Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Comics Conundrum: IDW's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I was born in 1986 and one of the earliest cartoons I remember watching as a kid was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. At one point my parents actually had to ban it for a while because I was using the moves I saw on the show on my two sisters. Not my fault that my parents sired girls who looked exactly like Bebop and Rocksteady...

If you squint it does look like them

Once Batman: The Animated Series began airing, the Turtles I saw less and less of. Recently I tried watching a few episodes on Teletoon Retro and if I'm honest, the series just doesn't hold up. To me, it's too goofy and ridiculous. Now before you start sending me hate-mail, let me just say that if you still love the show, that's great. I, however, do not.

However, my waning fandom notwithstanding, Ninja Turtles continued to thrive and remain a part of the popular culture. Sometime in 2011, I was at a comic book store and saw that a new Ninja Turtles comic had recently been launched by IDW Publishing. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I decided to pick a few issues up. There were good, I enjoyed them but I didn't really feel like it was a series I wanted to keep up with. Hell, at that point I wasn't even into the comic collecting phase I am now.

So flash-forward about two years and I was on a comic book website and someone was talking about how much they were enjoying IDW's TMNT series. I remember someone in the comments section throwing out the praise, "THIS is how you do a reboot!"
Like me, whoever made that comment was probably shaking their heads at DC's New 52. I decided that I would give the series another closer look and bought the first two trade paperbacks.

The following week I went back to my local comic book store and bought the next two trade paperbacks. And since then I've bought every trade paperback that's come out. This series kicks major ninja ass!

Instead of wasting time telling an origin story that most people familiar with the franchise are aware of, it starts out with three of our heroes and their mentor Splinter battling some thugs being lead by a mutated anthropomorphic cat named Old Hob. How obvious that a cat and a rat are trying to kill each other...

Meanwhile, rude and crude Raphael has been missing from the group ever since they mutated over a year ago. From there we meet the usual group of side characters: April O'Neil (Sans yellow-jumpsuit), Casey Jones and Baxter Stockman, just to name a few. We also learn some interesting things like why in the first volume the Turtles are all wearing red masks instead of the standard colored-coordinated ones we'll see later on.

And of course, we get our familiar villains like Shredder, Krang and even Bebop and Rocksteady. I was worried that when these two showed up that they would just be made into Nolan-esque versions of themselves but they still seem like the two goofs from the original cartoon.

Nothing about this series feels weak or that the writers and artists aren't putting 100% of their talent on the page so that they can tell the best stories possible. I think the high-point of the series so far has been the 'City Fall' storyline which takes up two whole volumes of the trade paperbacks but doesn't feel like it's being drawn out simply because Kevin Eastman and the other writers don't know where to take it.
Kevin Eastman mugs for my camera before giving me an autograph and some advice

Now, does this series have a darker tone than any of the cartoons? Oh yeah, but nothing that would make it only for mature audiences. Yes, the Shredder does use those spikes on his gloves a few times, bad guys get their asses kicked but never does it feel like it's being dark for the sake of being dark. I actually burst out laughing when I realized that in one scene where Michelangelo cooks breakfast, there's an obvious picture of Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen.

You thought I was making that up, didn't you?

What's also great is that everything that happens in one story will have an impact on the following story and sometimes the heroes have to question their own motives and wonder aloud if they're really doing what's important. At the end of the most recent volume (Number 10) Donatello-without the help of his brothers-makes the risky move in seeking the Foot Clan's help because he believes they are all that stands in the way of the Krang taking over Earth.

There's a lot more that I could say about this series but I'm afraid that my words just wouldn't do the comic justice. If you're a fan of the franchise, were let down by the recent movie and looking for a great Ninja Turtles story to get into, this comic is exactly what you're looking for.

Oh and on one final note, if you weren't sold on this series already, they've recently done a crossover with another license under IDW Publishing: Ghostbusters.
Brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?


arw1985 said...

It is a good series. I was getting it until about issue 39 or 40. I'm on a budget and I kinda got uninterested in the book. I do still plan to re-add it to my pull list one of these days. If you haven't checked it out, check out The Secret History of the Foot Clan because it's really good.

SchweitzerMan said...

I'll do that. I've tried to stick mainly to the regular volumes because I'm on a budget as well. Hopefully you'll put this series back on your pull list

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