the collection does create more good than bad and for that I am grateful.

The two stand-out pieces of the collection are ‘Alopex’ and ‘Bebop and Rocksteady’, for two completely different reasons. Alopex stands out from continuity-keeper stories (such as the collection’s ‘Shredder’ and ‘Old Hob’ stories) by having a very deep connection between art and story which leads me to believe that the artist and writer, Sophie Lynch and Bryan Campbell respectively, were either very good friends or at least dedicated to the act of communication.

Sophie Lynch, acting as both artist and at least partial colorist, uses colors to place extra emphasis on allowing the images to explain unambiguously what the subtext of the events and dialogue is trying to subtly communicate. Alopex speaks through her teeth, calmly, about betrayal and cowardice while her violent, visceral actions and movements are surrounded by warm, manic colors. No narrator is needed to tell the audience that Alopex is seething inside, overcome by a rage that she is only barely managing to keep from boiling over. This story is one of the finer examples of TMNT_VillainsCollection_HC-Coverdialogue and visuals working together to create a compelling story that speaks what it needs to with a perfect blend of visuals and writing.

The ‘Bebop and Rocksteady’ entry is appealing for a much simpler reason, that reason being that in the right hands, Bebop and Rocksteady are natural scene stealers and scriptwriter Dustin Weaver knows exactly how to use them. The best writers use Bebop and Rocksteady not as simple comic-relief but as a much needed source of relationship-levity. The difference here is that while the Turtles themselves are fun-loving and prone to jokes, Bebop and Rocksteady, their wisecracks and their relationship lighten the mood for the Turtle’s entire rogues gallery, meaning that their job is to allow characters like Shredder or Karai to be as incensed and brooding as the writer wants to make them while still giving the story enough color and lightness-of-heart to make it still feel like a ‘Turtles’ story. Bebop and Rocksteady are at their best when bumbling just a little and enjoying each other’s company. I can’t give TMNT Villain’s ‘Bebop and Rocksteady’ a higher review than saying that it accomplishes this dynamic perfectly and I highly recommend reading, if nothing else, this extremely enjoyable entry.

Even the low points of this collection are skillfully written and drawn, the Shredder story paints a unique and colorful picture of a classic villain, one that often feels incongruous with the Shredder we’ve known for so long, but, again, unique nonetheless. The stories for Krang, Baxter Stockman and newcomer villain Hun are all entertaining enough, though they don’t stick out in any meaningful way besides the inherit oddities of writing stories for the Turtles world which are entertaining in themselves.

The low-points of the collection manifest in Old Hob and Karai’s entries, which already have the disadvantage of being placed directly in the timeline of the ongoing comic series but do very little to combat this problem. It feels like no coincidence that both of these comics are origin stories (actually, most of these comics are origin stories or at least allude to the origins of these characters as villains) in that it’s the most efficient use of time for these characters, as in their origins need to be explained eventually, might as well use that time here.

Old Hob, while he is a welcome addition to the Turtle’s timeline, simply talks too much. His origin story is a flashback, narrated by Old Hob himself, recounting a series of events that are uncharacteristically standard and boilerplate for the TMNT universe. The writing is perfectly acceptable, there’s simply too much of it. Karai’s story on the other hand is a legitimate bore, split into two parts, the first being perhaps the most standard origin story that ‘Turtles’ has ever had, the second being a fight sequence with brainwashed and arrogant Leonardo, leading to an unexciting fight sequence between two extremely unpleasant characters. I’d recommend skipping it entirely.

I’m giving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Villains a 4/5, leaning positive due to the strength of its better entries standing out more than the slight tedium of its lesser entries. I would personally recommend buying the digital issues of the characters you’re interested in, but as far as collections go, this is a pretty solid entry playing with some fun and unique concepts. This reviewer gives Turtles Villains a resounding “sure, why not?”

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Villains
Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $34.99
Format: Hardcover; Print/Digital

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Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #60

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has always had a strange diversity of ideas surrounding its world that many of TMNT’s incarnations spend their entire story reconciling. That eccentricity manifests in the strange and unique mixture between ancient Japanese motifs, its hard-edged modern day New York setting and the presence of mad scientists, mutants and extra-dimensional beings. This very thing that makes TMNT so unique is also often the deciding factor that determines the amount of intrigue and style that its various writers and storytellers are able to squeeze out of the format. Different manifestations of TMNT lean on different aspects of its weird-yet-familiar world, sometimes to the detriment of others. The original 80’s cartoon squeezed a lot of its charm out of its goofy, faux-cool interpretation of New York, with much of the enjoyment coming from the interactions between NY-Affected characters like Mikey, Casey Jones, Bebop and Rocksteady. The 2000’s cartoon leaned very heavily on the prominence of mutants and shadowy ninjas. The current Nickelodeon Turtles focuses on its main cast of character’s ninja training almost to the detriment of its NY setting. The point stands, there are a lot of things that any one series of Turtles can rely on.

TMNT60_cvrACurrently, the Turtles comics seem to be relying very heavily on a pseudo-spiritualistic saga of events stretching back all the way to ancient Japan and frankly, I can’t help but be kind of bored by it.

See, while all of these elements exist to make Turtles more unique, diverse, interesting and colorful, not every element of TMNT is created equally. The characters are usually made interesting not by their design but by the creativity of their current writers, the ‘ninja’ element of the story was created as a parody in its original Eastman/Laird run of comics and is as generic now as it was then and the presence of Dimension X and Krang is only interesting because of its sharp contrast to TMNT’s down-to-Earth setting.

But to focus on this relatively new aspect of the Turtle’s franchise, a literal feud involving God-like creatures from Japanese mythology, seems to be something of a waste, as not only do the ethereal entities themselves speak somberly and coldly to each other and the cast, but the weight of their actions also seem to drag down the actions of the main cast to be as somber and deeply affected as theirs.

It is strange and unwelcome to watch characters like Michelangelo and Donatello be forced to be on their best behavior because their actions currently have such extremely dire consequences. While this may bring some greater sense of purpose to Shredder and Splinter, they’ve sacrificed a pound of character and color for an ounce of stakes-raising tension.

If you are on-board for this current story-arc of the Turtles and are interesting in continuing, then the events of the plot are moved along just fine at a brisk and inviting pace, but for those interested in the clash between the four brothers as a sort of event issue, the fight is as hollow as both any headline-grabbing issue of Detective Comics from the 50’s would be or any realistic fight between Splinter and any of his sons. These are the kinds of issues that Trade Paperbacks exist for, providing the elbow room for a larger story to thrive, rather than attempting to squeeze huge swaths of an epic into 20 pages just to justify the issue’s printing price.

In other words, it’s decent and it exists just fine in the context of what came before and what will inevitably follow, I just find myself having a hard time getting worked up over aspects of the Turtle’s lives I can get just fine from Lone Wolf and Cub. The sooner we return to the streets of New York, the better.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #60 Writers: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz Artist: Dave Wachter Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital

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