REVIEW: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #14

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The IDW Publishing relaunch of the legendary 1980’s property continues on. With some very big changes to the TMNT mythos, IDW Publishing has certainly put its stamp on the franchise. As the series continues what lies in store for the heroes in a half shell and is this book worth your buck? Major Spoilers examines the contents and shares its thoughts.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #14
Writer: Tom Waltz with Kevin Eastman
Artist: Andy Kuhn
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES:  In the past thirteen issues, the origin of the Ninja Turtles and their universe has been updated for the 21st century. The conflict between our heroes and Shredder has just begun with the turtles narrowly escaping from an epic battle with the Foot Clan. Another storyline has been running focusing on alien warlord Krang, who is about to make a play for power with the assistance of the twisted genius, Baxter Stockman. Supporting teenage protagonists April O’Neil and Casey Jones have been a major focus. Last issue ended teasing a major conflict with Casey’s father, an abusive alcoholic who had just severely beaten his son.

A FANTASTIC STORY DRIPPING WITH MUTAGEN OOZE

The new saga of the TMNT has been running for more than a year now and I must say that it has been wonderfully realized. IDW’s iteration of the Ninja Turtles has become my all-time favorite version of the group due to the strong characterization Tom Waltz has provided and the clever twists to the turtles’ colorful backstories. The series has been a mostly seamless blend between the Mirage Studios books and the classic cartoon show, and after reading this issue I can’t wait to see where the story will go next.

There is a lot of great science fiction in this issue. Though he has not yet crossed paths with the turtles or Shredder, Krang’s story is beginning to take center stage. Embracing his past as the leader of a ruthless empire, everyone’s favorite evil brain in a robot body is still hell-bent on conquest. This issue explores Krang’s campaigns in Dimension X and gives us a better look at the Neutrinos, natives to Dimension X who are fighting for freedom. These Neutrinos made a couple of appearances on the 80’s cartoon, but their brief struggle shown in this issue was much more entertaining. The reader really gets a sense of their rage at being subjugated by Krang. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of this conflict. But the most exciting moment for my inner twelve-year-old was the appearance of a machine I have been dying to see in this series since the first issue. Though only partially shown, I am pumped to see Krang’s ultimate weapon surface.

Despite some great moments, Krang was not the major part of the book this month. Waltz has excelled at making TMNT about family relationships. The turtles’ brotherly ties have been explored with a great rivalry between Leonardo and Donatello naturally evolving from their strong beliefs in mysticism vs. science, and Splinter’s positioning as father to the group has never been stronger. You can sense the love he has for his sons, but this issue’s focus on family comes from a different source.

Casey Jones’ relationship with his abusive father has been explored many times throughout the series as well as in a one-shot focusing on Jones. The beating Casey suffered last issue was horrific, and this issue we see the fallout. As Casey recuperates at the turtles’ HQ, Raphael takes it upon himself to seek physical revenge on Casey’s dad.

As I said earlier, the emotions found in these relationships feel incredibly real. Though his eyes are swollen shut and his teeth are loosened, Casey still loves his father and feels that he needs to take care of him. A great moment is shared with the turtles as they realize how lucky they are to have a father who loves them unconditionally. This is powerful stuff and made me want to go hug my dad.

Splinter arrives at the home of Casey’s father before Raphael. However, there is no attempt at talking Raphael out of punishing the deadbeat dad. Instead, Splinter puts a sai to Mr. Jones’ throat and forces Raphael to come up with a reason to spare the man’s life. This was a nice reversal, as Splinter is historically somewhat of a pacifist. But here, he uses violence to teach a great lesson about honor and the toll that killing takes. We even see Splinter tell his sons that Shredder must be killed later in this issue, and though Shredder did some truly evil things to Splinter in the past, I wonder if this is another lesson for the turtles or if Splinter is really encouraging his pupils to assassinate someone.

A LOVE LETTER TO TMNT ART OF THE PAST

When the series began, I wasn’t sold on Andy Kuhn’s art. It looked harsh, with lines moving at odd angles and gritty pencils saturated in bright colors. It was a strange blend, and I wasn’t quite sure what the art was trying to accomplish. As the comic progressed, the story made it clear that this was an attempt to merge the Mirage and cartoon lore together. Taking this into account, Kuhn’s art does the job. The Mirage books could be seen as somewhat crude by today’s standards, but they still maintain their charm. Kuhn’s pencils seem to pay homage to Eastman and Laird’s style, but with character designs that have a modern sensibility. The artwork to me feels like a bright n’ happy version of Mike Mignola’s style, and for this title it’s a good fit. At this point, I can’t really see IDW’s TMNT drawn in any other style.

BOTTOM LINE: THE PERFECT TURTLE STORY FOR FANS OLD AND NEW

I was a young and impressionable lad while the TMNT were in the midst of their greatest popularity. For a few years, they had the United States held firmly in their three-fingered hands. Still, I grew away from the franchise as most fans do, moving on to other flights of fancy. I’ve picked up the remastered Mirage TMNT hardcovers, and I’ve watched the odd new TMNT cartoons here and there, but that magic was never really recaptured until this comic was released. If you’ve ever considered yourself a fan of the Ninja Turtles, you should be reading this book. If you consider yourself too mature for the turtles, give the series a try. You’ll be surprised by the depth of the themes in this book. IDW’s TMNT has moved to the top of my monthly most-wanted list, and issue #14 provides a fantastic entry point for those looking to give it a try.

Rating: ★★★★★

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