Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 15: Leatherhead

Published: October 5th, 2016
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco, Dave Wachter
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 125 Pages

Review:

This chapter in the very long-running IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series was pretty damn good.

The series is in a new place after the defeat of Shredder and Krang in two different big battles. So it’s uncertain where this can go, as it has entered really new territory and sort of has a clean slate.

That being said, this was really entertaining and full of surprises.

By the title of this volume, you know that Leatherhead enters the series. He was always a cool concept for a character but I always thought that he was never properly executed in the good ol’ days. In this, though, he’s a dangerous, massive beast. He at first seems like an ally but there’s a very dark, pretty f’d up twist with his character.

In this chapter, we also see more of the female Foot Clan member Jennika, who is trying to redeem herself after existing in a dark cloud under Shredder’s command. Here, Master Splinter is essentially her Yoda: training her, helping her find peace, balance and self-respect.

Man, this was just a good piece of storytelling with great art that fans that have stuck around this long should expect.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 14: Order From Chaos

Published: June 1st, 2016
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Michael Dialynas, Ken Garing
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 136 Pages

Review:

This volume of the long-running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ IDW run looked a little bit different, as the artists changed. That’s not a bad thing, though, as the art in this collection of issues was still pretty good and fit well within the tone of the series.

The writing was still very good and honestly, more than anything else, that’s what’s kept me reading this series for well over a dozen volumes, at this point.

This story is the first one after the defeat of Shredder and the landscape of the TMNT-verse is now very different. There is a new threat and we also get to see how the core characters are adjusting to major changes in their lives.

Master Splinter now runs the Foot Clan and with that, there are new challenges and a new female student that I know will go on to have a pretty big impact on this series going forward.

All in all, this was another good, action packed volume and the series still hasn’t lost steam.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 12 & 13: Vengeance

Published: November 4th, 2015, February 3rd, 2016
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco, Cory Smith
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 204 Pages (total)

Review:

This was the second large story arc in the IDW continuity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Also, it was well worth the wait, after the slow build towards it since the last large event.

In this one, we get the final showdown between Splinter and Shredder and with that, we see both senseis’ families go to war. This story involves all the big players, thus far, and it brings major changes to the series.

While I know that Shredder has a story arc in Hell, I’ve already read it and reviewed it, and that he returns to life, eventually, the Turtles and their allies are finally able to move beyond the Shredder threat and shift their focus to an oncoming war with Krang.

I dug this one a lot but after how much I’ve liked all the previous volumes, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Eastman is still writing great stories, alongside Tom Waltz, his righthand man on this incarnation of his most famous creation.

Additionally, I loved the art Mateus Santolouco and Cory Smith but this series has looked great from the start.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 11: Attack On Technodrome

Published: July 1st, 2015
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Cory Smith
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 104 Pages

Review:

This isn’t really a filler volume in the long-running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series by IDW, as much as it is its own solid story that puts a heavy emphasis on developing a much bigger event that is going to go down and take up the two volumes after this one. The second such event in this version of TMNT continuity. When I get to those, I’ll probably review them together, as I did the last massive story arc.

In this, however, we see Donatello go behind his brothers’ backs and try to work out an alliance with Shredder, so that they can all take down Krang, his army and the dreaded Technodrome.

There are a lot of swerves and plot twists but the story reads really well and was pretty satisfying. While this wasn’t my favorite volume, it doesn’t disappoint and it kept the story moving forward at a brisk pace without it becoming redundant or derivative of previous stories, which is really hard to do when a series has gone on as long as this one has.

Cory Smith has taken over the art full-time and I like his work. It’s a bit more dynamic and detailed and it feels like the quality is a step up from what it has been. And that’s not to knock the previous artists, as I’ve really liked this series from both the art and writing sides of the coin.

In the end, I’m still enjoying this series and frankly, it’s now probably my favorite version of the turtles. I’m really looking forward to the big arc that follows this one.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Film Review: Shootfighter 2 (1996)

Also known as: Shootfighter II (alternative spelling)
Release Date: August 27th, 1996
Directed by: Paul Ziller
Written by: Greg Mellott, Peter Shaner
Music by: Alex Wilkinson
Cast: Bolo Yeung, William Zabka, Michael Bernardo, Debra Ann “Madusa” Miceli

ANA Productions, 93 Minutes

Review:

While the first Shootfighter wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, it still got a sequel. Although, this one is pretty subpar and lacks the charm of its predecessor.

It stars the same protagonist trio of Bolo Yeung, William Zabka and Michael Bernardo. I like these actors and the characters they play but they seemed a lot less into this movie than the first one. Also, it felt like Bolo was barely in it. Although, I did enjoy his final fight at the end, quite a bit. Mostly because I hated this film’s incredibly weak and unintimidating villain.

This took place and was filmed in Miami. I knew a kid that claimed his uncle was an extra in the film but that kid lied all the time and he thought Hypercolor shirts were still cool in 1996.

There’s honestly not much to say about this film other than it’s damn pedestrian, a pointless sequel and it looked like everyone making the film was just as bored as the audience that would eventually watch it.

Although, it did feature professional wrestler Madusa a.k.a. Alundra Blayze, who fought some other chick in a random bout.

I did mostly like the action and I thought that the fighting arena was kind of cool but neither of these things really elevate the picture into anything worthwhile.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor and other late ’80s/early ’90s straight-to-video action flicks.

Film Review: Shootfighter: Fight to the Death (1993)

Also known as: Shootfighter (unofficial shorter title)
Release Date: May 5th, 1993
Directed by: Patrick Alan
Written by: Judd B. Lynn, Larry Feliz Jr., Pete Shaner
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Bolo Yeung, Maryam d’Abo, James Pax, William Zabka, Michael Bernardo, Martin Kove, Edward Albert

ANA Productions, 100 Minutes

Review:

As a pretty hardcore Karate Kid fan, it’s probably kind of nuts that I hadn’t seen this film until now. Reason being, for those unaware, is that it reunites the two antagonists from that film (and the Cobra Kai television series) by featuring both William Zabka and Martin Kove.

This also stars martial arts legend and intimidating badass, Bolo Yeung. And what’s really interesting about Bolo’s role in this, is that he is a good guy! He’s actually the sensei of the two young guys that enter a martial arts tournament put on by a madman criminal.

In a way, it’s also strange seeing Zabka play a good guy, as he became famous playing bullies in ’80s teen movies.

This movie came out during the height of fighting games in video arcades across the world. It was also the height of low budget, usually straight-to-VHS martial arts flicks. So the story isn’t too dissimilar from that of a classic fighting game. In fact, the two heroes feel like they’re loosely based on and inspired by Ryu and Ken from the Street Fighter video game series.

I like the heroes here, though. They have a good chemistry and camaraderie and I actually like cheering for Zabka, even though I was always pro-Cobra Kai anyway… sorry, LaRusso.

I don’t usually watch these type of movies and expect to be impressed by them. I tend to like them quite a bit, regardless. However, I was impressed by the action and fight choreography in this. While it’s not the most exceptional martial arts action you’ll ever see, it was on par with the best action coming out of low budget US martial arts flicks from this era.

Also, the tone and style of the film is really good and it feels like a fighting game come to life. I wish my fourteen year-old self would’ve rented this back in 1993 because he would’ve probably loved it and watched it as often as he watched early Van Damme movies, as well as the American Ninja series.

I dug this, a lot. I’m also glad that there’s a sequel because I plan on checking it out in about a week, as I work through my queue.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other early-to-mid-’90s martial arts flicks.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 10: New Mutant Order

Published: February 25th, 2015
Written by: Kevin B. Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco, Cory Smith
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 105 Pages

Review:

Ten volumes deep and I still like IDW’s version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a lot.

In fact, overall, from top-to-bottom, this may be my favorite long-running comic series IDW has ever done. Granted the Chuck Dixon run on G.I. Joe is still my favorite overall run but it didn’t last anywhere near as long as this series, which is still being published even in a post-COVID world and recently exceeded 100 issues.

These volumes collect four issues, which is fairly scant but the series is written almost like it’s structured for four issue mini-arcs. However, this one starts with an issue that is really a single issue story but it is also my favorite single issue I’ve read in the series, thus far.

The first chapter (or issue) in this collection sees Shredder and Krang meet to discuss a possible union while on a battleship at sea. Things go awry and the two go to war with each other. I thought it was pretty f’n spectacular and it really made me like these two characters, in this incarnation, so much more. It definitely showed Shredder as a calculating, smart villain, thinking many steps ahead. This is a very stark contrast to what fans of just the cartoon series would expect. Overall, this is my favorite version of Shredder that I’ve gotten to know.

The rest of this collection builds off of some of the earlier and still ongoing plots. Here, we see the Turtles working with Hob, their former enemy, at trying to build a mutant army to fight the evil mutants that have been appearing throughout the series.

We also get to see a really good battle between the heroes and Bebop & Rocksteady, who might still be kind of dumb but they’re actually presented as legitimate, extremely dangerous threats.

I like seeing how the larger story has expanded and grown over time. I like that there are a lot of characters and that, for the most part, they’re all well developed. I especially like the constant escalation but how this series still doesn’t go over the top with it. This is how you build towards something unlike the more recent mainstream comic publishers’ mega-events.

Massive kudos to Kevin Eastman. The dude has proven that he’s still got it and that he truly loves working on his most famous creation more than three decades later.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Film Review: The Punisher (1989)

Release Date: October 5th, 1989 (Germany)
Directed by: Mark Goldblatt
Written by: Boaz Yakin
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Dennis Dreith
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbe, Kim Miyori

Marvel Entertainment, New World Pictures, 89 Minutes, 76 Minutes (heavily cut), 98 Minutes (workprint version)

Review:

“If you’re guilty, you’re dead.” – Frank Castle

While I know that this isn’t as good as the 2004 Punisher movie, this is still my favorite film of the lot and Dolph Lundgren really embodied the version of Frank Castle that I envisioned as a kid in the late ’80s, just discovering Punisher comics.

I loved the fuck out of this movie when I saw it in 1990, once it hit video store shelves in my area. I would’ve loved to have seen it in the theater but I lived in a small town with small theaters that played it safe, didn’t take risks and have now mostly been replaced with better theaters offering more variety… and alcohol.

Dolph Lundgren is just fucking perfect in this and nothing else about the film really matters. Sure, I like Louis Gossett Jr. but he’s kind of a non-event in the picture, as is everyone else, except the mob boss turned vigilante that helps the Punisher fight ninjas in an effort to rescue his kidnapped son.

This wasn’t made by Cannon, it was in fact made by New World, but it has that Cannon vibe to it albeit with an even cheaper budget. Still, its a solid mix of gritty, ’80s action, a badass hero and more ammo wasted than an Argentinian coup.

One sequence that really stands out is where we get to see the Punisher battle a hoard of machine gun ninjas in a decrepit carnival funhouse. Granted, I also loved the big finale that saw our hero and the mobster douche machine gun the crap out of ninjas.

All in all, this is just a badass flick with uber amounts of testosterone, one of the best, most physically intimidating action stars of all-time and it feels true to the source material. It’s certainly better than everything that came after that Thomas Jane Punisher movie. 

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel live-action films pre-MCU.

Video Game Review: Avengers (Arcade)

I saw a game titled Avengers on the MAME part of my RetroPie but I soon found out that it didn’t have anything to do with Marvel’s Avengers or the 1960s British television show.

This is basically an arcade beat’em up game like Double Dragon but it isn’t a side scroller, it is instead a vertical scroller like some of the classic shooters in the vein of Commando or Ikari Warriors.

The game is smooth and it has controls that are okay but take a few minutes to get used to. However, it has a pretty killer soundtrack and decent graphics for the time.

It’s nothing special, however, other than it’s a beat’em that goes vertical as opposed to the more traditional horizontal.

It’s easy to play but the difficulty is a bit of a problem. Mainly, because when you die, you respawn from a checkpoint and not on the screen where you died like a typical beat’em up game. So later in the game, you have to be a lot less reckless and not rush into battle like a coked up kangaroo with a bulletproof face.

Overall, this was fun but not great.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other beat’em up arcade games.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 9: Monsters, Misfits and Madmen

Published: October 29th, 2014
Written by: Kevin B. Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 99 Pages

Review:

After the previous volume, which was more of a break from the norm, focused primarily on character building, we are brought back to New York City where the Turtles continue to work towards stopping Shredder, Krang and Baxter Stockman.

This still does a lot of character building, especially in regards to Casey Jones and his father. In fact, this is where a major turning point happens in their relationship, setting the stage for some really dark shit.

The Turtles also learn what former enemy-turned-reluctant-ally, Old Hob, has been up to while they were out of town.

Most importantly, this is just a pretty good comic that is slowly but effectively building towards the next big confrontation with their two biggest enemies.

Additionally, it introduces us to the IDW continuity’s version of Rat King, in what is a really interesting take on the character.

I don’t want to call this more of the same, which it kind of is, but when “same” is still so good, it makes you want to keep reading for a bigger payoff, which I feel is right around the corner.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.