So this is the first volume of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures by IDW, and people picking this up for the first time might be confused as it doesn’t seem like a first volume. And that’s because it isn’t. The first volume was reprinted as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Heroes on a Half Shell and reprinted the first 3-issue miniseries that leads into this series. Not totally sure why IDW chose to number their trades like this, but to each his own. I suppose they could have not numbered them at all and left us totally in the dark.
This trade, like the last, adapts episodes of the Fred Wolf cartoon. It is the last to do so, as with volume 2 we move on to original stories, thankfully. We have 4 issues reprinted here, starting with “The Return of the Shredder.” It begins with Mike and Leo grocery shopping, and Mike mentioning that he had chocolate chips and caramel fudge last night, to which the young woman standing near them snarls in distaste… that’s actually an amazing taste. Why wouldn’t it be? What sounds bad about that? Anyway, the store is robbed and the Turtles stop the criminals.
We then cut to Dimension X, where the Shredder is begging to be sent back to Earth and eventually Krang complies… wait, what? If they can send people back, why not just do what Donatello did last issue and suck the Technodrome back to Earth? Cartoon logic is messed up.
Over at Channel 6, we get introduced to the comic versions of Irma and Vernon, who look nothing like the cartoon versions. It’s okay though; we won’t be seeing them often in this series.
After returning to Earth, the Shredder storms into a dojo and uses brute force to take it over, becoming the dojo leader and presumably making the patrons his new gang of thugs. He gets them to dress up like the Ninja Turtles (wearing all red masks, which I’ll assume this is a clever nod to the original comics) and rob a bank. They’re the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang (CNTG?) and the Shredder, impressed with himself, contacts Krang to let him know… who berates him, leaving the Shredder to think he has one place left to turn… Sunnydale.
Wait, what? Holy Crap Turtles! Watch out, it’s Buffy! Oh crap, no! She hates green kappa!
Ha. No. Sunnydale is actually a mental health facility where Baxter Stockman has been staying since he last encountered the Turtles in the Heroes on a Half Shell. He’s seen here with various other crazies because… well, because he told people he’s seen for giant Turtles and a giant rat. You’d lock him up too.
The Shredder breaks him out with no problem. I mean none. Apparently wearing two knives on each wrist gives him the ability to rip through steal and concrete like it’s butter. How does he keep getting beaten?
At this point I have to comment on the art. I have never seen such lazy, half-assed artwork. So far this collection has been written and drawn Dave Garcia, and it’s my opinion that he should never work in the comics industry again. Seriously, it’s awful.
The Shredder tells Baxter to build him the ultimate rat catcher. Why do you need this when you’re apparently all powerful? Christ knows. Baxter takes inspiration from a tractor and builds… a tractor.
Genius inventor you say? Riiiiight.
We cut to April who is… sweet God, what is wrong with your face? April O’Neil is supposed to look like a supermodel. She looks more reptilian than the turtles. No wonder they all had crushes on her.
Anyway, Baxter catches Splinter with no trouble. None. As in, it takes two panels. Does the Shredder know where they live? And if so, why is defeating them so hard? Gas them in their sleep. Bomb them. Flood them. This isn’t rocket science.
While all this is going on, the Ninja Turtle imposters are still running around. The Turtles set out to clear their reputation. Even though they don’t have a reputation, because nobody knows they exist. The Turtles beat up Baxter’s machine, the Shredder runs away carrying Baxter under his arm, and that’s it.
It’s interesting. I’m realizing looking back that the previous trade covered what were basically the only good episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Okay, that’s a bit harsh. There were lots of good ones, but those were the best. It quickly went downhill, and that’s what this trade collects: The filler. The junk. I can’t believe this series lasted as long as it did.
The next image we get is of Leonardo attacking a daisy for practice and…The art is good. Not just good, great! Dave Garcia has been replaced by husband and wife team of Ken and Beth Mitchroney, with Ken doing the art, and he’s great! Maybe I just think he’s great because of how horrible Garcia was, but there’s hope now. Hear that kids? There’s hope now.
The Turtles are training in central park when an alien spacecraft crashes to earth. Some of the dialog here is actually pretty clever, as well as a callback to the “Ninja pizza” restaurant from the Heroes on a Half Shell trade. Leonardo has a great look at the fourth wall that lets us know how ridiculous the writers have deemed the series thus far. It’s wonderfully satirical, and it works.
So they save ET from drowning (seriously, he looks like ET) while the Shredder watches from the bushes. What was the Shredder doing in the bushes in central park in the middle of the day? Christ knows. I guess he just hangs out in random places and hopes the Turtles show up.
With his dying breath, the alien informs them that they have to find the three fragments of the eye of Sarnath, which are pieces of his ship that hold untold power. And of course, the Shredder overhears.
So they’re given a tracking device and track the first shard to a garbage boat, but the Shredder has followed them after being chewed out by Krang. Baxter is here again too, and is very annoying. He’s less a scientist and more a petulant child. You can tell here that the writers are struggling to make it readable, and I’m willing to blame the source material. This is still, after all, an adaptation.
In a rare direct physical confrontation between the Turtles and Shredder, the Shredder hands them all their asses and then uses the new-found crystal shard on them, shrinking the four Turtles to the size of actual turtles. The narrowly escape both Shredder’s foot (yuck yuck yuck) and a street cleaner, eventually getting swept into the sewers where they are found by Master Splinter.
Splinter calls April, who is drawn much better here. I’m going to stop and just say everything is drawn better. It has a cartoony style but it’s good and more than that, it’s consistent and allows you to just settle into the story. It’s never lazy.
Shredder tells Krang that he’s killed the Turtles and expects a pat on the head, but Krang (wisely) wants proof. Shredder then shrinks the Empire State Building to prove to Krang that the gem works. Um… couldn’t you have shrunken something less obvious? Anyway, Baxter retrieves it for him by dressing as a cop, because Baxter has insofar had no purpose in this episode and needed one.
Meanwhile, the Turtles have various adventures while tiny themselves, such as fighting off a snake, a fish, and eating a giant pizza. The stuff you’d expect, but it’s handled well enough.
The Shredder shows his buildings to Krang and, like I said last time, since this offers no proof that the Turtles are dead, Krang is pissed. So Baxter reveals he has a tricorder that can track the Turtles no matter where they are in the city…
… really? Okay. Sure. He catches them in the middle of the bay and takes them back to the Shredder, who is ready to bash them with a crow bar a la Jason Todd when Splinter shows up to save them.
The only twist at the end is that Shredder succeeds in keeping the gem that shrank the Turtles. Since the stories in these comics will very quickly stop being inspired by the show, the issue of the gem gets left unresolved for some time… but will return later in a very epic way.
I’m glad this trade did well, because it allowed the next trade and the one after – with the original stories many of us grew up with and loved – to be printed. I think that if you’re a hardcore Adventures fan like me you should get it to have the complete collection. But if you’re looking to see what the fuss was about… start with volume 2. You’ll be much more satisfied.
Wait… also, they never put the Empire State Building back to normal size. Huh.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars