REVIEW: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secret History Of The Foot Clan #1 (Of 4)

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With a white-hot ongoing series that simultaneously toasts the franchise while launching creative new ideas, and a collection of “micro-series” that focus on individual characters, it may only have been a matter of time before the first IDW TMNT mini-series hit the shelves. Focusing on the legend behind the Foot Clan, this series promises sci-fi, mysticism and action. What’s the verdict? Major Spoilers has the review, right after the jump!

TMNTCoverTEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: SECRET HISTORY OF THE FOOT CLAN #1
Writer: Mateus Santaloco with Erik Burnham
Art: Mateus Santaloco
Colors: Joao “Azeitona” Viera
Editor: Bobbie Curnow
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe Foot Clan remains an ominous presence in this incarnation of the TMNT. After only a brief battle with Shredder, after the turtles ended up worse for wear, the team remains divided on whether this clan of ninjas is truly an ancient, unstoppable enemy or merely modern-day poseurs. Given the book’s focus on Eastern mysticism and spirituality, the turtles attempt to learn all they can about this force.

AN EASTERN LEGEND MUTATED FOR THE FUTURE

There is a LOT of plot running through this book, and the issue is all the richer for it.

Our tale begins in the past, where a nearly invincible samurai has been marked for death by his daimyo. The sequence telling the story of this samurai’s fateful battle is expertly told. It has the makings of a real Japanese legend, full of adventure, mysticism, deception, betrayal…and it also quickly explains how the Foot Clan received their name and got their start. It turns out the TMNT are listening to this legend being told in the present by a historian on ninja and samurai, so even though the turtles are not the main focus of this issue, fans get their fix. The tale switches back to feudal Japan where the Foot Clan has been corrupted and turned quite nasty thanks to the manipulations of a kitsune (a sort of spirit-fox) who in turn is working for a demon. The Foot Clan at this point is nearly invincible, but a few of the members realize their path and work to set things right.

The myths and legends presented in this issue are great stuff, and feel as though they would fit right in with the existing folklore of Japan. The book continues to interweave present events, and the reader learns more of what the Shredder is up to and the concerns of the TMNT after hearing this new information. Even the expert on Japan becomes fleshed out a character, and looks as if he is going to have a large part to play in this mini-series. All around superb storytelling here.

ART OF MYTHIC PROPORTIONS

I’m unfamiliar with Santaloco. I don’t recall seeing his artwork before, but this issue has me hooked. There’s a wide variety of subjects that he is tasked with depicting…a swordfight in the mountains, a lecture in a college hall, an exploding village, the reveal of the “demon” on the last page…and all are put on paper beautifully. The action scenes are well-depicted and show motion nicely, while facial expressions are nailed in each panel. The various ninjas look appropriately intimidating, and Shredder himself looks quite menacing indeed. My one quibble would be that I’m not quite sold on Santaloco’s designs of the TMNT themselves…they tend to look a bit rougher than series regular Dan Duncan…but since this book focuses mostly on humans, it’s not too distracting. The colorist also needs some complements here, as he does a great job adding to the atmosphere and dynamics of the flashback sequences.

BOTTOM LINE: FANTASY AND LEGEND MAKE ONE FINE MUTATION

I never really intended to become a fan of IDW’s various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. I had a passing familiarity in my youth with the original animated show, but wasn’t afflicted with “Turtle Fever.” However, I have simply been amazed that this series has had such quality. There is a maturity to this book that places it way beyond kid stuff, and the adventures of the group are fresh and original compared to the normal superhero fare in books. This issue is not quite a jump-on point for new readers, but those familiar with the TMNT concept should pick it up. It may serve as a way to be pulled into the regular. Fans of Japanese mythology should also give this one a read. This is an excellent book, and will be at the top of my read pile next month, right beneath the monthly book. Well done. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secret History Of The Foot Clan #1 earns 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: ★★★★½

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