Last Week’s Comics 8/31/2011

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1

(IDW – writers: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz; art: Dan Duncan)

I was unbelievably excited to see a new TMNT comic on the market. My brother collected a few of the older issues, and I was always struck by the jagged lines with which Kevin Eastman illustrated the Turtles. They weren’t soft and funny as I’d seen in the cartoons. They were violent and rude. They didn’t have the same special personalities. Even Splinter was surprisingly different. He didn’t hobble around. Instead, he kicked the shit out of his opponents. So although the Turtles seem ripe for a new comic, I found this issue to be a bit of a letdown. It tries too hard to pay homage to the characters in the TMNT universe, rather than letting the story be altered for newer audiences. 

Do you remember Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael? Do you remember Splinter? April O’Neil? Baxter Stockman? Casey Jones? These characters are all present; however, their introductions feel more like an attempt at reinforcing what’s comfortable for fans than natural character entrances in the story.

This may sound vague, but think of it this way:

You know the TMNT universe. You know all the people who are in it. So waiting for the characters to appear is way more exciting than seeing them tossed into the story for the sake of comfort.

There are some elements of emotion, but these are given in a very short period of time and at a moment when readers haven’t really gotten to a point where they understand or care about the characters. For the sake of brevity, Eastman and Waltz are relying on readers to have a pre-established emotional connection to the characters. This will, obviously, save them the trouble of reintroducing their heroes and villains.

But when you give readers a new #1 issue, they expect a clean slate and a fresh start. This rests too much on its laurels, and while I was thrilled to see the Turtles in action again, the story feels hollow. Eastman and Waltz need to pretend they’re starting from scratch. They need to work hard on showing former fans why they should even bother with another TMNT interpretation. Only when this is done can fans truly have an emotional connection. I’ll still pick up issue #2 because of my previous love for the Turtles, but if every issue feels this emotionally hollow, I will drop this comic like a hot slice of pepperoni pizza.

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