When I read this comic I am the fifth turtle. Anyone remember that episode? I can smell NYC and the pizza. I can hear the weapons clashing. But it wasn’t plan sailing. It began with the saga of the overseas licensing. I had to buy an #1 variant on eBay for £10. Luckily for me I got the Raphael cover. #2 and #3 were also eBay purchases but by #4 the UK got its act together any boy was it worth the wait.
The Turtles have and I guess will always have a special place in my heart. I was the biggest fan of the cartoon, I had all the toys, the movie then blow my tiny mind. Being an internetless kid in 90’s UK I had know idea of their comic book origins (sorry). So this series is like my little baby. I always read it first when I get my weekly titles and it makes me feel warm inside. The blend of the best from the comics, cartoons and movies keeps a thirty year old franchise fresh and it keeps delivering month after month.
Going into #1 I did’t really know what to expect having never read a TMNT comic before. Like I said the franchise is thirty years old. Were we going to get a first issue that went straight into the action? With everyone knowing what the Turtles are all about. Or were we going to get a bad origin rehash? What we got was simple but brilliant beginning to an origin story. There was plenty of fan service yet it stayed accessible to new readers. The first four issues set up the charatcers personalities. (Splinter, Turltes, Hob, Casey and April). #2 gave us some TMNT gold straight off the bat with Raph and Casey teaming up. The ‘Chowabunga’ t-shirt was a nice touch. Having Old Hob as the series first villain proved they didn’t need to go straight to Shredder. He has been a great addition through out and linking him into the Turtles origin was again a simple yet effective idea. Its because of him Raph is seperated from the others. So makes things more personal. On a negative note they have done away ith the DD tie-in. A highlight of the lab breakout was seeing two foot soilders being out smarted by a rat carrying a sack of turtles was an amusing visual. Another great part of the series is the art of Dan Duncan. Ninja Turtles should be cartoony to a degree but the tone of the story deserves a touch of darkness. Duncan along with Ronda Pattison have a perfect blend for this. #5 was just beautiful. In the first four issues the three Turtles wore red bandanas as they searched for Raphael. As red is his favourite colour. In this pre Christmas issue we get Splinter sneeking around the city before returning with colour bandanas for the others. Genius! Touching! Oh this issue also laid the early groud work for a possible reincarnation story line. What?!
#6-8 was laying a lot of plot threads whilst fulfilling fan service. There were developments with The Foot and the Savant. “War is coming”. Casey and April meeting and interacting. Baxter Stockman taking a villainous turn with creating his Mousers. #7 gave us looks at Neutrino and Krang. So as well as ninjas and mutants we were now getting hints of other dimensions and aliens. Krang has been handled very well in the series. Not a jokey Saturday moring cartoon villain. #8 apart from carrying my favourite cover it also contains another TMNT staple. April fainting upon meeting them for the first time.
#9 Final page reveal of Shredder! At last! #10 adds more weight to the reincartion story. Shredder attributes things Splinter says/does to Hamato Yoshi. When Shredder removes his mask Splinter recognises him as Oroku Saki. After 10 issues it would be a good time to point out when I read this the voices are the voices from the first movie.
#11-12 Gave us the throw down the movies never could do justice. Splinter vs Shredder! One thing I’ve enjoyed from this series is Splinter being youngish so he can still kick ass! Much like the Splinter in the new film, who was awesome.
#13-14 A new addition to the art team and another great choice. Andy Khun. Another great Splinter moment and a very brief glimpse of the Technodrome. I always thought this was more suited to the cartoon. But the way Eastman and Waltz are tearing it up on the series I had faith in it being given a fresh take.
#15-16 Enter Slash. A fan favourite I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with! Here again they took an old character and mad him fresh. The 24 panel fight scene between Turtles and Slash is just beautiful. Mikey maybe the youngest but he is also the most emtional. This is evident in the story with his brotherly love for Slash despite his violent tendancies. Also the last panel of the story is Leo paying tribute to his fallen brother which I felt was over looked compared to Mikeys reaction.
#17-20 Krang War. This isn’t my prefered type of TMNT story. Again it is something I associate more with the cartoons, but I understand there is a place for it. Some classic teamwork moments and another TMNT staple, Mikey falling for a princess. IDW continue to match great artists to this series. Ben Bates style matches up to this story arc so well.
#21 We get a nice little treat in the shape of Eastman pulling writing and pencil duties on this stand alone issue. The kind of story telling IDW have set up in this series is something I would love to see Marvel do. Shorter story lines, everything is so convoluted at The House of Ideas lately.
So before I get into the next story arc I want to take a detour to one of the mini series that has run along side the on going since it started. The Secret History of The Foot Clan by Erik Burnham and Mateus Santolouco. Immediately my first thought was ‘oh no a different creative team on an important story. How wrong was I? Right from the off you could tell this series would be huge. In a nutshell it explains the mythos of The Foot (obviously). How they went from noble tribe to band of outlaws. It shows a love rivalry between Yoshi and Saki. How Saki became evil through the spirit of Tatsuo Takeshi and his relationship with Kitsune. The real curveball in the story arc is Kitsune striking a deal with a Utrom. The important parts of the story are in the flashbacks. In the present time there is a Professor named Miller. A Frank Miller homage no doubt. He has dedicated his life to the book of the Foot Clan so obviously the Turltes and Shredder are seeking him out. In #2 there is a car chase sequence which is just pure joy. Mikey reads Japanese without realising. Adding weight to the re-incarnation theory. All in all a great series which would make a absolutely brilliant TMNT movie and it leads nicely into City Fall. Which would be the sequal.
#22-28 City Fall The greatest TMNT movie never made! Santolouco sticks around for this story arc and no complaints from me. I love his little detailing on each bandana. Now I have read the first TMNT annual but I have to admit I have no idea whats going on with the Savate. I think their appearances have been few and far between. Starts with a bang Raph and Casey are ambushed by Foot, Raph escapes but Shredder now has bait in the form of Casey. The obligatory Raph and Leo arguing over how to do things. I’ve enjoyed the development of Angel over the series and here she gets some play. Knowing the Turtles are loyal and all about friendship Shredder SPOILER stabs Casey a fight ensues. So BOOM! City Fall doesn’t hold back at the end of the issue Casey is dying and Leo is kidnapped. Next issue is your basic get Casey to hospital and Leo being brainwashed. Oh and Hob has teamed with a still living Slash. In a epic story arc like this you know the action is coming so its the little character moments that are more enjoyable. You have the Casey, April and Angel human triangle. Mikey treating Slash like a brother, Raphs distrust for Hob with Splinters reluctance to accept his help. Leos brainwashing is completed by the addition of a black bandana, cause his evil now. Raph and Leo fight breaking internet forums everywhere over the rightful winner. Nice geek moment in #27 at Shredders gangland meeting we have Heisenberg, Mohawk Storm and The Warriors in attendance. Now I don’t know to this day how it happened but I’m missing #28! I only remembered when I was doing my research for this blog. eBay here I come.
#29-32 Northampton The calm after the storm. But with this series the next storm isn’t far away. I like the intro showing all the locations which were pivotal in City Fall all now deserted. Would the Turtles really sleep with their bandanas off? Ross Campbell comes on board for this arc and IDW’s talent scouts strike again. We get some development between Raph and Aloplex. Now I don’t think the writers would go for a full on physical relationship further down the line. But if the Turtles in all the formats over the years have taught us anything its that family and friendship can come in any form. New antagonist in Koya, who is a great visual. This story arc took me back to my favourite part of the original movie. At the farmhouse Casey and April are talking when the Turtles approach them with the killer line “It’s time to go back.” and that baseline drops in and the music starts. Bliss!
#33-35 Interestingly this series tackled a real world problem, well kind of. Aprils Dad is terminally ill and the mutagen acts as an instant cure. Maybe some issues down the line there will be draw backs. The question of weather it should be shared was raised by April rather than just saving it for her Dad but it hasn’t been touched on since. First appearance of Metalhead given the name by Angel who is also set up with a new story arc teaming with tech guy Harold, all be it reluctantly. Wearing a tech suit and going by the name Nobody. When you think about it, its such a simple codename whys it never been in comics before?
#36-37 Enter The Rat King. I loved the way he was portrayed here. Really hope to see more of him in the new direction after #50. Coincidently the same week this issue came out I caught an episode of the new TMNT cartoon which also featured Rat King. Two different takes but both enjoyable none the less. There is something insanely cool about Shredder and Krang meeting on a yacht in the Atlantic Ocean. If done on film it would have seemed out of place. The issue just spoke to me for some reason. This is why comics are cool I suppose. Another new antagonist in Bludgeon.
#38-40 These issues are really setting up the next storm. Shredder is now at war with Krang and the Turtles. Angel continues to clear the streets as Nobody. Eventually teaming with Aloplex. You think these two and Raph and Casey will double date? Another geek moment, Harold’s radio call sign is ‘Kirbyfan’. Slash can now talk and Hob is building his own mutant army including Mondo Gecko and Herman. A lobster with a wheelie bin shell? Only in comics.
#41-44 Attack on Technodrome. Like I said I had faith in Eastman and Waltz turning the Technodrome into something more than a toy line mode of transport. firstly they ditched the giant eye ball. Having the TD act as a device to terraform Earth into ‘New Utrominon is what makes the story and the idea of the TD work better. Talking of toy lines the Turtles and the Might Mutanimals teaming up is every kids dream. Did anyone know the spoilt kid that had every character? I had the 4 Turtles, Splinter, Shredder and for some reason Usagi. I didn’t even know he was another comic character till much later. His toy looked badass though. Be really cool if they could work him into the IDW series for an appearance. The main talking point of this story arc comes in #44 so SPOILERS if you haven’t read it yet….Bebop and Rocksteady kill Donatello! The imagery of the crow bar coming down with the KRAK is not lost on any body. Its the modern day equivalent of the Sai going through Elektra. If you didn’t well up by the time you got to the last page your not human. I liked Angel being close to the trauma shows the characters growth and addition to the extended family. I didn’t see Stockman saving Shredder coming but hopefully this is a good direction to take things.
#45-49 Who didn’t see this coming? Be honest? When Metalhead was first introduced I thought he would go sentient. But after #44 this seemed obvious. I suppose it is their way of doing Metalhead and the infamous ‘Mecha Donnie’ story line from way back when in one hit. Donnie is going to be back after #50 right? For #45 I got the amazing Eastman Casey Jones cover. Professor Miller sets April onto a group called The Pantheon. This is being told in another mini which I will pick up in trade and I hear it leads into #51. Miller is killed, stabbed through his car seat alas Elektra saving Ben Urich in his cinema seat. These issues are mainly serving as set up for the big #50. Hob makes a move, breaking Hun out of Police custody, Mousers are set to kill Splinter and there is friction between Karai and Stockman of course. And Leatherhead!
#50 Firstly as a Marvel fan and someone that has kept one eye on DC’s New52 it does feel a little weird holding a comic that has reached #50. It’s a good weird though. The quality of the book is beautiful. I don’t what the issue retailed at in the US or elsewhere in the UK, but I was more than ha[[y to lay down £5.94 to my LCS. The story delivers in every possible way. Tying up everything that came before and setting the characters off in new directions. Remember years back when Daniel Way used a whole story arc for Wolverine and Cap fighting. Well take note Daniel this is how you do an epic fight in one issue! Lots of questions coming out the other end. Why would Leatherhead help save Donnie? Who saw the romantic connection between Koya and Bludgeon? What’s going to happen with Kitsune/Aloplex? At first I didn’t want to spoil the issue that’s why I have waited for #51 to come out before posting. When Shredder took the fight to the roof the child in me cheered for one last movie homage. If the first movie had censorship trouble with Shredders death they would have struggled even more with his demise in this issue. Is Splinter and the Turtles taking over The Foot a clever story direction or even further Daredevil homages? As a romantic I’m just going to say it’s a little of both. Just a shame Mikey doesn’t share my romanticism. The young Saki and Yoshi bit towards the end was teary. The last page was possibly the most intriguing though. It appears we may be getting some answers to the re-incarnation vs science theory soon.
It has been a joy reading the first 50 issues of TMNT. Having read #51 as well it looks like there is know slowing up. Again IDW hit a home run with the artist choice. Ken Garing’s renderings of the Turtles are right up there. I hope everyone that has read the series so far has enjoyed it as much as me. Maybe this blog will attract new readers to the title. I have a friend who has the first two trades. I’m continuously on at him to keep going with it. I suppose now the best thing to do is say thank you to everyone involved on the series.
Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Dan Duncan, Ronda Pattison, Andy Kuhn, Ben Bates, Mateus Santolouco, Ross Campbell, Cory Smith, Erik Burnham, Bobby Curnow, Shawn Lee. Everyone that worked on all the tie-ins, Everyone who makes the credits page, Everyone who doesn’t make the credits page.