Buy It, Browse It, Burn It: Comics Reviews of X-Men Schism #3, The New IDW Published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, and Superman Beyond #0
X-Men: Schism #3: Buy It (along with issues #’s 1 & 2)
As a huge X-Men fan, I have to say I was a little scared by Schism‘s premise. The X-Men titles have had their fair share of major events over the years (they must hold a world record by now) and having yet another “Disassembled” or “Civil War” themed Marvel Comics story just reeked of something awful in my mind. But after Schism #1 premiered, I could see they were truly going for something more, taking the strands of character development of previous X-Events and piecing them together, creating an underlying conflict that would fuel this series and bring about the upcoming divide in the X-Teams. In Schism #3, writer Jason Aaron continues to deliver, though there are a few small snags that prevent this from being as truly great as it should be.
At the heart of the Schism event lies the conflicting philosophies of Cyclops and Wolverine, and this is done particularly well with the character of Idie (introduced in the recent “Generation Hope” storyarcs), a new mutant, and more importantly a teenager. While the X-Men have been no strangers in sending children into battle (from the first team to the most recent New Mutants incarnation) and while Wolverine himself has taken on pseudo-sidekicks in Jubilee or Armor in the past, Wolverine seems less interested in trying to prepare her for battle and death, and more interested in preserving her innocence.
This is where Schism is at its best, having Wolverine as this battle weary, semi-immortal warrior who feels that the field of battle should be reserved for the people who choose to be soldiers, and Cyclops as the longtime leader and tactician who feels that everyone is a potential soldier when the opportunity presents itself, especially in life or death situations. These differences can be traced back to recent events where Wolverine and Cyclops have come to blows: in X-Force, Wolverine and Cyclops frequently debated the use of X-23, Warpath and Wolfsbane as team members, and when Wolverine got the chance to make his own secret X-Force recently he only recruited people who had already worked in the shadows.
Going even further back, Wolverine was a youth when his life was taken away from him in a flurry of violence and pain; Cyclops was a youth who was presented violence and pain and told he had to deal with it like a soldier. Clearly Wolverine’s saddened, lonely adolescence and Cyclops] militaristic upbringing by a then-strict Professor Xavier have made two men with similar goals but two wildly different approaches. Wolverine would rather take on the brunt of pain on his own for the sake of relieving others from that burden; Cyclops sees himself as a general who must keep his squad alive in a warzone, and that means everyone has to have a role and do their part to keep the unit alive (especially when those threats are bioengineered mutant-eating monsters, evolved sentient super robots, and mutant vampire death goddesses).
While this major plot theme maintains the integrity of this X-Book’s heart, I’ve found the villains of this tale to be utterly dislikeable. They carry a very Mark Millar-influenced arrogance about them: that is to say that they are villains with tons of quotable one-liners and a badass, snobby edge to them, and really cool deceptive battle plans, but little substance to their character. They’re about as three dimensional as a post-it note.
This new Hellfire Club is just a quartet of super-smart evil children whose actions force you to push how far you suspend your disbelief. The previous two issues have been normal for a comics universe that has everything from schizophrenic vigilantes to world-eating cosmic entities, but being a super-intelligent rich kid does not give you the resources to harness a super-dense neutron star and casually shoot a miniaturized bullet-sized version of it at someone. And even if they could, not only would the intended victim die, but so would our entire solar system. Maybe I’m a little too nerdy for my own good, but seriously, that’s a bit much.
But while that one little detail took me out of the story for a moment, Schism has been able to deliver a compelling, promising story that most will enjoy, and with two issues to go (and the X-Titles splitting soon) this issue is worth reading, especially to see how all of this wraps up.
I give it 4 optic blasts out of 5.
Turtle Power! The Ninja Turtles Are Back (Again):
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 : Browse It
So who didn’t like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the 90′s? I bet creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird would never have guessed that their little joke picture and Daredevil parody would evolve into such a huge franchise, including several cartoons, movies, and video games. If you were a kid in the 90′s, chances were you were a fan. In fact, chances were you were addicted. With toys, a love of pizza, and catch phrases like “Cowabunga!“, the Turtles were everything a kid could ever want from 4 ninja anthropomorphic vigilantes.
But the new millennium hasn’t been as generous to the TMNT franchise, which has seen some commercial and critical success in their cinematic and serialized endeavors, but no where near the outrageous Turtlemania that hit the 90s. Now after two decades of his franchise’s existence, co-creator Kevin Eastman has teamed up with new co-writer Tom Waltz and penciller Dan Duncan to give you the Turtles as they were originally envisioned: badass, hardcore comics heroes. And that comes along with a–you guessed it–comics reboot.
After a customary comics brawl between the good guys and some street punks (noticeably led by some man-animal named ‘Old Hob’) we’re given a few glimpses at their past, and their all new backstory. Toxic sludge no more, my friends: these new turtles (and Splinter of course) are results of an experiment being hosted by Stockgen Research, a scientific firm ran by longtime franchise villain Dr. Baxter Stockman. Stockman is in this new continuity an underling of General Krang, another longtime Turtles nemesis and usually an extraterrestrial villain .
Most interesting is the small departure from the comics, films, and cartoons before it: for the first time ever, it seems the turtles’ origins are being closely tied into that of their foes, with Stockgen Research working on exo-armor and a Super Soldier Serum that will probably result in the eventual creation of the Turtles, Splinter, and some of their rogues gallery (most likely the Mouser robots, maybe Shredder).
Another small change is how they’re named. Splinter is nicknamed “Splinter” because he has been introduced to the “Rodentia Psychotropic Serum”, which “splinters” his animal mind from a more rationalized, human, thinking mind, allowing him to–at the annoyance of his masters–learn how to escape his cage constantly and adapt to their change of tactics. The turtles are now named by April O’Neil, an intern at Stockgen Research, who, having had to take Art History in college, grew to love the Renaissance painters and thought that they’d be perfect names for four turtles being experimented on in a lab.
The issue ends with little else than a small cliffhanger that is less about keeping you guessing and more about promising to give you more action next issue. While we had little time to enjoy the Turtles as how we know and love them, this issue delivers in giving you just enough continuity changes to pique your interest, although I doubt it will hook any but the biggest TMNT fans.
Still, the return to comics (with both an adherence to and departure from the original continuity) may encourage readers to continue on, especially with Eastman co-writing and promising new and interesting plot twists never seen before. Along with a new animated series debuting next year for Nickelodian, perhaps this is just the right time to recreate the Turtles for a new audience (yet again) and make the 2010′s cool for party dudes everywhere.
I give it 3.5 pizza slices out of 5 (that’s a weird pie…).
Superman Beyond #0: Browse It
I’ve been secretly delighted to see the Batman Beyond universe properly introduced into the DC Comics universe (complete with its own comic and a skin in Batman: Arkham City!) and highly surprised when I glimpsed this Superman Beyond series on the shelves. Last he was seen was in the pages of Superman/Batman, so I had to pick this up and see what direction legendary writer Tom DeFalco, and legendary Penciller/Inker Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema would take him.
In this tale, we meet a disillusioned, aging, weakening Superman who’s previously lost his greatest love, defeated his greatest foe, and left the greatest city on Earth because nothing feels the same anymore. After voyaging the stars and being a hero (business as usual when you’re Superman; he can’t help but come across subjugated or endangered populations that need saving) he finds he still feels unfulfilled and decides to come back to Earth, to Metropolis, albeit incognito as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent.
Simultaneously, a convict gets bad news when his wife visits him in jail and coldheartedly announces she’s cutting ties between him and his daughter, much to his woe. Naturally a series of events leads to his escape and gaining incredible superpowers, becoming “Armorgeddon” and even taking on, and defeating, members of the Justice League (Beyond!).
A little bit of humanity seeps into this drama with Armorgeddon’s key motivation being a daddy’s love, to be the good father he wasn’t before. With his rampage underway, this forces a passionless Superman to reconsider his brief retirement. Thematically, their conflict forces Armorgeddon to consider the monster he’s become (one can assume metaphorically and literally) and forces Superman to face his mortality and his usefulness: is an old, worn out Superman even worth it anymore? But all too soon this very sympathetic plot devolves into a typical slugfest, which results in a typical comics fashion, with Superman feeling reinvigorated and Armorgeddon left to whatever the fates (or judicial system) bring his way.
It’s not necessarily a bad way to give the Superman of this world some time in the spotlight: there is some real emotion being used here, and it gives the story enough heart to make it fairly good, but it never gets deep enough to really be more than average.
I give it 3 planets saved out of 5.