Best Shots Advance Reviews: ATOMIC ROBO, NINJA TURTLES

 

Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #1

Written by Brian Clevinger

Art by Scott Wegener

Lettered by Jeff Powell

Published by Red 5 Comics

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Brian Clevinger described this volume of Atomic Robo as a “synthesis of everything that is an Atomic Robo tale.” It’s the story that Clevinger believes he and artist Scott Wegener weren’t good enough to do earlier in the book's publication history. He said it was a hard story to do on a “craft level.” If all of this is to be believed, then readers should be glad he waited.

On the surface, Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #1 follows a pretty standard Robo recipe: Start out with a heaping helping of high stakes adventure with a historical bent, add a couple of dashes of science fiction and mystery, mix in an early twist and solid characterization, and you’re all set.

It’s always good to see a book deliver on its title. In this issue, we get Atomic Robo and we get the Flying She-Devils, and we get exposition and explanations but never at the expense of action and fun. It’s amazing what a book with so many unfamiliar characters can do in 22 pages solely through expert pacing. So many other comics rely on such grating decompression that it’s a wonder we even get to see our hero get out of bed.

But She-Devils has an added layer. While the plot seems pedestrian at first (post-WWII ex-military keep forgotten weapons caches from falling into the wrong hands and Robo is caught in the middle), Clevinger elevates the story simply by making the majority of his characters female. Some of you might guffaw at the idea that a detail like that could have any kind of weight to it. After all, there are plenty of women in comics, right? And all of them are portrayed as strong, passionate defenders of the greater good, right? Don’t kid yourself. It is refreshing to see women actually treated as equals in a comic book without them simply being treated as men.

Some of the credit definitely goes to Scott Wegener. Not only does he consistently craft memorable designs for the characters that appear in Atomic Robo, he also does so while answering one of the single most important questions when creating a character: “Why?” Functionality is often overlooked but it’s clear from his early sketches of the She-Devils that he had actually reasons for all of their pockets and pouches and doohickeys. That’s part of what makes the book more fun! These ladies are awesome and it’s not because they have to show every inch of epidermis. On the whole, the book looks like exactly what we’ve come to expect from Wegener’s work on Atomic Robo: strong cartooning, enthralling action scenes and expert storytelling sense.

Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #1 is the beginning of what is sure to be another incredibly entertaining Atomic Robo epic. Clevinger and Wegener are a team in perfect sync with one another and it shows. Some readers might be disappointed in the overall lack of any really heavy sci-fi beyond jetpacks but there’s still time for that. Remember, the beauty of Robo is the build-up, and this only the beginning.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #11

Written by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

Art by Dan Duncan and Ronda Pattison

Lettering by Shawn Lee

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

Master Splinter, mutant rat and ninja mentor, could teach a lot to his students, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While the Heroes in a Half Shell have the force of nostalgia on their side, Splinter does something the fab foursome have yet to do: instead of just expecting your respect, he actually earns it.

It's interesting, because the shared focus between the four turtles has led to a scattered plot — yet half of this issue is actually fairly compelling, because Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz show that even an old rat can show off some slick moves. There's some great tension as Splinter wards off an overwhelming force — he may be tired, he says, but not so tired that he'll be shot by an arrow by a child. It's one of the more badass moments of the script.

That said, Splinter's sons are kind of a drag this issue. Waltz has to force most of the exposition onto them, so aside from a half-hearted fight sequence (including a moment from Michelangelo that borders on kind of creepy, assuming you don't immediately recognize the Purple Dragons), there's a lot of talking heads floating around. Chances are, you won't care about the Purple Dragons, their ties to Casey Jones, or the Turtles' attempts to team up with them. To be honest, they just suck up valuable space that the Turtles need to justify our investment.

Artist Dan Duncan is also very surprising here. His normally stylized artwork takes a turn for the distended this month, with misshapen heads and weirdly geometric bodies. In the past, Duncan's art was the best part of this series, a sort of grim and gritty graffiti that brought these ninjas back to the streets. This installment, however, just looks rushed, particularly in the second half of the book (and with most of the normal humans). Ronda Pattison's colors also occasionally have hiccups, with Leo and Don in particular looking almost identical. Duncan's Shredder, however, is the highlight of the issue, as he looks like a taut killing machine, seeming just a bit larger-than-life and even more lethal.

While a bit repetitive, the tense Splinter sequences rescue this issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from an even worse fate. This is half of a decent book, with the other half — the important half — being more recitation and forward movement than anything engrossing or character-driven. Even licensed properties need to do more than preach to the choir — they need to justify their characters month after month. It's a lesson that Splinter teaches masterfully this month. It's a shame his students can't follow suit.

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