Sunday, 12 June 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Black & White Classics Volume 1 Review (Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird)

Heroes in a half-shell - Turtle Power! You know them, I know them, they’re the Teenage Motherlovin’ Ninja Turtles! I watched the cartoon, the live-action movies, bought the toys and played the awesome NES video game (the second one) - I was a huge fan as a kid. Haven’t really liked the recent IDW comics but I heard that the original Peter Laird/Kevin Eastman comics from whence the Turtle empire sprang were some hardcore adult shit, not like the sanitized kiddie stuff I was familiar with - I had to read them! 

… They’re not. There’s a panel where you see Leo’s sword go through someone but what little slicing and dicing there is, is done off panel and, because these comics are black and white, there’s no red blood to traumatise the squeamish. It’s pretty tame stuff actually, there’s no swearing or nudity or drug use; it’s perfectly suitable for kids. 

I think this edition collects the very first TMNT issues ever and, if that’s the case, it’s pretty amazing how fully-formed Laird/Eastman’s vision was right off the bat. We get the Splinter origin tying Shredder’s origin in with his master, Hamato Yoshi; the Turtles/Splinter’s transformation thanks to the TCRI ooze (later changed to TGRI in the movies); the Foot Clan are introduced; Dr Baxter Stockman’s Mousers and April O’Neil (here an assistant to Stockman and not a news reporter) appear along with April’s VW camper which will later get converted into the Turtles van; even Krang makes a cameo! 

The comic also tentatively starts establishing the Turtles’ characters with Raph as the rebel with a oftentimes tense relationship with Leo, the leader (a bit like Batman/Superman’s). Casey Jones also appears and he and Raph’s friendship/rivalry begins. Mikey and Donny don’t feature prominently yet and of course, this being black and white, we don’t see their coloured bandanas at this stage. But that’s still a hefty chunk of the Turtles established right out the gate! 

The storylines though are a bit too childish for my tastes. Baxter is the cliched mad scientist who throws away legitimate millions from his Mouser creations to try to extort millions from the city because “I’m really doing it because it’s fun! HAH, HAH, HA HAH!” - what a jackass! There’s a lengthy car chase and plenty of fight scenes but they turn out predictably - the Turtles always get away/win so they’re not that interesting to read. The art is pretty good though - good use of shading to define dimensions even if the Turtles seem to have one facial expression (angry)! 

I was a little disappointed with this one. I was hoping for a darker, more violent TMNT than the more popular, kid-friendly one I’ve known for years and it turned out there really wasn’t that much difference between the two versions. Still, it’s not a terrible comic just not one that many adult readers will find compelling because of its simplistic plots, but it was fun to revisit the Turtles universe for a spell!

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