‘Tales of the TMNT Omnibus Volume 1:’ Trade Paperback Review

My childhood was steeped in '80s culture. Certain franchises were ingrained in my daily life: Transformers, Ghostbusters, and, of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So, imagine my excitement at getting my hands on the Tales of TMNT Omnibus.

Tales of the TMNT Omnibus is a collection of the first seven issues of the original Tales of the TMNT (published in 1987) and the first eight issues of the relaunched Tales of the TMNT: Volume 2 from 2004. Each issue is a standalone story, telling a little vignette in the Turtles' adventures. If you've (miraculously) never heard of the TMNT, they are four teenage brothers who stop crime using their ninjutsu training. These four brothers just happen to also be mutant turtles trained by a giant rat living in the sewers of New York. If that sounds crazy, it's supposed to.

For those more familiar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the TV series or the movies, the original comic book versions of these characters are a little different. One of the first major differences is that all of the Turtles wear red headbands, not the blue, purple, orange, and red from the shows. This, admittedly, does make it hard to know which Turtle is talking when they don't have their signature weapons. Additionally, the comics had a much darker, more edgy tone to them. People die and get injured in these comics fairly regularly.

The art style varies from issue to issue, but, in general, the first seven issues are very '80s stylistically. There is a lot of heavy black shading and exaggerated designs; men all have muscles upon muscles, and women are always curvy. The style isn't my favorite; I prefer when things got a little sleeker in the '90s and 2000s, but, luckily, the Turtles themselves, along with the enemies they encounter, look pretty great with a few exceptions. The later issues stay true to their '80s counterparts but with a more stylized, cartoony look to them.

The stories, on the other hand, hold up really well. The dialogue has certainly aged with lots of outdated slang and clunky exchanges, but the actual structure of each issue is fun and inventive. Each issue basically shows the Turtles going up against a standard villain of the week, but the villains have creative motives and the Turtles often have to create new tactics by which to beat their opponent.

I also enjoyed how the issues avoid using major villains like Shredder and Krang. Instead, they tend to introduce new characters with unique abilities for the Turtles to fight. Ratking and Leatherhead, along with several others, have their first appearances in these issues.

I did find the issues from the first volume more engaging than the latter. The volume 2 issues were still good but strayed into more surreal and esoteric storytelling that is going to be hit or miss for some readers.

Special mention needs to be made of the issue, “Blind Faith.” The issue revolves around Leonardo dueling a ninja who uses a special drug to blind him. The issue is entirely in black-and-white silhouettes and was beautiful. It was easily the highlight of the whole book.

Overall, Tales of the TMNT Omnibus is a solid collection of stories about one of the most iconic teams in comic book history. The writing and artwork have started to show their age a bit, but the stories remain high energy, creative, and full of ideas. I recommend the book if you’re a TMNT fan or if you’ve ever been curious about the franchise and have been looking for a good place to start.


Creative Team:  Kevin Eastman (Writer), Peter Laird (Writer), Steve Murphy (Writer), Rick Remender (Writer), Dean Clarrain (Writer), Dan Berger (Writer), Jim Lawson (Artist), Ryan Brown (Artist), Dario Brizuela (Artist) Steve Lavigne (Letterer), Eric Talbot (Letterer), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
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