All Day Comics
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #29-30
Writer: Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz
Pencils: Kevin Eastman and Ross Campbell
Published by: IDW Publishing
Notes: Current single monthly issues of an ongoing series, a separate re-imagined continuity to the more widely known TV series and movies.
In the countryside of Northampton, Massachusetts, our Ninja Turtles and their master Splinter find themselves in desperate need of recovery, both physically and emotionally, after a difficult battle with their nemesis the Shredder. Helping them along are their human friends, Casey Jones and April O’Neill – who provides shelter in her parents’ farmhouse.
The Turtles engage in the simple life, and must bond once again as brothers. However, complications happen with Leonardo’s developing PTSD, resulting from brainwashing by the Shredder. Add an unwelcome stowaway: Alopex, a mutant fox and former ally to the Foot Clan. Meanwhile, April uncovers her own family secrets, adding to and expanding the Turtles’ origin. And a mystical connection develops through Tang Shen, the spirit mother to our Turtles. All may never be the same again for our Heroes in a Half Shell.
I engaged in reading the latest issues after admiring the magnificent covers, and connecting back to my childhood nostalgia. I had yet to read the previous issues, but I’d heard good reviews of the overall run. This fresh arc also seemed like a good jumping-on point. Also, the synopsis was reminiscent of another favorite aspect of the Turtles: brotherly bonding, and the continued soul-searching resulting from their unique adolescent development.
Inside was all of the love reminiscent of the “country resting” scene in the first live-action movie back in 1990. Upon their arrival the Turtles and Splinter are battle-worn, tired. They squabble and angst among themselves, and they allow the stowaway Fox to run about, though his presence could threaten their established peace. They deal with their problems as individuals, but must come back together as a team.
Roles are redistributed in the healing process. Donatello acts with the most responsibility, putting aside differences with his brothers and working to help fix Leonardo’s mental breakdown and return him to his proper place as team leader. Raphael is stubborn as usual, yet acts as a guardian for the team, vigilant towards the stowaway and other outside forces. Michelangelo, as usual, does his best to boost morale. He also finds a balance between his more visible inner child and the emerging mature growth seen through his own writing to a distant friend.
Meanwhile, we learn more about April as we find her initial relationship to the Turtles to be more than just coincidence. Her parents reveal startling information involving the mutagen than created the Turtles. I find this troubling, as it brings back a very irritating trope to our modern mythos of pop-culture icons:
Must we overfeed the origins of today’s popular science-fiction icons? I see this in new movies and TV all the time with retcons and reimaginings of popular icons. Can’t a radioactive spider just be a radioactive spider? Can’t we a leave a tragic mugging of rich parents as-is? How about a starship captain becoming a legend for his otherwise-normal job of managing a five-year mission? The Doctor’s last companion gal had the most unnecessary and ridiculously complicated reason for an otherwise typical chance encounter for adventure.
We need not such overdevelopment, especially with the Turtles. We already have another wonderful addition to the Turtles mythos: Tang Shen, a mother spirit who appears in a dream and gives them much-needed support. In this continuity Splinter is her reincarnated husband, with the Turtles as her reincarnated slain children (a better origin than one in which Yoshi didn’t just move to America and became a crazy sewer rat who taught stray radioactive Turtles how to fight crime). She adds a better, mystical element to this origin story, and she feels more necessary to our developing teenage heroes, who could use some motherly love.
The artwork is beautiful, poetic with earth tones and nature details. The overall settings and grand landscape of the countryside feels most welcome to anyone feeling the stresses of urban life (traffic jams, high rents, ninja violence). The Turtles’ shapes and colors (especially when they remove their masks) feel natural to their original reptile forms. The dream sequences set in Japan’s feudal era are beautiful, and they work perfectly in providing a mindful connection to the Turtles’ roots, and perhaps what life would have been like for their souls.
The ending is to be continued, calling for a return to action. Let’s kick some shell!
Overall, this is a good read for Turtles fans and a good reminder of what made the Turtles interesting, more-so than the science-fiction elements and action sequences: their youthful attitudes towards opposition, combined with their unique appearance and need for proper guidance.
The overall series looks worthy of checking out (as I will), now held in high regard by Turtles fans young and old. We have some original creative input and control with the Turtles’ co-creator Kevin Eastman as series co-writer/co-artist. Such control is rare with our usual corporate-owned superhero and sci-fi/fantasy icons.
For those interested in this series, #29-30 is a good jumping-on point. Back issues are easily obtainable through many popular book retail outlets, comic-book stores, and direct digital outlets like Comixology, iTunes, and more.
By Orion Tippens: longtime comics and sci-fi enthusiast, occasional journalist. Currently blogging at travelingorion.wordpress.com.