Review by: Ed Allen As a kid I used to be hooked on the saturday morning cartoon version of TMNT (to the point where I even owned a merchandise skateboard and an extensive collection of their action figures) so I’ve been curious to check out IDW’s all new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles after hearing it has been generally well received by fans. One of TMNT’s original creators, writer Kevin Eastman, is on board with the project - which has surely helped the series remained true to its roots.
For those who aren’t aware, TMNT started out as a far cry from the child-friendly animated series that lifted the franchise to superstardom. Originally a parody and homage of the popular early 1980s comics by Frank Miller and David Sim, the action packed series fused no-holds-barred violence with humor and its own distinct code of honor - rapidly becoming a sensation in its own right amongst comic fans. Since IDW acquired the license to publish TMNT stories in 2011 they’ve been reprinting Eastman and Peter Laird’s classic series with the addition of colors and produced their own new series.
I was glad to see a brief recap paragraph on the credits page at the start of this issue, making it relatively easy for me to jump in on the opening scene - where Splinter is poised to cut a man’s throat - without exclaiming “WTF?”. The issue moves at a fast pace and manages to pack a lot into its 22 story pages but for the most part it’s dedicated to character development and sowing the seeds for future issues. The story takes a little bit of time to explore the origins of Splinter and the turtles’ deadly inter-dimensional nemesis Krang before moving swiftly on to a brief battle, relationship building scenes for the TMNT ‘family’ and the establishment of Shredder’s next villainous plot and the Turtle’s plan to confront him. I thought Tom Waltz’s dialogue was effective and handled the exposition of past plot points with subtlety, while the script as a whole should be commended for avoiding unnecessary decompression.
At first I didn't really enjoy the style of Andy Kuhn’s art but I found that as the issue progressed it definitely grew on me. A raw, angular dynamism is its main virtue and it seems far more suited to creating intense action sequences or displaying obvious emotions than nuanced moments of drama. Without resorting to imitation, the combination of Kuhn’s inks, Eastman’s guidance on the page layouts and Ronda Pattison’s bold coloring captures the essence of the original 80’s artwork. However Kuhn’s scratchy inks don't make for the most detailed of pages, often leaving the backgrounds as empty blocks for Pattinson to fill in, and I can imagine that this near-minimalist style might irritate fans of the high-detail artwork we often see in cape comics.
Personally I’d like to see a little more action in the issues to come but there’s enough quality in this installment to make me want to persist with the series. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #14 has got more heart, a stronger sense of morality and is generally more likeable than almost all of the superhero comics I’ve read recently - so I’d happily recommend it to anyone who might be looking for something outside of the usual ‘capes ‘n’ tights’ genre or is feeling nostalgic for this cult comics franchise.
Writer: Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman Artist: Andy Kuhn Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/26/12