Last week I wrote up a piece about my road to reading the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series published by IDW. The waiting is over and I am a few volumes into it now. Off the bat I will tell you, worth the wait.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are rocking a fresh new series kicked off in 2011. 15 collected volumes have been released with a number of micro series spin offs. Original creator Kevin Eastman leads a team of talented writers and artists, producing this new look, reimagined, Ninja Turtles. The style and plots are approachable and modern, bringing answers to old loopholes, while staying consistently true to form of the original comic run. Rebuilding from the ground up, IDW’s TMNT reworks everything down to origins and characters, however not once did I feel like these were not the Turtles I grew up with.
How many great things can I say about Kevin Eastman? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an inspirational story to all would-be artists, writers and creators; an underdog story with unlikely circumstances. Mr. Eastman as well collaborator Peter Laird built a team of unconventional mutant heroes. Designed a sketchy oversized comic, self published a print of 3275 original copies with a thousand dollar loan. Breaking into a comic scene at one of the most difficult eras of breaking in, that one issue blew up into a franchise of comics, cartoons, toys, television series’, and blockbuster movies.
I have talked before about literature, comics included, transitioning over the last couple decades into a new age of story telling. As I prepared myself for a new TMNT series one question plagued at me: does Kevin Eastman have what it takes in the modern age? I loved the original Turtles books, but I and comic books have grown. Many of the tools, tropes, and plots of the eighties no longer carry the same weight. Eastman and company have succeeded in blending old outrageous ideas with modern plotting and storylines. In fact the books were much more entertaining than I was expecting or hoping for. Modern comic realism seemed like a hard stretch for the Turtles and the rest of the inhuman cast, yet it was achieved through strong story and fresh character development.
Lets be honest with ourselves, the origins of the mutants has been sketchy at best. Working fine for the comical nineties cartoon, mysterious ooze in the sewer just does not cut it anymore. This modern series handles such difficulties with customary style, combining everything we know about this world from multiple medias into a refreshing story. Reintroducing us to beloved heroes and villains in a fresh, exciting way.
As far as staying true to characters, the new series kills it. Specifically, Splinter, who is amazing. Typically under utilized in TMNT storylines, Splinter takes centre stage in the start of these books, being a brilliant Sensei, ninja and rat. The first few volumes are packed with glimpses of Splinters amazing fighting capabilities, while keeping him the lovable father figure that we all expect. The new approach at characters such as April and Casey Jones added much more to the story than ever before, adding measure to the small community of heroes.
As far as the Turtles go, keeping their unique characteristics is handled tactfully, while adding dynamics that add real depth to the individuals. Giving Leonardo more challenges as leader, his character holds strong and true. Raphael’s renegade attitude is given purpose and reason. Donatello comes alive with a louder voice, mixed with his intelligence, he is able to advocate for himself. Mickey, well Mickey is Mickey and will always be the heart, but now he has a realistic approach with his brothers bickerings. I actually connected with Michelangelo in a new way, recognizing his difficulties as the youngest brother.
Rebuilding this world from the ground up must have been an exciting project, that excitement shines through the pages. Reforming all the individual elements into a great new vision. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a character story, an ensemble piece, and the new team of creators have stayed true, while adding much more to that idea. 5/5 for being everything I needed in a modern Ninja Turtles comic. Without my life long love affair with the mean green fighting machines these books are still a strong 4/5. I highly recommend these books to any Turtle lovers out there, the new series goes above expectations while keeping everything that attracted you in the first place.
Thanks booknerds, in the words of the great Vanilla Ice, ‘go ninja, go ninja, go’.