I mentioned in my last post about how much I love alternate histories. I guess that can be considered alternate timelines or alternate universes. I loved the Ultimate line of Marvel comics, particularly the X-Men, when they first started those. I liked the Days of Future Past. I loved the Age of Apocalypse. I think if I’d read more DC prior to the re-launch, I’d have liked their obsession with having as many different Earths as they did. I’m obsessed with the Fallout games. Heck, I almost watched last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy because it featured an alternate future for the characters.
What does this have to do with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you may be asking. Or not, if you didn’t get where I was going with the title of this blog. But if you were, it has everything to do with our favorite, green-shelled ninjas. You see, IDW has recently done a relaunch of the Turtles, brought back by half the original creative team that started the franchise in the first place. Having Kevin Eastman (I don’t know what Peter Laird is up to these days) on board adds legitimacy to the story so whatever comes from this, we at least know that it’s with the blessing of one of the guys who came up with it. As opposed to some other guy who tends to be unimpressed when people try to re-imagine his work.
The Ninja Turtles are back and better than ever in IDW’s run. The story starts out with a mystery: who are these young turtles, why are they so big, and how come they’re freakin’ ninja? The first several issues recount Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo’s search for their missing bother, Raphael, as they are constantly under attack by Hob, a cat who was accidentally mutated when the turtled and their rat
bastard master Splinter escaped Stockgen’s labs. Baxter Stockman has been trying to create genetically enhanced soldiers for a mysterious General Krang but when a random group of ninja attack the lab, trying to get something from it, Splinter and the turtles are exposed to the chemical (and also Hob the cat) and then are free to settle in the sewers like normal mutants.
What’s been the best part is the further origin of Splinter and the crew. This is where we get into alternate storytelling. It turns out, Splinter and the turtles are really the reincarnated souls of Hamato Yoshi and his sons who were murdered by Oruku Saki in feudal Japan! Wow! What does this mean for their most famous villain, Master Shredder? If he was the leader of the Foot Clan in feudal Japan, how is he going to terrorize them in this current series?
There are plenty of familiar faces in this new universe. April O’Neil is a lab assistant at Stockgen, working for Baxter Stockman. In issue #6, Stockman has just introduced one of the original Turtles’ earliest foes: the Mousers! Casey Jones is also in it, as a young ne’er-do-well hockey player who struggles in school and gets beat on by alcoholic father. Krang was the big bad in the 1987 animated series, an alien who wanted to take over the world (duh). What Krang’s status will be here has yet to be revealed, though I’m hoping against hope that it’s not as an alien invader.
I’m really digging the series so far. The art is rough and edgy, harkening back to the gritty original. Each character has a distinct voice that is most inspired by the 1987 series but is not overdone in a way to make them appear cliché. Mikey is still a party dude, Donny’s still the super genius, Leo is still the serious leader, and Raph is still the hothead that gets himself into all manner of trouble. I like the close friendship established between Casey and Raphael and I liked that April hasn’t been forced into the Turtles’ new lives yet. It’ll get there, I’m sure, but it’s happening in a very organic way that I really appreciate.
IDW’s TMNT does not disappoint in these first six issues. The one-shots for each character, thus far focusing on Raphael and Michelangelo, have been great introductions to each Turtles as his own person, not just one part of a larger collective. You really get the sense that these brothers are individual and, as of right now, they really only consider themselves brothers because Splinter insists that they do, not because they truly feel any kind of fraternal bond just yet. It’s been a heck of a ride so far and I am very eager to see where it goes.