Raphael and Casey Jones are out administering their own brand of justice on the streets as the rest of the turtles question whether their lost brother is still alive or not. Meanwhile, a one-eyed cat-man named Hob wants to dine on turtle soup!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3
Story: Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Layouts: Kevin Eastman
Art: Dan Duncan
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Scott Dunbier
Associate Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in TMNT: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mythos has been rebooted, with some distinct differences from the TV series (which is my only familiarity with the property). Raphael has never been a member of the Ninja Turtles team, having been separated before they were mutated, and the main villain is now Hob, the cat-man, rather than Shredder.
If You Were Looking For the Cartoon Turtles…
I meant to read the last couple issues of TMNT, but never remembered about it while I was in the comic book shop. Thankfully, this issue doesn’t have enough continuity established yet that you have to have been following the series. Additionally, they have a “The Story So Far” section on the credits page that lets you know what’s happening—something that DC really needs to start doing; they ought to cut the font size on their letters to the editors section (once that starts back up) in half and only have it be one page, and then put a “previously on” page at the beginning of the book.
That being said, I was a bit confused when I started reading. I’m familiar with all the regular characters (the turtles themselves, Splinter, and Casey Jones) through the TV show, but there’ve been a few changes. Casey Jones uses a baseball bat as a weapon now, rather than the hockey stick in his animated incarnation, though he still has his hockey mask which gets a good explanation. He is palling around with Raphael, who may or may not know of the existence of his brothers at this point, having been separated from them before the mutagen took effect. The two of them are patrolling to stop some crimes, and after knocking a purse snatcher down and putting the fear of God (or at least the fear of a crazy guy in a hockey mask and a creepy anthropomorphic turtle) into him, they take the purse back to the lady. This leads to a point in the book that works really well for me, where Casey says to Raph that “This is the best part of the job… she’s gonna love us,” counting on the gratitude of the old woman. What they weren’t counting on, however, is how things would look to the woman, who understandable assumes that when a crazy guy in a hockey mask and a creepy anthropomorphic turtle come up to her on the street that they are up to no good, and she runs off screaming into the night, leaving Casey to muse that they “probably coulda thought that one out a little better, huh?” It’s a very realistic moment to two unrealistic characters, something that I really enjoyed.
There’s a lot of explanation in this issue, which was good for me since I hadn’t read the first two issues, but I’m left wondering if there was also a lot of explanation in those, or if they just threw readers into the action and this is the first time we’ve actually seen the origin of the turtles explained. In a change from the animated series, when the turtles were exposed to the mutagen, they were attacked by a cat, who tried to take one of them. They were protected by a rat, who managed to claw out one of the cat’s eyes and get it to leave the turtles alone. The rat then put three of the turtles into a bag, and presumably would’ve gone for the fourth, but ninjas of the Foot clan showed up and attacked, the rat narrowly managing to drag the bag of three turtles and himself into a sewer drain. During the fight the cat, the rat and all four turtles were exposed to the mutagen, and find themselves mutating into more human-like forms of themselves. I don’t know if Splinter had been a human previously and got magically changed into a rat, or if he was always a rat in this story, but if the latter is true I’m a little skeptical of why he’d be trying to protect a group of turtles. Nonetheless, he feels a duty to find the fourth turtle (who he has already named Raphael, despite the turtle not actually knowing his name)
You Won’t Find Them Here.
The art is definitely a lot different from the cartoon, but it really works well for the tone of the story. It’s mostly dark and a bit sketchy/gritty, somewhat reminiscent in tone of the live-action TMNT movies (in a good way). I really like it for the most part—it is even possible to tell the turtles apart with some practice, the key being their slightly different skin colors. At this point they’re all wearing bandannas of the same color, so we can’t use that shorthand for who they are. On a related note, one thing that bothered me: On the cover, Raphael is shown in similar “uniform” to the rest of the turtles (bandanna, weapons, wrappings around elbows, knees and ankles), yet in the actual issue he never actually meets up with his brothers. It’s foreshadowed that that will be happening pretty soon, but the cover was a bit misleading (welcome to comic books, enjoy your stay!).
BOTTOM LINE: But That’s Not a Bad Thing!
I really enjoyed this issue. It’s a very different take on the turtles from the late 80s/early 90s cartoon, and is probably more similar to the original comic books (which I never read, being born in 1990), but it is quite enjoyable. Unfortunately it’s priced at $3.99, which I don’t like paying for a comic book. I don’t think TMNT is going to make the cut on my already over-budget pull list, but I will be keeping an eye out for this series when it hits a bargain bin, and I might use future reviews to justify an additional purchase of the title here and there. Overall I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3 four stars out of five; it was a good issue that provided enjoyable back story, some good action and a good bit of nostalgia.