Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1-4

As sad as it is to admit, my memories of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are not as strong as I would like them to be.  I couldn’t even tell you which one I “was” based on personality comparison (I mostly wanted to be Leonardo because he wore blue, had swords, and his name also started with an L).  So thank goodness IDW decided to bring them back into my life through comics, because for what little I can remember I sure do remember loving these heroes in a half shell.

Issues 1-4 form the first story arc of the new series, sticking with a slowly unveiling backstory/origin that plays out in each issue in addition to the present day story happenings.  About 18 months prior the turtles and Splinter were just normal sized animals, not yet mutated into the crime fighting team of today.  For the most part the turtles just sleep in their tank, so Splinter must carry the story here for the animals while we also get introduced to April.  She’s the new low man on the totem pole at a facility that just so happens to be working on super soldier and intelligence type stuff.  See where this is going?

But don’t just pass on this backstory to get to the “good stuff,” which I honestly consider this section of the books to be as opposed to the modern day storyline that involves the search for Raphael, who is suffering from amnesia post his major growth spurt.  Pre mutation, Splinter’s character is given a lot of heart thanks to the art of Dan Duncan (which is beautifully colored by Ronda Pattison), animating a rat in such a way that manages to develop his personality past the simple mentor role, something that he sticks more to once he is finally able to talk.  It’s ok to show your emotion more Splinter!  It doesn’t always need to be lesson, lesson, lesson!

Speaking of Duncan’s work, occasionally I laugh at how he chooses to draw Splinter’s face because he sometimes looks like he is a juxtaposition of rat and Yorkshire Terrier or something, but for the most part I am really pleased that he was chosen for this project.  His use of line speaks a lot to each scene, especially when he becomes more aggressive with his strokes in the action sequences.  Not only that, but he does seem to have a strong handling of the turtles themselves, which is obviously key.

The one aspect of this first arc that I can’t get past is the actual treatment of these “monstrous” creatures.  I know that if I came across a giant turtle I would sure freak out, yet Casey seems to not even see the green of Raphael’s skin, let alone the fact that he’s a turtle.  I guess that’s all well and good considering they have a connection in past stories, but other than one old lady running away on the streets the level of realism I was hoping to accompany a story like this just isn’t there right now.

Then again Casey does point this out later with Hob, a cat who also became humanoid when the turtles did: “Okay, meeting you was crazy enough, man, but a giant, walking, talkin’ cat? C’mon!”  Yeah c’mon!  Other mutated creatures are nothing new to this mythology, but it did seem a little weird that whereas the turtles were in hiding and keeping to themselves mostly (minus Raphael), Hob somehow managed to build himself a gang of people and build his own sense of fashion.  Are there just a bunch of “WTF!?” scenes happening behind the panels we do get to see?  I want to see more of those!

Though I had a few problems with this start to the turtles, they were only minor qualms that in no way affect my relief that this new incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is easily going to become a must read for fans new and old.  Now we just need to give the turtles their own colors (and flesh out their separate personalities even further than the minor amounts done so far), see how April gets reintroduced to the Turtles now that they’ve grown up a bit, and bring on Shredder!  Seeing the Foot was cool, but I cannot wait for the big man!

Final Grade: B+

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