Every comic book company with more than a dozen titles in print likely celebrates at least one rebooted franchise in their catalogue, with varying degrees of success. The comic book reboot occurs so frequently that it is lauded at nearly every turn by readers and rightfully so. Though the quantity of rehashed titles elevates each year, the quality of these titles stagnate or drop off on most occasions. In short, most reboots suck, usually because it is an overtly transparent attempt to boost sales rather than an impetus of genuine creative inspiration. IDW Publishing’s success with licensed properties varies from year to year with notable efforts in their recent GI Joe: Cobra Civil War storyline that modernized the comic while infusing it with topical political themes.
Another property clearly in the “win” column for IDW is their relaunch of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though the TMNT entity is owned by Nickelodeon (parent company: Viacom), the editorial team at IDW knew the TMNT comic book could be a hit if they could penetrate the hearts and minds of the vast and loyal Turtle fan base. Hiring original co-creator of the TMNT characters and story, Kevin Eastman, nearly 30 years after creating it, to co-write the series with Tom Waltz was probably the second smartest move IDW could make. The first of which was hiring Dan Duncan to draw and Ronda Pattison to color as they’ve absolutely murdered it on art for the past seven issues.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, issue seven, begins with the Turtle clan finally assembled. Previously the prodigal son Raphael was living on the streets with a young Casey Jones. Now reunited with Leo, Don, Mikey and Master Splinter the guys face off against Professor Baxter Stockman (bank rolled by General Krang) who looks to re-capture them by any means necessary – even if that means using Old Hob and a horde of M.O.U.S.E.R.S to do so. Meanwhile, above ground, Casey Jones and April O’Neil get to know each other a little better as Jones teaches O’Neil self-defense in exchange for tutoring.
Written by series co-creator Kevin Eastman and senior IDW staff writer Tom Waltz, this issue highlights what the creative team is doing right. While downplaying the hyper-violence of the original incarnation, they focus on the emotional relevance to the action the boys do see. In a previous issue they saw a parkour expert murdered by members of the Foot, causing some dissent with in the Turtles’ ranks. Some were ashamed they didn’t step in and help while others unquestioning followed Splinters orders of non-interference. By focusing how the violence in their lives affects the turtles, Eastman and Waltz add a sense of a maturity to a franchise better known for more juvenile sensibilities. That trend continues with this issue as the turtles are overwhelmed by a marauding horde of MOUSERS, controlled by Old Hob. As the attack plays out, more weight is put on Leo’s trepidation that they’ll make out alive. Another small, but important aspect of this issue is something never really addressed in the other TMNT mediums: how the turtles were able to find so much pizza. In this issue the source of their sustenance is revealed and it is about as unromantic as you could possibly imagine. By showing the reader that the heroes of our story are basically dumpster-divers/charity cases it grounds the fantastical story in the gritty reality of scrapping to eat. Eastman and Waltz’s TMNT adds maturity and a dark reality to the traditionally campy, comedic action we’ve been treated to since the early 1990’s, helping capture a new audience for TMNT while still maintaining the integrity of the franchise to satiate longtime TMNT fans.
The artistic team of Dan Duncan and Ronda Pattison consistently deliver page after page of perfectly balanced TMNT goodness. Duncan’s done a tremendous job of anthropomorphizing these mutated amphibians, painting the subtlest of emotions on the turtles faces (he also pretty good with humans too). Two big stand out elements this month from Duncan: First is the debut of a new character: KRANG. Duncan’s interpretation of Krang draws inspiration from previous incarnations, but adds a sinister bent to the character design that makes him much more intimidating. Second is the “revenge of Hob” panel. Old Hob peeks out from the shadows as he watches the turtles fight off the MOUSERS. We see a close up on his face as the murky shadows envelope him from either side in a great example of a comic utilizing a mature artistic style to convey horror and fear without utilizing the crutch of gore and bloody violence. Pattison’s contribution to the art shouldn’t go unnoticed as her detailed color work makes Duncan’s drawings pop. When dealing with coloring, the finer details like the shade of each turtles skin or how the time of day affects the color palette are paramount to an enjoyable reading experience.
TMNT #7 continues to be a freakin’ awesome reading experience for turtle fans both old and new, so check out the preview pages, pick it up at your local comic shop and enjoy one of the better rebooted franchises of recent memory.
As always you can follow me on Twitter @dethfilm or find me on our message boards (I’m Numero99 there). Thanks for reading and tell your friends all about the Freakin’ Awesome Network by using those handy little social media thingamabobs down there. Help us spread the word about things that are Freakin’ Awesome!