Saturday, May 25, 2013

Quick Thoughts on IDW’s Baxter Stockman Micro-Series (One-Shot)

I am so, so lazy. I told myself I’d get caught up on the IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series before this thing came out, but I never got around to that. I still know some plot details of the IDW comic, and will, *will* get around to reading the whole thing eventually, but I went in anyway. Not completely cold, but I won’t pretend I’ve actually read the preceding comics.
It’s a good little story, telling a complete tale and setting up a future. It’s a  present-day tale of IDW Stockman being deceptive with his mad science run amok, interspersed with flashbacks of Stockman playing chess with his father at different times in his life. In the end Stockman seems to outwit Krang and gather important data in preparation for usurping his master, because Stockman wants control of the impending Technodrome. Not to rule the world, but to control and distribute the technology for his own purposes.
Well-played, Stockman.
There’s always a “but” and my problem is that, though the storytelling is competent and it whets the appetite for more, there’s something about the comic that feels cold and detached. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t make me want to run out and buy all the IDW comics yet. Something’s missing, and I don’t know what.
I used to think that Baxter Stockman was one of the recurring TMNT characters that wasn’t bound into a strict archetype--he started out as a simple (but likely tongue-in-cheek) portrayal of a mad scientist, but his animated versions pretty consistently embody failure beyond just “curses foiled again”, and an arrogance beyond typical villainy.
But IDW Baxter seems to embody that particular arrogance mentioned above, and he could be headed for failure, so perhaps Stockman’s other media portrayals have simply become the archetype, leaving the original Mirage incarnation to be more the exception than the rule..
Yet IDW Stockman is also distinct because his moments of fear and henchmanly submission are an apparent ruse, AND he has larger villainous ambitions that seem to have survived for a long time, instead of degenerating into simply surviving and getting revenge on things. I support this only as a means of making different versions of the character distinct; I don’t think Baxter Stockman “needs” to have more villainous oomph, because I don’t mind if he fails at supervillainy as long as he’s an entertaining character. But Stockman shouldn’t be the same every time, and for this I praise IDW.
I liked that his father isn’t simply the harsh dad cliche: he seemed strict and sometimes contradictory, but believed he was doing good. Though Baxter, being the lovable asshole that he is, repays in kind by booting Mr. Stockman out of his own company in the final flashback.
And yes, we get the “flyborg”, the experiment that Baxter uses to stage a rampage / diversion as part of his plan, with a potential army waiting in green tanks. I’m not saying I’m “too cool” for Easter Eggs, but something about this one made me cringe. I’m in favour of using transformation to represent Baxter Stockman’s failure, but I don’t think it *needs* to happen to him all the time. I didn’t even need a homage.
It’s also so obviously an Easter Egg it hurts. If you want to fuse an insect with a robot for offensive purposes, why choose a common housefly? Why not something stronger, more armoured?
Also, while I wouldn’t bet the whole farm on it, I assume this means that Baxter Stockman will remain human in the IDW-verse, which I’d prefer. I love Baxterfly and Baxterborg, but there’s a world of possibilities out there for the character, even if you want to keep him embodying failure and self-destruction. Baxter Stockman still isn’t as set in stone as some other TMNT characters, and writers should take advantage of that.
Besides not clamouring for Stockman to be transformed, I find it a little...silly to see the IDW comic continuously bringing elements exclusive to the old cartoon into a more serious universe. I giggle every time I see a picture of the gritty gun-toting Neutrinos, or that steampunk-ish homage to Krang’s android body. Believe me, I know concepts can be remade into anything, but I can’t help it. It’s a side effect of being tired of the TMNT fandom’s urge to deny or bypass the original cartoon’s wonderful / painful silliness. It just makes me think of dopey fanboys who are secretly insecure about the things they like, and want to prove these things are “gritty and adult”.
Mea culpa.
Also, I still love the main cover for this issue. The variant cover, with Baxter playing “chess” with figures of the characters, is pretty trite compared to the excellent play on M.C. Escher’s “Hand with Reflecting Sphere.”

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