Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #60

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has always had a strange diversity of ideas surrounding its world that many of TMNT’s incarnations spend their entire story reconciling. That eccentricity manifests in the strange and unique mixture between ancient Japanese motifs, its hard-edged modern day New York setting and the presence of mad scientists, mutants and extra-dimensional beings. This very thing that makes TMNT so unique is also often the deciding factor that determines the amount of intrigue and style that its various writers and storytellers are able to squeeze out of the format. Different manifestations of TMNT lean on different aspects of its weird-yet-familiar world, sometimes to the detriment of others. The original 80’s cartoon squeezed a lot of its charm out of its goofy, faux-cool interpretation of New York, with much of the enjoyment coming from the interactions between NY-Affected characters like Mikey, Casey Jones, Bebop and Rocksteady. The 2000’s cartoon leaned very heavily on the prominence of mutants and shadowy ninjas. The current Nickelodeon Turtles focuses on its main cast of character’s ninja training almost to the detriment of its NY setting. The point stands, there are a lot of things that any one series of Turtles can rely on.

TMNT60_cvrACurrently, the Turtles comics seem to be relying very heavily on a pseudo-spiritualistic saga of events stretching back all the way to ancient Japan and frankly, I can’t help but be kind of bored by it.

See, while all of these elements exist to make Turtles more unique, diverse, interesting and colorful, not every element of TMNT is created equally. The characters are usually made interesting not by their design but by the creativity of their current writers, the ‘ninja’ element of the story was created as a parody in its original Eastman/Laird run of comics and is as generic now as it was then and the presence of Dimension X and Krang is only interesting because of its sharp contrast to TMNT’s down-to-Earth setting.

But to focus on this relatively new aspect of the Turtle’s franchise, a literal feud involving God-like creatures from Japanese mythology, seems to be something of a waste, as not only do the ethereal entities themselves speak somberly and coldly to each other and the cast, but the weight of their actions also seem to drag down the actions of the main cast to be as somber and deeply affected as theirs.

It is strange and unwelcome to watch characters like Michelangelo and Donatello be forced to be on their best behavior because their actions currently have such extremely dire consequences. While this may bring some greater sense of purpose to Shredder and Splinter, they’ve sacrificed a pound of character and color for an ounce of stakes-raising tension.

If you are on-board for this current story-arc of the Turtles and are interesting in continuing, then the events of the plot are moved along just fine at a brisk and inviting pace, but for those interested in the clash between the four brothers as a sort of event issue, the fight is as hollow as both any headline-grabbing issue of Detective Comics from the 50’s would be or any realistic fight between Splinter and any of his sons. These are the kinds of issues that Trade Paperbacks exist for, providing the elbow room for a larger story to thrive, rather than attempting to squeeze huge swaths of an epic into 20 pages just to justify the issue’s printing price.

In other words, it’s decent and it exists just fine in the context of what came before and what will inevitably follow, I just find myself having a hard time getting worked up over aspects of the Turtle’s lives I can get just fine from Lone Wolf and Cub. The sooner we return to the streets of New York, the better.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #60 Writers: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz Artist: Dave Wachter Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital