Monday, November 19, 2012

Some brief thoughts on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 2: Enemies Old, Enemies New

If I've one complaint about IDW's licensed comics, it's how quickly the publisher expands their lines of them, and how easy it is for me to get confused by the multiple titles and multiple versions of the characters, and the ways in which they are collected. I'd really like to read some of their repackaging of old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics, for example, but, as near as I can tell, there are at least three different series of it, plus their collections of their monthly TMNT book by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Dan Duncan.

This is the second collection of that series...sorta. Mid-way through, there's a reference to an event in the Raphael one-shot (which I happened to read already, but only because I was reviewing it for one of my writing gigs online). There's an ad in the back of this trade for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Micro-Series Vol. 1, which apparently contains stories that are meant to slot in-between TMNT Vol. 1 and TMNT Vol. 2...?

Reading comics is sometimes a lot harder than it needs to be.


Anyway, this collects TMNT #5-#8, and picks up where the first volume left off, not counting the at least four, as many as seven one-shots. Co-creator Kevin Eastman's contributions seem to have been dialed back a bit, as he's no longer credited with providing breakdowns for artist Duncan, and just shares a "story by" credit with Waltz. He also provides some of the many, many covers on these books.


There are a lot of covers. The cover gallery in the back has eleven images, and, again, there are only four in here. The best are, of course, the Eastman ones, as those are always going to look like the "real" Turtles.

This is my favorite of his included here—
—although there are a few more that seem like more typical Ninja Turtles images, including one of his Turtles and Splinter fighting Mousers and another of the Turtles crouched on a rooftop as Foot Clan ninjas pursue a new character.

I really love Eastman's extra-inky, ragged line and how drawn his images look (and jeez, look at that city skyline! I love how lived-in Eastman's New York always looks). I've noted before what an impact Eastman's early work had on me, and I can't stress enough what a pleasure it is to see it coming into comic shops again at a pretty regular clip, even if it's quite limited compared to what, say, Duncan is providing.


You know who else does a great Turtles cover? Simon Gane. Check this out:

I was surprised not to see Ross Campbell's image of the Turtles fighting a swarm of Mousers in here, as I've seen that image on the Internet (it's currently my desktop image, come to think of it!), and it seems like it would have been used on one of the issues collected in here, as that is the exact event being depicted.

This is the image, by the way:
I believe this is where Campbell first posted it, so go there for a bigger, better version.


The biggest unanswered question I had about Splinter and the Turtles' origin as presented in the original volume—how they all learned martial arts, if Splinter didn't learn them from his human master Hamato Yoshi, and the turtles are only 18 months old—is answered here, and it's kind of a doozy.

(Oh, um, "spoiler warning," if you're planning on reading these in trade and are even more far behind than I am).

Apparently, like in the old cartoon series, Splinter actually is Yoshi, but rather than mutating from human to rat, he is the rat reincarnation of the human Yoshi, who was killed by his rival Oroku Saki way back during feudal Japan. He had four sons, all of whom were also killed by Saki, and they were reincarnated into the turtles. Then they all happened to get mutated.
It's...pretty different. And, I don't know, it might have been used in other Turtle narratives from other media before.

I don't really care for the development, as it adds a mystical layer to the characters and conceit that I'm not sure they bear all that well, and makes the story one quite heavily indebted to cosmic coincidence and melodramatic destiny, but as with the other changes in their origin story, this is more of a "That's not the way I would have done it" form of displeasure, and, again, I appreciate the radical nature of the rebooting going on. It's not like there aren't all these other versions of the Turtles characters out there already.

(The above image, featuring the Yoshi and his sons in their human lives from feudal Japan, is drawn by Mateus Santolouco, who drew the past sequences in TMNT #5.)


As I mentioned in passing, there are Mousers in this comic. They are again the invention of Baxter Stockman, although these ones weren't designed to rid the New York City sewer system of rats; instead they are Minefield Ordnance Unarming System Enhanced Robots, which is kinda stupid (Isn't the word "Disarming," Stockman....?), and doesn't really explain why they have big, bear-trap like jaws (Are they for digging up the mines and thus setting 'em off, isntead of "unarming" them...?).
I like what Duncan did with them though. Rather than mass-producing a single, bipedal version, Stockman apparently made a bunch of different varieties, to the extent that no two of them look alike. They have different numbers of limbs and come in different sizes and with different proportions.

Some of 'em made me laugh just to look at.
I like this little fat one, for example.


The Turtles get their differently-colored masks from the cartoons here—it's explained that they were all wearing red while they were searching for Raphael in the first volume because that was his favorite color—and there are several other unexpected nods to the original cartoon version of the Turtles story.

In addition to General Krang, who made a very brief appearance in the first volume, we meet two subordinates of his who appeared briefly in the original cartoon series and were particularly difficult mini-bosses in the arcade video game. And there's mention of "The planet Neutrino" and "The Neutrino Resistance Fighters."

While I'm sure that, should they eventually appear, The Neutrinos will be very different from the annoying, 1950s slang-dropping characters that appeared in "Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X", the prospect still doesn't exactly excite me.


(The Neutrinos, if you never saw that show, are basically greaser space-elves with confounding hair-styles and high-pitched voices who drive hover-cars, which allowed the company that made the Turtle toys to make a flying convertible toy. The girl Neutrino was apparently voiced by whoever voiced Babs Bunny in Tiny Toons, and she has the exact same voice, which is almost as disconcerting as Donatello having the exact same voice as the Nesquik spokesbunny).


As the series continues, it seems clear that Eastman and Waltz are rebuilding a new version of the franchise, using equal parts of inspiration from the original Mirage comics and the original cartoon series, which makes for an awkward mix, but is perhaps understandable, given their audience, which I imagine consists of mostly grown-up fans who grew up on one of those two versions or, like me, both.

Rather than an episodic narrative, they're clearly going for something big and fact, I had a hard time distinguishing the starts and stops of the distinct issues in this collection, as the story seemed to simply keep going from chapter to chapter.


I guess I'm still in for Vol. 3. I hope it includes a checklist of trades though, and a nice short, clear explanation of what, say, the Ultimate Collection and Classics and Adventures lines contain, exactly. (I can't find listings for any Turtles collections on IDW's online catalog, which is...frustrating). I just spent another 15 minutes or so trying to determine it by looking at, Wikipedia, and Amazon and I'm still not 100% on what's what, and if or what I want to buy from IDW regarding their reprints.


1 comment:

Anthony Strand said...

That's the great Tress MacNeille as Babs.