This is… weird to say the least. This title is just interesting to me in so many ways, and I don’t think I would have picked it up were I not a Turtles comic completionist, but here we are. This is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Animated volume 1 TPB, which is a direct adaptation of the first two episodes of the new television series by Nickelodeon — and when I say direct, I mean direct. There are no art credits in this comic, as the art is entirely comprised of screen caps from the episodes — a weird choice that makes this feel like a cash-grab. Still, there is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Animated Adventures comic starting in July that takes place in-universe with the tv series but tells original stories, much like Archie’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures did back in the day for the Fred Wolf cartoon — so perhaps this is their way of getting comic-reader who may not be familiar with the show up to speed, much like Heroes on a Half Shell did for the Archie Adventures title.
As a bit of background, I thought the original 80s TMNT was the greatest thing ever, but eventually grew to see that it was… well, let’s be kind a say “less than perfect.” In 2003 I thought the 2003 series was the best thing ever, and still believe so (though I still have yet to watch Fast Forward and Back to the Sewers. I skip from the Ninja Tribunal right to Turtles Forever.) So lets see what I think.
The comic starts with the four Turtles facing off against each other, Mike vs Leo and Don vs Raphael. Raphael wins the tournament, and Splinter comes in. He looks weird. He then punishes Raphael for bragging about winning and we cut to the Turtles eating algae and worms, and have a cake made of algae and worms, to celebrate the 15 anniversary of their mutation day. We then segue into Splinter telling them to story of their mutation, even though they seem to have heard it many times (but Mikey keeps requesting it). This is actually a rare bit of self-reflection for the Turtles, as even since vol1 #1 I’ve found it hilarious that Splinter decides to tell them their origin after their first battle. Does he tell them all the time? Or did he actually wait until they were 15? This series attempts to answer / pokes fun at, that fact.
At this point I have to say that the choice of screen caps is sometimes odd. I’m not saying they weren’t trying — they were. But it’s like it wasn’t quite done with an artist’s mind. And a lot of the time the caps are taken from what I’d call “tweener” caps — the animation cells that take place between regular cells. It’s not as bad in CGI as it would have been with taking screen caps from a traditionally animated feature, but it leaves the images looking like they have different quality levels to them. All in all it kind of views like your Aunt bought some comic-creator software for 99 cents and started adding your family photos in with speech balloons indiscriminately — and then IDW decided to publish this. There isn’t much art to this, literally anyone with Comic-Book Creator software and a copy of the script could have made this just as well or better.
But then for the Turtle’s origin we cut to some great comic-book style art. It’s expressive and great and I wish the whole book was like it. These are actually screen caps too. Within the tv series they made some interesting and cool artistic choices, one of which was to have all flashbacks take a kind of motion-comic flash-animation form to them, and it works very well on screen — and even better in print. Really the whole comic should have been this.
We learn that (in this series) Splinter was once a human (as in the Fred Wolf series) and that The Turtles were his pets he was buying… did he have children? Why was a grown man buying 4 Turtles? I now picture Hamato Yoshi as a lonely bachelor watching anime and eating Cheetos all day and so desperate for companionship he buys Turtles, only because his cats keep dying. “Better buy four, just in case. If I ask for a refund on another dead animal this month, people are going to get suspicious.”
He’s then attacked by the Kraang, this continuity’s hybrid of the benevolent Utrom race from the Mirage continuity and the evil warlord Krang from the Fred Wolf series, merging the two into a race of evil brain-slug creatures. In the flashback they’re in human form. They attack Yoshi and they drop their can of ooze. He drops the Turtles in the fight — you can guess where this is going. He mutates immediately into Splinter and the Turtles are humanoid immediately. Mikey then refers to the canister of ooze as his mother. I hope that ends. That’s annoying.
After the story is done, the Turtles beg Splinter to finally let them to the surface world, as he says they can (that night). Leo then watches… Star Trek the animated series? Okay, sure. Why not? oh, and we’re saying his leadership isn’t an intrinsic part of his personality… it’s him imitating Kirk. WOW. Okay, awesome. Yeah, that’s great. I think Peter Laird is crying somewhere.
I’ve watched a few episodes of this series, and there are actually a lot of Star Trek references. I get the feeling the creators are big fans, and it’s fun for geeks like me to watch just to pick out the Easter eggs. I’m glad that they’ve made the translation to print.
So the Turtles go above ground for the first time, and are just amazed by what they see. They discover pizza, in an scene that was admittedly hilarious… on television. Here it’s trying for the same gag, but is a prime example of why the screen cap thing doesn’t work. In the series Michelangelo bites the pizza, and then we see the taste travel his nerves to his brain which then explodes from the taste. It’s random and hilarious and the first taste of the type of comedy the series has been excelling at. In the comic? He bites the pizza and we see a picture of a brain with a KABOOM sound effect in the background — if you hadn’t watched the show, you would have no clue what happened there. This isn’t storytelling. This isn’t even adaptation — adaptation at least adapts something to a new medium. This book does not do that, it puts no thought into if something will work in this format or not.
The Turtles meet April, and Donatello immediately falls madly in love. Not sure what I make of that. She also looks like Penny from Bolt. Not sure what I think of that. She’s immediately captured, and Don exclaims that they have to save her and the man she was with (presumably her father, who presumably did not draw her with a magic pen in this dimension. But who knows).
We now have reached the only constant throughout all Turtles media: random chance playing a large part in their first (and many of their) adventures.
The Turtles then get their butts handed to them by the The Kraang. But more than the baddies being powerful, the Turtles are tripping over each other because they aren’t used to combat: they’re used to one-on-one sparring. Which is interesting. It makes sense, and I like that they’ll have a learning curve… but did Splinter never think of this? Is it possible Splinter, in this Universe, wasn’t training them for revenge against the Shredder? That’d be quite the twist on the mythos, and it would explain this lapse in the ninja training. Let’s see.
Mikey then beats a Utrom, revealing… well, a brain slug. And possibly the creepiest iteration of Krang/The Utroms yet. I mean really, really weird looking. But they play it for comedy, and in a homage to the Fred Wolf series (I assume) Mikey is the only one to have seen it, and the others don’t believe him.
They go back and Splinter chides himself for letting them go above ground, saying they may try again… in another year. Donatello makes a very heartfelt plea, stating that the girl (April) was kidnapped and that she looked right at him. That she was counting on him. It’s actually a very emotional moment, and we see Splinter looking at a picture (presumably of his wife and child) (!) and deciding, yes, they must save her. That’s actually a bit of dimension I didn’t expect from this story and I applaud it.
They go to the Kraang building, where they find and defeat a single member… only to have a canister of ooze fall from the truck. Mikey exclaims: Mom?
Raphael takes the canister and uses it to threaten one of the Kraang’s men, which works very quickly. With his information they storm the Kraang headquarters and save April — but fail to save her father, leaving not only a bittersweet end but also a plot-point for the rest of the season. At least I hope it’s just a season. It’d be horrible if April’s father was the new Technodrome — every season captured by something different only to almost be rescued and captured by something different again. But this is the comic. The comic proper ends with our first glimpse of The Shredder, who hears the news report about ninjas in New York and recognizes it as Splinter’s handiwork — and asks an unseen minion to prepare a jet to New York.
So this comic is fairly good, but it’s got nothing on the issue that spawned it. The dialog in the show is very witty and it faithfully represented / reproduced here — unfortunately, everything else was faithfully reproduced too, like the screen shots. Comics are different from TV, and this does not work well at all. And the most obtrusive thing not mentioned anywhere above is a very intrusive narrator. Every few panels there’s a text box telling us what is happening on the panel — many panels would be better without it. It’s like they were aware that the comic didn’t translate well from film and tried to compensate, but overdid it, makes the only images that worked fail. It’s just a mess. It honestly reminds me of a comic that came with my Spider-Man Movie Soundtrack as a kid, where it was just random screenshots from the film with dialog and narration that made no sense.
Check out the tv show for a great story. Check out the new comic based on the tv this July and see what it’s like — stay far, far away from this. If you must buy it to complete your collection, do yourself a favor and never, ever read it.
“This is… weird to say the least.”