Tag Archive: tmnt


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Slightly better than turtle soup

Over the years, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have stayed in our collective consciousness through many of the same ways they originally permeated our culture when I was a kid: movies, cartoons, comics, action figures, etc. Some efforts have been better than others, but one area that has consistently failed the TMNT over the years has been video games. Not since the SNES days have we really had a game that got the Heroes in a Half-Shell right. So, it was with baited breath that I sat down to try Platinum Games’ take on the lean and green fighting machines in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan.

Mutants in Manhattan is basically your standard TMNT fare in terms of story, as Shredder and Krang have once again teamed up in an attempt to take over the world. They’ve enlisted the help of some evil mutants—ranging from canonical stalwarts like Bebop and Rocksteady to the lesser-known Wingnut and Armaggon—to lend a hand, and only four heroes named after Renaissance painters can put a stop to their plans.

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One thing that Platinum has consistently nailed when teaming up with publisher Activision to work on licensed games has been the art style. Whether the game as a whole was a hit like Transformers: Devastation, or a miss like The Legend of Korra, Platinum always brings these characters to life in a way that any fan can appreciate—and they do it again with TMNT. The art style blends the design that’s seen in the current Nickelodeon cartoon with a lot of hard edges and thick outlines reminiscent of Kevin Eastman’s comic book artwork, and it all looks absolutely great.

They also did a top-notch job with the audio for the game. The music and sound effects are exactly what you’d expect from a fast-paced action game, and even though they couldn’t get the cartoon cast to reprise their roles, a cavalcade of video game voice talent makes its presence felt. Nolan North, Steve Blum, Mick Wingert, Fred Tatasciore, and Ashly Burch highlight the voices behind some of the TMNT universe’s most iconic characters here. I could’ve done without the repetition of dialogue during and after every combat scenario—especially from Ashly’s April O’ Neill—but at least the lines had some gusto to them.

While it’s always appreciated when a game is easy on the eyes and ears, it’s unfortunate when that may be the highlights for a title like this. Mutants in Manhattan is broken down into nine levels, each culminating in a boss fight. Platinum once again provides an easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master combat system full of light and heavy attacks, dodges, blocks, parries, and special moves, showing their continued mastery of the hack-and-slash action genre. The issue is that you never really need to use any of the most advanced tactics until you reach that end boss fight in each chapter.

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Levels are set up as open arenas where players will have to race around and perform mundane tasks like protecting pizza trucks from the Foot Clan, returning stolen money to banks, defusing bombs, or get rid of weapons from Dimension X. Once a certain numbers of tasks are completed, you’ll get to fight the boss, but never do the tasks feel organic to the story—and once they start repeating, they quickly become tedious. This is compounded by the fact that all the foes you fight are nothing more than cannon fodder, even on the hardest difficulties. Whether it’s rock soldiers, Foot ninjas, or mousers, the enemies just drag down the pace of the game, doing nothing to force you to mix up your tactics. The levels themselves have nothing unique to them, either; every sewer, subway, and city building looks nearly identical, and when you have to return to certain places in later levels, the lack of creativity in the world becomes all the more clear.

As I mentioned earlier, the one saving grace for the combat is the boss battles. At first they shocked me with the difficulty spike they provided when compared to what led up to them. Each boss has myriad moves and patterns you’ll have to learn to overcome, and on harder difficulties, not only do they have more health and do more damage, but come at you with different attacks as well. That mix-up means you’ll have to always be on your toes, and actually put to use the dodges, parries, and special moves at your disposal.

One way to help overcome those harder difficulties is that Platinum actually included an upgrade system in the game. Between levels, you can spend battle points (awarded every time you enter combat) to improve each turtle’s special moves, or assign charms that provide a variety of effects including bonuses to item collection, attack, defense, healing, and more. It shows shades of the depth we expect from a Platinum game, making how inexplicably lackluster so many other aspects are in TMNT all the more surprising.

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Potentially the biggest mistake made with Mutants in Manhattan, however, is the fact that the game lacks local co-op. Yes, there is an online co-op option, and local co-op might’ve required a camera shift (that actually might’ve worked out better for the game in the long run), but TMNT games traditionally have been amazing local co-op experiences. Not to mention, when you’re not playing with friends, you need to drag around three, less-than-stellar AI-controlled turtles instead, making it so TMNT could’ve benefitted greatly from giving players more options to play together. Having a friend by your side to play this game might’ve also taken the edge off of how long and boring the base levels are.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan tries something a little new with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, but in the end, it failed to captivate me or grab my attention in any significant way. The large, open arenas were unnecessary, and Platinum might’ve been better off cutting the levels in half and having twice as many boss battles. There is depth to the combat, but you rarely need it. If you’re insanely into the TMNT, this might be worth a look just to fight some classic villains—but without local co-op, good luck finding people to play with. The rest of us are going to go plug our Super Nintendos back in and play Turtles in Time for the millionth time while waiting for something better.

Developer: Platinum Games • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 05.24.16
5.5
Another misstep with the TMNT franchise leaves me wondering if anyone will ever make a good Turtles game again. As is, Mutants in Manhattan works, but it’s just terribly boring.
The Good Solid visuals that look like a cross between the comics and cartoon.
The Bad Listless enemies and repetitive gameplay. No local co-op.
The Ugly Why is my health bar in frozen personal pizza quarter-slices? No self-respecting turtle settles for Red Baron, especially in NYC.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.
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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.

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!

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.

DC’s New 52 is really starting to stall and this week wasn’t much better. In fact, there is only one title from DC I felt was worthy to talk about and since there was a very strong Indie push this week, we’re spotlighting two Indies and one DC title. Marvel maintained the course and was solid, but not spectacular in many ways this week. So, without further ado, here is this week’s pullbox!

1) IDW – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #6: A mysterious French parkour ninja is hunted down by the Foot Clan as the Turtles continue to recon this threat. Meanwhile, Baxter Stockman begins to pull out all the stops to help Old Hob catch the Turtles and Splinter and reveals a redesigned blast from the past that should make all TMNT fans jump for joy.

A lot of pieces begin to fall into place for the future of this monthly as the Foot Clan finally reveals itself to the Turtles, Casey Jones and April O’Neil meet for the first time, and Baxter Stockman unveils a new generation of Mousers that look to no longer be the jokes they once were for the Mean, Green, Fighting Machines. If you haven’t been picking up this monthly, now is the perfect time to jump on board because business looks like it is about to pick up.  Kevin Eastman continues to remind us what made the original Turtles great with this series as it balances great humor with superb action on a consistent basis.

2) Comix Tribe – SCAM #1 (of 5): A group of conmen with some extraordinary powers are set up in what was meant to be the heist of their lives. Forced to scatter to the winds after being betrayed by one of their own, they come back together for one more gig in the hopes of sticking it to the man who stuck it to them and still get that legendary heist they were all waiting for.

This comic has everything you want from a first issue and the premise feels like Ocean’s Eleven meets the X-Men as you have a bevy of con-artists with superpowers in Las Vegas. Great art tempered with action, thrills, and a brilliant set-up makes this everything you’d want for $3.99. And amazingly enough, it all comes from one man as Joe Mulvey makes his big debut in comics with a splash. If the rest of this series is anywhere as good as this first issue, Mulvey is going to be a writer/artist to watch in the future in the comics industry for sure.

3) DC – Green Lantern: New Guardians #5: Kyle Rayner and the rest of the lantern color spectrum representatives finally begin to explore the traveling solar system that has revealed itself and are shocked at what they find. Even more surprising though is the reaction the lanterns receive and a new enemy who looks to rise up and make his presence felt by the lantern representatives.

With all the power being wielded between these new lanterns you need a threat that is worthy of them, and a hostile, traveling star system, and its crazy guardian that lives within its sun is a good way to start, so I’m all for a new villain in this case. The big question now though is what will DC actually do with him. This could be when this series really starts to ramp up its action and we finally start to get some answers, but if DC really starts to drag this out, it could get stale fast. One thing is for sure though, this issue is definitely good enough to warrant picking up this month and next month at least to see what happens.

4) Marvel – X-Men Legacy #261: An old foe returns to harass Wolverine and his new school in Westchester as it seems the school has the biggest target in the universe painted on it as they can’t go a week without being threatened with their untimely demise. After harrowing another threat though, Wolverine realizes he may have accidentally shifted that target to Cyclops and Utopia and so now the school has its first official road trip to help out their former teammates.

So as you can tell by the cover, the old foe is of course Exodus and his tremendous psychic abilities always make him an Omega level threat to whomever he should target. The unexpected humor of this issue though was a pleasant surprise as finally after talking Exodus down from his attempted mind wipe of the entire school to force them to unite with Utopia, they then have to follow Exodus as he flies off towards San Francisco to attack Cyclops and his X-Men instead. My only problem with that is that it seems to be bringing the two teams together a bit too soon after they separated so this is a tenuous situation that Marvel needs to handle properly so as not to undo everything that has been done in recent months.

5) Marvel – Astonishing X-Men #46: Cyclops takes on the mantle of leader once again as he and his multi-verse team finally learn that the Savior is his universe’s Charles Xavier. With some interesting drama between Cyclops and the multi-verse Wolverine, all out action then breaks out as they begin their attack on Savior’s tower in the hopes of escaping back to their own realities. 

The action is really the highlight of this issue as it builds to an interesting conclusion as Savior uses the services of Storm and a few other X-Men that he employs in his service to try to hold Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat back to continue to power his universe’s bio-force. If you haven’t been reading this comic, now might not be the time to jump in as it’s the middle of a very deep story arc, but this continues a great run that Astonishing X-Men has been on since its inception (minus a random gap between issues about a year ago).

A lot of comics came out this week, but not too much really stood out as special for me and I’m even tempted to start removing some titles from my pullbox. Action Comics and Red Lantern continue to be mediocre for different reasons…Action has too much going on and Red Lantern doesn’t have enough. Marvel also saw some new monthlies start like The Defenders, but it really just concentrated on forming the team more than anything. So it actually ended up being a good week comparably for the Indies. Spawn, Mega Man, and Last of the Greats were all very solid. But only the most spectacular of all these made it into this week’s Pullbox.

1) Marvel – X-Men #22: A team of Cyclops’ X-Men continue to work with War Machine to track down several dozen Sentinels and hopefully prevent the start of World War III erupting in Eastern Europe.

I love this story arc featuring the return of the Sentinels and seeing the X-Men trying to take down the giant tin cans again. This issue in particular sees the action and the consequences of that action really amp up as the X-Men know that if they don’t disarm the small fleet of giant robots, that the entire world could fall apart. We also see Domino work her way back into the fold and surprisingly see Jubilee really start to contribute with her new vampiric powers showing off some increased agility, strength, and speed. If you’re an X-Men fan, especially an old-school one, the ending only hints at more great action coming up and now is a great time to get on board if you aren’t already.

2) Marvel – Venom #10: Now that the events of Spider-Island are behind everyone, Flash Thompson, the current Venom, has to get back to work as a covert ops agent. Unfortunately for him, the Crime-Master has other ideas and with Betty and the rest of Flash’s family in Crime-Master’s number one henchman, Jack-O-Lantern’s sights, Flash has no choice, but to listen, even if that means going through Captain America to do it.

Going back to the early themes of this monthly, pitting Venom against Captain America in this issue really helps re-establish Venom as the anti-hero he is meant to be. This issue gets everything right back on track after being derailed by the mediocre Spider-Island story line and if you missed the first nine issues, now is the perfect time to get on board as you can pick everything up pretty much from here and expect things to trend upward drastically.

3) DC – Animal Man #4: Animal Man’s family has been split up and he is just starting to become aware of what he and his family mean to the Red and what they have to do to hold back the Rot. The question though is can Animal Man and his daughter come to grips with their lofty responsibility before the Rot gets to the rest of the family?          

I wasn’t very high on Animal Man to start with, but now as things are starting to come together for a cross over between Swamp Thing and Animal Man as Swamp Thing, representing the Green and plant life, and Animal Man, representing the Red and wildlife, will have to combine their forces to put down the Rot. It is a move that makes sense and helps bolster characters that might not be strong enough to really sustain monthlies as originally suspected as they don’t really have the enemies that define them like so many other great DC characters. It’ll be more interesting to see where both characters go from here, but for now this is the perfect place to get on board for both comics as they build towards what could be an entertaining event between the two monthlies.

4) DC – Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #3 (of 5): After the passing of his mother, The Penguin is lost, but finds a kindred spirit one faithful day while visiting the penguins at the Gotham Zoo. Now Penguin has a new person to obsess over and to use his criminal enterprise to gather pretty little baubles for.     
      
This mini-series has been a great look at the psychology of the Penguin the whole way through and to see him find an unlikely love was an interesting twist. But it is only a matter of time I’m sure before the Penguin’s true nature reveals itself and he will end up alone again as the Dark Knight is always lurking in the shadows. With two issues left though it is going to be very interesting to see how everything unfolds as the Penguin isn’t one to go quietly when everything of his is threatened, as we’ve seen time and again in this series as he destroys the life of all those who choose to look down on him in the most creative of ways.

5) IDW – Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (One-Shot): Even after being re-united with his brothers, Raphael doesn’t feel completely comfortable with the family yet. So when the Turtles go on their nightly patrols, Raphael uses Wednesdays to go out with Casey Jones still as he feels closer to Casey in some instances. Just what kind of trouble can these two get into? A lot more than should possible in a on-shot.                    

This issue is massive for old-school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans in terms of the new monthly as it introduces Bebop and Rocksteady (pre-mutated) as well introduces a brand new character into the fold, which makes me suspect we can start to see an all-out mutant vs. mutant war at some point with new and interesting animals being mutated and although he has been hinted at, we still haven’t even seen Shredder. I can only imagine what a revamped 2012 version of Shredder could look like as whether a bumbling 80s cartoon villain or the cold-blooded master of the Foot Ninja, he is still one of the most iconic villains out there. This one-shot is a must have and be sure to look for the alternate covers if you’re a true collector!

An interesting week this week as it was a rare 5th Wednesday in the month. And when this happens, typically there is a shortage of comics and this month’s victim was DC. Only a couple of DC titles were released and nothing of any note. So, to still meet our required five, I’m going to look at three Marvel comics that at least had a few decent titles come out and a pair of indies. Enjoy!

1) Marvel – Uncanny X-Men #2: As the X-Men continue to try to work their way through Mr. Sinister’s army of clones to get to the headman himself, the remaining Celestials are making an interstellar beeline for Earth, infuriated that their sleeping brother has been tampered with in such a way. Can the X-Men get to the root of Sinister’s plan before the Celestial turns everyone on Earth to dust?

The plan that Mr. Sinister lays out is one of the most nefarious schemes we’ve yet to see from any X-Men villain and puts him in the running again with guys like Bastion to be the number one threat to the X-Men’s plans of a peaceful existence. To see his new power levels and how he handles many of the X-Men’s heavy hitters like they were rag dolls makes you wonder how the heck Cyclops is going to find a way out of this one and compels you to keep reading this awesome series re-launch story arc.. Not to mention I want to see what is going to happen to Emma and how they’re going to reattach her arm when she leaves diamond form.

2) Marvel – Daredevil #6: Daredevil is still trying to get to the bottom of this international terrorist organization conspiracy while saving his new client from becoming the latest loose end tied up by these criminal power players. On top of this we finally learn about the new and mysterious Bruiser who looks to be able to brush off Daredevil’s best moves like they were nothing. Can Daredevil overcome this and save his new friend?

Daredevil has surprised me every issue so far as it finds a way to creatively find a way for Daredevil to overcome each situation thrown his way and this issue doesn’t disappoint as Daredevil’s unique radar sense saves the day for him twice. Tempered by some light humor and cool action sequences, this monthly should be in your pullbox for the foreseeable future even if not a diehard fan of The Man Without Fear as the high quality of this monthly may turn you into one.

3) Marvel – X-Men Legacy #259: Not sure whether to join Cyclops or team with Wolverine in Westchester, Rogue and the rest of X-Men who have returned from Shiar Space are having a tough time coming to a decision. When Rogue meets with Magneto though and hopes to borrow his thoughts to maybe come to a decision herself, she sense something familiar piggybacking on Magneto’s consciousness. Once brought together, Emma finds that each of the space farers have a fraction of this consciousness and once pulled together, a blast from the past looks maybe return to the fold.

With a dwindling number of mutants in the Marvel continuity, the chance to bring back a thought dead character is always refreshing and I don’t think anyone would have seen this coming. If successful, it can add a new dynamic to whatever team chosen by this mystery character while also bolstering ranks. The biggest downside of this issue though is we mostly already know for the most part who from the space farers goes where in terms of Schism, but the return of this new character still makes this a worthy title to pick up and is definitely worth it as our extra Marvel title this week.

4) IDW – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4: Old Hob finally catches up with Raphael as we come to learn just why Old Hob is still so adamant about taking out all the turtles. Just when things look to be their darkest though, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo finally catch up with their wayward brother and once this fearsome foursome reunite, Old Hob starts to realize he may have bitten off more than even he can chew.

Basically closing this opening arc while reintroducing old and new characters alike in a way that should please all diehard old-school TMNT fans, the future is wide open for this book now that Raphael is finally brought back into the fold. The only question now is what threat will emerge to take on the Heroes in a Half-Shell now and just what will happen to Old Hob when he has to report to his mysterious masters that he has failed. Old and new TMNT fans alike should be reading this fresh take on some of our favorites heroes as this book looks to really start amping up now and looks to only improve on an already solid start.

5) Top Cow – The Darkness #95: Jackie is in trouble and from an unsuspecting source: his sister. Revealed to also be a Darkness wielder, Jackie starts to learn just how long the Darkness has been around and has to make a tremendous sacrifice in order to get out of the harrowing situation he finds himself in once again.

Wrapping up this 6-issue story arc as the Top Cow universe prepares for their universal re-launch, which seems to be the theme in comics in 2011, we see Jackie continue to make sacrifice after sacrifice to expel the evil that is the Darkness from the world while trying to avoid the temptation that always come with wielding so much power. The twisted demonic action that has been a staple of this monthly continues and only looks to increase as we steadily approach what will likely be a landmark 100th issue as this sets up the next great story arc for this monthly that will kick off explosively in the next issue. If you haven’t read The Darkness before, now would be a good time to get into it, especially with an awesome looking game related to the franchise coming out in February.