Getting back into the Turtles with TMNT #80
I was Turtle-crazy when I was a kid growing up in the back half of the eighties. I had all of the action figures, the Technodrome, the van, all of it. I watched the cartoons, rejoiced at the movies in the early 90's, and even did some occasional drawings. All of that faded away as I got a little bit older, because I thought the Ninja Turtles were just for kids.
Thankfully, growing up afforded me the luxury of forming my own understanding of what it means to be grown up. It was in my early thirties that I first began reading comics, and it was this past week that I finally found my way back to the heroes in the half shell that shaped a several-years-long block of my childhood. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #80 is the fifth installment in an arc already in-flight, but I found it surprisingly easy to jump in, even after so many years and with some substantially different—and new—developments in the status quo since I was a fan.
For starters, Shredder is gone, and Splinter is master of the Foot. Maybe you didn't hear that, so I'll repeat it. MASTER SPLINTER IS THE LEADER OF THE FOOT CLAN. As if that weren't enough, New York's been invaded by a group of triceratops...triceratopses...tricerataux...Triceratons, and the Turtles stand between their former master and the prehistoric interlopers he intends to destroy.
This is some wild and crazy stuff.
If you have no history with the Turtles, this might be hard to follow. But if, like me, you know the basics and have some love for these characters, it's actually pretty easy to jump right in. The reasons for Splinter's new role may be a mystery (time to hit the trades), and I have no idea why there are dinosaurs in New York, but the interpersonal (interturtleronal?) drama between Splinter and his children is excellent, and I was glued to this issue the whole way through.
My impression of artist Brahm Revel after one issue: he's the epitome of the monthly sequential artist. He gives his figures great detail and fidelity when they need it, but has no trouble sacrificing aesthetic clarity for the sake of good storytelling. Drawing comics is not about producing flawless, fine art prints, but rather immersing readers in whatever's going on each page. Revel does an excellent job at that, with incredibly rich layouts that exist inside fairly conservative paneling. The fighting is exciting, but it's the tense moments leading up to and following it that really show Revel's skill. Ronda Pattison's colors are a great fit for Revel's work, too. She goes with a pretty flat finish overall, but takes some opportunities to add subtle gradation when it makes sense. Shawn Lee's lettering is solid, often fitting large speeches into limited space in some of Revel's more detailed panels. His sound effects don't call a lot of attention to themselves, but they all look great—I'm particularly fond of the CRAK on page 7.
Who says you can't go home again?
All-in-all, my return to the Turtles was a blast, and I'm on board for the long-haul. If you're a long-time fan who drifted away for a while, give it a shot—it feels like everything that was awesome about the Turtles in my childhood with the addition of some intriguing twists. And if you're new to the franchise, this is still an excellent book, and with the Triceraton situation seemingly wrapped up, there should be something new starting soon. Check it out, dudes.