Best Shots Advance: PROPHET, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
Written by Brandon Graham and Farel Dalrymple
Art by Farel Dalrymple and Joseph Bergin III
Lettering by Ed Brisson
Published by Image Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Really good science fiction is finally returning to comic books, and it’s left the capes and tights at home. Prophet is enjoying continued success since spinning out of the Extreme Comics relaunch, challenging readers with a fast-paced, high-stakes sci-fi adventure that pulls out all the stops in the first arc. But Brandon Graham and Farel Dalrymple have a different kind of story to tell in their second arc. It is more methodical and calculated but still delivers on compelling action and suspense.
In this story, John Prophet investigates the innards of a destroyed proembryo and meets a few inhabitants along the way. Similar to Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris, Graham and Dalrymple play with readers’ expectations. Despite the narration boxes, we cannot be sure that anything is actually real until Prophet interacts with it, making his trek through the structure disturbing and nerve wracking at the same time. Graham revisits themes of simulacra and rebirth consistently throughout the narrative. It'ss almost as if Graham is referencing the book itself. By defeating a corrupted version of himself and experiencing a new birth by way of the protective star skin, Prophet is literally shedding what came before while Graham is doing so in some form by writing the book. Regardless of the actual intent of the author, it’s clear that there are many layers at work here. Like any great sci-fi work, Prophet is forcing readers to question the book in their hands, the people that made it and themselves.
Artistically, Farel Dalrymple’s work shifts seamlessly between the more clean-cut design of the characters to the always odd but sometimes grotesque settings they find themselves in. His work echoes the themes apparent in Graham’s script. There is something raw and dirty about it that ramps up the importance of each panel and forces you to pay attention to each line. Dalrymple’s work focuses the best parts of artists like Frank Quitely and Geoff Darrow into one disturbing, sci-fi package. The reveal of the antagonist on the final pages makes this awesomely and horrifyingly clear.
Prophet is not for everyone. This is a far cry from what people will think of when they think about the words” Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios” but that’s what so perfect about it. The willingness to take a chance and allow this kind of work to sit on the same shelves that are inundated with spandex and cheesecake and zombies each week should be applauded. This book is for the kinds of people that don’t want the main premise explained succinctly in the title of the book. It’s for the kinds of people that would rather read than watch TV. It’s for anyone that believes that comics can be good art and that good art should make you think.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Micro Series #4
Written by Brian Lynch
Art by Ross Campbell and Jay Fotos
Lettering by Shawn Lee
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Out of all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I've always found that Leonardo is the toughest of his brothers to relate to. Like the stoic Cyclops before him, it's tough to root for a character whose primary quality is "leadership," as opposed to the mercurial Raphael, the gregarious Michelangelo, or even the inquisitive Donatello. Yet Leonardo's innate toughness and obsession with perfection also leaves room for some serious untapped storytelling potential, and that's where writer Brian Lynch and artist Ross Campbell come in.
This team, on their own, has done amazing work. This property, on its own, has lasted a generation. But putting them together? Well... I think Lynch and Campbell, like their driven protagonist, show a lot of potential, but don't quite fulfill the promise therein.
This done-in-one story follows Leonardo, as he tracks down Master Splinter's kidnappers. Tying into a recent retcon suggesting that the Turtles are in fact a reincarnated human family, Lynch tries his best to make lemonade out of a lemon of a concept, tying in Leo's driven nature and overprotectiveness to a mother he couldn't protect in another life. It makes sense, but at the same time, it doesn't make this oddball of a story direction seem any less off-putting — part of the charm of the Ninja Turtles is that despite their mutagen-infused birth, they're a (fairly) normal bunch of (martial arts-trained) brothers, as typical (and archetypical) as they come. Lynch propels this story ahead with an extended fight sequence against the Foot Clan, which comes off as nicely brisk despite its length. Throughout this sequence, Lynch introduces a number of strong thematic concepts — Leonardo confronting the idea of failure, Leonardo struggling to protect his family, Leonardo working to not give into his rage — but abandons each of them almost as quickly as he conjures them up. It leaves the story feeling surprisingly empty at the end. It doesn't feel like Leo learns anything, and the stakes feel artificial. There's some edge here, but it's not quite displayed enough.
And that's as good of a segue as any to discuss Ross Campbell. The artist has been making some serious waves for his work on Glory, but I wonder if something was lost in translation when drawing the rounder form of a Ninja Turtle. Leonardo's hands and feet definitely feel a little stubby in this incarnation, and perhaps even more interestingly, the sense of speed takes a long time to kick in. When Leonardo counters a ninja's incoming blade, for example, there are no lines suggesting the movement of the characters or the recoil of the swords. It's like this through much of the book, although once Leo and the Foot Clan start bringing an abandoned building on their heads, the debris lends an urgency and power to the fight choreography. Campbell does succeed, however, when he shows Leonardo's emotions, particularly the rage and sadness on his face when he grapples with his great failure. Still, it's a bit surprising to see Campbell's sample page at the end of the issue, featuring Donatello — if the whole book had looked that speedy and stylish, it would have made for a much more powerful experience.
With this installment of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro Series, Lynch and Campbell take steps towards defining the Turtle's typically staid and sober leader. That said, they don't quite go far enough — whether it's the writer not quite settling on a set direction, or the art not quite clicking, the end product doesn't quite add up to this creative team's pedigree. It's a decent book, but like Leonardo himself, you can't help but think this could have been better.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!