TMNT: The IDW Collection Vol. 1 Review – Turtle Power?
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Bobby Curnow, Brian Lynch and Erik Burnham
Art by: Dan Duncan, Kevin Eastman, Mateus Santolouco, Franco Urru, Andy Kuhn, Valerio Schiti, Sophie Campbell and Charles Paul Wilson III
Colors by: Ronda Pattison, Fabio Mantouani, Bill Crabtree, Claudia Scarletgothica, Ilaria Traversi and Jay Fotos.
Published by: IDW Publishing
I was never into TMNT when I was a kid. I think I had one VHS for the 2003 show and I caught a couple of episodes here and there on TV, but that’s about it.
I feel like it’s necessary to explain that because, while I’m aware of TMNT, I’m not going into this comic with any kind of nostalgia or love, which is a bit weird considering this type of thing is usually made to appeal to people who are already fans of the property. So, the question is: Is this comic good, even if you’re not a fan of TMNT? Well, first, the plot.
At this point, you should be aware of the basic premise: Four mutated teenage turtles named after Renaissance Painters (Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael) are trained in the art of ninjutsu by an equally mutated rat to fight ninjas. Tale as old as time. Now, what’s interesting about the comic is that it tweaks a lot of things in this formula. For one we start out with only three turtles because, for some reason, Raphael is separated from the group. April O’Neill has more of a connection to the turtles than is usually expected, Casey Jones is a teenager and Splinter might know more about what’s happening than he’s letting on…
That plot summary might seem both long and vague, but there’s a reason for that. It’s long because this isn’t just a 6 issue trade paperback; it’s a collected volume that covers 12 issues and 5 one-shots, and it’s vague because the book adds a lot of neat and new details to the formula.
Just as an example, when you start the book, you’ll notice that all the turtles are wearing red and if you’re familiar with the original comics, you might remember that’s how they were originally drawn. If you do remember that you can say “Oh, that’s a reference I know”, but there’s also a valid in-story reason for them to be like that. It might seem small, but in less capable hands I can imagine them not even bothering to do that or to add some stupid reason why they’re all wearing red.
Beyond that, the story just has a really good pace. Like I said, it’s something you’ve heard before, but it moves along really well and in a way that feels comfortable, but not slow. It doesn’t make you go “Yeah, I know the story, let’s get this moving” but it also doesn’t make you think “Woah, slow down there, I don’t even know this new version”. I think this comes down to the dashes of new elements that keep being added, like Old Hob, this one-eyed cat mutant that hates Splinter, or the initial separation of the team. It keeps you intrigued, so you want to see where this is going, but then the structure of the TMNT origin can be built around that. It’s a very good way to reboot a property.
The One Shots are also a good way to break things up, since they focus exclusively on one turtle and are drawn by different artists so they have a deliberately different feel, but still tie into the story and aren’t just there to fill space.
In terms of complaints, my biggest one is just how they turned Casey Jones into a teenager. My understanding of the character was that he was a 30 or so year old who was angry at the world and decided to solve the problem himself by punching it in the face. They are doing interesting things with teenage Casey particularly his relationship with his dad and Raphael, by my selfish side wants cool, older Casey anyway.
If it seems like I’m being a bit vague, it’s just because I want you to experience this new revamp of the origin by yourself. It has a lot of interesting details that keep it different and it’s basically well told and entertaining. Couldn’t ask for much more.
The art is pretty strong, with a few sticking points. Initially it’s with layouts by Kevin Eastman and art by Dan Duncan, before Duncan takes over as full artist, but there’s not much difference apart from looking slightly looser later on (this may just be my imagination).
It’s gruff, with ink splotches thrown in to give it just a bit of a dirtier look, and a bit sketchy but overall works well with the expressions of the main characters and the action scenes.
I especially love some of the more detailed expressions where they really went for a darker, more accentuated look.
The problems basically boil down to the occasional weird human expression or some wonky perspective.
Also, I’m still not sure how I feel about dark eyed Splinter. Every time I notice it, it feels weird.
The art for the one shots, while different in each one, is fine and fits well enough. It’s only one issue anyway, so it won’t cause too much trouble if you don’t like it.
I initially asked if this comic worked for someone who didn’t have any nostalgia and the answer was resounding yes. This book is fun and does just enough different to stand out while also being true to what I, as a casual onlooker, understood about the property. Plus, it’s got cool artwork and some neat character development (that I didn’t really mention because I didn’t want to spoil it). What’s not to like? This book gets a recommendation from me, go on and read it.
Title: TMNT: The IDW Collection Vol. 1 Review
Summanry: I initially asked if this comic worked for someone who didn’t have any nostalgia and the answer was resounding yes. This book is fun and does just enough different to stand out while also being true to what I, as a casual onlooker, understood about the property. Plus, it’s got cool artwork and some neat character development (that I didn’t really mention because I didn’t want to spoil it). What’s not to like? This book gets a recommendation from me, go on and read it.