Tag Archives: Splinter

Review: Eastman & Laird’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Volume I”

Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Volume I
Written & Drawn by: Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird
Series: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume I, Issues #1-7 + Raphael One-Issue Micro-Series)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: IDW Comics, 2011

What’s your frame of reference for the Turtles? For me, it’s the general cultural awareness that came about in the early/mid-90s when they were all the rage, largely fueled by that first cartoon series and the subsequent Jim Henson-powered films. Not that I actually saw the show or movies at the time–I was pretty short, and my parents didn’t approve of the crude humor. Not to mention that, according to them, my brother and I “didn’t need any encouragement” to beat the crap out of each other. Nevertheless, the Turtles were pretty inescapable. They were everywhere! There was always something that bothered me though. Half the team (and most of the villains) are carrying bladed weapons, but nobody every seems to get seriously hurt. I mean, why carry a katana if you’re not going to bifurcate something or someone? Obviously it’s aimed at kids, I get that, but….it still bugged me. The original comic series though? The one that everything else sprang from? No such compunctions. My library was awesome enough to recently pick up a nice hardcover of the first arc of TMNT comics, from way back in the mid-80s, and I have to say that this was a lot of fun to read.

Everybody knows the Turtles’ origin story in one form or another. Pet turtles fall into the sewer, get exposed to some sort of mysterious Ooze, mutate into humanoid form and are raised by a similarly-mutated rat who used to be the pet of a ninja master. Stuff like that happens in New York all the time, right? Most of the adaptations have stuck pretty close to the original origin, though I think they’ve all omitted the cameo by young Matt Murdoch that Eastman & Laird manage to sneak in here.* This collection is the original TMNT, way back when Eastman & Laird were still independent and nobody was telling them what to do. Villains are introduced and killed off just as quickly, though to their credit Eastman & Laird got into the “continuous arc” thing pretty quick once they figured out that this crazy joke was actually going to see more than one issue. Still, this is far from the Turtles you’re probably familiar with. For one thing, they kill people. Mostly just Splinter and his Foot ninjas, but there are also a hefty number of alien casualties during the Turtles’ interplanetary adventures. People get sliced and diced, impaled, thrown off of rooftops, shot, you name it. There’s plenty of violence to go around! One issue has Raphael accidentally intruding on a young couple’s “alone time,” crashing through their window, cracking a joke, then escaping the apartment with a bra stuck to his head.** Oh, and despite being teenagers, the Turtles apparently have a taste for alcohol. One requests a beer, and during Eastman & Laird’s homage to the Star Wars cantina scene at least one of the Turtles gets plastered on alien moonshine. For obvious reasons, they toned things down a bit before marketing the franchise to kiddies.

Like I said, this was a lot of fun. You have to go into it with the right mindset though–this is about the furthest thing from a serious comic you can get without ending up with Axe Cop. The series is patently ridiculous from the get-go, when you think about it, and you have to agree to be okay with the idea of humanoid mutated turtles and rats, not to mention a large variety of aliens. Interplanetary teleporters, dinosaur-based aliens, a robot with the brain of a scientist, even a giant hollowed-out asteroid spaceship, there’s seemingly no end to the ridiculousness Eastman & Laird throw at you. I love it! The writing is occasionally a bit wonky, but that’s to be expected from someone new to the game. Keep in mind, these guys were self-publishing back then! The art is surprisingly good under the circumstances, but don’t go trying to identify the Turtles by their mask color–that’s a conceit the show came up with. The comic is black and white, and even once the covers get color their masks are all red. If you can enjoy reading a comic without taking it too seriously, you should really give this a shot….

CONTENT: Some violence, including but not limited to people (and turtles, and aliens, and robots) getting shot, stabbed, cut, impaled, and smashed in various orifices with bladed and/or blunt weapons. Mild profanity. Mild sexual innuendo, played for humor. Some drinking, which I usually don’t make note of, but this is a property that’s usually associated with kids these days.

*Yep, you read that right. The Turtles’ origin is tied to Daredevil’s. See what fun you can have when you self-publish?

**I have no idea where it came from though–the young lady in question was still fully clothed….

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Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 5

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-#44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In my first post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at those that didn’t make the cut. Not that they’re bad, some of them are great, they just didn’t “do it” for me like those others did. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

  • Splinter, by Shira Lipkin. (***)
    A group of friends, all with magical powers, step into another world. I’m not sure why, but this story just didn’t hit the mark for me. It wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t all that impacted by it. Maybe you’ll fare better than I did. CONTENT: Strong language. No sexual content, no violence, although the emotional impact of their trip can be a little disturbing.
  • Erzulie Dantor, by Tim Susman. (***)
    In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti darkness holds sway over the land, both in the land surrounding Bas-Le-Fond and in the hearts of some of it’s inhabitants. But the voodoo gods can be fickle, especially to those who merely pay them lip service…. I wasn’t a fan here. Perhaps it’s my antipathy towards voodoo, or perhaps I was simply in the mood for a more uplifting tale. Either way, despite my lack of investment in this tale it was well-crafted. Perhaps you’ll find it more appealing than I did. CONTENT: Some strong and disturbing violence. Mild sexual innuendo. Strong voodoo occult content. No profanity.
  • Labyrinth, by Mari Ness. (****)
    Below the temple, there is a labyrinth. In it, trained Dancers wait for the condemned. If the condemned can beat the Dancers, they are innocent and go free. If not, their guilt is proven and their death just. To be a Dancer is a great honor, but it also comes with a terrible potential for loss…. This story was very well crafted, but very bleak. Perhaps another day I would have received it better, I don’t know. At any rate, this one disturbed me. CONTENT: Strong violence. Mild sexual innuendo. No profanity.
  • Blood From Stone, by Alethea Kontis. (****)
    This tale was excellently executed. Ms. Kontis takes the real historical character who was the alleged basis for the fabled Bluebeard, Baron Gilles de Rais, and seeks to explain just what turned him into that legendary monster. The story was well-told, very evocative and frankly disturbing–how could it not be, given the subject matter? My one complaint is that Lord Death, once he appears, speaks with a modern idiom that was jarring in the medieval setting. CONTENT: Strong, disturbing violence. Sexual innuendo. No profanity. Strong occult content.
  • Trixie And The Pandas Of Dread, by Eugie Foster. (*****)
    This one would have made my best-of list, hands down, had I managed to finish the anthology before the time came to post it. Oh well….In the world Ms. Foster presents here, there are far more gods than our humble sphere has ever conceived of. There’s apparently a Karmic Council that can elevate someone to godhood if they deem you worthy. Anyway, Trixie is the goddess you’ve always wished existed–she exists purely to smite the @$$holes of the world. That guy posting racist and fascist comments on your favorite YouTube video? She just pulled out his heart. That drunken idiot at the back of the theater yelling spoilers while you try and enjoy the film? His spleen just spontaneously ruptured. (I can only assume he went to Shepherd Book’s “special Hell….”) The only problem is that Trixie is running solely on duty. It’s been a long time since she’s felt any sort of the righteous anger that keeps her running, and she’s getting tired. And her totem Pandas that carry her sedan have a severe case of flatulence due to their all-bamboo diet…. CONTENT: This story is pretty offensive on every front, but I have to confess that I loved it anyway. R-rated language. Semi-explicit sexual content. Occasionally-gruesome (but always deserved!) violence.
  • The Performance Artist, by Lettie Prell. (****)
    Anna Pashkin Bearfoot is a performance artist. Her latest work will be the most controversial of all….Not gonna lie, this story was fairly disturbing. The prose was excellent though, and it was a good story. The ending had a particularly biting commentary on our culture…. CONTENT: Some sexual content, including implied rape and molestation in a character’s past. No overt violence, but some fairly disturbing content I can’t place in any other category. No profanity.

This is the fifth and final post in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
-Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

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