So in addition to the plethora of original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics that IDW has been producing ever since it obtained the TMNT license, they have also been gleefully reprinting just about any old Turtle comic they can to make them available to fans who’ve wanted them over the years. And by all accounts they’re doing pretty good with it, which makes you wonder why somebody didn’t do it years ago… but whatever. They’ve also been printing these in multiple forms. The short-lived Dreamwave series is now available in its entirety for the IDW app for iPhone and Android, the Mirage book have been reprinted in trade form as well as in single-issue form as Colour Classics, and we finally have reprints of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, which is significant to fans for two reasons: a) some of these issues have never been reprinted, and b) we have been denied a proper “ending” to this series twice now (once by Archie due to squeamishness and once by Mirage as the rights to TMNT were sold just before the title was supposed to go to print). So perhaps there’s hope that, if these titles sell well, we’ll finally get the long-awaited end in “The Forever War.” IDW has done similar before, continuing the GI Joe Marvel continuity for fans. Anything’s possible.
But on to this review, this volume, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Heroes on a Half Shell, reprints the first three-issue miniseries published by Archie that largely just retells the first season / miniseries of the Fred Wolf TV show.
Where as normally I start these reviews by admitting how little I know of the property (GI Joe, Transformers, Doctor Who, My Little Pony). Here I must profess to know a lot about Turtles. I own nearly every Turtles comic ever published, ever. The first comic I never owned was an issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures. It is a series that’s very near and dear to my heart.
Keep that in mind as I rip this apart. Though I may take issue with it, I am a fan.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures was a comic book series published from August 1988 to October 1995 by Archie Comics. It was set in an alternate reality to both the original comics and the 1980′s TV show. The series is notable in quickly doing away the villains Shredder and Krang because of their overuse on the show and spinning off in its own direction, often featuring the Turtles leaving New York City and their regular supporting characters. It is also notable for having, within its established continuity, a team-up with Archie (meaning that the reality in which these Turtles exist is technically the Archie Universe… go figure). The series lasted for 72 issues; in addition, there were numerous annuals, specials and mini series. Prior to this no trade paperbacks of the runs have ever been collected and published, other than the versions by Random House and Tundra Publishing, but published by Archie, that collected various issues and stories, and were sold with a tape dramatizing the action. Archie did reprint the comics in a digest format series titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Digest, which they published quarterly from 1993-1994. These collected issues #5-#25.
Anyway, on to the trade itself. As stated above, the original issues were adaptations of the original episodes of the TV series, so creativity is a little lacking here. But lets give it a fair chance, and (since I’m a completionist) we’ll do it in preparation for the future awesome original stories.
The issue follows the same format of the original TV series, which most people reading this review will have seen a dozen or more times, so I’m not going to do a shot-for-shot review of these issues. It starts with April O’Neil covering a recent crime wave, being attacked by (the human) Rocksteady and his gang and being chased into the sewers, where she is saved by the Turtles. We all know this story. It’s translated pretty exactly, except with not-great art and the same weird issues that the series had, such as: how does the Shredder have video cameras everywhere? Seriously, look back. How are they everywhere?
Side-note: page six has a shot of the Turtles’s lair with a model of the star-ship Enterprise hanging in the corner. My opinion of the art for this issue just went up a notch.
The issue continues as you’d expect, with the Turtles and April discovering the Shredder’s lair and it getting flooded, just like the end of the first episode.
The second chapter quickly follows the plot of the second episode of the series, introducing Krang and mutating Beebop and Rocksteady into their Warthog and Rhino forms, as they would remain for the remainder of the series. Splinter is captured by Shredder and the Turtles follow the trail and discover the Technodrome, only to be attacked by killer robots.
At this point I need to mention the art and dialog. This is a licensed product, and an adaptation, and many comic fans know that, like in video games, that means the company isn’t placing their top talent on the book. They’re counting on the book’s title to sell the issues, which they must have, because Archie ordered a full series and eventually got top talent to work on this book.
While in mid-rescue the Turtles meet the henchmen that would become the staple of the television series: Bebop and Rocksteady. The Turtles beat the henchmen and escape with Master Splinter, ending Chapter Two.
In Chapter Three the Shredder uses his billions of cameras to spy on Baxter Stockman, an inventor who creates robotic, artificially intelligent mouse traps called ‘mousers’. He’s trying to sell them to a mouse trap manufacturer who accuses him of trying to put him out of business and orders him to leave.
…That… would never happen. Ever.
Meanwhile, the Turtles are searching for the Technodrome, and thus are out when the Mousers attack Splinter in his home. The Shredder has a million cameras but never attached one to a Mouser’s head, so don’t worry: he can’t find the lair. The “Splinter gets captured” story is a staple of every TMNT variation (including the new IDW series). It’s a great story, don’t get me wrong… but I don’t feel the need to go into great detail about it.
April’s house gets demolished (another classic TMNT staple) and Mike is captured… and assaulted by Krang. This is where things are interesting, because Krang was unique to the original television series and this spinoff series of comics, until the IDW series came along that is. The Utrom aliens exist in other Universes (including subtle mentions in the movie trilogy) but the Turtles’ creators have stated bluntly that Krang is not an Utrom, which technically makes him an original character… I wonder if the writer gets royalties then? He should. I bet he doesn’t. Someone who’s not me should look into that.
Anyway, the Turtles save Mike but nobody believes he was molested by a disembodied brain… but why would they. And now we begin… Chapter Four? Wowzers. Things are moving right along. Okay, sure. Chapter Four. This chapter starts with the creation of the Turtle-Van, while in the Technodrome Krang orders Shredder to finish work on his new body. This was a thing all throughout the original series. I want a new body. I need a new body. He sounded like a horny teenager. Sheesh.
Shredder decides to open the portal to Dimension X despite Krang’s warnings that anything could come through. Two flying convertables come through the portal and blast out of the Technodrome, followed by a flying… army jeep… driven (piloted?) by one of Krang’s stone warriors.
The Turtles come across the flying-car drivers from last issue, revealed to be named the Neutrinos. They’re teenagers from the war-torn Dimension X, where they can’t have any fun. In the series, Mike comforts the female Neutrino and they have the weirdest, shortest romance in nostalgic television history, but here his comforting scene has been replaced by Donatello. At this point, I wonder if they’ve changed characters or just coloured stuff wrong, because the Turtle-in-question has no identifiable marks besides his bandana. Hard to believe this concept worked in black and white, but it did folks.
The Stone Warriors launch a weather bomb that makes weather unpredictable in New York City… who would notice? Hah. Anyway, the Neutrino’s make it home, and yes, the romance was scuttled. This is actually brilliant, as they’ve removed the one thing from this episode that not only made no sense but also alienated young boys (at the time their target demographic)… again, kudos to the writer.
Defeated, the Shredder vows to finally create Krang’s new body so that Krang can help him destroy the Turtles at last, ending Chapter Four.
Chapter Five begins with Shredder baiting the Turtles by hacking their TV and proving that he can de-mutate Master Splinter… yeah, in this continuity Splinter was a man first. Go figure.
Leo, Mike and Ralph assault the Technodrome while Don works on a new toy… I mean, important Turtle need, the Turtle-Blimp… wait, that can’t be right. Why would a ninja choose a slow-moving, easily spotting vehicle… b-l-i-m-p. Blimp. Yep, it says blimp all right. Go figure.
Anyway, Krang gets his new robotic body which seems to be able to morph its hands into whatever shape he chooses, sprout wings and grow to Godzilla-level sizes. Interesting. The Turtles fight it with… their blimp. You know, that just doesn’t sound right. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be questioning anything in a comic about Martial Arts-mastering Turtles. In any event, Don and Leo make their way inside the body and smash its growth crystal, and Krang begins to shrink.
Shredder still believes he has the upper hand, threatening to suck the planet into Dimension X… but when he turns it on he discovers that Donatello reconfigured it to suck the Technodrome into Dimension X instead. In the series the Technodrome returned again and again… but with this series? Let’s see. I think it should be a fun ride.
These issues provide a great starting point for any reader. As adaptations of TOS they provide a background for people who aren’t familiar with the series but are faithful enough for people that are. As far as the rest of the ongoing series goes, having a widely-known background can do wonders for not having to explain everything all the time, a trait which serves this series well.
It’s a good trade, but it only gets better from here.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“These issues provide a great starting point for any reader. As adaptations of TOS they provide a background for people who aren’t familiar with the series but are faithful enough for people that are. As far as the rest of the ongoing series goes, having a widely-known background can do wonders for not having to explain everything all the time, a trait which serves this series well.”