I love this book. There are so many awesome things about it that I don’t even know where to start. In case you have a short attention span, I’m gonna go ahead and spoil the Final Verdict: BUY. BUY. BUY.
IDW publishing’s re-imagining of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had brought together everything I love about TMNT. Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman (Heavy Metal) is back writing stories for the fearsome foursome for the first time in, well, quite a while. (Eastman and co-creator Peter Laird have had their differences.) Joining him is script writer Tom Waltz, artist Dan Duncan, and colorist Ronda Pattison. A creative team this good shows up only once in a blue moon.
Anyone familiar with the Turtles probably knows that they come in two distinct flavors: the zany, saccharine Saturday morning cartoon show of our youth, and the gritty stories from the original 1984 comic, the 1990 live action film, and the 2003 animated reboot. With Eastman at the helm, this version of our favorite mutants definitely veers more towards the serious than the silly.
A story as oft-reimagined as TMNT inevitably covers a lot of the same territory, but rest assured that Eastman and his cohorts have come up with an original take. The story takes place a mere fifteen months after the Turtle’s first exposure to mutagen (the substance which anthropomorphizes them, for the few of you new to this), so the boys are still finding their bearings in more ways then one. After a fierce struggle with a stray cat, Master Splinter, the Turtles’ not-yet-mutated rat mentor, was only able to drag three of the brothers to safety. Raphael, always the wild card, woke up on his own in an alley, left to fend for himself (with the help of fan-favorite Casey Jones!). Meanwhile, the stray cat, Old Hob, has also been mutated, and leads a gang of thugs on a mission of revenge against Splinter and his adoptive children.
I absolutely love the direction these early stories have taken. While I’m sure the foot clan and the Shredder will inevitably come into the foreground, the idea of Raphael being raised separately from his brothers is a dynamic that will no doubt affect stories far in the future. At this point, Leo, Mikey, and Don aren’t even sure if Raph is alive, which leads to a lot of compelling internal conflict amongst the brothers and with Master Splinter.
Duncan’s artwork and Pattison’s colors bring the Turtles to life with a vibrancy like never before. Here, as in the original comic, the Turtles all wear red eyebands – the distinctive purple, orange, and blue colors that were added for the 1987 cartoon so that kids could easily tell them apart is now gone. That alone tells you that this comic is meant for an older audience, and also that the creators are deliberately trying to evoke the original works. Pattison does an excellent job of using different shades of green to differentiate the Turtles when they aren’t holding their signature weapons.
The action is sharp and vivid, without any of the overly busy panels that plague mainstream comics like Green Lantern. Duncan’s penciling is truly impressive, especially his masterful use of shading in nearly every panel. Folks, this isn’t some slapped together cash-in; this is the real deal.
One flourish I especially like is the extended letters page at the end. A good letters page is something that you don’t see often enough these days, and it’s clear that the editors at IDW love interacting with their fans. A franchise as long-lived and beloved as TMNT attracts a lot of geeks with a lot to say, and IDW has made sure to give them a voice.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3 leaves us hanging with Raph’s brothers seeking him out and Old Hob closing in on the errant turtle. I for one can’t wait for #4. This book is going on my must-buy list, and any self-respecting comics fan should definitely pick up 1-3 if they haven’t already (especially because there are a surprising number of variant covers, some drawn by Eastman and some even drawn by Peter Laird!). With Eastman at the helm, Waltz writing brilliant scripts, and Duncan and Pattison creating beautiful pages, this is a book that could continue being awesome for years to come.
- Lots of nice throwbacks (Kevin Eastman returns!)
- Fresh take on origin story
- Art is nothing short of wonderful
- Letters page gives fans an outlet
- Not one.
- Oh, okay, here’s one. If you don’t like comic books you won’t like this comic book (but there’s probably something wrong with you)