Green is Back: A Review of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

 

TMNT IDWThey live in the sewers, but these warriors don’t smell like it.  They’re quick, efficient, and the favorite of many a child from the '80s and onward.  True, they’ve undergone several changes since they first made their debut in 1984 by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, but the core essence of what they are remains constant.  These are turtles, changed into intelligent beings by an outside force, and when you get on their bad side, watch out.  They’ll go ninja on you!


And, who can forget the immortal and timeless war cry that escapes their reptilian lips?  Cowabunga, dudes!


SPOILERS BELOW


Summary (Covering up to Issue #8)


The first issue begins with Splinter, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo fighting another mutant, a cat named Old Hob.  At first it’s not obvious, given they’re all wearing the same color bandana, but it soon becomes apparent that Raphael is not with them, and that Old Hob is somehow responsible.  Then, flashback to 18 months before, when April is interning at a genetic research facility operated by Baxter Stockman  After some time, April begins to suspect the research operations aren’t what they claim to be, but spends her time feeding and being friendly to four test subject turtles.


Late one night two ninja warriors sneak into the facility and start looting the place; specifically, they take the mutagen and the turtles, but April manages to impede their activities slightly by smashing one with a beaker (thanks, in part, to the distracting assistance of a rat).  The two shadow warriors high-tail it out of the facility, but the helpful rat attacks one of them, causing the ninja to rip his bag open and spill the contents—namely, the mutagen and the four turtles.  The ninja is able to get away, and the turtles and rat end up crawling through the spilled mutagen...along with a cat that snatches up one of the turtles for something to snack on later.


Finding himself growing, the rat confronts the cat and claws out an eye (and it becomes obvious that the cat is Old Hob).  The cat runs off, but not before ditching the turtle where the rat can’t get him.  Sadly, the rat returns to the other turtles and begins to explain the situation, now that they seem to have all gained sentience.  Following that night, Splinter and the three turtles have been separated from Raphael...for the time being.


Back in present day, Raphael comes upon a man beating on his son.  He breaks in to stop the attack and ends up befriending the son, a young college student named Casey Jones.  Casey explains how his mother died and it broke his father apart, and that he has been pretty much taking care of everything with his college scholarship money.  Feeling worked up and wanting to bash some heads in, the two of them go out on the town, acting as vigilantes...and run into members of Old Hob’s gang.


In the meantime, Donnie and Mikey are becoming frustrated with looking for Raph, and believe that he doesn’t exist and that Splinter just imagined him.  Leo argues with them, but eventually relents when they want to go and bash some criminals around.  As luck would have it, they run into some bad guys—the gang members who are beating on Casey and Raph.  Once the bad guys have been trounced, the turtles reunite and then go to see Splinter, their family finally complete.


Splinter relates to Raphael his idea that they are reincarnated souls from a past life in feudal Japan, and that their worst enemy—the Foot Clan—are now operating in NYC (the two ninjas from the break in).  The turtles aren’t really sure until they run into two ninjas who are fighting a French Parkour martial artist (and subsequently kill him).  When he hears their story, Splinter is convinced more than ever that the Foot are in the city.


Fed up with waiting for Old Hob to get the turtles back, Stockman gives the cat control of his MOUSER robots.  Old Hob uses the mechanical implements of destruction to track down the turtles and lay waste to their sewer home, but Mikey and Raph are out scoring some pizza at the time.  Meanwhile, Krang pays Stockman a house call, fed up that he hasn’t gotten the mutagen that he was promised.  Shortly after, the radical duo returns to the sewer lair to lend a hand, but they’re unable to keep Splinter from being taken.  After mashing the MOUSERs, the quartet take off to find their sensei, but not before briefly meeting April (again) and causing her to faint from shock.


Personal Observations & Reactions


The one thing that sticks out the most with this series is the reincarnation plot that has developed, and I’m not entirely sure if I enjoy it.  It’s not that I have anything against reincarnation—I actually believe it’s possible—it’s just that I feel as though it’s too much of an explanation for their sentience and known skills.  Even if someone is reincarnated, I believe that it would take a sufficient amount of time to learn the innate skills attuned in order to prevail in such a hostile world as NYC—not to mention the rest of the country and planet.


Another thing that grabs my attention is the departure this title takes in regards to how the Turtles came to be.  In other incarnations of TMNT, the Turtles were mutated at a young age and grew up—hence the name Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—but here we’re expected to believe that they’re able to tap into their knowledge from the past while having only had the cognitive functions of higher beings for less than two years.  Well, I’m not buying it; I think it is asking the reader to have a suspension of disbelief that is too great to overcome the result of the storytelling.  And, what about the character of Old Hob?  He’s not a reincarnated soul like the others, so how is he able to speak coherently within mere hours of being exposed to the mutagen and seems to work in a clever, if not intelligent, fashion?


Aside from those obvious holes, I do like this version of Casey Jones and April O’Neil better than the previous movie and television versions.  Casey’s not just a knuckle-buster looking for a good time, and April’s neither a scientist nor a reporter; they’re both college students trying to get by in the world of academia who happen to have a shared background that they don’t know about.  That’s nothing out of the ordinary (even though just what the background is about is).  They seem a bit more real to me than the other incarnations, especially given Casey’s family situation.  Will the two enter into a tenuous romantic relationship as have their previous versions?  It certainly seems as though it’s progressing toward that.


Final Thoughts


I never had the chance to read any of the older TMNT comic titles, and, thus, can’t give my opinion in regards to how this line compares to them.  But, from what I’ve seen thus far, IDW’s version of the Turtles is most likely drastically different from the Laird/Eastman original creation.  Being as large a fan as I am, though—and there are times when that has come back to bite me in the rear (Curse you, Venus de Milo, for being present in my memories!)—I am glad that IDW is already creating more TMNT comic lines, such as the micro-series for Donatello, but I want to see even more.  I look forward to possibly seeing a side series about Casey Jones or perhaps the personal life of April with how she deals with college life.  While I’m sure TMNT won’t ever be as large as the X-Men or Spider-Man, I do hope that the creative team has the desire to expand on the potential set forth before them.

 

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 27 December 2018 17:38

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