Movies & TV / Columns

411’s Comic Reviews: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II #1, John Wick #1, More

December 7, 2017 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Batman Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II 1

Hello and welcome to 411mania’s weekly Comic Book Review Roundtable! Each week we’ll be serving up a warm dish of reviews from Marvel, DC, and anything else that captures our interest. What did you pick up this week? Let us know in the comments.

Want to write a review? If you can write at least one review a week, consistently, email me at stev[email protected]!

Yesterday we discussed our Thoughts on the New Age of DC Heroes

Now on with the show!

Relay #1

Review by Stephen Gustafson

A perfect future of intergalactic travel and community. Every newly discovered planet is unified culturally through a monolithic structure known as the Galactic Relay. Although the towering monument is meant to inspire conformity of ideas, technology, and progress – many resent the foreign structure. Jad Carter, a Relay employee, must keep the peace and act as an emissary to new civilizations. But when he finds the Relay’s mythological creator, Hank Donaldson, his idea of reality and the universe shatters.

Equal parts The Fifth Element and Philip K Dick, Relay is an exploration of monoculture, identity, and the deceptive nature of legend set in a thriving future where humanity forcibly assimilates new worlds.

Written by Zac Thompson (The Dregs) and art by Andy Clarke (REPLICA, Batman). Story by Zac Thompson and Donny Cates (BABYTEETH, God Country, Redneck)!

In doing press for the release of Relay, Thompson made some great points on why he felt AfterShock was the right home for this book. AfterShock has one of the most varied and intriguing stables of comics on out and his reasoning reflects that. He said, “AfterShock is an incredibly welcoming family that is committed to publishing the best books in the comic market. Honestly, working with them on Relay has been nothing short of a writer’s dream. I’ve brought them insane ideas that I thought would never fly and every single time they are met with optimism and a commitment to making it work within the narrative. My scripts have been long and overly detailed and every step of the way that intricate level of detail can be felt on the page and you can feel it looking at this book. It’s a god-damn beautiful thing and that’s because AfterShock cared about every single page, every step of the way. I couldn’t think of a better home for Relay.”

He took it a step further on why fans should pick it up saying, “Relay is in many ways a tribute to the science fiction worlds that inspired me as I was growing up. The best thing I can compare it to is Paul Verhoeven’s TOTAL RECALL. There’s a brain to this book beneath the action and the world we’ve created that mirrors our own. It’s something that evokes a lot of our modern fears about society, leadership, and control and puts them in a really colorful and detailed world. Anyone who saw BLADE RUNNER 2049 is going to be right at home with RELAY. People should definitely throw it on their pull because it’s unlike any other science fiction book out there. I promise you we’re dealing with some insane shit and by the end of every issue you’ll have no idea where we’re headed next.”

Relay fulfills the promise Thompson has set forth and it’s a dazzling display of sci-fi wonder and future ideals crashing into reality. Thompson’s world is a twisted blend of vivid landscapes and layered characters who you feel like you’ve met before but are completely changed.

The art by Andy Clarke is absolutely incredible. I may be judged harshly for invoking the name of Moebius but his spirit is there and Clarke breathes grand life onto the page.

This book is an easy recommendation.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

John Wick #1

Review by RobF

John Wick is one of those movies I can watch over and over again. The action is top notch and its comic book style action is perfect for the big screen. How did Wick become an assassin and a guest of the Continental? Greg Pak and Giovanni Valletta attempt to flesh out his origin in John Wick #1 with mixed results.

This story is basically a prequel to the first movie, where we find John Wick a simple street urchin trying to survive. It also tries to show us Wick’s rise through the ranks of the underground assassin’s world. This is where it fails is in its execution. It flip-flops from the past to the present rather roughly while never really explaining anything or offer any insights to what makes Wick tick.

While the plot certainly has shortcomings Pak has captured the tone of the story. While you read this comic I can hear Keanu Reeves speaking the lines just like the movie. And the over the top violence is there as expected.

Giovanni Valletta’s artwork is impressive, his John Wick is the spitting image of Reeves. The action is fast and furious and he captures it well.

Even with the so-so beginning I have high hopes for this series. There is enough here for a good story, hopefully Pak and Co. will flesh out this story enough so we can see what made John Wick who is he now.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II #1

Review by John Pumpernickel

When deciding on what comic book to review, you find yourself in a most peculiar battle of wills with yourself. On one hand, if you choose a book that you have regularly read, you’ll have a hard time keeping an unbiased opinion as you’re critiquing a book that you’re obviously fond of.

On the other hand, if you choose a book that you haven’t read before, there’s usually a reason why you haven’t read it and it’s most likely due to some negative experience with the character, creative team, or you just don’t enjoy those types of books.

Standing at the comic rack at the comic book store can be daunting as well. Stare too long and the guy behind the counter will ask you if you’re OK, triggering your social anxiety, and you make haste to the exit.

Then you have to weigh the options on what publisher to go with. The Big Two are easy targets but the Independents are putting out some impressive offerings but does the reviewer come off trying to be “too hip” by excluding the anything Marvel or DC puts out.

With all this rattling through my head, I grabbed Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II #1 and set out to make sense of my decision. While Batman is a character that can fit into just every situation and team up, the TMNT’s give me pause. They have too many variations for me to keep track of. The grim early days to the Cowabunga cartoon version, I’ve had uneven feelings for the Heroes in a Half Shell.

Have we ever gotten an answer on why they wear masks? I can’t think of any conceivable explanation why giant turtles would need Lone Ranger masks to conceal their identity.

The book itself is paint-by-numbers good, with the art giving it a plus but I couldn’t get too excited as I searched for why this book had to be made. The first miniseries was enjoyable and a solid “one and done” that never had me feeling like we needed more. This second miniseries feels like it’s going to cover much of the same ground, just…bigger. I enjoyed it but not enough to come back to the second issue BUT I most likely will pick it up and thumb through it if they collect it in graphic novel form, if that makes sense.

Speaking of miniseries, why are they still doing them? They read better as collected editions, since the writer and artist have come to an agreement on the beginning, middle, and end. It seems silly to still put them out one issue at a team.

Batman/TMNT II #1 is best for purists and fans of each but don’t be surprised if you get deja vu while reading it.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10