TMNT: The Last Ronin & Comic Book Reviews for 5/26

This was a strange weak. Neither DC nor Marvel disappointed me this week. Even the weakest of DC was still pretty good. Overall, the heights of both X-Men, New Mutants, and Harley Quinn have me on a comic book high. Hell, even the rather lackluster TMNT: The Last Ronin, couldn’t bring me down. If you haven’t checked out the site before, let me tell you, that… is somehow both normal and not. I’m not very consistent.

With that said, let’s get right into it. First is one of, if not the biggest release I read this week.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #3, created by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Tom Waltz, Esau & Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, and many others.

Mikey, the ninja turtle, stands alone, surrounded by ghost on the cover of an the third issue of TMNT: The Last Ronin.
TMNT is back in black.

TMNT: The Last Ronin was made by a village, so it’s fitting that its about a village. Rather than focus on Mikey, it spends a lot of time on the people still alive in New York city. I’ll admit, I’m a big fan of the TMNT cartoons, but I’ve never actually read a TMNT comic before. TMNT: The Last Ronin is my first. So, this means I do know who wrote what, or who drew who in this book. This means I’m gonna give general credit to everyone involved. I do know this. 

This series hasn’t exactly been getting better as it goes on. The first issue of TMNT: The Last Ronin was amazing. We watched the last turtle brother with bated breath, make one last stand against the Foot Clan. Trying to figure out which turtle had survived to see this hellish New York, had me at the edge of my seat. I had literal tears in my eyes as I figured out who it was, even before the book revealed it. 

If it had been Raphael, that would have seemed almost too obvious, generic even. He was already the hot head who ran in on his own. Then there was Leonardo, the leader, the most refined and skilled of them all. If he broke bad, he would end up like a more refined Raphael, we’ve seen that. They were two obvious paths TMNT: The Last Ronin chose not to take.

Donatello would have been a good choice, but it was obviously not him by the lack of technology. It had to be Michelangelo, the most loving and innocent turtle. He was the one who had the farthest to fall. 

But since that reveal on the last page of issue #1, this book hasn’t really gripped me the same way. Between issue #2 and #3 of TMNT: The Last Ronin, it’s clear that the modern day storyline is no longer about the title character. The flashbacks showing the fall of the turtles is what’s most gripping now. The modern day story has become very exposition-y and stalled, which is a huge problem. The title of this book tells us it’s about the last ninja turtle, but that’s not what’s happening. 

Not say the flashback stuff in TMNT: The Last Ronin isn’t great. Seeing Raphael run in headfirst after Karai, and pay for it with his life, is more entertaining and emotional than Mikey taking two issues to catch up with April. Leonardo and Casey Jones’s last stand, while not perfect, does far more than another plot to defeat the Foot Clan. 

Then there’s the villain of TMNT: The Last Ronin, Hiroto. He seemed to have originally wanted peace at first, but has become a maniac in the “Now” timeline. His monologue atop the spire of his skyscraper feels so heavy-handed and random. We haven’t seen his origin yet, we don’t know even remotely how he became this book’s villain. Because of that, no monologue is going to really do it for me. This book isn’t as well paced as when it started out, and it shows.

TMNT: The Last Ronin, is far from a bad book, but for something that showed so much promise, it’s grown a tad disappointing. Luckily, there are enough issues for this story to turn around.

New Mutants #18, written by Vita Ayala and drawn by Rod Reis

Karma stands ready on the cover of New Mutants #18, after the review of TMNT: The Last Ronin.
Karma is an underrated X-Men.

New Mutants #18 works on multiple levels. I would go so far to say it’s one of my favorite issues of the year. Between the story of Karma coming to terms with no longer being her brother’s keeper, and Gabby trying to save her friends from being used, X-book fans ate well. 

Karma is not a mutant I’ve ever particularly loved or cared for. To be honest, I don’t know what her power is. This is kind of perfect since she needs the Crucible to get them back. More than that, she needs to be separated from the brother she shares a mind with. She has been held back by holding Tran in her mind, keeping him from death. She does this despite heavy implications that he doesn’t deserve a second chance. 

This has helped to form a masterful issue of New Mutants. New Mutants #18 is the perfect example of how to give backstory and information without exposition. I know as much as I need to know about Karma’s relationship with her brother. It didn’t matter that I barely knew her beforehand to feel the emotional punch of this issue’s ending. The flashbacks intertwining with her battle in the Crucible, visualized her struggle perfectly through Reis’s art. He captures the duality of a person with two minds, two souls, but half a body. It’s a perfect melding of visual and literary storytelling. 

The duality in this issue works on multiple levels though. There’s two A-plots, one with Karma in the Crucible, and the other with Gabby and her friends. This group of young mutants, new mutants if you will (hate me, I don’t care), live in bodies that don’t in anyway appear like their old human ones. In Cosmar’s case, she’s quite literally deformed, even implied to be in pain because of her body’s form. 

Gabby, whose power is literally that she feels no pain, cannot possibly understand that. She recognizes this, and through Gabby, Ayala tries to help us understand this as well. Sometimes we will truly never understand someone else’s circumstance. Try as we might to be understanding, to be helpful, we can’t always be. Whether or not we should keep trying to help them to both their detriments and ours, cannot always be determined. 

At the same time, one’s trauma does not overcome another. Gabby’s trauma from being used as a weapon is as valid as her the trauma of her friends. This helps her realize that she may not have the right to make decisions for her friends, not that she tries to in this issue. At the same time, she can respect their choices while trying to keep what happened to her from happening to others. That leads her to look for help, and go to the abuser instead. It sets up a future issue I can’t wait to read. More than that, it has left me with an issue I want to read again.

X-Men #20, written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Francesco Mobili

The face of Nimrod from the cover of X-Men #20, which outdoes TMNT: The Last Ronin this week.
The monster Sentinel is back.

There’s been a lot of discourse on Twitter at the time of writing about the situation between Magneto, Professor Xavier, and Mystique. About whose the bad guy, or the worst bad guy between the three of them. To me, the anger seems to be over whether to resurrect Irene, Destiny, Mystique’s wife. I posted my short thoughts on that on Twitter, so I won’t waste time repeating them here.

Aside from that, discourse, this issue is great, more than great, it’s amazing. We’re finally seeing payoffs to Nimrod, Mystique’s planting of the flower on Orchis, and Destiny’s threat to Krakoa as a pre-cog. It all comes together in this story that reveals something fundamentally dangerous about mutants. For all the power they have with their superpowers and their nation, the strongest of them still fear humans. 

In X-Men #20, Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique stooped to the level of humans. They tried to eradicate the scientific achievement of humans through wholesale slaughter, like a human. Of course, it’s a decision made by three mutants that would prevent mutant extinction. The humans they planned to kill are a terrorist-hate group focused on killing mutants, they should feel justified. At the same time, do such odds justify being as cutthroat as your enemy?

I would argue it would, if the action was spawned from survival and self-defense alone. It very easily could have been, if this issue’s events were not spawned from Magneto and Professor X through Mystique. If it were Cyclops, Wolverine, or even Beast, this would be a simple mission to defend mutants. They would simply be sacrificing their souls for their people. 

But with Magneto, Professor X, and Mystique, it was through something else that they tried to destroy Orchis. The worst thing is that Orchis knows it too. 

They did it out of fear, because Professor X, Magento, and Mystique fear humans. It’s why Professor X and Magneto blackmail Mystique into doing this mission, and Mystique uses the methods she does to complete.

They fear humans.

Now humans know it, and Hickman and Mobili made sure we know too. They us showed this, brilliantly.

Titans Academy #3, written by Tim Sheridan and drawn by Rafa Sandoval

The mask of Red X, next to Talon.
Enter Red X.

First things first, this has to be the best looking issue to date. Save for Superboy, with his occasionally weird looking face, Rafa Sandoval is on his A-game. The way he draws Red X’s long billowing cape is mesmerizing. He also makes the ridiculous helmet on Peacemaker’s head capture my eye. 

Sandoval’s art also does really well to distinguish each member of the cast from each other. It really brings out just how diverse they all are, something the rest of the DC comic line should replicate. 

The story, while still succeeding to give a voice to the new characters, is stalling a bit. I’m not sure why Sheridan chose to structure this issue like he did. I was left confused by how the first half of the issue caught up to the last issue’s ending. At first, I thought the last Suicide Squad issue I didn’t read continued the story. With the way Bolt was talking about Amanda Waller, as if she had just tried to kidnap her, I feel justified in thinking that the events of the last issue’s ending had happened and ended already. 

At the same time, with how Red X stepped between the Suicide Squad and Bolt in the last issue, I wouldn’t have thought he let them in the first place. Honestly, the way Red X flip flops in this issue really sucked a bit of the fun out of his character. It told us the wrong things about him. 

Now I’m prepared for him to be inconsistent. I’m betting that he’s going to super heinous things, but arbitrarily never kill anyone. He’ll get people close right up to the point where death is staring them in the face, but won’t finish them off. His motivations can only be best defined as ‘arbitrary,’ and that’s not a good thing.

This issue isn’t bad, but it’s barely a step forward, just a bit more than it is a step back.

Detective Comics #1036, written by Mariko Tamaki and drawn by Dan Mora

Batman stands beside the Huntress as she points a crossbow at him under the pouring rain.
The Batman and the Huntress in the pale moonlight, struck by rain.

Alright, I’ll eat my words. A couple weeks ago when the last issue in this run came out, I made a couple of wrong predictions and criticisms. Firstly, that was not a zombie at the end, it was Lady Clayface. Not a big spoiler, you learn that almost immediately. That reveal allows for what I do appreciate about Tamaki’s Batman; he can be as rude and as compassionate as he should be. It felt natural for him to talk boldly to Huntress, but also try to help Lady Clayface rather than attack her.

Secondly, I had doubts that Tamaki planned to bring Huntress into the main book, so then she had to go and do it. So far, I hope this is permanent because I really enjoy the dynamic between Tamaki’s Batman and Huntress. It’s the perfect mixture of mutual respect and antagonism with their dynamic so far. Huntress goes a bit farther than even Batman, which makes her doubt him, and him her. At the same time, he’s not someone she should downplay as incapable, he is Batman, and she’s no slouch, she is Huntress. 

So I’m happy with this issue to say the least. It’s a vast improvement over the previous one. I do want to say I called it though. Giving Batman another hero to interact with immediately helped with my moment to moment enjoyment of the plot.

Suffice to say, this is a really good issue, further helped by Dan Mora’s art. He was a superstar today. There are a few banger panels that should go down in history on their own, but truly just transitionary panels in the book. He gave his all this week, vastly improving over what I criticized in the last issue. I bet it helped that he had more colorful characters to work with this time.

Also, the cover of this issue is officially one of my favorites. Batman standing against Huntress as the rain bears down on them.

Harley Quinn #3, written by Stephanie Phillips and drawn by Riley Rossmo

Harley Quinn is dancing it up as Hugo Strange flexes his muscles behind her.
Harley Quinn is here, and she’s on top of her game.

It astounds me that Harley Quinn is now regularly one of, if not my favorite DC book of the week. If you had told me a year ago, that Stephanie Phillips would come make the most down to earth and relatable DC comic on the shelf… about Harley Quinn… I wouldn’t have believed you. 

This book continues to be great. I absolutely love the concept of heroes getting down to the level of the criminals they fight to actually rehabilitate them. Usually the hero just offers the villain their help, but in vain. What happens is that the villain almost always refuses and then they have a boring fight with the hero. Sometimes the hero does talk them into a peaceful surrender. The latter literally happened in Detective Comics.

Sadly, all too often these moments don’t go farther. They rarely show the title character trying to help people who’ve gone astray. I love that Harley Quinn has opened a support group to try and help people with her Ph.D. More than that, I love that Harley is trying, failing, and (through that failure) succeeding a little bit at a time. I anticipate with glee, a big payoff from Harley’s work with Kevin. From there, I hope to see it spread to the other people in her support group, once she frees them from a wrongful arrest, of course.

Rossmo’s art only works to amplify Harley’s particular energy. He makes the world around Harley feel crazy, and she’s just the right amount of crazed to match it. Rossmo and Harley Quinn are a perfect match. Such a perfect pairing of hero and artist is rare indeed, we should recognize when it happens.  

I will admit, the friendliness of the art style does keep from feeling real stakes in some points. The art style seems too friendly, but after one scene with Hugo Strange, Rossmo proves he can definitely show dark stuff if Phillips needs him too. I both fear and excitedly anticipate that day, should it come, just like I’m excited for issue #4.

Started the week with TMNT: The Last Ronin’s faults, and ended with Marvel’s and DC’s strengths

It’s rare that I get to say Marvel and DC both impressed me this week. Usually its one or the other. Typically DC books are really inconsistent, or Marvel is just not releasing many books on my pull list. This week, they both showed me a lot of quality with the X-books and the Bat-books. They improved and maintained this week, that’s commendable to their creative teams. Titans Academy faltered a bit, but its still good.

The only book I felt was weak was TMNT: The Last Ronin #3, but then again, it wasn’t bad. It was good, but good feels bad when compared to the amazing first issue. This is probably a product of me getting my expectations too high. That’s on me, but I honestly can’t help it. I’m excited after I getting a taste of something good. The first issue of TMNT: The Last Ronin had given me that good taste once before. I do think, and hope, that it will turn itself around. The real question is, will DC continue it’s hot streak into next week. I can only hope.

But, if you’re looking for any opinions on last week’s comics, don’t forget to check last week’s review, or even the recent article on Vote Loki. The show is coming out soon, I hear.

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