Friday, December 19, 2014

COMIC REVIEW - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (Mirage Studios - Volume 1)

Written by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman
Art by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman

The one that started it all... and after reading it, I'm amazed they were able to continue the series for as long as they did.

The very first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pretty much lays the groundworks for the various aspects that people would become familiar with as this became a massive multimedia empire. We are introduced to our four Ninja Turtles, their rodent sensei Master Splinter, their arch-nemesis Shredder and his Foot Clan, and the origins of all these characters as well as their bloodfeud. It leans hard into its parody and homage to the Frank Miller works, particularly Daredevil, while also crafting a compelling story with lots of bloody, violent action depicted in glorious black and white.

The artwork is truly exceptional stuff; lots of gritty detail and some beautifully rough line art of the various battles between the Turtles and their foes; whether they'd be rugged hoodlums, lethal Foot ninjas, or the Shredder himself. The decision to go black and white as opposed to color might've been a money thing - I honestly don't recall - but it pretty much defined the look of the comic going forward. To the point where I would later come across a color version of this issue and it didn't quite look as good.

For those whose first exposure to TMNT was the cartoon, reading this comic and realizing how violent it was had to be a bit of a shock and you get why the cartoon is what it is to appeal to kids. But more than anything, the bigger shock was how self-contained the story is. I'm not going to spoil things, but the ending leaves little room for further adventures, presumably because Eastman and Laird figured this was their one and only shot at getting something published. Fortunately, not only did they manage to produce a second issue and continue the story, but... well, it got big.

It's funny to go back and revisit this issue, like, what? Decades after the fact. It's been reprinted several times, it's even been posted on the official Ninja Turtles site for all to see before the big change in ownership. The original printings command high prices, but you could probably find reprints easily enough. The book holds up after all these years and is worth checking out if you bare any fandom to TMNT. And if you've already read it, read it again. It's fantastic.

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