Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
Story: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Layouts: Kevin Eastman
Art: Dan Duncan
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Three months have passed and the moment of truth has finally arrived. The verdict? IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, which debuts today, has far exceeded all expectations. The recipe to its success is best stated by associate editor of the book, Bobby Cunrow, in his afterword:
“This book is a true collaboration, and seeing all the pieces come together is a real pleasure. “
True to how the Turtles operate, this reboot of the 1980s’ most successful franchise is a team effort, and it shows. Original Turtles co-creator, Kevin Eastman, brings to the table a sense of history, while new writer Tom Waltz and artist Dan Duncan provide an adult dosage of “fresh” any TMNT fan can appreciate. For newbies, this issue delivers everything you need to give the Turtles a go, and for the TMNT faithful who have been anxiously enduring the regime change, this book has throwbacks and old-school references galore.
Like any comic worth reading, it begins with a battle. It’s the right way to introduce everyone, as right off the bat Waltz shows us through his storytelling that the Turtles aren’t a foursome… for now. Leo, Mikey, Don and Splinter take on a new villain called Hob, a mutant cat, who’s a much more intelligent substitute for Rocksteady and Bebop. Although, I’m hoping they make an appearance at some point. Shredder too. As the Turtles bash some skulls, with a narration by Splinter overlapping the whole scene, we learn that they have a “no kill clause,” but that doesn’t stop them from beating the hell out of the bad guys.
After the brawl, the story cuts to Raph, wandering solo for reasons unknown, and you can’t help but feel like he’s going to be the star of this series. Which is how it should be. The scene reminds me of the first movie where Raph is out on the town by himself, donning a trench coat. There’s a hilarious throwback moment to the cartoon show, as Raph is rummaging through a dumpster for some grub and finds a t-shirt that says “cowabunga.” His response? “Oh, now that’s just wrong.” And just like that, the tone for this series is set.
I’m happy to report that April O’Neil is back in her original occupation- a scientist’s aide for Stockgen Research. This was a great choice as it gives her character much more depth and creative places to go later on. I’d place her age at around 18-20, and Waltz really gets into the technical jargon with her, showing she knows her stuff. Through April, we get a new take on the TMNT origin story, as it’s she whom gives the Turtles their names, not Splinter. She clearly likes Raph the best. In the 1984 series, April assisted Baxter Stockman, the mad scientist who later becomes a villainous mutant fly. In the cartoon, Stockman was a snivelling chump of Shredder’s, possessing character traits he didn’t have in the comics. Also, for some unknown reason, when his character made the switch into the cartoon, the editors decided to change his race as well. Baxter was originally a black dude, and it’s worth noting that this new creative team stays true to his original appearance.
The off panel scenes with General Krang were a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting him to show up, and technically he doesn’t as we never see his face. He’s like a cross between Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Cobra Commander. Here, General Krang is the military advisor overseeing Stockman’s research to create the first super soldier, which is naturally being tested on animals. If his scenes were to be read in Krang’s cartoon show voice, it would most definitely NOT work, which is a good thing.
The Turtles in this issue are certainly the stars of their own show. The creators tease us by keeping Raph separate from the group, but it will make the moment when all four [eventually] fight together something special. When reading this issue, I was hearing the voices from the cartoon show, and while that may be a curse for some of the other characters in the TMNT mythos, it isn’t for the main four. Actually, it’s almost like Waltz took the cartoon TMNT and everything that made the show unique and translated that into Mikey’s character, but less extreme. While the Turtles crack jokes and give off the personality traits we’re familiar with them having (Mikey’s the jokester, Raph’s the angry one, etc.), it’s much more subdued here and less crazy, which I like.
At first I was iffy about Duncan’s interpretation of the Turtles. I thought his style was cool, but the fact that they all had the same expression in the preview worried me. Well, it turns out his execution far exceeds anything I could have hoped for. His style has the same gritty presence Eastman and Peter Laird’s original run had, and I love the choice to give all the Turtles red bandannas. You can tell them apart by the color of their skin, which is different shades of green. At first, it’s not easy, but colorist Ronda Pattison does her job, and if you slow down and don’t blow through the book, your eye picks out the differences pretty quickly. Imagine if it were in black and white!
Other character show up in this issue too, like a new take on Casey Jones, and a woman in April’s lab who may as well be called Irma instead of Lindsey. It will be fun to see who else shows up throughout this series. If Ninjara from the old Archie run, or Cudley the Cowlick make an appearance, I will geekgasm.
Collectors take note that there are a number of variant covers to check out with this #1, including one by Kevin Eastman. I also recommend buying the exclusive Jetpack Comics variant cover by TMNT co-creator Peter Laird, which is available through their online store. I already purchased mine. An effort was made to track down the other store variants listed in the front cover of this issue, but unfortunately google searches turned up empty.
Overall, Tom Waltz, Dan Duncan and Kevin Eastman did an excellent job with this debut issue. It’s an electric introduction to the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for old school fans and newbies alike. To make a geeky analogy, this issue felt like the 2009 Star Trek movie- an honorable reboot that’s respectful of the source material and enjoyable in execution. If you call yourself a Turtles fan, support this book!
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