Tag Archive: idw


Oh! Shell-shocked!

Like many people my age, I grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Movies, comics, cartoons, and action figures depicted the lean, green, fighting machines everywhere I looked, so it’s no wonder that I’ve remained enamored with the franchise throughout the years. It helps that they’ve maintained some measure of success in many of these mediums since their mid-’80s inception. But there’s still one area the Heroes in a Half-shell continue to stumble in: games.

Sure, we all remember how awesome Turtles in Time was in the arcade, but that was more than 20 years ago. And, yes, we’ve seen some mediocre-to-above-average TMNT offerings since then, but we haven’t had that huge blockbuster hit that harnesses the magic of Turtles games from decades ago. TMNT: Out of the Shadows hoped to be that game—the one that could marry nostalgia with the expectations of a modern audience. The good news? It did succeed in avoiding being average. The bad news? It’s downright awful.

I was cautiously optimistic when I heard about Out of the Shadows. Unlike the middling offerings based off the second cartoon from the early 2000s, Out of the Shadows is based on the latest animated incarnation of the TMNT. A downloadable title sounded like a good way for Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, and Donatello to dip their toes back into the digital waters, especially with a new iteration like the Nickelodeon cartoon fresh in everyone’s minds. After playing the game, it felt like Red Fly Studio had a bunch of ideas on a board in the planning stages of Out of the Shadows and instead of paring them down like most developers would, they tried to cram in every idea they had and ended up with this confounding mess.

The most glaring and obvious flaw comes from the gameplay, which tries to channel the Batman: Arkham series with buttons assigned to weapon attacks, kicks, jump, counters, and gadgets (usually just shuriken, but other Turtle specific items later). In theory you were supposed to feel like a true ninja badass. Each Turtle would have their own style based on their weapon and personality, and you could switch between Turtles with the D-pad like some multi-character action-RPGs do (think Marvel Ultimate Alliance).

Instead, the combat is busted—the first of many broken things you’ll notice in this game. There seems to be a delay between your button inputs and when your character actually performs the action, causing you to frequently break your own combos with an extra button press intended to make up for the game’s inconsistent speed. Because the Turtles don’t automatically lock on to their nearest foe when fighting, it’s difficult to aim many of your combat maneuvers, especially when you’re just dealing with a single opponent. Worse yet, if you’re using projectile weapons, you’ll sometimes hit a friendly instead of a foe.

Tying the game further into the action-RPG genre, the Turtles can also gain levels and earn points to be put into the most elaborate bunch of skill trees you’ll ever see in a downloadable game. Some may relish the challenge of trying to earn the dozens of points it’ll take to max out a single Turtle, but I’m of the mind that it’s just overkill. The convoluted system feels a microcosm of Red Fly’s development approach: Come up with up way too many ideas and never stop to cut the fat.

This isn’t to say Out of the Shadows doesn’t have a couple of highlights, though. The arcade mode, which features seven stages taken from the game’s campaign, utilizes four-player local/online co-op so that you and your friends can get a hint of how things were back in the 8- and 16-bit TMNT glory days. Even this, though, is tarnished by the odd, realistic art style that tries to make the Turtles look like they did in their 1990s live action movies and a horrendous camera that glitches and gets caught every time you turn a corner.

And don’t think that the questionable art direction and busted camera are limited to Arcade Mode, because they only get worse in the campaign. The off-putting visual style only becomes more pronounced via the cutscenes, where voice acting is done over animation-style stills that look a lot more like the cartoon the game is supposed to be based off of. This transition from realistic gameplay to cartoony cutscenes and back left me completely befuddled. The incongruity becomes more dramatic if you try the “classic” option that then turns everything black and white like the original Eastman and Laird comics.

The voice acting, at least, is a bright spot. The actors from the cartoon are not present, but a solid cast led by voice acting veterans like Yuri Lowenthal as Donatello and Catherine Taber as April O’Neill do their best with a script and dialogue taken straight from common TMNT canon. The only problems with the audio come from the fact that every time you pick up an item, a line of dialogue is spoken corresponding to the Turtle you were controlling. As an unintended side effect, sometimes story sensitive lines will be triggered at the same time you pick up a pizza and you’ll have two separate lines played simultaneously as an incomprehensible, garbled mess. That’s not to mention how quickly it gets annoying to hear Donatello lament the fact that he’s eating pizza off of a floor every time you pick one up. Maybe it’s some weird Pizza Hut propaganda.

The campaign’s problems don’t end here, however. It also suffers because it only supports two players locally. Considering you can play the arcade mode locally with four players—which, for all intents and purposes, is nearly as long as the campaign—there is no reason to not have this feature in both modes.

At least, that’s what I thought until I tried playing the campaign locally with a friend and was presented with a split screen. That’s when I realized that there had to have been two different teams working on the two modes separately, with no communication between them. To have all four players presented relatively comfortably from a single viewpoint in arcade mode, then to squish the third-person action point of view into split screen in campaign is quite simply one of the most boneheaded things I’ve ever seen in a game like this.

But even that’s not the crux of Out of the Shadows‘ stupidity. I’ve never spent so much time being lost in a game so linear. There are several massive arena-like enclaves where you’ll have to face countless classic Turtle baddies including Mousers, Foot Ninja, and Purple Dragon gangsters. Once you clear the area, you’ll then waste a lot of time running around and mashing the A button to see what is or isn’t climbable and just what will open up the path way to the next area, since there are no indicators or mini-map to help you along. The worst, though, is when a single enemy will have glitched into one of the boundaries of the arena and you don’t realize that until you do your lap, knock him out so you can advance, then have to run around mashing the A button again, still hoping to find the right path out.

But then again, maybe this is all just part of Red Fly’s lack of self-editing. There were some decent core ideas here that ended up getting lost under the piles of gameplay garbage thrown on top. (One of those bad ideas includes spending some of their budget on getting the rights to Partners in Kryme song “TURTLE Power” from the 1990 movie to serve as their main title theme, by the way.) There are references to the comics, the movies, the cartoons and previous games. There’s split-screen, local co-op, online co-op, skill trees, action-RPG character selection, and Batman-like combat. At the end of the day, TMNT: Out of the Shadows doesn’t know what it wants to be and doesn’t do anything it tries to be well. It doesn’t make the younger Nickelodeon fans or the older, nostalgia-driven fans like myself happy. All it ends up being is a mess and a waste of time.

Developer: Red Fly Studio • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 08.28.13
2.5
There seem to be the beginnings of some good ideas in TMNT: Out of the Shadows, but none of them are properly fleshed out. Instead, these shortcomings are simply covered up with more half-followed-through mechanics, resulting in a mess of a game.
The Good The arcade mode will feel nostalgic for some. 
The Bad Lots of glitches, loose combat, and an identity crisis.
The Ugly Everything visually about this game.
TMNT: Out of the Shadows is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA), PC (Steam), and coming later for PS3 (PSN). Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.
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It was an interesting week in the comic world as IDW brings back another old-school hero while Marvel and DC continue to try to spin our old heroes into something new. So let’s just get right to it with this week’s Pullbox!

IDW – Judge Dredd #1 – The year is 2100. Most of the world is a radioactive wasteland aside from a small strip along the North American east coast where all people can do is build upward at this point. The facilities of this last bastion of humanity are mostly automated, but occasionally man’s primal urges to break the law rise to the surface and when this happens, there is only one true form of law. The Judges And the most severe of this militant law-enforcement group is Judge Dredd.

Capitalizing on the fair success of the Dredd movie, this comic is the start of bringing Britain’s most infamous comic book hero ever here to the States in a way that stays true to its dark, dystopian future. This first comic is a joy for any comic reader that is even just vaguely familiar with the character as it throws you in head-first to Judge Dredd’s world without pulling any punches. Pick this up and stick with it folks because it is going to be one hell of a ride from here on out.

DC – Talon #2 – Calvin Rose begins his war against the Court of Owls in earnest in the hopes of finding the women who helped prevent him from succumbing to the same fate as all other Talons. When he looks to hit one of the Court’s primary fund reserves, however, he realizes that he may have bitten off more than he can chew and will need to push his skills as an escape artist to the test if he hopes to live.

Even though this book is only a couple of issues in, and I didn’t even really enjoy the whole ‘Court of Owls’ concept, Talon shows a lot of potential as it is already introducing new and unique characters, and looks to be working hard to give Calvin some nemesis of his own to do battle against. The idea of bringing back Owls from the dead could get old quickly, but it definitely works through a couple of issues and it should be interesting to see how Calvin’s war on the Owls continues in the coming months This is definitely one book to keep an eye on.

Marvel – Astonishing X-Men Annual #1 – In this one-shot story, we again see how being an X-Man affects Northstar and his marriage as The Friends of Humanity terrorist group has started targeting the loved ones of mutants instead of just the mutants themselves. Labeling them gene traitors, Northstar must aide his friends in hunting down the hate mongers before his husband becomes the next casualty.

If you’ve been reading Astonishing X-Men, this Annual issue really helps put a nice little bowtie on the recent events that have happened with Northstar and his wedding and all that. It doesn’t really feature a lot of action, but does a nice job of fleshing out some characters, including Karma, Northstar, and his husband, and feels like it is setting them all up for something big in the future. A solid read, but not a must have unless you’ve been following this series very closely.

DC – Batman, Inc. #5 – Batman claims he’s had a vision of the future where Damian becomes Batman and Gotham gets wiped off the map because of it. Everyone Bruce knows and loves die in the future and so in order to prevent this from happening, Bruce wishes to send Damian back to Talia as a peace offering.

A little confusing at first, as is typical of most of Grant Morrison’s more recent works, it all comes together in the end as this issue has an old-school ‘Elseworlds’ feel to it that I appreciated. Also, having the Joker being the villain the brings about the end of Gotham was a nice touch as any time you can work in the Clown Prince of Crime is a bonus for sure. It would have been nice though if aside from explaining Batman’s insane vision, if this issue has actually done something, like, I don’t know, forward the story, perhaps. Not the best issue of Batman, Inc. in how it relates to the series, but I’ve read worse.

Marvel – Secret Avengers #34 – Captain Britain and Hawkeye are trapped in the Earth-666 parallel universe where all the heroes we know are classic movie monsters (Thor is the Mummy, Wolverine is a vampire, Punisher is a Frankenstein monster, etc.), Venom and Valkyrie are ejected into space, and Hank Pym gets turned into a Deathlok!

This was one of the most difficult issues for me to follow in a while what with so many different stories going on at once. I usually love Rick Remender’s work, but he needs to get a grip on the reigns of this one fast because it feels like an out of control train ready to wreck at any time. And it’s not like I tried jumping into this one cold turkey. I’ve been following this series and still had trouble trying to piece together everything that was supposed to be happening. The whole feel of Secret Avengers seems to have taken a downward turn ever since Hawkeye took it over from Captain America and even though I’ve been with this book since the very beginning, it needs to pick up soon or I’m jumping ship.

It’s been a long time coming folks, but I’ve finally gotten ahead of my backlog of comics and so I’m thrilled to finally present to you another Pullbox! The Marvel NOW! Initiative is under way (a clear reaction to the New 52, but at least the continuity has remained the same), and with it comes a flurry of new directions, writers, artists, and team-ups for our favorite heroes. DC meanwhile has a pair of smaller events under way with “Death of the Family” in Batman and “Rise of the Third Army” with Green Lantern. But most excitedly may be the start of a new limited run of origin stories from IDW based on the Borderlands video games! With that, here is this week’s Pullbox!

IDW – Borderlands: Origins #1: “Roland” – Everyone knows how much of a bad ass Roland from the first Borderlands game is, but little is known about his time as a Crimson Lance soldier with The Atlas Corporation. This story takes a look at just how he fell out of Atlas’s grace and what happened that turned this supreme soldier into a Vault Hunter.

Written by Gearbox Software Creative Guru Mikey Neumann, this first of four origin stories does a great job of expanding the Borderlands universe even further and holds a special place in my heart because I played my first playthrough of the original Borderlands as Roland. The only thing this comic lacked was how Roland acquires his patented turret. Otherwise, fans of the series will not be disappointed by both the tremendous art stylings of Augustin Padilla and how Mikey begins to further flesh out the characters that started it all for this fan-favorite shooter franchise. Great story, great action, great art makes this an easy addition to anyone’s Pullbox this week!

Marvel – X-Men Legacy #1 – Legion, one of the most powerful mutants on the planet and Professor Xavier’s prodigal son finally shows his face again. While the Avengers and X-Men fought over the Phoenix Force, Legion continued to fight his own personal demons in the Himalayas. With the aid of an old friend of his dad’s, Legion constructs a psychic prison that keeps his most malevolent personalities at bay. But when Legion is overwhelmed by the psychic outburst that occurs when his dad is killed by Cyclops, there is a prison break.

Legion has become one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel Universe over the past few years as the shades of gray become even more vague with him as he slips further and further into himself. To continue to see the ramifications, however, of Professor Xavier’s death and tie it directly into him makes this a storyline to watch. I can’t wait to see where Legion goes from here and I’m thrilled that he is being brought back after sitting out the Avengers vs. X-Men event. A strong start to this relaunched title, no doubt.

Marvel – All-New X-Men #1 – New mutants are popping up all over the world and Cyclops is trying to outrace Wolverine’s Jean Grey School in terms of recruiting them. Meanwhile, Beast is facing a terminal illness on his own as he refuses to share the burden with his friends and so before he leaves this plane of existence, he needs to make things right with Cyclops. Not necessarily the one of the current time, however.

This issue got off to such a strong start with Beast’s illness and Cyclops recruiting new mutants left and right. Then Brian Michael Bendis decided to send Beast back in time. Just because. There is nothing I hate more than time travel as a mechanic to kick off a new book because you are just trying to set a tone for why people should read this and time travel always ends up confusing people. Time travel and parallel universes are the two things that need to be held off of more often because they can end up with so many ramifications and therefore should be saved for major events. It even led to a confusing first-issue cover with the original five X-Men that almost made me want to pass up this book. Issue #1 and Bendis is already jumping the shark. Damn him and his time travel.

DC – Batman #14 – Alfred has been abducted and Commissioner Gordon is next on the Joker’s list as he wishes to remove all distractions from Batman’s life in order to harden him into the person he once was. To do this, Joker has finally deduced who the people are under the masks and is re-enacting all his first crimes with Batman, but out of order to keep the Dark Knight on his toes.

This is the best story in comics right now. After lying dormant for a year, the Joker has returned with the ultimate scheme. And for once it has purpose that even we can understand. Not only to hurt the people of Gotham randomly, but to drive a stake through Batman’s heart in the process by eliminating all those around him. You can’t stop turning the page to see what the Joker does next and how he will inventively eliminate his targets. Not only is he forcing Batman back to the way he once was, he’s also changing himself by ostracizing Harley and riding this scheme out solo. I look forward to every one of these chapters each week and get giddy just thinking about what I may read in each one. A must read for sure.

DC – Green Lantern Corps #14 – Guy Gardner and his troops fail to overcome the Third Army soldiers with only Gardner escaping the unfortunate fate of assimilation. The Guardians quickly change their plan, however, and turn this minor setback still into a victory by then revoking Gardner’s ring and sending him back to Earth. With only two original Earth Lanterns of Sector 2814 left, The Third Army may be poised to carry out the Guardians’ mission of complete and total emotional annihilation.

This story is moving along at a snail’s pace right now as each issue is the slow, methodical elimination of the main Lantern threats for the Guardians. It is setting itself up so that once the action does start, it’ll be hot and heavy, but as it is all this table setting is starting to bore me. Stay with this a few more issues folks to see if it starts to get good, but if The Third Army ends up leaving a sour taste in my mouth like the Blackest Night and Brightest Day events, this could be the end of my following the Green Lantern books. Step on the gas with this one DC!

Sorry to have missed the past couple of weeks folks. Lots of various fall preview events have pulled us, the EGM Staff, into a dozen different directions and so certain things had to be sacrificed. But we are back this week and have a brand new Pullbox ready to go!

IDW – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #14 – Raphael is taught an important lesson about his temper as Casey Jones and April O’Neil are officially welcomed into the family. Meanwhile, Baxter Stockman begins to learn just how deep General Krang’s resources go and the Shredder begins to hatch his latest scheme in the hopes of finding someone to replace Karai as his number two!

The big reveal this issue that propelled TMNT #14 into my top spot this week is in the picture directly above this entry. Yes, the creation of the Technodrome is underway and with it means the likelihood that Shredder and Krang will finally form their partnership sooner rather than later. Also, with Shredder ready to make a move, the action will likely start to pick up again as this issue’s main focus was Raphael’s needed lesson in anger management. All told though, Kevin Eastman hasn’t lost it as this remains one of the best-written comics on the market today and should appeal to TMNT fans new and old alike.

Marvel – Wolverine and the X-Men #17 – It’s the issue we’ve all been waiting for. Nevermind AvX, this is much more monumental to the X-Men universe. Finally, we have explained to us what the heck Doop’s job is at Wolverine’s academy!

Taking a short break from the AvX event for a more light-hearted moment, this issue shows us that Doop is indeed an X-Man and more than pulls his weight around the academy, even if no one but Wolverine sees it. Just seeing what Wolverine needed to do to recruit Doop though will have you cracking up, and when you see how much of a ladies man he is, you might just fall on the floor. A well-written issue that was a much-needed change of pace from the seriousness of the AvX event and its upcoming fallout, this is a great one-off story to get into this series.

Marvel – X-Men Legacy #274 – A lot has been going on in the world of the X-Men and now more than ever, mutants are hated and despised because of the acts of Cyclops and the rest of the Phoenix Five. But Rogue is a hero. And so she keeps on doing heroic things. But it’s not easy to be heroic when Magneto comes to her in the middle of a train wreck and starts pouring his heart out to her.

Nice to see this little lover’s spat finally get resolved, even if it wasn’t in the way we expected. This loose end needed to be taken care of for a while and this one-off story does that while also waiting for the rest of the AvX books to wrap up. It also features several great shots of Magneto (one is above) and a lot of great art in general for such a simple story so kudos to  David Baldeon (penciler), Jordi Tarragona (inker), and Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist) for the style that drips off this book.

DC – Batman: The Dark Knight #0 – Continuing the DC series of Zero Issues that tell more elaborate back stories of some of our favorite heroes, this tale of Batman looks at what he does when he learns that Joe Chill is the man who killed his parents and wants to know why.

More so than any other of the Zero Issues from DC, the Batman ones I think have been the best because they’ve only added slight twists to the classic tale or told never before heard stories of Batman in the early days involving his training and whatnot. This one with Joe Chill was particularly interesting because it turns Joe Chill from a low-ranking mob hitman into nothing more than a common mugger looking for his next score. Same basic premise, but it adds an interesting twist to the character as Batman learns the hard way that there are just bad people in the world on all levels of the social ladder. A solid read for all Batman fans if you can get past the fact that yes, we have heard this one before.

DC – Red Lanterns #0 – The birth of Atrocitus, the Rise of the Manhunters, the creation of the Green Lanterns, and the spawning of the Red Lanterns is detailed in another continuation of the Zero Issues from DC.

Another story we’ve heard before, but with more detail and another twist as we finally learn just how it is Atrocitus was able to survive while the rest of his planet in Sector 666 got turned to ash. Great art, especially if you love the color red, and a chilling tale of how Atrocitus watched his family burn around him and how he rose up to hate the Guardians more than anything else in the universe. I especially loved the design of the Manhunters and the sequence when they started annihilating everyone in their way. A solid read if you’re a fan of the Red Lanterns or even Green Lantern for that matter, but again, a story we’ve heard before, just with more details now.

A slightly less busy Pullbox this week that looked very similar to last week in terms of what we’re covering, but very different in regards to content. Without further ado, here is this week’s Pullbox!

Marvel – Uncanny X-Force #30 – Evan, a.k.a. Genesis, a.k.a. the Boy Apocalypse, is on the road trip from hell as Daken’s new iteration of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants attempts to jog his memory of what his life’s purpose is as they hope if he remembers, they’ll be at the forefront of Apocalypse’s new army. So as Shadow King plays countless games with the boy’s mind, X-Force and the rest of the X-Men are lost as to what to do to go about getting Evan back before it’s too late.

Anyone who is a fan of Apocalypse as a villain will love this issue. Not only does it show off the lengths Daken, Sabertooth, and Shadow King are willing to go to torture the boy into reminding him what he is supposed to become, but we finally start to see Evan show off some of Apocalypse’s more infamous powers, like shape-shifting, as his rage forces him to push himself to the limits as The Brotherhood breaks down everything he has ever known bit by bit. Surprisingly, much of the book revolves around Evan, which hasn’t happened since X-Force took the boy in, and the X-Men themselves only get a few panels explaining their concern about the creation of a new Brotherhood. Again, if you’re a fan of Apocalypse, pick this issue up.

Marvel – Wolverine and the X-Men #15 – Wolverine and the rest of his school prepare for what will likely be the final battle with the Phoenix and everyone on campus, from Krakoa to Toad to Iceman have different ways of getting ready for what could be (but most likely won’t) be their final battle.

Okay, we get it. I’m honestly kind of tired of the whole Avengers vs X-Men event now. It’s coming to a head and this issue just felt like a waste of ink and paper. It was interesting to see some of the asides, like Toad with Paige Guthrie, and Professor X with Quentin Quire, or even Iron Man and his little think tank having at it before Broo the Brood shows them all up, but in terms of forwarding the actual story, very little happened of note here and it makes you wonder how long Marvel will drag this out at this rate. I’m ready for it to be over already and at this rate, I’m almost rooting for the Phoenix.

DC – Batman Detective Comics Annual #1 – During the Night of the Owls debacle at Arkham Asylum, it seems that Roman Sionis, a.k.a. the original Black Mask, had escaped and hypnotized much of the staff into believing he was still in his cell. Now, Batman has to find a way to stop him before he forms a new False Face Society and begins a new reign of terror over Gotham.

This is probably my favorite Batman related comic since the New 52 launched because it feels like an old-school Batman story in terms of its pacing, the action, and the villains involved. Bringing back Roman Sionis into prominence is a good thing, even if the entire mind-control battle between him and The Mad Hatter (read the book to better understand!) came out of left field a little bit. Batman fans should definitely pick up this book, especially if they’re looking for a solid point to get back into Detective Comics incase they missed some of the Night of the Owls stuff.

DC – Green Lantern Annual #1 – The battle between Hal, Sinestro, and Black Hand finally comes to a head. Meanwhile, halfway across the universe, some of the origins of the Guardians comes to light as they free the source of power that will drive their Third Army, which we also finally see just what that Army will be!

I really don’t know what to say about this comic aside that it is a must-read if you are at all interested in the upcoming Green Lantern crossover event. 16 issues (17 if you count this prologue) across four titles will change the face of the Green Lanterns forever as it seems a being called The Original Lantern and who can effortlessly wield all spectrums of light is powering a Borg-like entity for the Guardians. The Guardians have realized the only way to ensure order in a chaotic universe is to destroy free will. Therefore, making the universe of a hive mind seems to be the way to go and although I’m not really a fan of this direction, it could provide a very interesting new threat to the DCU. The most exciting part of this book though is that in freeing The Original Lantern as their power source, the Guardians have also stirred up a long lost remnant of their race! This could possibly lead to an entirely new cast of Guardians down the line to replace these power-mad ones. Time will tell on that front though as Hal Jordan first has to worry about coming back from the dead again.

IDW – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: April O’ Neil #1 (One-Shot) – April feels tired of sitting on the sidelines and wants the turtles to know she can be an integral part of the team as well. She may not be a ninja, and she might be able to bash skulls even like Casey, but her intelligence and ability for subterfuge can be just as valued as being a human for her has its perks. Of course, after the mess she caused, it’ll be unlikely she’ll be brought back to Stockgen again.

I wasn’t going to do a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic two weeks in a row originally. But after reading this and absolutely geek-gasming at what this book laid out, I couldn’t resist. Fans of the original cartoon series and Archie series of comics will immediately pick up on a failed experiment that April lets loose during her antics in this issue, best known as Slash, the Evil Turtle. Whether or not Slash will exhibit his same low-level intelligence as his previous incarnations is yet to be seen, but his obsession with palm trees at least remains the same. And considering how much of a fan favorite rogue Slash ended up becoming (he even had his own badass action figure), it’ll be interesting to see what other mutants start popping up in the issue of TMNT in the months ahead. We also see one of the main characters of this book finally have some direct interaction with Rock Soldiers, who up until this point, had been seen only with Krang and Baxter Stockman and kept hidden from the TMNT. All in all, this book may not look like much if you just glance at the cover but old-school TMNT fans must pick this up.

A bit late this week. Clearly must still be recovering from the trip to Gamescom. Either way, after catching up from the missed week before, we ready for another edition of the Pullbox!

Marvel – Secret Avengers #30 – Many of the villains of the Marvel Universe start to get wise to Venom’s act and soon what seemed like an easy snatch ‘n’ grab turns into all out mayhem! And with it, Taskmaster bolts for Max Fury with the Third Crown. Lucky for them, it seems the completed Crown will not work on the head of a Life Model Decoy. That doesn’t mean the Secret Avengers are out of the woods yet though…

Tons of action, great banter between Venom and Taskmaster and later Hawkeye and Vengeance, and a cliffhanger that sets up this story arc possibly coming to an end soon. If it doesn’t end soon, you can expect a lot more conflict and action in the coming issues as it looks like some of the Secret Avengers are falling under the power of the crown. And it’s interesting how once again, being just a robot, how Max Fury is left all alone. If you haven’t been reading Secret Avengers, now is not the time to jump in, with such a convoluted story line, but if you have, keep going!

Marvel – Astonishing X-Men #53 – After being blown up at Northstar’s wedding, Wolverine starts to put himself back together and Beast helps this small team of X-Men figure out who has Karma, who put her up to this, and just what they’re going to do about it. And Northstar is none too happy about having his wedding crashed by exploding nanobots.

I think the best part of this comic was that we are really starting to see how far Iceman’s powers go. For a long time he was considered an Omega level mutant who was only held back by his own inhibitions and lack of imagination. In this book, as we have in a lot of other recent X-Men stories with Iceman, we see just how far he is able to push himself as he’s split up his consciousness, pulled himself back together from almost nothingness, and in this issue created an absolute monstrous ice creature. The rest of the issue though was rather lackluster, but hints at something larger as it looks like yet another new X-Men villain is in the business of existing simply to make their lives miserable and prove they are not as special as they think.

DC – Batman Incorporated #3 – In order to see just how far Leviathan has permeated the power structure of Gotham, Batman dusts off an old disguise, fan-favorite Matches Malone, to see if he can’t stir up some trouble in Gotham’s underbelly and get a few snitches to point him in the right direction. Unknown to him though, the snitches might be in Leviathan’s pocket, too.

Bringing this long-time alias back to life, after the real Matches Malone was killed by the Ventriloquist some time ago, and having Malone’s new crew being other members of Batman, Inc. was just a stroke of genius by Morrison. And he needed it considering how much momentum this book lost in the launch of the New 52. Finally though it seems to be back on track. And the idea of Robin having his own second identity now, although a bit too early in his life for my liking, was a nice touch as now everyone who has ever worn the yellow cape has matured into something more. And keeping with the red theme that now permeates Nightwing’s costume to match Red Hood and Red Robin, Damian decided to do the same as his new moniker is Redbird. What this means in the future, we will have to wait and see, but at the very least after ‘Matches’ stumbled into a Leviathan trap, I think he’ll be happy to have Redbird around next issue. 

DC – Green Lantern: New Guardians #12 – After finally realizing who has been pulling the strings of members of each lantern corps, Kyle and the others must band together to stop Invictus once and for all before he brings chaos to every star system in his path. But will the secret that Sayd has kept for so long also drive this group apart once their mission is accomplished?

Honestly, for what was supposed to be an epic final battle with Invictus, this issue felt flat in a lot of ways and was more about the upcoming drama within the Green Lantern Corps as Invictus folded like a house of cards after the Lanterns figured out what his power source was. It was also mostly about how no one in this New Guardians Group could trust one another, even after all they had been through and Kyle is left there twiddling his thumbs. The only interesting thing this issue brings up is the corruptions amongst the Guardians and how Kyle will fit into that picture as the fabled ‘Third Army’ that has been built up over the last few months will finally come to fruition in the next couple of issues. 

IDW – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #13 – The Turtles are still rattled after nearly losing Splinter to the hands of the Shredder and even Splinter himself isn’t the same. But when Casey Jones stumbles into the sewers, beaten and bloodied once again by his father, Raphael has enough and goes out to wreak vengeance on the old drunk. Splinter feels this is a perfect time to teach his son a lesson of ninjitsu though. Meanwhile, the Shredder realizes that Karai is not fit to serve him as his second-in-command, even though we find out that she was the one who resurrected Shredder, her grandfather. We also see Krang finally show off his true form, that of a living brain!

Even though Shredder and Krang were two short asides for the main part of this story, this is obviously setting up the team-up that fans of the 80s cartoon have been waiting for. Shredder needs a new second-in-command, Krang needs someone more competent than Baxter Stockman. The ending to this book was shocking though and makes me wonder just how dark Kevin Eastman will take his original characters in the next issue as Splinter is definitely different after his encounter after his old nemesis. If you haven’t been getting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles yet, now is a great time to get on board as it looks like business is about to pick up!

An absolutely massive week made this Pullbox a little harder than normal as it seemed comics were coming from everywhere! Marvel, DC, and a cavalcade of indie stuff was successfully sifted through though and now we have this week’s Pullbox!

IDW – Ghostbusters #11 – The Ghostbusters continue their tour across America, battling pesky poltergeists all over the country, and this time they end up in Roswell, New Mexico on behalf of that state’s governor to take on a whole slew of alien ghosts!

Still probably my favorite monthly book that I’m picking up, Ghostsbusters does a brilliant job of coming up with new and interesting foes for the Ghostbusters to face while maintaining the humor that made the movies such classics. I literally can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud at a comic book before this monthly started almost a year ago. The best part of each book though is they are so easy to just jump right into because if you’re reading this book, you likely already know all the major players and what is going to be involved. I honestly hope writer Erik Burnham can continue the hysterical momentum he has going with this book as I continue to look forward to it each and every month.

DC – Batman: The Dark Knight #11 – Commissioner Gordon has been abducted by the Scarecrow and Batman is hot on his trail after finding traces of a variant to the Scarecrow’s infamous ‘Fear Toxin’. The Dark Knight though stumbles right into a trap laid out by the villain and ends up with a dose of this new toxin himself!

While reading this book, I was a little worried that, like with Mr. Freeze, they might be twisting The Scarecrow’s origin as well, and unfortunately I was right as it seems Jonathan Crane had a father who liked fear more than the boy ever did. At the very least, he is still the villain he always seems to have been, just crazier and with ‘Fear Toxin’ being in the BatComputer database, we at least know Batman should be more than aware of this new look Dr. Crane’s potential. Seeing where this rather generic, at least up to this point, Scarecrow story goes from here though should be interesting as this book tried to pull itself from the doldrums towards the end.

DC – Green Lantern #11 – After saving Sinestro from the Indigo Tribe and reformatting his ring, Hal Jordan wants to start enacting a plan to save the Guardians of the Universe…from themselves. Sinestro though points out that in Jordan’s haste to save him, he let Black Hand escape and in his mind, that is a far greater threat at the moment. So the unlikely duo travel to Sinestro’s secret layer where he hides the Book of Black in the hopes it will give them insight to both their problems.

I admit that I’m starting to tire of the world’s worst buddy movie pairing in Sinestro and Hal Jordan and long for this ‘Third Army’ arc that clearly looms on the horizon. Where exactly the relationship between Hal and Sinestro is heading, I have no idea, but I sure hope it gets there soon as I’m a little sick of it. At the very least, the re-introduction of Black Hand as a villain and his ability to re-animate the dead should prove a worthy adversary for the Green Lanterns for the time being and is the only thing keeping me interested in this book at the moment.

Marvel – Secret Avengers #29 – Max Fury, the evil clone of Nick Fury, has succeeded in putting together a hive of scum and villainy that would make Mos Eisley cower away. With many of the Marvel’s major and B-list villains congregated in one place, the Secret Avengers have their work cut out for them, especially as whatever it is this new Masters of Evil is planning could spell doom for the world as we know it.

It’s nice to see Secret Avengers get away from the AvX event and get back to the story that was being told before all that nonsense started. Unfortunately, it was such a convoluted storyline to begin with that if you’re like me, you can barely remember what happened a few months ago and how everyone is connected. All we really need to know though is the world is in trouble, Ant-Man is a traitor, and Venom and Taskmaster are gearing up for a battle of epic proportions next issue. And honestly, Venom seems to be the only interesting character in this bunch now as Cap and Beast are still dealing with AvX so the more he is featured the better. His little ‘disguise’ was absolutely brilliant as well and made a relatively boring book somewhat interesting as a whole.

Marvel – X-Treme X-Men #1 – After returning home from a parallel dimension where X-Men were sacrificed to keep the planet powered, Cyclops was looking for a way back to help those he left behind. Meanwhile, three alternate universe X-Men in the forms of a youthful Nightcrawler and Emma Frost, and a grizzled Wolverine, serve as leaders for this new world and use the psychic abilities of severed Charles Xavier heads to teleport their world into a new dimension with an uninhabited Earth. Teleporting six billion people between dimensions is a little difficult though and it seems they’ve awaken almost a dozen new threats to the multiverse. Now joined by our Earth’s Dazzler and one of the Xavier heads, this odd grouping of multiverse X-Men must save us all!

If you couldn’t tell from the description, this book is out there. Like way out there. There’s even an octopus Charles Xavier. And some of that deals with the fact this feels very much like Exiles did for some time. I don’t know how long this book will last, as these multiverse adventures start to get a little confusing and drive folks away after a while, but it definitely seems to be a lot more fun and upbeat than any other X-book out there right now, even if with entire universes collapsing in one each other. The weird dynamic between characters is entertaining beyond words and with plenty of action promised for future issues, this is a new monthly that, at least through the first issue, has pleasantly surprised me.

Another slow week for the most part, most likely because of the July 4th holiday, but the comics that did come out were mostly quality. So let’s see what we grabbed in this week’s Pullbox! Quick note: With EGM storming SDCC next week, the Pullbox will be taking a week off!

Marvel – Amazing Spider-Man #689 – Spider-Man, along with help from the living vampire, Michael Morbius, has found a way to once again supposedly cure Dr. Curt Connors of being The Lizard. What neither knows is that although they’ve cured him of the physical affliction of being The Lizard, Connors’ brain is still that of his reptilian alter-ego and sets plans in motion to continue his quest to make all of Manhattan populated by lizard people!

For the most part, I refuse to read Spider-Man comics ever since the worst storyline I’ve ever read in my comic book loving life in One More Day. But in honor of the new movie (which was awesome by the way) and new game (also really good) I figured I’d buck the boycott for one week, especially as it involves the Lizard. What perfect timing that he’s the main bad guy in the movie (sarcasm)! Seriously though, this was a solid comic if you’ve stuck with the wall-crawler through his ups and downs then you’ll enjoy the action as it sets up an epic storyline between Spidey and one of his all-time great foes. And Michael Morbius’s presence is the icing on the cake.

Marvel – Wolverine #310 – After being out of Wolverine’s spiky hair for some time, Romulus has found a way to escape out of Cloak’s darkness dimension and has also found a way to bring Sabretooth back to life. But was Sabretooth ever dead to begin with? Going back to where his most heinous memories originate, Wolverine searches Silver Fox’s cabin and the Weapon X facility and realizes he’s stumbled into another nightmare, a Sabretooth clone factory.

You knew it was only a matter of time before both Romulus and Sabretooth came back. The idea of clones though is probably the least interesting way they could have done it. Still, Jeph Loeb is one of the few people I trust with this and the set-up so far has been tremendous. Lots of action and making Cloak and Dagger major players will be interesting if they stick around for the whole of the arc. All in all if you like Wolverine, this will have everything you love about him in it, bub.

DC – Batman: Detective Comics #11 – Mr. Toxic’s true identity is revealed as…Hugh Marder?! The man Batman has been trying to save is also the same man who is trying to kill him and so there is a lot more science involved debauchery going on as the on going theme this week seems to be clones.

I understand that DC is still trying to build up Batman’s rogues gallery (for some unknown reason since it’s the most celebrated in comics already), but this story is a bit too sci-fi for me and Mr. Toxic looks like a bootleg version of the Atomic Skull. Honestly, so far this arc has been very forgettable and has done nothing to impress me and if it wasn’t a Batman monthly, I’d probably have dropped it from the Pullbox with a lot of the other ‘New 52’ garbage DC has tried to force down our throats. Hopefully this will start to pick up, or at least end quickly so that we can start a new arc that maybe I’ll care about.

DC – Red Lanterns #11 – The Red Lanterns continue their search for what has caused their power battery to become corrupted before it’s too late. The new human Red Lantern is lost in space and following his own trail of death, Bleez is trying to beat off the Star Sapphires, and Atrocius is still using blood prophecies to try locate his abomination that started it all. Who will find the source first though?

I liked that even though there was three different stories going on at once, the pace of the comic kept up throughout and there was just enough action to keep you intrigued about what might happen next with each major character and if any of them would finally catch their quarry. It does a great job of setting up the major confrontation in the next issue that we’ve been waiting for though and will hopefully end this ‘plagued’ Red Lantern Battery arc so we can get back to seeing what Red Lanterns do best and that is kick intergalactic butt.

IDW – The Cape 1969 #1 – Set in the midst of the Vietnam War, this origin story for Joe Hill’s The Cape sees how the main protagonist of that original volume comes into possession of the demonic piece of cloth and where it gets its power from as we watch his dad fight through 1969 Vietnam.

Joe Hill is one of the best comic writers of the day and seeing him branch out from his already amazing Locke and Key series is a real treat. What’s best about this comic though is that you don’t need to have read the original The Cape to pick this up and start enjoying it for what it is. This gritty, gruesome, swear word filled first issue will blow you away with its depth and action and make you forget that its supposed to be the origin story about a soul-consuming piece of cloth. Joe Hill definitely got his daddy’s writing genes.

A huge week last week means no surprise that this week was a bit of a lighter hit on the ol’ wallet. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have some quality comics though for us to deliver in this week’s Pullbox!

Marvel – Wolverine and the X-Men #12 – Wolverine and the Avengers continue to keep Hope away from the Phoenix Five as a massive fight breaks out in one of Wolverine’s favorite dive bars. Hope escapes though after Wolverine and Rachel Grey have an impassioned speech explaining both their cases and Rachel must return to Cyclops empty-handed.

So, I’ve been avoiding the whole Avengers vs X-Men event, but with the slim pickings this week, it was an inevitability. There were a lot of great things about this issue. The two-page spread of the Avengers amping up for battle was the first ‘Oh wow’ moment I’ve had in a while from a comic book in terms of art and with the cheap shots that Wolverine throws at Rachel like saying it’s great her mother wasn’t here to see this was just wonderful writing. It shows how personal this fight has really gotten. The only thing better was the ending where you see that Rachel starts to remember who she really is and Gladiator finally reaches Earth, setting up an epic fight for the next issue!

Marvel – X-Men Legacy #269 – Rogue starts coming into her own as she sees the real good that the Phoenix Five are doing and borrows Iceman’s powers for a short while to assist some folks down in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately for her, Ms. Marvel crashes the party (looking as hot as ever) looking to talk. Rogue isn’t really in a talking mood though.

Again, this issue shows how personal things are starting to get for a lot of these characters as Rogue tries to absorb Ms. Marvel’s powers again and Ms. Marvel freaks out as these two had a long and sordid history caused by Rogue absorbing too much for a long time and putting Ms. Marvel into a coma. The fight though between Rogue with a hint of Ms. Marvel’s power and a hint of Iceman’s versus a fully powered Ms. Marvel was epic to see play out, but I admit I was a little disappointed in how brash Rogue acted as it didn’t offer up a chance for the quality dialog like what we saw in Wolverine and the X-Men. The twist ending though with Magik helps us see where this whole event is going though as it looks like a lot of the X-Men not touched by the Phoenix may start rebelling soon.

DC – Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1 (of 4) – The Nite Owl we know from Watchmen is actually a legacy hero, carrying on the mantle for the original when he grew too old. This book explores his origins, his relationship with Rorschach, and his first encounter with Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre, also a legacy hero at that point inheriting it from her mother.

Honestly, this Before Watchmen event has been hit or miss with me so far and DC is only batting .500. The Comedian book was stellar, Minutemen and Silk Spectre were both disappointing, but Nite Owl falls on the side of awesome. Seeing how young Daniel was inspired by robotics and designed a lot of his tech from an early age was something we never really saw from the character. Or the crush he instantly developed for Silk Spectre. His rapport with Rorschach was also comical and so this book lays an interesting foundation of action, humor, and romance in only its first couple dozen pages in this first of four mini-series.

DC – Green Lantern: New Guardians #10 – The Reach are on the verge of claiming the Hope Lanterns’ Power Battery, but Kyle, Arkillo, and Fatality arrive on the scene to provide aid and allow the Hope Lanterns to reach their full offensive potential. But is the battle already lost and what will happen should the Hope Power Battery fall into the wrong hands?

It’s rare to see the bad guys win in comics, but Kyle’s uncharacteristic lack of hope is the downfall for the group here. Saint Walker is not pleased with abandoning the homeworld of Hope and you may start to see some other lanterns exercise other emotions…like rage. I admit, this new Green Lantern monthly has slowed down some in the past few issues and it doesn’t seem to know what direction it wants to take. The characters are definitely dynamic enough if properly written, but aside from Arkillo and Saint Walker, no one has really stood out since the first couple of issues. If this trend continues, this monthly may no longer have a place in my box.

IDW – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #11 – The TMNT are still without Master Splinter, but a lucky break may point them in the direction they need to finally track down the Foot headquarters and bring home their father. Meanwhile, Splinter is trapped in a life or death battle against the entirety of the Foot Clan as the Shredder watches on!

Kevin Eastman’s return to comics with a re-launched TMNT has been glorious and this issue continues that trend. It’s build up to the battle we’ve longed to see between Splinter and Shredder is terrific and Splinter’s inner dialogue is something of pure beauty, only eclipsed by the banter the two ninja masters have with each other as Splinter takes down lackey after lackey. It will be interesting to see where the turtles themselves go from here though as the spotlight really hasn’t been on them for a couple of issues and if they can get to Splinter in time before exhaustion allows one of the Shredder’s deadly blades to hit a critical blow and just what will happen when they take on Shredder for the first time.

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks folks, but we are back. A slow week comic book wise and so we look at a pair of Indies and only one DC title as the New 52 really continues to just disappoint on almost every front that isn’t a Batman book. Marvel continues their strong push with a bunch of Avengers books including one we’ll be featuring today. So without further ado, here is this week’s Pullbox!

1) Marvel – Venom #13.4: Blackheart has all the cards and has done the unthinkable and brought hell to Earth, literally. Even Earth’s most magically attuned heroes like Doctor Strange and the Ghost Rider cannot hold back the onslaught and only Venom, Red Hulk, and X-23 can hope to turn the tides. But at what cost? 

This has been an interesting adventure for Venom, the new Ghost Rider, Red Hulk, and X-23, and the fact it has been coming out every week has given a sense of a bigger event than it really is. The best part of this though is the fact that Blackheart, one of the more nefarious and powerful villains in the Marvel universe has been given the spotlight for the first time in a while. And where there is Blackheart, you know Mephisto isn’t far behind. Obviously this is something you should pick up the first chapters to, but this issue’s ending leaves you on a cliffhanger that means the next issue could really shake things up for all the characters involved on a permanent basis.

2) Marvel – New Avengers #22: Norman Osborn’s plan to slander the Avengers continues and the team led by Luke Cage has had enough after Jessica and Squirrel Girl left the mansion with Luke’s newborn baby. And the team is finally ready to start listening to Spider-Man and Victoria Hand looks to be their target at how to get to the bottom of this.

The team finally decided to go after Victoria Hand after they realized she had to have been the one setting them up, but Hand comes up with a story that is almost too unbelievable to be false. So now the New Avengers have to figure out how to take down Osborn while also trying to keep a raging Luke Cage in control as Jessica Jones has left with no trace. The resolution in this issue was key to a lot of loose ends that had been opened in early parts of this story, but it almost seems like things may be coming to a head a bit too quickly. Whatever happens, the New Avengers are going to be shaken to their core and the more interesting secondary story that may be developing is Luke and Jessica’s relationship after the fallout of this event.

3) DC – Batman Beyond Unlimited #1: Terry McGinnis returns with a pair of adventures kicking off this new book. The first sees him investigating a nation wide migration by various Jokerz gangs to Gotham City. The second part sees Terry team up with the Justice League again to take on the terrorist group Kobra who may be working out of Cadmus Labs.

One of my biggest disappointments of the New 52 was the fact that Batman Beyond had been put on hold and so this has been one of my more anticipated new titles to come out in a while. The fact the book is also double wide and features two concurrent story lines makes it easily the best bang for your buck of the week most likely. With each story subtly re-introducing a lot of our favorite characters from the cartoon and last year’s monthly comic run, hopefully this is the beginning of a long and prosperous run for our favorite Batman from the future.

4) IDW – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Donatello (One-shot): Continuing the series of one-shots that look at each turtle individually, Donatello’s sees him attend a science fair incognito only to find out it is really a front for Baxter Stockman trying to draft scientific talent and now Donnie must save someone he once thought to be an internet rival while also escaping with his own shell in tact.

These one-shots from IDW are great ways to establish the turtles’ personalities for TMNT newcomers and this one continues the success started off with Raphael’s one-shot. Featuring a lot of fun action, great dialogue, and even a dig at Stan Lee and Marvel for the keener comic book fan, this one-shot is a must have whether you’re an old-school turtles fan or someone just starting out. It’s also a big plus for video game fans as we learn that Donnie is a big MMORPG fan and seeing him try to explain it to Leonardo to no avail is a great short scene in the book.

5) Image – PIGS #6: After finding out their inside man had failed at his assassination attempt, the sleeper agents realize they are going to have to get their hands dirty and break into the prison themselves and take out their target. It won’t be easy though as a neo-Nazi inmate is also the high-value target’s number one bodyguard.

We see another stunning form of the sleepers training as kids in a flashback in this book and it helps to explain the widening divide emerge between certain members. As loose ends are tied up by some members of the team, the others really work on the tension that is clearly there by the hesitancy of some members to go along with the more violent plans they wish to carry out. As plans continue to move forward, the big question that is looming is what will the pay off be for this series and these characters once the high value target is eliminated and what is going on in the global picture as hinted at in the first pair of issues in the series. I can’t wait to see the next issue to see just how the sleepers infiltrate the prison and if that long awaited pay off finally comes.