Game Corner: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge (Xbox Series X)

GameCorner

Released: 16 June 2022
Developer: Tribute Games
Also Available For: Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S

The Background:
Like many kids back in the eighties or nineties, I was super into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT, known as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles here in the United Kingdom), which dominated playgrounds years before Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (1993 to 1996) and Pokémon (1997 to present) with the popular cartoon, toys, and, of course, videogames. Although a toned down version of the original Mirage Comics characters, the TMNT were unbelievably popular at the time and this was reflected in their videogames; Konami’s original arcade title was one of the defining titles of the beat-‘em-up genre (despite being a bit limited in terms of its content and combat), the first TMNT title on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was one of the quintessential games that defined what it meant to be “NES Hard”, and the Heroes in a Half-Shell have seen quite a bit of success in a variety of genres, though beat-‘em-ups like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (Konami, 1991) were regarded as some of the team’s best. Considering their track record with beat-‘em-up, it’s fitting that Tribute Games and Dotemu were behind this loving throwback to the TMNT’s heyday; inspired by these titles and the popular cartoon, the game saw the return of many of the original voice cast to the franchise, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge was met with universal critical acclaim upon launch as reviews gushed over the visual presentation, the references to the TMNT’s rich history, and the arcade-style beat-‘em-up gameplay.

The Plot:
With Bebop and Rocksteady assaulting Channel 6 and stealing pieces of Krang’s robotic body as part of Oroku Saki/The Shredder’s latest twisted plan, the TMNT and their allies must take on some of their most memorable enemies in a journey that will take them from the streets of Manhattan to the dank sewers and all the way to Dimension X!

Gameplay:
Like the classic TMNT videogames from the arcade era, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a 2D, sidescrolling beat-‘em-up in which you and up to five other plays take control of one of the four titular mutant turtles or one of their allies and battle through wave upon wave of Foot Soldiers and other enemies across sixteen stages. If you’ve ever played the original arcade release of Turtles in Time (or even more modern releases, like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (Ubisoft Montreal, 2010) and Streets of Rage 4 (Dotemu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games, 2020)) then you’ll be more than familiar with the criteria and the controls: simply move from the left side of the screen to the right, tapping the control stick or directional pad to run and using A to jump and X to attack, repeatedly tapping the button to string together simple combos. The controls are fully customisable so you can set them to whatever works best for you, but I found the default settings to be more than adequate, and the game includes an optional ‘How to Play’ mode that runs you through what the characters are capable of. I mentioned Scott Pilgrim just now and that’s an appropriate comparison as the characters in Shredder’s Revenge will level up to a maximum level of ten the more you fight and play, increasing their gauges and unlocking additional moves to use.

Bust some shell with the TMNT and their allies’ versatile combat options.

Streets of Rage 4 is also an appropriate comparison considering Dotemu developed both that and Shredder’s Revenge, and there are some similar mechanics here: B allows you to perform a backflip (or a hop with some characters) to avoid attacks or launch into a reverse attack with X, you’ll grab enemies automatically when standing close to them and can toss them, fling them at the screen, or slam them, pressing A when running performs a sliding attack, and you can press A or B to do a quick wakeup roll or get up faster when knocking down. You can also hold X to charge up a heavy attack and smack enemies upwards for a juggle and, as you pummel enemies, you’ll build up your “Ninja Power” gauge; when full, you can press Y to pull off a special attack that drains this meter rather than your health and sees your character explode in a whirlwind of sais, swords, or nunchakus to take out groups of enemies. When you level-up, this gauge will increase up to three levels, allowing you to perform subsequent special attacks and, eventually, enter “Radical Mode” with the Right Bumper to temporarily increase your speed and attack power at the cost of being able to perform a special attack. Eventually, you’ll be able to press Y in mid-air or out of a backflip to perform different special attacks, and you can also press RB to perform a taunt that leaves you vulnerable but will instantly fill your Ninja Power gauge. When playing with friends, you can perform team attacks simply by attacking the same enemies at the same time; the Left Bumper allows you to high five them to grant them two hit points from your own health meter, and you’ll have ten seconds to revive them when they’re defeated by holding LB (and a slice of pizza) before their downed form.

Speed along on rocket boards and watch for stage hazards!

While all the controls and even the special moves aren’t that different between characters, they do have different attributes; you’ll need to consider their range, speed, and power when selecting a character as guys like Raphael have a short reach, Casey Jones is quite slow and lumbering, and April O’Neil is fast but not particularly powerful. You’ll also want to consider the game’s difficulty settings, with “Chill” offering a very casual experience but “Gnarly” increasing the number and aggression of your enemies, and the additional challenge offered by the “Arcade” mode, which limits your lives and continues and features no save progression for a more authentic arcade experience. The main story mode sees you travelling to and from stages (referred to as “Episodes”) using a world map, which is easy to navigate and allows you to replay previous missions to level-up further or find any collectibles you missed. In stages, you’ll find plenty of things to smash to uncover power-ups and collectibles, but these can also help fend off enemies, such as fire hydrants to blast them back, explosive barrels, and smacking cameras, shopping trolleys, or traffic cones. Enemies can also toss things at you, though, and will often burst up from manholes or behind billboards and such, which then act as pits for you to fall down and other stage hazards, like electrical wires, spikes, freeze blasts, and subway trains are also present. The enjoyable mindless beat-‘em-up action is somewhat broken up by a handful of Episodes that see you rocketing along the streets or through the skies on a skate/hoverboard, taking out similarly-equipped and flying enemies with the full range of your attacks still available to you. Jump-kicking flying enemies can be a little tricky to judge, however, even with their shadows being on screen and, in the event that you do exhaust all your lives, you’ll need to restart the Episode from the very beginning.

Graphics and Sound:  
Shredder’s Revenge opts for absolutely gorgeous sprite work for its in-game graphics to make it seem like a modern version or update of the classic TMNT arcade titles. All of the sprites are big, colourful, and packed full of character; all of the playable characters have different idle and movement animations, so Splinter hobbles along on his cane, Michelangelo flails about when running, and characters swing about their weapons and comment when left standing still. Many of the voices from the original cartoon return to voice their respective characters, though this is limited to in-game outbursts and comments rather than full-on voice acting. Even the enemies have a great deal of personality; you’ll see Foot Soldiers chilling out, blending in in the background, playing Game Boys, eating ice cream, and many other amusing sight gags that encourage multiple playthroughs and all the moves, combos, and controls are so slick thanks to how well done the sprite work and animation is. There’s loads of Easter Eggs packed into Shredder’s Revenge, from enemies using some of the toy vehicles to graffiti or recognisable elements dotted all over the place, and references to the original arcade release, Turtles in Time, the live-action movies, and, of course, the original cartoon frequently cropping up so you’ll probably spot something new each time you play.

The whole game is a visual homage to the TMNT cartoons and videogames of old.

If you’ve played the original arcade game or Turtles in Time, many of Shredder’s Revenge’s locations will be immediately familiar; you’ve got the streets of New York, the rat-infested sewers and subway tunnels, the Channel 6 building (including the kitchen, a cooking show, and the office where you’ll find the likes of Irma, Burne Thompson, and Vernon Fenwick), the dingy alleys and high-speed skies of the city (where you’ll see the TMNT blimp in the background and the Foot attacking the Statue of Liberty), and eventually the jungles, wilds, and technological nightmares of Dimension X. There are also more colourful locations, like the fairground and attractions of Coney Island (where you’ll briefly battle across a beach and find the Punk Frogs), the cages and animals of the Central Park Zoo (where monkeys toss bananas at you and rhinos and warthogs stampede across the stage), and the creature comforts of the Crystal Palace Mall (where you’ll smash through barriers, ride escalators, and destroy arcade machines). There are, of course, a couple of instances where you’re trapped on an elevator and must fend off waves of goons and, while there’s not much focus on vertical traversal, stages often have multiple areas to help keep things visually interesting. The music is pretty much standard TMNT fare but there’s some fun inclusions from the likes of Lee Topes and (surprisingly) Raekwon and Ghostface Killah; even Mike Patton of Faith No More does a rocking cover version of the classic TMNT theme song. Speaking of which, this iconic intro is lovingly recreated and expanded upon through a slick animated sequence, while the remainder of the game’s cutscenes are rendered using either the in-game graphics or larger sprite work with text boxes just like in the old games.

Enemies and Bosses:
As is pretty much always the case for a TMNT videogame, you’ll primarily be battling through the seemingly endless hordes of the robotic Foot Clan; these multi-coloured ninjas come in a variety of forms, from the standard purple variant to blue, yellow, pink, and black, with each one wielding a different weapon. Some fire arrows or plungers, others can tangle you up in their whips, while others have katanas, axes, lances, or shields and can block your attacks. Some will be able to disappear in a puff of ninja smoke and toss daggers at you, while others drive motorcycles or the Foot Cruiser or pilot a spider-like mech that can only be damaged when the pilot is dizzy from missing a big axe handle smash. You’ll also encounter smaller robotic enemies, such as Roadkill Rodneys they grab you with their tentacles or spit out bombs, and Mousers, which can clamp onto you and be spawned by their larger variants. Hulking Triceratons and Stone Warriors can take quite a beating, charge at you, and even protect themselves with forcefields to take pot shots at you. Easily one of the most annoying enemies in the game, however, are the mud-like beasts that resemble the Pizza Monsters; these bastards leap up from the ground, clamping themselves to your face, and can be difficult to get a hit on since they pop up so quickly.

Some of the TMNT’s most memorable foes return as action-packed boss battles.

Naturally, you’ll also have to contend with some bigger, tougher bosses; many of these will appear mid-way through the Episode to take hostages, cause havoc, or head off with a piece of Krang’s robotic body, forcing you to pursue them across the stage. Two bosses you’ll encounter on numerous occasions are series staples Bebop and Rocksteady; both are fought alone in the first two episodes, with Bebop blasting laser bolts from his pistol and stunning himself when you avoid his shoulder barge and Rocksteady stomping around while hurling grenades at you. You’ll chase the two down through tunnels and across a bridge in Episode 3, where they attack from the Turtle Tenderiser, a large armoured jeep that erratically veers across the stage while they shoot and toss grenades at you. Later on, after clearing the rooftop stage, you’ll battle both on the ground and at the same time. This is definitely much tougher than the previous fights as their projectiles and physical attacks become much more erratic and aggressive, but it’s not too difficult to isolate one of them or even pummel them both when they’re on the same side of the screen. I was happy to see a number of familiar faces return as bosses throughout the game as well; the Rat King awaits in the sewers, charming a stampede of rats from atop a wrecked Footski with this flute and tossing you about with a whirling-like throw, and Leatherhead is fought at the end of the Coney Island episode, where he randomly hops out from grates to snap at you with his powerful jaws while the Punk Frogs toss barrels and pizzas to help you.

Some familiar, and obscure, TMNT enemies also show up for some fun boss encounters.

Baxter Stockman attacks (in his human fly form) at the end of the Secret Laboratory episode, hovering just out of reach and blasting at you, firing a gooey fist from his gun, and retreating to the background to blast massive laser cannons across the arena. Recognisable enemies like Tokka and Rahzar also make an appearance courtesy of Tempestra, a villain I’m not actually familiar with but who spawns them in to burp debilitating gas and roll around in a spiked shell and to distract you from attacking her when she’s not protecting herself with a burst of electricity. Shredder reprograms Metalhead to fight you in an electronics shop in the Silicon Alley episode, where he attacks with extendable arms and is accompanied by a bunch of Mousers, General Traag awaits in Balamphon after a descending elevator sequence, shielding himself with a piece of wall panel and blasting at you with a huge bazooka, and one of my favourite TMNT enemies, Slash, stalks you from the jungles of Dimension X and attacks you outside the ruins of the Technodrome, flying in a bladed whirlwind, causing boulders to rain down (and even throwing one at you), and spinning about in a shell attack. There are also a few other somewhat more obscure (at least they were to me) bosses to battle: Groundchuck and Dirtbag attack together, shooting spiked projectiles and digging under the ground to attack with a shovel, respectively; Wingnut battles you in the skies above New York, dashing about at high speeds and firing missiles at you while Foot Soldiers come hovering in (though you can just focus on him for a relatively easy win); Captain Zorax of the Triceratons fights you in the Natural History Museum, blasting at you and ordering a herd of Triceratons to try and flatten you like a pancake; and Chrome Dome confronts you in Balamphon, proving completely invulnerable to conventional attacks and requiring you to fling Foot Soldiers at him when the screen shifts to his first-person perspective in a call-back to the final battle against the Shredder from the original arcade game.

Besting Krang leads to you clashing swords with the Shredder and a true test of your skills.

Speaking of the Shredder, he crops up here and there in cutscenes and to sic enemies and bosses after you but won’t actually be fought until the final Episodes of the game. Each time, you must get through Krang first, who also appears (in pieces, in his little walker, or as a floating brain) throughout the story mode as Shredder’s henchmen try and reassemble his disparate parts. After fighting through pretty much every single previous enemy in the Outworld Hideout episode, you’ll fight against Krang in his robotic body. This isn’t too bad as long as you avoid his kick when up close and it’s pretty easy to dodge his mace-like punch from across the screen, but it gets a bit tricky when Krang splits into two parts; his feet stomping and kicking and his torso hovering around and firing lasers. You’ll have to face the Shredder immediately afterwards as well, with the armoured ninja slashing at you up close, flinging you away with a burst of electricity, and duplicating himself for three times the danger and with only one of his doubles being the right one. Once they’re defeated, Krang takes control of the Statue of Liberty and you face his gargantuan form atop a ruined rooftop, not unlike similar massive battles from other beat-‘em-ups and fighting games; your attack range is limited here as Krang smashes his fists and sends you flying with a shockwave, fires a devastating mouth laser, and turns Lady Liberty’s head into a cannon that targets you with an explosive bolt. Foot Soldiers will also swarm into the small platform you’re on, but it’s not massively difficult to pummel Krang up close and avoid his shots to take him out once and for all. Back on the city streets, the Shredder will once again transform into his ultimate form, the hulking Super Shredder, for the final battle of the game; Super Shredder is completely invulnerable and dashes about leaving a trail of flames in his wake. He can also teleport, grab and slam you, and send out waves of flames that you can somewhat easily avoid by staying in the corner furthest from him. He then unleashes an electrical sphere attack that also shields him as his shadowy doubles fire projectiles from the four corners of the screen, but he will eventually succumb to the mutagen’s debilitating effects and be rendered vulnerable for a very short period of time, allowing you to land a quick combo (but be sure to backflip away before he slashes you with a shadowy duplicate).

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Each character comes equipped with their own signature weapons, from Leonardo’s double katana to Casey’s array of sporting paraphernalia, all of which can be utilised with your combos and other attacks, though this does mean that there are no opportunities to pick up and throw weapons so you’ll have to settle for attacking parts of the environment to help you out in a pinch. Onscreen hazards like spikes, electrical bolts, falling lights, and laser turrets can often damage enemies as well, so it’s worth manoeuvring them to be damaged by these, but there are a couple of pick-ups you can find throughout the game, too. Pizza will replenish your health (and you won’t pick it up if you’re at full health, meaning it’s harder to screw over your friends) so be sure to grab that but there are two other pizzas you can get, too; one will grant you an endless Ninja Power gauge for about ten seconds and another sends you into a frenzy, devastating all onscreen enemies with a super special attack. It’s worth playing through as each character as well as they’ll level-up and gain better meters and additional moves, increasing your chances of success on other modes and difficulties.

Additional Features:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge has thirty Achievements on offer, with six awarded simply for playing through the story mode. You’ll get Achievements for playing with friends, too, including reviving and high fiving them, and for performing a number of combo attacks. Achievements can also be earned for clearing the “Arcade” mode on higher difficulties and without continues, for defeating the Rat King as Splinter, and for clearing the game as every character, as well as powering each character up to the max and flinging enemies at the screen. Each Episode also comes with three challenges for players to aim for; these range from finishing the stage without taking damage, performing certain moves, or not doing certain things and will add to the points you earn upon completion to aid with your levelling-up. Once complete, you don’t need to worry about redoing these challenges on each playthrough, but it would’ve been nice to see new challenges loaded in each time to help level-up other characters on subsequent playthroughs. Once you clear the game’s story mode, you’ll unlock Casey Jones as a playable character, and you can replay your completed file at any time. Most of the game’s Episodes are also hiding a recognisable TMNT side character, such as the four Punk Frogs or the Neutinos, who’ll then appear on the world map and task you with finding certain items in each Episode (newspapers, bugs, VHS tapes, and crystals); finding all of these will award you extra points to level-up and some Achievements, though they’re pretty easy to find on a casual playthrough. The game allows for local and online co-operative play and is at its most challenging on “Arcade” mode, but sadly doesn’t have too much in the way of unlockables; there are no extra skins or colour palettes (which is a shame as I would’ve liked to see a black and white mode akin to the Mirage Comics or Slash included as a playable character), no versus mode, no boss rush, no gallery or concept art, and the only way you can currently get a physical copy of the game is to get one of the extremely limited and expensive copies offered by Limited Run.

The Summary:
I’ve always been a massive fan of sidescrolling beat-‘em-ups and have long lamented how so many of the classic titles are denied to us on modern consoles due to being discontinued or licensing right and such, and this is true of a great many of the TMNT videogames (at least, for now…) so to see the Heroes in a Half-Shell make such a spectacular, unexpected, and welcome return to form is truly a delight to see and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge was a no-brainer purchase for me. Everything about the game is a love letter not just to the beat-‘em-up titles of the past but to the cartoon and the franchise as a whole; there are enemies, vehicles, bosses, and references to the movies, the comics, and the vast toy line all over the game, but the decision to bring back the cartoon’s voice cast and stick closely to the aesthetic and lore of the popular animated show just adds to the charm and nostalgia of this title. Even better, the added combat options and variety offered by the characters and stages really helps to keep things from getting repetitive; the sheer personality, allure, and cartoony humour etched into Shredder’s Revenge helps to keep the game fast-paced and action-packed from start to finish. The added extras like finding items for some of the TMNT’s supporting characters and offering an extra level of challenge in the “Arcade” mode are welcome additions to help keep you coming back for more, though it’s a shame that more of the additional modes and features from Streets of Rage 4 weren’t included (though I wouldn’t rule out some downloadable content in the future). Ultimately, Shredder’s Revenge proved to be a wonderfully enjoyable throwback to the bygone era of beat-‘em-up TMNT videogames; the presentation, combat, and gameplay was all top notch, offering a fun-filled, action-packed experience that lovingly pays homage to one of the greatest cartoon and toy franchises of the eighties.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

Did you enjoy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge? Which of the playable characters was your go-to and what did you think to the original voice cast returning? Did you enjoy the many references and homages to the cartoons and videogames? Which of the stages or bosses was your favourite? Would you like to see more characters and modes added to the game in the future? What are some beat-‘em-ups you’d like to see make a comeback? Whatever your thoughts on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, feel free to sign up to leave them below or drop a comment on my social media.

Talking Movies [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze


The first issue of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) was published in May of 1984. Since then, the TMNT have gone on to achieve worldwide mainstream success thanks not only to their original comics run but also a number of influential cartoons, videogames, and wave-upon-wave of action figures. Even now, the TMNT continue to be an influential and popular commodity, proving that some fads don’t die out…they just get stronger!


Talking Movies

Released: 22 March 1991
Director: Michael Pressman
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Budget: $25 million
Stars: Brian Tochi/Mark Caso, Adam Carl/Leif Tilden, Laurie Faso/Kenn Troum, Robbie Rist/Mark Caso, Paige Turco, David Warner, Ernie Reyes, Jr., and David McCharen/François Chau

The Plot:
Having defeated their nemesis, Oroku Saki/The Shredder (McCharen/Chau), the TMNT begin to grow restless about being hidden in the shadows. When their friend, reporter April O’Neil (Turco), does a report on Techno Global Research Industries (TGRI), she uncovers a possible link to their past through the mysterious mutagenic “ooze”. However, the TMNT are in for the fight of their lives when Shredder returns bent on revenge and uses the ooze to create mutant minions of his own!

The Background:
As I’ve explained before, the TMNT were originally a violent pastiche of comic book troupes created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird who were catapulted to mainstream success by the unbelievably popular 1987 cartoon. Perhaps inevitably, this led to a live-action feature film; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) was a technically impressive financial success that went on to become a cult favourite. Interestingly enough, though, as much as I love that film, I actually saw its sequel first. Produced on a budget nearly twice that of the original, TMNT II featured a few cast changes and Eastman and Laird using every piece of their influence and creative control to ensure that Shredder’s henchmen from the cartoon didn’t appear in the film. Although TMNT II went on to receive mixed reviews due to it being dumbed down compared its predecessor, it stillmade over $78 million at the box office (though this was significantly less than the first film). However, despite TMNT II’s less-than-stellar reputation, I have an incredible amount of nostalgia for it and prefer to think of it as an under-rated entry in the franchise.

The Review:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze picks up an unspecified (but presumably short) period of time after the end of the last movie; with the Foot Clan all-but eradicated following the Shredder’s apparent death, New York City has settled down quite a bit and it appears that all of its inhabitants have taken to stuffing their faces with delicious pizza rather than causing trouble to their fellow man.

The TMNT grow restless after the victory and befriend an awe-struck pizza delivery boy.

Sorry, did I say all? Well, that’s not quite true as we find our new audience surrogate, Keno (Reyes, Jr.), stumbling upon a late-night robbery while out delivering (you guessed it) pizza. Though a bit of a little bastard (he body shames a couple of girls when they turn him down despite the fact that they look pretty fine to me), Keno’s a good kid just trying to make his own way so when he finds a group of low-level scumbags robbing a mall, he doesn’t hesitate to intervene using his impressive martial arts skills. While his intentions are good and he’s more than capable of holding his own, Keno is hopelessly outnumbered but, luckily for him, he’s saved when the TMNT intervene. Since their old sewer hideout was compromised in the last film, the TMNT and their mentor and father-figure, Splinter (Kevin Clash), have moved into the new apartment of their human friend, April O’Neil, and have filled their time by mostly ordering pizza. You may be wondering what happened to Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) between movies and, sadly, this answer is never provided; instead, Keno bonds with the TMNT after discovering them on one of his many trips to April’s apartment with their pizza and specifically forms a fast friendship with the similarly hot-headed Raphael (Faso/Troum).

While Raph prefers to be proactive, Mikey continues to fall back on buffoonery.

Essentially, the TMNT remain very much the same characters as in the last film, although their more childish characteristics have been dialled up quite a bit; all of them, even field leader Leonardo (Tochi/Caso), are far more prone to spouting quips and surfer talk during fights and are growing incredibly restless with having to hide from the outside world, especially after saving the city. As before, it is Raphael who most strongly embodies this; when Keno finds that the Foot are actively enlisting new recruits, both characters explicitly disobey Splinter’s direct order not to investigate and Raph ends up captured as a result, apparently having learned nothing about the value of teamwork from the last movie. Of all the TMNT, it is Michelangelo (Rist/Caso) who again best encompasses the TMNT’s buffoonery; he’s the first one to spout a pop culture reference, lapse into tomfoolery, or incur a punishment from Splinter for his foolishness, and yet, despite all of that, he actually ends up being instrumental in defeating the Shredder’s mutant goons.

The TMNT are disappointed to find that their creation was a simple industrial accident.

The TMNT’s immature and restless nature is of considerable aggravation to April, who is torn between enjoying the company of her strange friends and finding their laziness and untidiness irritating in her cramped apartment. Similarly, Splinter tries to emphasise that his “sons” cannot ever hope to be a part of normal society and most devote themselves to the life of ninjas, hiding in the shadows in order to protect them from reprisals. When April’s news report on TGRI promises to answer lingering questions about their past, the TMNT are excited to investigate further, especially Donatello (Carl/Tilden). However, Donnie is disheartened to learn from Professor Jordan Perry (Warner) that their creation was simply a mistake caused when one of TGRI’s canisters of mutagenic ooze was lost down a sewer some fifteen years ago.

Shredder is enraged when his mutant minions turn out to be little more than super strong babies!

With the Foot in disarray at the start of the film, Tatsu’s (Toshishiro Obata/Michael McConnohie) hopes of taking the reins are almost instantly supplanted by the returning Shredder, who pulls himself from the wreckage of his defeat, crafts himself a far more fearsome-looking armour, and specifically sends the best of his few remaining men to follow April in order to enact revenge against the TMNT. In the process, the Shredder acquires the final canister of the mutagenic ooze and arranges for Perry to be taken hostage so that he can use the substance to create mutant minions of his own. The results are not the more familiar Bebop and Rocksteady but are, instead the infantile Tokka (Frank Welker/Kurt Bryant) and Rahzar (Frank Welker/Mark Ginther) who immediately (and amusingly) imprint on Shredder as their “Mama” and pose a significant physical threat due to their sheer size and ferocity.

The Nitty-Gritty:
While I can understand people lamenting that the sequel adopts more of the kid-friendly archetypes from its animated counterpart than the first film, I don’t really feel like this is a detriment to Secret of the Ooze; the presence of additional jokes and gags doesn’t diminish from the film’s darker elements (the Shredder, in particular, cuts a far more intimidating figure thanks to his new armour). Additionally, having more slapstick elements doesn’t mean the film isn’t entertaining and amusing; if the first film was a compromise between the comic and the cartoon, the sequel is a pretty close live-action approximation of the cartoon and also delivers one of my favourite exchanges in the entire franchise (Mickey’s “Yeah, a little too Raph!” line is just golden!) The film also greatly benefits from its increased budget, which not only results in the TMNT’s impressive new lair in an abandoned subway but also far more exterior scenes in and around the city and even an appearance and song by rapper Vanilla Ice.

While cartoonish action is the order of the day, the suits and fighting are still impressive.

Additionally, and crucially, the turtle suits still look fantastic and are, arguably, better than in the first film. The film also features bigger and more elaborate fight scenes and the martial arts are still incredibly impressive considering how hot and heavy and uncomfortable the suits must be, though it can’t be denied that the action has been significantly dumbed down. Unlike in the first film, the TMNT never actually use their weapons in combat, which is startlingly emphasised in the opening fight scene where they dispatch each of the robbers using slapstick shenanigans and improvised weaponry from the mall. Cartoonish sound effects punctuate a lot of the fights and actions in the film but they are used relatively sparingly and to amusing effect and one of the standout sequences sees Raph and Keno sneaking their way into, and attempting to fight their way out of, the Foot’s new recruitment centre.

After disposing of Tokka and Rahzar, the TMNT must do battle with the Super Shredder!

The addition of mutated antagonists for the TMNT to fight is a welcome one; while I would have much preferred Bebop and Rocksteady, Tokka and Rahzar are a more than suitable substitute thanks to their savage appearances. As you might expect, given how the film leans more towards the comedic than its predecessor, the two are also the source of much comedy; being “intellectually inferior” by Perry’s design to try and render them less of a threat, the two are easily manipulated by Shredder. Despite having the numbers advantage against Tokka and Rahzar, the TMNT are continuously overpowered by their greater strength and are forced to turn to a more scientific solution to defeat them and reduce them to harmless, regular animals. With his minions taken out of the picture, and driven to the edge by his numerous defeats and humiliations, the Shredder opts to drink the last vial of ooze and transforms himself into the hulking “Super Shredder” (Kevin Nash). The resulting finale is a far less technically impressive contest between the TMNT and their archenemy as, rather than making short work of the TMNT with his superior martial arts and skills like in the first film, the Super Shredder is little more than a silent, monstrous foe who goes on a self-destructive rampage on a pier. Though outmatched by Super Shredder’s incredible strength and unrequited rage, this ultimately doesn’t matter since Shredder ends up destroying himself for an ending that is a sadly anticlimactic end for their most famous enemy.

The Summary:
Even now, considering my unashamed fondness for the first film, I still find Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze a thoroughly entertaining watch in its own right. In many ways, the film is the perfect bridge between the original Mirage Comics and the popular 1980s cartoon since it has just the right blend of cartoonish buffoonery and action and dark, poignant moments. Sure, it’s disappointing that the TMNT don’t use their weapons offensively but it’s not like they were cutting their enemies up into bits and pieces in the first film and anyone who’s watched the cartoon would be more than used to this depiction of the TMNT by this point. The addition of mutated antagonists was a welcome one; while Bebop and Rocksteady would have been my first, preferred choice, it was a natural way to escalate the conflict from the first film. Featuring a bunch of genuinely amusing gags and moments, some fun action, and incredibly impressive practical suits and animatronics, The Secret of the Ooze has plenty of appealing features to it that make it a more than worthy follow-up to the last film and I will defend it until my dying day as being an entertaining experience in its own right that deserves far more attention than it gets.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Are you a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze? How do you think the film holds up against its predecessor and the other TMNT films? Which of the TMNT is your favourite and why? What did you think to Tokka and Rahzar and would you have preferred to see Bebop and Rocksteady instead? What did you think to the increased emphasis on comedic slapstick compared to the last film? Would you like to see another live-action TMNT film using modern technology to create more practical versions of the TMNT? How are you celebrating the TMNT’s debut this month? Whatever your thoughts on the TMNT, leave a comment down below.

Talking Movies [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


The first issue of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) was published in May of 1984. Since then, the TMNT have gone on to achieve worldwide mainstream success thanks not only to their original comics run but also a number of influential cartoons, videogames, and wave-upon-wave of action figures. Even now, the TMNT continue to be an influential and popular commodity, proving that some fads don’t die out…they just get stronger!


Talking Movies

Released: 30 March 1990
Director: Steve Barron
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Budget: $13.5 million
Stars: Brian Tochi/David Forman, Corey Feldman/Leif Tilden, Josh Pais, Robbie Rist/Michelan Sisti, David McCharen/James Saito, Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, and Kevin Clash

The Plot:
New York City is under siege by a crime wave perpetrated by masked hoodlums calling themselves the “Foot Clan”. When reporter April O’Neil (Hoag) tries to bring their organisation to light, the Foot’s leader, Oroku Saki/The Shredder (McCharen/Saito) orders her death but she is saved by four turtles, mutated into humanoid form and trained in martial arts and the way of the ninja, who live in the sewers. When the TMNT’s master, Splinter (Clash) is attacked and held captive by the Foot, they must work to set aside their differences, end the Shredder’s schemes, and finally settle an old grudge between him and their master.

The Background:
I’ve talking in great detail about this before but you must be surprised to learn just how dark and violent the TMNT originally were; created and self-published by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird back in 1984, the TMNT were influenced by the works of Frank Miller and comic books like Daredevil, the New Mutants, Ronin (Miller, et al, 1983 to 1984), and Cerebus (Sim and Gerhard, 1977 to 2004). As such, the four mutated ninjas were rendered in striking black and white and exposited stoic, stilted dialogue (largely through text boxes) in a clear pastiche of Miller’s trademark art and writing style. The extremely popular 1987 cartoon catapulted the TMNT to mainstream superstardom, transforming them from dark, violent anti-heroes to cute, cuddly, kid-friendly “Hero” Turtles.

The TMNT’s popularity skyrocketed and led to the production of a live-action feature film.

As such, for many children (myself included), our first taste of just how violent the TMNT could be was this live-action feature film, which blended elements of both the cartoon and the comics to create what is, for me, the quintessential TMNT movie. To bring the TMNT to life, the filmmakers wisely went to Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to create highly sophisticated suits and animatronics, giving the film a truly timeless feel not just because of nostalgia but the sheer quality of the film’s practical effects. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, unsurprisingly, debuted at number one at the box office and went on to earn over $200 million, meaning it was a massive success. Perhaps due to the film’s subject matter and target audience, critics were somewhat divided on their opinion of the film but it has gone on to be a cult favourite for many and, of course, spawned two sequels (one which I believe to be under-rated and the other which was hot garbage).

The Review:
The film begins by showcasing and emphasising the crimewave that is sweeping through New York City; April narrates in her broadcast the particulars of these events and we see how teenagers and youths are picking pockets and stealing stuff all over the place and delivering it to the Foot Clan. This sets up right away that the city is, in effect, under siege and the police are powerless to really stop it and hints towards possible corruption in the police department as a result of the Foot’s influence. Despite the warnings of Charles Pennington (Jay Patterson), her boss, April is determined to run with the story; she’s that typical reporter cliché we’ve seen hundreds of times in a multitude of media, always chasing the story and butting heads with those in authority, and seemingly ignorant to any threat against her person. This backfires on her when the Foot confront her, apparently looking to kill her, but she puts up a decent fight despite the odds being stacked against her, which really helps sell her as this tenacious and ballsy character.

April is a strong, ballsy ally to the TMNT who isn’t afraid to stand up to injustice.

April gains additional layers as the film progresses; though she first reacts with fear and horror at the appearances of the TMNT and Splinter, she soon becomes captivated by their origin story, sympathetic to their cause, and befriends them, showing genuine affection towards each of them and offering them a place to stay after Splinter is abducted and presumed dead. She also has a lot of friction with Casey Jones (Koteas) at first but the two eventually warm to each other as they spend more time together; though she doesn’t really factor into the film’s finale, she’s the glue that holds the characters together and drives the plot into motion. Plus, even better, she never becomes a simple damsel in distress and is, instead, both an audience surrogate and a useful ally when the TMNT are left directionless after Splinter’s kidnapping.

The TMNT are kept in shadows and given distinct markings and colourations.

The film does a great job keeping the TMNT hidden and obscured in the early going; they strike from the shadows and are only heard, rather than seen, until dramatically leaping into view in all their practical and animatronic glory. Each of the TMNT has a distinct look (Michelangelo (Rist/Sisti) is shorter and pudgier, and Leonardo (Tochi/Forman) is leaner and more toned, for example), colourations, and blemishes to help distinguish them beyond their different bandana colours. Each also sports a different and unique voice and accent, with Raphael (Pais) favouring more of a Brooklyn twang and Mikey having that “surfer dude” style of speech that the TMNT were known for in the cartoons.

Raphael’s hot-headed nature causes him to clash with Leo and results in him being seriously hurt.

Additionally, each has their own personality and character arc in the film to help separate them and make them relevant; of them all, though, it is Raphael who gets the most recognisable story arc as he is the angry, antagonistic, hothead of the group. He expresses both ager and frustration at having lost his sai in the beginning, frequently defies Leo’s authority and leadership, and makes numerous trips to the surface in a ridiculously basic disguise. Of all the TMNT, Raph is the one who takes Splinter’s abduction the worst, reacting with a gut-wrenching cry of anguish and lashing out at both friend and foe alike. He ultimately pays the price for this when he is jumped and beaten by the Foot and spends the second act of the film semi-conscious in a bathtub. Faced with his mortality, he makes amends with his brother and the TMNT begin training anew as a complete group to take the fight to the Foot Clan.

Leo is forced to hold his brothers together in Splinter’s absence and reconcile with Raph.

Leo’s character arc is subtle but present; he’s the field leader of the group but they are all relatively untested in live combat so there are some kinks to work out in the dynamic. Obviously, the most explicit example of this is seen in his frequent clashes with Raphael but we also see Leo struggling to hold his brothers together in Splinter’s absence and he is the only one balanced enough to successfully contact Splinter through meditation and eventually comes to lead the group in their battle against Shredder.

Don and Mike are often paired up but aren’t quite as prominent as their brothers.

Conversely, Donatello (Feldman/Tilden) doesn’t really get much of an opportunity to really stand out or do much in the film, showcasing none of the intelligence or technological ability he is generally known for; however, he is the only one to use bigger, more verbose words in his vocabulary, to notice when April’s apartment is becoming structurally unstable, and to help fix up the vehicle at the farmhouse so these elements aren’t entirely absent. He also attempts to address the implications of Splinter’s absence to the team and bonds with Casey during the sojourn at April’s farmhouse and gets a lot more to do than Mikey, who is the childish goof of the film and exists mainly to complete the group and act as the comic relief. He doesn’t even get highlighted during April’s narration at the farmhouse and has few stand out moments beyond being a loveable goofball and his cringe-worthy, but amusing, series of impressions.

The TMNT work best as a team, where they are a formidable force despite their bickering.

Still, the appeal of the TMNT has always been the group dynamic rather than the individuals; when Raph is injured, the team is noticeably fractured and struggles to coordinate their efforts without all four of them and, though they often clash and are very different, even volatile personalities at times, they work best when they are a team. The film really uses their amusing bickering, interpersonal conflicts, and complex interactions to sell the idea of the TMNT being four teenaged brothers; of course they don’t always get along and they are far from perfect but this serves only to highlight them as relatable and full-realised characters even when some of them get ore screen time and development than others.

Splinter is the TMNT’s wise mentor and father-figure whose absence affects them greatly.

The TMNT are guided in their growth and development by Splinter, their mentor and father-figure; each of the TMNT has a different relationship with Splinter, who is a calm and wise teacher who indulges but often despairs over their more childish ways and personality quirks. Leo treats Splinter with a reverence and respect, Mikey takes him somewhat for granted and isn’t willing to think about life without him, Don is the opposite and worries about Splinter’s mortality, and Splinter struggles to get through Raph’s anger. Splinter spends much of the film as Shredder’s captive but, while he is clearly suffering and, perhaps, close to death during this torture, he not only remains tight-lipped but is also able to impart his knowledge on to Charles’s son, Danny (Michael Turney), and make contact with the TMNT via semi-telepathic meditation. Splinter also gets his own arc in the film, having raised the TMNT using teachings he learned as an ordinary rat and, ultimately, confronting and besting the man who killed his master.

Violent vigilante Casey Jones becomes a snarky, ass-kicking ally of the TMNT.

April isn’t the only audience surrogate in the film though; we also get one of my favourite characters in the franchise, Casey Jones, the hockey mask wearing, sports-gear-wielding vigilante who initially clashes with Raphael before falling in with the TMNT and forming a friendship with them, especially Donatello. We don’t learn a massive amount about Casey or his motivations beyond vague hints towards an injury keeping him from going into professional sports, that he’s extremely claustrophobic, and that he appears to a homeless vagrant but Koteas brings a real likeable charisma and snark to the role and Casey ends up helping out a lot in the film’s finale by rescuing Splinter and confronting Shredder’s main henchman, Tatsu (Toshishiro Obata/Michael McConnohie).

Shredder cuts an intimidating figure but his plot to turn teens into ninja thieves is a bit suspect…

Speaking of Shredder, he’s a far more subdued and calculating individual compared to his boisterous animated incarnation. Rather than wishing to conquer the city, the world, or employ resources from another dimension, Shredder’s entire plot seems to be about building an army of ninja warriors and thieves, turning disillusioned teens into petty crooks and fostering their resentment of authority figures by allowing them to indulge their every whim. It’s not entirely clear what his larger endgame is but it’s enough to amass him a formidable criminal enterprise and to have the city in a state of…maybe not fear but definitely apprehension.

Shredder is easily able to best the TMNT in combat before being summarily defeated by Splinter.

Of course, it turns out that the Shredder is actually Oroku Saki, the man responsible for killing Splinter’s master. This isn’t revealed until right at the very end of the film, moments before the Shredder’s defeat at Splinter’s hands, but the TMNT’s battle against the Shredder is highly emotionally charged nevertheless thanks to the beating the Foot deliver to Raphael, Shredder being behind Splinter’s abduction, and Shredder’s assertion that their father-figure is dead. Unlike his lowly minions, Shredder is a formidable combatant, able to easily match and best the TMNT in a four-on-one battle and exuding menace and authority through this very presence.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Having grown up watching Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles as a child, I had no idea how dark and violent the original TMNT comics were; the film was in stark contrast to the TMNT media I was exposed to on a semi-regular basis and, at the time, I saw it as a darker, more serious reimagining of the concept. Still, it impressed me then and it still impresses now not just as easily the best live-action adaptation of the comic books but also how closely it sticks to the original comics. A few elements are changed here and there and the TMNT look and act a lot more like their animated counterparts, but this is all to the film’s benefit as the early comics took a while to actually make distinctions between the otherwise-interchangeable TMNT.

The movie has a clear edge to it that is more like the original comics than its kid-friendly cartoon.

It always bugged me how the TMNT have these weapons and martial arts skills and yet never seemed to use them; the film doesn’t show them skewering or slicing up their enemies like in the comics but it does make far better use of their weapons and skills to portray them as competent and dangerous combatants. That’s not to say that the film isn’t violent, though; it’s full of a violent and disturbing subtext that suggests a threat just as real as the gore seen in the comics. This is seen in the Foot’s merciless beatdown of Raphael and the big fight between the remaining TMNT in April’s apartment, which sees the Foot swinging axes and other edged weapons with clear deadly intent and the film’s glorious interpretation of the Shredder as a razor-clad foe who clearly means business and has much more in common with Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) than the bungling fool seen in the cartoon.

The film strikes just the right balance between goofy humour and violence.

One of the film’s most violent scenes comes when Tatsu, Shredder’s gruff, intense, mostly-silent underling beats one of their teenage inductees to within an inch of his life. In fact, it’s pretty clear that Tatsu does kill the boy and that a line was dubbed in to keep the victim alive but, even so, that (and the fact that the TMNT carry the clear bruises and injuries of their many battles) really sells the notion that the film isn’t some goofy cartoon and means serious business. The fact that it is able to take a concept as ridiculous as the TMNT and treat it so seriously is to be commended; the TMNT and Splinter are the most outrageous aspects of the film, with everyone who sees them reacting in shock, fear, disgust, and incredulity but, once you accept that these mutated beings exist, the film is almost the exact opposite of its animated counterpart. There’s humour, of course, largely thanks to the TMNT’s goofy antics and sense of humour but, for the most part, it’s a dark and gritty take that is a fantastic compromise between the violent comic books and the more kid-friendly cartoon.

Family and fatherhood are central themes to the movie’s plot.

A central theme in the movie is that of family and fatherhood; Danny is an angry, angst-ridden teen who resents his father and wants to rebel against him (and authority in general). His emotional confusion is a pivotal sub-plot as he struggles to fit in with the Foot, doesn’t feel like he belongs or is appreciated at home with his Dad, and becomes conflicted after befriending Splinter. Shredder acts as a surrogate father to Danny and his teenaged wannabe ninjas, offering the cheap thrills of sin and indulgence in return for their unwavering loyalty, and Splinter acts as a father to the TMNT. His absence deeply affects each of the brothers and he, too, misses them greatly during his capture and torment; this comes to a head during the group’s meditation practice where he expresses his love and pride for his “sons” and the five are reunited in the finale. The theme here is that family isn’t perfect: the TMNT continuously bicker and are somewhat dysfunctional as personalities despite how well they work together when in battle, Shredder is clearly using and manipulating the kids under his command, Danny has to accept this his father is only acting in service of his best interests, and Charles has to learn that Danny is becoming his own man now and to not treat him like a kid.

The film’s impressive effects and animatronics allow the TMNT to convey a wide range of emotions.

Of course, the real star of the film are the incredible practical effects used to bring the TMNT and Splinter to life; the TMNT suits are incredibly well realised, full of distinct details and little nuances to distinguish each character and make them feel alive and real. Though their eye masks could be better (they look fake and glued to the their heads rather than being actual fabric coverings wrapped around their eyes), the animatronic heads are an incredible technological feat allowing the TMNT to express a range of emotions, expressions, and even eat pizza convincingly. Splinter looks the most like a practical puppet thanks to his frail frame and less humanoid proportions but he is nevertheless and impressive practical effect, looking wizened and being very expressive and dynamic in his range of motion, and I especially like how he has a wet nose.

The Summary:
Even now, some thirty years since its release, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to impress; the practical suits and effects used in the film make it a timeless classic that is way better than it had any right to be and ensures that it holds up under close scrutiny in today’s digital age not just thanks to nostalgia but also because of just how much clear love and effort was put not just into bringing these ridiculous characters and concepts to life but also treating them with a level of respect and reverence that you rarely saw in adaptations of such concepts back then.

Nostalgia is a contributing factor but TMNT still holds up really well even after all these years.

As a compromise between the dark and violent comic books and the bright and goofy cartoon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles still works surprisingly well; it’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to a straight one-to-one adaptation of the original concept since the TMNT’s wider appeal and commercialisation lie sin their accessibility and recognisable elements like their “surfer dude” attitudes, obsession with pizza, and individual colour schemes. Nowadays, it’s widely known how violent and dark the original concept was and we’ve seen those elements work their way back into the franchise’s later animated incarnations but it was this film that was the first to bridge that gap and to showcase just how much the original concept had been changed to appeal to a wider, more mainstream audience.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What are your thoughts on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Do you think the film still holds up today or do the rubber suits and practical effects put you off? Which of the TMNT is your favourite and why? What was your first exposure to the TMNT as a kid and which of their various incarnations is your favourite? What do you think Shredder’s endgame was in the film and would you like to see another crack at the source material using modern technology to create more practical versions of the TMNT? How are you celebrating the TMNT’s debut this month? Whatever your thoughts on the TMNT, leave a comment down below.

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #7

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Week Nine (Final): Issue Seven

Well, here we are; it’s been a long few weeks but we’ve finally reached the last issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Color Classics Volume One (Eastman, Laird, et al, 2018). This full-colour volume collects the first seven issues of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s initial run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) comics, plus two one-shot issues featuring Raphael and Michelangelo (here referred to as “Michaelangelo”). Unlike the family-friendly TMNT that took childhoods by storm through the cartoons and action figures, these turtles are darker, far more serious, all dress in red, and routinely cut down their foes while also getting bloodied and battered up. These initial comics books introduced many TMNT staples and plot points that would be heavily featured in the first two live-action movies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Pressman, 1991), as well as inspiring many episodes of the cartoons that followed. We’ve seen the TMNT confront and kill the Shredder, the dishonourable ninja behind the death of their master Splinter’s master, battle Baxter Stockman’s robotic Mousers, befriend and turn to April O’Neil when Splinter goes missing, and be teleported across space by the T.C.R.I.’s (alien brains inside robotic bodies) and battle the dinosaur-like Triceratons! We’ve also seen Raphael form a begrudging alliance with Casey Jones, a violent and sadistic masked vigilante, Mike deliver some Christmas cheer, and now, finally, it looks like the TMNT are finally on their way back to the familiar sights and sounds of New York City.

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The TMNT arrive with some uninvited guests…

Speaking of which, issue seven opens up outside the T.C.R.I. building where the police and national guard have arrived and established a perimeter on account of the massive, suspicious beam of energy that had struck the building like a bolt of lighting from the sky. This is, of course, the Transmat Device finally beaming the TMNT back home; the T.C.R.I.’s stand ready to stun the turtles (since the last time they met, the TMNT attacked them in a frenzy after discovering Splinter being held in their facility) but are shocked to see that they didn’t just bring the TMNT back to New York…they also brought the TMNT’s new ally, Professor Honeycutt, and a whole bunch of angry Triceratons!

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While the T.C.R.I.’s try to stun the Triceratons, the TMNT just straight-up kill them!

Though weakened and unacclimatised the Earth’s atmosphere, the Triceratons know a Transmat Device when they see one and immediately attack the T.C.R.I.’s to seize it. Caught in the middle, the TMNT join the fray and attack both groups; although the T.C.R.I.’s take care to try and stun the aliens rather than out-right kill them, true to form the TMNT have no such qualms about fatally wounding the Triceratons during the fight. With the Triceratons either dead or stunned, the TMNT are finally reunited with their master and father-figure, Splinter, and finally allow the benevolent T.C.R.I.’s to explain themselves rather than flying in all guns blazing. It’s been a long road but the TMNT are at last reunited with their mentor and it’s very satisfying to see this reunion get a nice full-page depiction.

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The aliens explain their part in the TMNT’s origin.

After April arrives at the T.C.R.I. building and quickly leaves as she feels unable to help, learning that the military is preparing to force their way into the building to find out exactly what is going on, Splinter recaps the events of his escape from the Mousers and being cared for by at T.C.R.I. This leads to the T.C.R.I.’s explaining an extended version of the TMNT’s origin from issue one; it turned out that, twenty years ago, about a hundred of the aliens crash-landed on Earth during a peaceful scientific expedition; only a third of them survived the crash and, with no way of getting or contacting home, they assumed the guise of normal, everyday civilians and slowly accumulated the wealth and capital to purchase the T.C.R.I. building and begin constructing a Transmat Device to get back to their home world. During the construction of this device, they had to transport technology and salvage from their crashed ship and, during one of these runs, the fated canister of ooze fell from their truck and gave birth to the TMNT as we know them today. So, after all that, the TMNT are literally the by-product of alien technology; who would have ever thought that would be a thing

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The TMNT finally return home.

Unfortunately, all the fighting in the building has damaged some of the aliens’ systems and, to make matters worse, the military have finally forced their way in. The T.C.R.I.’s send their automated defences to subdue the soldiers but, when they realise the machines aren’t deadly, the military bust out the heavy ordinance to force their way further into the facility. Thanks to the assistance of Professor Honeycutt, the Transmat Device is repaired but, with the soldiers seconds away from breeching the Transmat room, the TMNT and Splinter are forced to follow the aliens into the beam to parts unknown once more. Back in April’s apartment, it is revealed on a news report that the T.C.R.I. building was destroyed in the aftermath to ensure that the aliens’ technology didn’t fall into the wrong hands. Though she laments the fate of her strange new friends, April is overjoyed when the TMNT and Splinter materialise in her bathroom, finally back home once more.

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The Krang-like aliens are more benevolent than their appearance suggests.

And that’s a wrap for the TMNT’s first seven issues. Honestly, the concept started off strong with a ridiculous parody of the likes of Frank Miller and then went truly off the rails by introducing mad scientists, killer robots, and aliens all within the first four issues! It’s absolutely bonkers but it absolutely works and, best of all, this issue is full of the TMNT action I’ve come to love about these early issues; the TMNT get down and dirty with the Triceratons once more, cutting and stabbing them to death in the melee and once again carry the wounds of such a battle, which is always a mind-boggling sight to see after how watered down the TMNT would become in the subsequent cartoons. Speaking of which, it is equally still just as strange to see the brain-like aliens act so benevolently considering how much of a constant threat Krang was to the TMNT over the years. The T.C.R.I.’s aren’t given much of an explanation or even a true species name in these issues and all we really know about them is that they came to Earth with apparently-nonviolent intentions and were stranded there for twenty years; they never try to harm or kill anyone, even when their robotic shells are being blasted to smithereens, and, right when you think they’re going to abandon or betray the TMNT at the issue’s end, they stay true to their word and return the TMNT back home with the fully-recovered Splinter.

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These aren’t the TMNT you knew from the cartoons!

Honestly, I am regretting that it’s taken me this long to properly get into these original interpretations of the TMNT. I knew of their darker, more violent original incarnation and remember reading at least the first two issues in an original printing but, once the Color Classics books were released, I knew that this would be the best time to finally explore these first few issues and see what the TMNT were originally all about. Will I get another volume and continue the story, or perhaps take a stab at the much-lauded IDW series? Well, probably not as I like to buy the physical books and I only have so much space but, after reading this first volume, I have to admit that I am very tempted to make room for some more TMNT action and seeing how Eastman and Laird developed these iconic characters into fully-fleshed out personalities.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What are your thoughts on the original, more violent versions of the TMNT? Did you read this first issue when it first came out or, like me, did you discover it after the TMNT took the world by storm? What did you think about the original versions of Shredder, the Foot Clan, Baxter and the Mousers, Casey Jones, and April? Have you read the Color Classics books? If so, what did you think? Do you, perhaps, prefer the IDW comics? What is your favourite piece of TMNT merchandise? Whatever your thoughts and memories of the TMNT, feel free to leave a comment below and, if you’d like to see me bring back Turtle Tuesday or cover other TMNT media, please let me know.

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #6

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Week Eight: Issue Six

When I bought first Color Classics (2018) volume of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, I went in a little bit blind. I knew that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) were far darker and more violent characters and I knew that they killed the Shredder in their first issue and went on to both befriend April O’Neil and battle Baxter Stockman and his robotic Mousers, but I never expected that the TMNT would be beamed into the far reaches of space within the first seven issues! Since issue three, the TMNT have been searching for their missing mentor and father-figure, Splinter. Their search took them to the mysterious T.C.R.I. building and saw them teleported to the alien city of Peblak, where they befriended the “Fugitoid”, Professor Honeycutt (a humanoid scientist’s consciousness trapped within a robotic body) and were hounded by the forces of General Blanque. After Honeycutt, the only one capable of constructing a Transmat Device and returning them home, was kidnapped by the dinosaur-like Triceratons, the TMNT gave chase and ended up choking to death in the cargo hold as the Triceraton ship docked with their technologically-enhanced asteroid base.

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The TMNT are held captive as collateral.

Issue six picks up right where issue five left off, with Honeycutt being brought to the command deck to witness the awesome sight of the Triceraton homeworlds, a whole series of asteroids all hollowed out and filled with space-faring technology and domed cities. While Honeycutt is taken to meet with the Triceraton’s leader, Prime Leader Zanramon, the Triceratons stumble upon the TMNT in the cargo hold. They’re sat in deep mediation, presumably to lower their heartbeats and control their breathing and make the most of the limited oxygen; however, it also leaves them helpless, allowing Zanramon to hold them captive in his attempt to force Honeycutt to construct a Transmat Device to aid their wars.

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The TMNT engage in a brutal fight to the death!

However, despite the threat to his new friends, Honeycutt remains resolute in his decision not to construct a Transmat Device for any reason as the threat to life is just too great, even if it means the TMNT will die. The story then jumps back to Earth to check in on April, who is beside herself with worry as the TMNT and Splinter have been missing for some time now. A news report reveals that the national guard have been called in to investigate some strange goings-on at the T.C.R.I. building, which does very little alleviate her fears and worries. Back at the Triceraton homeworlds, the TMNT are forced to enter the Triceraton arena in a fight to the death. Luckily, the TMNT have been provided with oxygen kits to allow them to breathe and they’ve been allowed to keep hold of their weapons and, even better, the wrist injury that had slowed “Michaelangelo” down over the last few issues is no longer a problem, meaning that the TMNT are able to battle at full force, inflicting bloody, fatal wounds to their Triceraton opponents.

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The TMNT rescue Honeycutt and take the Prime Leader hostage to guarantee their safety.

Spotting Honeycutt in the Prime Leader’s executive box, the TMNT hatch a plan to hijack a floating platform and attack the Prime Leader and his guard. The battle is swift and the TMNT rescue Honeycutt and take Zanramon hostage, forcing him to guarantee them safe passage to his personal ship.

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Backed into a corner, the TMNT are suddenly bathed in a familiar light…

Once again arming themselves with laser rifles, the TMNT engage in a shoot-out right as they reach the docks and Zanramon is killed in the crossfire (by his own troops, no less). Pinned down, the TMNT beat a hasty retreat to a nearby elevator only to find it full of yet more Triceratons. However, right as they are about to be gunned down, the TMNT, Honeycutt, and a handful of the Triceratons are bathed in a familiar light and disappear from sight… This is first TMNT issue I’ve looked at since beginning Turtle Tuesday that doesn’t really focus on the titular mutant turtles for the majority of its pages. Instead, we’re shown and told the specifics of the Triceraton society and spend the first half of the story with Honeycutt being threatened and April being reduced to a helpless wreck.

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When the TMNT get to fighting, the issue really picks up.

Things finally pick up once the arena battle begins, in which the TMNT return to their violent, bloody glory, slicing up the Triceratons, cracking their skulls, and skewing them in their life-or-death battle. It’s always great to see the TMNT cutting up their opponents with reckless abandon and this continues as soon as they get their hands on those laser rifles and start gunning down Triceratons without hesitation. None of them really get much of a chance to stand out in this frantic setting, however, and all we really garner from this issue is that the TMNT are increasingly desperate to get back to New York.]

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What do you think of the Triceratons as a TMNT enemy? Would you have preferred to see this issue spend more time with the TMNT or did you enjoy seeing Eastman and Laird expand the scope of their off-the-wall comic book series? Did you know that T.C.R.I. actually stood for “Techno-Cosmic Research Institute” and do you agree that this is a ridiculous name? What is your favourite arena-based fight in comics, videogames, or movies? Whatever your thoughts, drop them in the comics below and come back next Tuesday to see where the TMNT end up this time!

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Michaelangelo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

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Week Seven: Michelangelo One-Shot

When I talked about Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, I mentioned that, of all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) as originally conceived by of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, Raphael has stood out the most in terms of personality. Given that all of the TMNT look and sound the same and are only really separated by their individual weapons, it stands out even more when one of them shows a bit more personality in these early issues. But, while Raphael has stood out the most, each of the TMNT has showed glimpses of their individual personalities…except for “Michaelangelo”. Up until now, “Michaelangelo” has simply been a ninja turtle; it took him fives issues to exude anything even resembling a personality and even then it wasn’t anything that impressive. We’ve seen him able to hold his own when sparring with Raphael, and even best his brother in combat, receive an injury when battling the Foot Clan and having to deal with the handicap of this injury, and he was possibly (most likely) the turtle who got drunk on one alien alcoholic beverage. Apart from that, he may as well not really be there; Leonardo has been the voice of reason and given the TMNT direction, Donatello has offered technical and scientific expertise (though basic), and Raphael has been depicted as an emotional hot-head who struggles with his temper but “Michaelangelo” has just been…there…

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Mike takes the time to have some fun in New York at Christmas.

So it is slightly surprising to me that, of all the TMNT, it was Mike who received his own one-shot comic; as the only of his brothers to receive a one-shot at this point was Raphael, this seems to imply that Mike was just as strong a stand out, breakout, character as his temperamental brother but, honestly, I haven’t seen any evidence in this early issues to make a case for that. If anything, it feels like Leonardo should have gotten the one-shot treatment over Mike but, here we are. Michaelangelo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle takes place before the TMNT were transported across space but after Splinter turned up missing; the TMNT are still staying at April O’Neil’s apartment and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s Christmas time in New York City and “Michaelangelo” is out exploring the city in the middle of a picturesque, stereotypical snow-covered Big Apple. Though he laments that he probably wouldn’t be able to take up ice skating, he jumps at the chance to try “sliding”, enjoying being out and amongst his fellow New Yorkers.

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Mike stumbles upon a robbery taking place.

Rather than heading home, Mike decides to head to the shops to do some Christmas shopping but comes across a lost cat; taking a liking to the freezing kitty, Mike tucks him into his big winter coat and takes the cat with him to a nearby town store. Enamoured by the large array of toys and games on offer, Mike heads inside and, whilst playing, names his newfound friend “Klunk”; however, Klunk gets spooked by the toys and runs off to the toy shop’s warehouse. Following, Mike comes across a gang of masked individuals taking a truck full of this season’s most-popular toy (“L’il Orphan Aliens™”), which is due to be donated to a local orphanage. The thieves, however, knock out the driver and intend to steal the truck and sell the toys to make a profit so Mike, naturally, gives chase.

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Mike busts up the thieves and retrieves the truck.

Grabbing hold of a loose light chord, Mike is dragged through the streets as the truck speeds away; after securing Klunk instead the truck, Mike makes short work of a couple of the goons but loses the truck when the driver speeds away. Desperate to get Klunk back and finish the job, Mike takes a chance on the driver driving erratically and without any real purpose and, luckily, catches up to the truck and takes out the driver by smashing through the front and driver’s side window.

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Mike decides to get some help to deal with the truck.

Mike plans to drive the truck back to the store but attracts the attention of New York’s finest, who have been on the lookout for the stolen vehicle, and Mike is forced to smash his way past the cops and an armed barricade. Ditching the truck down a nearby alley, Mike doesn’t want to just leave it for the cops to impound and, instead, opts to head back to his brothers at April’s apartment.

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The TMNT deliver the toys to the orphange for a feel-good moment.

Mike (randomly called “Michelangelo” for the first time, though this correct spelling of his name wouldn’t stick for some time) doesn’t have to try too hard to convince the rest of the TMNT to help him out and, together, they take April’s van down to where Mike ditched the truck, load it up with the L’il Orphan Aliens™, and deliver the toys to the orphanage while dressed as Santa Claus and his helpful little elves. Compared to Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Michaelangelo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is every schmaltzy, feel-good Christmas story you’ve come to expect from comic books. Literally the only thing this one-shot contributes is that it finally shines a light on “Michaelangelo” and allows him to stand out from his brothers. As realised in this story, Mike is like a wide-eyed kid; he enjoys being out in the city, especially amongst the snow and at Christmas time, and delights in playing with and being around all the toys and games. This contrasts quite severely with what little personality he has shown thus far as he’s seen to be relatively stoic, focused, and adept at martial arts rather than the laid back, pizza-loving surfer dude he would later become.

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It’s every feel-good Christmas story ever…but with the TMNT…

Otherwise, there’s not really much else on offer here and it doesn’t really add much to the current ongoing arc of the TMNT struggling with the loss of their mentor and father-figure, Splinter. It’s nice to see Mike’s personality fleshed out a bit but, similar to Raphael’s one-shot, it’s not as though these developments are actually translated to the subsequent issues that I’ll be looking at for Turtle Tuesday. As a one-shot, feel-good Christmas tale it’s decent enough but I always feel like such stories are a bit of waste of time as I’d much rather get to the action or the character development more than celebrate the “true meaning of Christmas”.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think about this one-shot TMNT comic? Do you think Mike deserved his own spin-off or would you have preferred to see a different character get that honour? What do you think about schmaltzy Christmas tales in comics, cartoons, or movies? Whatever you think about this issue, or the TMNT in general, feel free to leave a comment below and come back next week as the TMNT continue to fight their way through alien goons and return home.

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5

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Week Six: Issue Five

These last few weeks, I’ve been going back over Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles original comics every Tuesday for “Turtle Tuesday”. In the last issue, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) finally found their lost master, Splinter, being held in suspended animation in the mysterious T.C.R.I. building. However, in their haste to jump into battle with the T.C.R.I. inhabitants (sentient brains inside robotic endoskeletons), the TMNT were caught in a teleportation beam and vanished from sight. Issue five continues right where the last issue left off, with the TMNT materialising in an unknown place, surrounded by gun-wielding soldiers and accompanied by a cute little alien robot.

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The TMNT find themselves lost on a strange, alien planet.

Fighting their way to freedom, the TMNT soon discover that they’re not in New York City anymore; instead, their in the futuristic city of Peblak, an alien city on an alien world inhabited by all kinds of…aliens. Their new companion, Honeycutt, recognises the device that transported the TMNT to be very similar to a theoretical machine he had in mind, the Transmat device, however the TMNT’s hopes of Honeycutt being able to transport them home are quickly dashed when Honeycutt reveals his long and convoluted origin.

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Honeycutt had no interest in his inventions being used for warfare.

It turns out that Honeycutt was once a human scientist working on the Transmat Device for the government; however, as they wanted to use it as a means of warfare, he abandoned the project to focus on his Mentawave Helmet, a device capable of boosting the wearer’s capacity for telepathy and telekinesis. However, while answering a distress call from his worker robot, Sal, Honeycutt was struck by a freak bolt of lighting while wearing the helmet and tangled up in some wires with Sal. When he awoke, he found his human body was destroyed and that the Mentawave Helmet had, somehow, transferred his consciousness into Sal’s body. General Blanque, whose soldiers the TMNT fought in the opening panel, discovered Honeycutt’s charred remains and blamed it on Sal, declaring him a Fugitoid, ordering him to be hunted down and destroy. A really out of place and tacked on aside at the bottom of the page, however, reveals that Blanque knew about what had really happened (…somehow) and actually wanted to capture Honeycutt to abuse his Transmat technology.

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The TMNT are attacked by Blanque’s troops while scoping out a nearby bar.

Either way, the TMNT and Honeycutt decide to work together to get off-world and escape Blanque’s forces; however, while scoping out a nearby bar for a pilot or a means to escape the planet, they are attacked by Blanque’s forces once more. Despite being slightly intoxicated by the alien alcohol, the TMNT manage to hold their own thanks to acquiring the soldier’s laser rifles. Just as all hope seems lost, the bar is attacked by a group of Triceratons, massive aliens that resemble bipedal Triceratops dinosaurs.

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The TMNT struggle to control their craft and are soon knocked from the sky.

The Triceratons capture Honeycutt and the TMNT give chase, resulting in a chase scene through the skies of the city using flying cars. Still reeling from the affects of the alcohol, and being unfamiliar with the alien craft’s controls, the TMNT are soon knocked from the sky by the superior Triceratons and, feeling the pressure of the events they’ve had to endure, Donatello briefly freaks out.

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As the ship docks, the TMNT are left choking to death in the cargo hold…!

Luckily, some of Blanque’s soldiers fly overhead and the TMNT follow them to a massive shoot out between Blanque’s forces and the Triceratons; arming themselves with some laser pistols, the TMNT fight their way onto the Triceraton ship, gunning down anyone and anything that gets in their way. Before they can properly search the ship for Honeycutt, it takes off and leaves the atmosphere far behind. Honeycutt is taken to converse with the Triceraton commander, who attempts to woo the former scientist into developing a Transmat Device for them rather than General Blanque. However, as the Triceraton ship prepares to dock with their base (a massive, technologically-converted asteroid), the TMNT suddenly realise that they are slowly asphyxiating in the cargo hold as the oxygen levels begin to drop…

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It didn’t take long for the TMNT to be battling aliens and robots on an alien world!

Man, we’ve come a long way from the first issue…it’s only issue five and we’ve already seen the TMNT fight rat-eating robots, battle aliens inside robotic bodies, teleport across the galaxy, be trapped on an alien world, and now they’re choking to death, lost in space! Suddenly, the idea of teenage mutant ninja turtles fighting a dishonourable ninja in razor-sharp armour doesn’t seem so far-fetched! It’s honestly commendable how quickly Eastman and Laird decided to just go balls-deep with their already ridiculous premise; it would have been so easy to keep the TMNT grounded in New York and on Earth, fighting ninjas or thugs or being typical superheroes but, instead, they had them going up against aliens within no time at all.

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I assume this is Mike; I hope so, any way.

Equally impressive is that the injury “Michaelangelo” sustained to his wrist in the last issue continues to be a factor in this issue…at least, it is at the beginning of the issue. Add to that and Mikey actually shows slightly more personality this time around; he’s actually the first to leap into action against Blanque’s forces (rather than, say, Raphael) and it appears as though he’s the turtle who gets drunk in the bar (though, to be fair, it’s hard to say since all the turtles look the same).

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In a change of pace, Donatello freaks out following all the crazy stuff they’ve endured.

Additionally, Donatello stands out a little more in this issue, pulling faces to distract Blanque’s forces so Leonardo can impale them on daggers, piloting the flying car they use to chase after the Triceratons, and freaking out when they get knocked from the sky. The TMNT have been noticeably struggling since Splinter went missing back in issue three but the only one who has really lost his cool over their situation so far has been Raphael so it’s a nice change of pace to see one of the other turtles give in to the stress of the pitfalls they’ve had to go through in the space of a few nights.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think of this issue? Do you think it was maybe to soon in the TMNT’s life to shave them thrown into space and battling dinosaur-like aliens or do you enjoy the wacky, off-the-wall nature of the TMNT comics and concept? Now that we’re a few issues in, which of the TMNT do you like the most from these original issues? Whatever your thoughts about the TMNT, drop a comment below and come back for next week’s instalment of Turtle Tuesday in which Mikey takes the spotlight for his own one-shot issue.

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4

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Week Five: Issue Four

I’ve recently been going back through the first few issues of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics every Tuesday, hence the term “Turtle Tuesday” for the next few weeks. Eastman and Laird’s original versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) are far darker and more serious than their later, more comedic and family-friendly interpretations; they all wear the same red bandanas, use their weapons to slice and even kill their opponents, and usually come out of most battles all bloody and cut up. After avenging the death of their master Splinter’s master in the first issue, the TMNT returned home from fighting Baxter Stockman and his robotic Mousers to find their lair ransacked and Splinter missing, presumed injured or dead. With nowhere else to go, the TMNT have moved in with their human ally, April O’Neil, while they regroup and try to come up with a plan of action.

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The TMNT don’t hesitate to kill the Foot during their fight.

Issue four kicks off with the TMNT taking to the rooftops of New York City at night for some exercise and to clear their heads; it’s been a week since Splinter went missing and tensions are still high but no mention is made of Raphael’s solo adventures (as covered last week) or his encounter with Casey Jones. Catching a breather on a rooftop, the TMNT are randomly attacked by the venge-seeking Foot Clan; in the bloody, violent battle, Foot are thrown from the roof to their deaths and beaten (presumably to death) by the TMNT’s weapons.

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Mike is injured by the Foot, driving Raphael into a rage.

Raphael takes a spill off the roof, crashing through the window of a nearby civilian apartment and once again exposing himself to a family of New Yorkers, and summarily murders one of the Foot when he injures “Michaelangelo”’s wrist. I guess the Foot are still indiscriminately worthy of capital punishment, despite Raphael’s lectures to Casey about dishing out capital punishment in Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

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How the TMNT missed the T.C.R.I. building is beyond me..

With the Foot defeated, the TMNT suddenly realise that they are right across the street from the T.C.R.I. building. Yeah, apparently, the TMNT never spotted this giant, glass-and-steel building with “T.C.R.I.” emblazoned upon it in giant letters. Go figure. Anyway, with the sun rising, they head back to April’s and recap her (and the reader) on the specifics of their origins to explain the significance of T.C.R.I. to them (the company name is stamped on the canister that contained the mutagenic ooze responsible for the TMNT’s existence).

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Seriously, it’s the oldest trick in the book…

Curious about T.C.R.I. and their origins, the TMNT choose to suspend their search for Splinter and check out the T.C.R.I. building; April offers to help but, as their actions are illegal, the TMNT convince her to stay behind. With no visible entrances, the TMNT head up to a nearby rooftop and cross over to the T.C.R.I. building using a rope; Donatello then borrows the old “place a photograph in front of the camera” trick to allow them to slip past the security cameras and enter the building.

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Splinter is alive but held in suspended animation.

Exploring their surroundings, they find the building has a strange layout (such as a reception area three floors from ground level) and pick up a mysterious security card that features some strange, alien writing on it. Eventually, after randomly trying a bunch of doors, they use the card to access a chamber and find Splinter being held in captivity. Enraged, and believing their father-figure to be dead, Raphael wants to trash the entire place but is stopped by Donatello, who reveals that Splinter is alive but held in suspended animation and that trashing the room could kill their master.

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Mike’s injury causes the machine to activate and the TMNT to vanish from sight!

The TMNT are suddenly confronted by Splinter’s captors; alien, sentient brains stuck inside robotic endoskeletons. On edge and understandably upset, the TMNT don’t stop to think or listen to reason; instead, they attack full force but are forced to beat a hasty retreat due to the robots’ sheer numbers, dexterity, and sheer firepower (though they don’t seem to twig that their enemies are blasting them with stun rays). Fleeing to another room with a huge piece of machinery in it, the TMNT prepare to make their last stand, confidant that the odds are in their favour as their foes don’t want to risk damaging the “translocation device”. However, while trying to cause a distraction so his brothers can escape, Mike’s injured wrist gives out on him and causes him to destroy the machine’s control panel and, in a flash of light, the TMNT suddenly vanish from sight.

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The TMNT are too emotionally unstable to see that the T.C.R.I.’s aren’t a real threat.

This issue continues the ongoing story arc revolving around Splinter’s disappearance and the impact this has on the TMNT. We already saw how deeply it has affected Raphael (he got a whole one-shot comic to explore his rage at the loss of his master) but, here, it’s clearly affected each of the TMNT as they don’t even hesitate to fly at the cybernetic T.C.R.I.’s at full force. Clearly, seeing their father-figure held in captivity is skewing the TMNT’s usual stoic focus and, in their rage, it causes them to be caught in the translocation machine’s teleportation beam. Eastman and Laird continue to keep the truth about the T.C.R.I.’s under wraps; we really don’t know anything about them except that they are aliens, scientifically curious, and have no intention on actually hurting or killing the TMNT or Splinter. It’s difficult to consolidate this in retrospect considering that these creatures served as the basis for the one of the TMNT’s most enduring villains, Krang, but, in their initial appearance, they more like scientists than anything else.

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Mike’s injury actually factors into the plot.

I also liked that Mikey’s injury actually factored into the issue’s plot; so many times in comics, characters will be injured and get patched up and it’s either never addressed again or disappears between panels but, here, it’s directly responsible for the TMNT’s trip to parts unknown. If you missed Raphael’s one-shot, this issue also reinforces his friendship with Mike but, while Donatello’s knowledge of machines factors into the TMNT’s exploration of the T.C.R.I. building, I’m still waiting for “Michaelangelo” to actually stand out from his brothers in some way other than the unique weapon he wields.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think about the T.C.R.I. aliens? Do you still find it jarring to see the TMNT getting cut and hurt or are you getting used to it now that we’re a few issues in? Do you think the TMNT were right to leave April behind or should they have brought her along, or called on Casey for help? Feel free to share your thoughts on the TMNT below and pop back for next week’s instalment of Turtle Tuesday in which the TMNT are left stranded on an alien spaceship!

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

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Week Four: Raphael One-Shot

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the last few weeks of “Turtle Tuesday” it’s that, of all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), it is Raphael that has stood out the most in even just the first three issues of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s initial run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. Sure, we’ve seen that Leonardo is the de facto leader; he’s been the voice of reason after Splinter’s disappearance and gives directions and strategy during the TMNT’s many bloody battles. Donatello has tinkered with some machines and hinted at his familiarity with computers, which was a significant aspect of issue two but has yet to be properly focused on, and “Michaelangelo” has been…there as well… But every issue has made a point to emphasise Raphael’s individuality from his brothers. Hell, the very first issue dedicated a whole side plot to Raphael that gave him his own inner monologue and he was the only one of the TMNT to fly off the handle after their lair was ransacked and Splinter went missing so is it any wonder that, of the four TMNT, it was Raphael who got his very first spin-off comic during this time?

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Raphael loses it during raining and nearly kills Mikey.

Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle continues with the TMNT still hiding out at April O’Neil’s apartment after the disappearance of Splinter. Tensions are high and, as he spars with “Michaelangelo”, Raphael flies into a rage when his brother gets the better of him. Enraged, Raphael grabs a wrench and is moments away from bashing his brother’s brains in before Leonardo intervenes and admonishes him for his emotional state.

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Surprisingly, Mikey competently bests Raph in combat.

Right away, this opening sequence establishes two things: one is that Raphael has one hell of a temper and has been pushed to breaking point by the disappearance of his father-figure and the second is that “Michaelangelo” is actually a competent and formidable fighter in his own right. How often do we see Michelangelo portrayed as not only a proficient and skilled fighter but also capable enough of not only holding his own with Raphael but actually besting him? Here, Mikey counters each of Raph’s moves and comments upon his brother’s technique and ability with a knowledge and wisdom far beyond his usual characterisation as a lackadaisical surfer-dude. Clearly, Raph’s anger is getting the better of him and causing him to make mistakes in this battle but Mikey’s commentary reveals that he’s no pushover when it comes to fighting and using an enemy’s skills against them; it’s not massively surprising considering all of the TMNT are far more focused and capable than their animated counterparts but it is interesting as, at this point, all we really know about Mikey is that he’s a ninja turtle with nunchaku.

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Casey Jones is inspired to become a vigilante and to dish out capital punishment.

Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle also establishes that “Michaelangelo” is Raphael’s best friend; as he takes to the rooftops, desperate to clear his head and wallowing in shame and regret, Raphael laments his actions and what his rage nearly made him do to his “best pal”, emphasising that Raphael’s bloodlust in battle leads him to not only make mistakes but also drives him to a frenzy where he can’t tell friend from foe. The story then switches to my second-favourite TMNT character, Casey Jones; sat before a television in his squalid apartment, Casey is randomly inspired by what sounds like either a clichéd cop show or a clichéd cop movie to take to the streets with a hockey mask and a bag full of sports equipment to teach criminal scum the lesson he feels they sorely deserve. Within a few hours, he spots Raphael beating up a couple of street punks when they try to steal a woman’s handbag but is incensed when Raph lets the scumbags escape and drops in to finish the job.

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Raph is determined to keep Casey from killing indiscriminately.

Alarmed that Casey is about to kill the punks, Raphael steps in and fight ensues, with Casey managing to catch Raphael off-guard by feigning defeat and then knocking him out with a golf club. After coming to, Raphael is determined to track Casey down and put a stop to his vigilante ways before he goes too far and kills someone but has no idea where the masked vigilante ran off to. New York City is rife with crime on this night, however, as Casey soon stumbles upon a couple of guys stealing a car radio and dishes out his own brand of justice by bashing them with a couple of baseball bats, even breaking one of the perpetrator’s legs. Right as Casey is about to deliver the killing blow, Raphael steps in, incensed that Casey believes that every crime is deserving of capital punishment.

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Raph and Casey beat each other senseless.

Ignoring Splinter’s training and Leonardo’s words of caution, Raphael dashes across a busy street and engages in a long, bloody fight with Casey in Central Park; the two are evenly matched in their ability to both give out and take punishment and, before long, they’re both absolutely exhausted and bloodied up from their scuffle. In the end, the two reach a compromise and a degree of understanding as Casey recognises that Raphael is not above killing those when they deserve it and Raphael advises that Casey needs to keep his temper under control so that he doesn’t needlessly kill for the most minor of crimes and, begrudgingly, the two agree to race to the aid of a nearby citizen in peril.

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Raphael sees a kindred sprit in Casey.

Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle more than makes up for the last issue’s lack of TMNT action; nearly every panel of this one-shot is dedicated to Raphael and some classic TMNT action. Not only that but it introduces one of the TMNT’s most enduring human allies in Casey Jones, a hockey mask and sports-gear-wielding vigilante who is more than happy to beat street punks to death. Very little is revealed about Casey’s background; we have no idea why he feels so strongly about engaging in vigilante justice and it seems he’s meant to be a commentary (or parody) of the influence violent television can have on the mentally unstable. And Casey definitely seems to be a bit off his rocker as he relishes in dishing out violent retribution for the most minor of crimes and Raphael agrees to tag along with him mainly to ensure that he does not go too far with his vigilante ways. This serves to help Raphael come to a realisation about his own violent actions and his temper; well aware that he went too far during his training with his brother, Raphael knows that his anger is an issue and that he needs to try harder to maintain his focus in battle but Casey represents what he could become if he doesn’t work to keep his temper in check. While this works as a character arc, of sorts, for Raphael, the issue ends with him only hoping to do better and it’s a little jarring seeing Raphael suddenly being so against killing as he and his brothers didn’t hesitate to kill in their debut issue.

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My two favourite TMNTs characters together for the first time.

While you can make an argument that the Purple Dragons and the Foot Clan were deserving of this punishment, there was nothing in the first issue to indicate that this was the case. The Foot were considered as evil and dishonourable as their master, the Shredder, who was unequivocally stated as deserving of death for murdering Splinter’s master, but were they really? Maybe they were disillusioned youths like in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) live-action movie, or new recruits who hadn’t done anything more than the street punks Raphael is so quick to defend in this issue. It seems like Raphael only admonishes Casey for wanting to kill indiscriminately because it fits the theme and message of not only this one-shot but also Raphael’s character as depicted here. Don’t get me wrong; he’s right to say that capital punishment isn’t always necessary but, up until this point, he and the TMNT certainly seemed to think that it was so, while it works as a lesson for Raphael to learn, it does seem a little contradictory to what we’ve seen of the TMNT so far.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think about this one-shot TMNT comic? Do you think Raphael deserved to be the first of the TMNT to get his own spin-off or would you have preferred to see a different character get that honour? Do you like Casey Jones? If not, which of the TMNT’s human allies is your favourite? Whatever you think about this issue, or the TMNT in general, feel free to leave a comment below and come back next week as the TMNT continue their search for their master in the next instalment of Turtle Tuesday.

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3

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Week Three: Issue Three

Tuesday’s are “Turtle Tuesday” for the next few weeks as I use this time to look back on the first few issues of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which painted a far darker and serious picture of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) than their later animated interpretations. After avenging the death of their master Splinter’s master in the first issue, the TMNT made a new friend in issue two when they saved April O’Neil from Baxter Stockman’s robotic Mousers. Not only did issue two start to distinguish the TMNT by more than just their weapons, it also began a storyline that would continue not just in this next issue but over the next few issues as well, showing that Eastman and Laird were fully capable of plotting out ongoing story arcs even this early into their fledgling publication.

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The TMNT return home to find Splinter gone and blood and Mouser remains everywhere!

Issue three begins with the TMNT and April finally escaping from Stockman’s laboratory; indebted to the TMNT for their help, April leaves them her number as they head back to their sewer hideout…only for them to discover that their beloved master and father-figure, Splinter, is missing. Not only that, their lair has been ransacked and there are smashed up Mousers and blood all over the place.

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Raphael is inconsolable and determined to find Splinter right away.

Enraged and fearful for his master’s safety, Raphael is inconsolable; despite Leonardo’s efforts to calm him and assign him a task to help compartmentalise the problem, Raphael flees into the night, determined to find Splinter sooner rather than later. While we saw a glimpse of his headstrong Raphael was in issue one, this is the first real indication that he is, by far, the more hot-headed and emotional of the TMNT; interestingly, Raphael and Leonardo don’t come to blows over the issue, which is a nice change of pace. Instead, Raphael simply allows his emotions to get the better of him and to ignore Leonardo’s more measured approach to the situation and, even more surprisingly, when Raphael returns to the group, he even admits that he was wrong to rush off alone and apologises for his actions. Reunited, but still unsure of how to proceed, the TMNT call April and she immediately comes over to pick them up in her van.

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The chase causes chaos in Central Park.

Unfortunately, as April drives the TMNT back to her place, they attract the attention of the police, who mistakenly believe the van to be the same one involved in a robbery, unaware of this, and desperate to not be caught or discovered, a high-speed pursuit ensues that takes the TMNT, April, and the cops through Central Park and causes a great deal of damage and disruption. Thankfully (luckily), no one seems to be seriously hurt from the pursuit and, quite coincidentally, the TMNT catch a break when they just happen to pass the real perpetrators of the crime and finally lose the police pursuit (resulting in an amusing full-page spread of New York’s finest spouting every cop cliché line in the book while holding the thieves at gun point).

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The TMNT are exhausted after the issue’s events.

Arriving back at April’s place, the TMNT have a brief moment where they bond with her before falling asleep from the stress and exhaustion of the last few days. For anyone familiar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) live-action movie, a lot of this issue will ring a bell as the TMNT also returned to their lair to find Splinter missing and took shelter at April’s apartment; April even lives alone above a junk shop, just like in the movie, showing just how faithful that initial film was to Eastman and Laird’s original vision of the TMNT.

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Splinter’s rescuers are hiding a strange secret…

Compared to the last two issues, though, issue three is far less action-packed; the chase sequence amounts to the entirety of the issue’s action and, instead, we see a different side to the usually stoic and action-orientated TMNT. Confronted with a situation where their ninja skills and weapons cannot help them, the TMNT are somewhat clueless as to how to proceed, turning to April as they have nowhere else to go. As with the other issues, though, it is mainly Leonardo and Raphael who have the strongest, most distinct reactions to Splinter’s disappearance, with Raphael reacting in angered haste and Leonardo not only trying to hold his brothers together but remaining steadfast that they will recover their master and father-figure. The issue ends with an extended epilogue that reveals to the read the specifics of what happened to Splinter; caught off-guard by a sudden Mouser attack, Splinter is wounded and barely manages to escape with his life. Discovered by a couple of mysterious, strange-sounding men, Splinter is taken to the T.C.R.I. building for medical care but, when he awakens, Splinter discovers that his rescuers are actually sentient brains inside robotic shells, ending the issue on another cliffhanger that will be continued in next week’s instalment of Turtle Tuesday!

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good