Monthly Archives: December 2013

2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series

Hello, I’m a unicorn. Turtles count it off! 1!2!3!4! Turtles! Mutant chain reaction! Turtles! Living under ground! Turtles! Ninjutsu action! Turtles! It’s a shell of a town!…Yeah, I never said the theme song was good. In case it isn’t obvious by now (if not, seriously, what blog have you been reading?), I love this version of the TMNT.

Wow, bold and italics?! You must be serious.

Yeah, yeah. Anyway, this show holds a special place in my heart for being my first introduction to the TMNT as well as my first meaningful introduction to Usagi Yojimbo. TMNT 2003 has affected me in everything from my taste in cartoons to my favorite color. More on that in a minute, but until then, I’ll break the show down into the main characters and overall commentary. I’m not discussing the origin, because it is pretty much the same as in my issue #1 review, so read that instead pretty please. The only difference is that Splinter did not want the Turtles to know about Master Yoshi, and didn’t want them fighting the Shredder. Also, I would like to warn that here there be spoilers, so read at your own risk.

Characters:

Leonardo: He is the unofficial leader of the group. I say unofficial because there are only one or two instances where he is actually called the leader. Usually the rest of the team naturally looks to him for orders because he is the most level headed. I loved this character from the start, mainly because, unlike the other show, they gave him a personality that doesn’t make you bored or want to punch him. He has flaws, and that made him more like a person than an ideal. He’s a perfectionist and doesn’t take failure very well. In fact, his character arc is the greatest in the show and probably the greatest in any cartoon I’ve ever seen. After the Turtles’ shell kicking by the Shredder at the end of the third season, Leo becomes obsessed with his training and distances himself from his brothers. In the episode “The Ancient One,” we learn that he behaves this way because he blames himself for not being able to defeat the Shredder. This arc was foreshadowed from the first season, most notably in the episodes “Monster Hunter” where he falls into a depression after being severely injured in battle and in the episode “The Darkness Within”, which I briefly summarized in my TMNT #45 review. Leo may be a complex character, but what little kid likes a character for his nuances? I loved him because he was ridiculously awesome. Skip to the eight minute mark in this link to get a taste of his awesomeness; it truly is a thing of beauty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idLPN_lIWiE#t=8m6s. A few episodes later, Leo takes on the entire Foot Clan single-handedly, without a break, and, at his most exhausted, he faces the greatest warriors under the Shredder, the Foot Elite. Sure, he loses, but he was able do better on his own than the rest of his family working as a team. Then after he recovers, his family storms the Foot building. In the final showdown of the episode, Leo and the Shredder leap in the air, swords drawn. They both slice at each other, but when they land, guess who is the only one left standing. My personal favorite though, is in the episode “The Darkness Within,” where, after being tempted by an Old One and nearly joining his side, Leonardo snaps out of it and stabs the eldrich abomination and destroys the creature’s physical form, allowing himself, his friends, and his brothers to escape. Yes, he rejects and defeats a cosmic horror without losing his sanity. Leonardo is awesome, need I say more?

Donatello: Donnie is a genius, and the inventor of the group. Out of all the Turtles, he’s the most soft-spoken and gentle. Gentle, that is, until you threaten his family. Then, whether with his trusty bo staff, or some brilliant technological breakthrough, he can and will unleash a can of whoop-shell on anyone in a three mile radius. In one of the most famous episodes of the show, “Same as it Never Was,” Donnie is sent to an alternate dimension where his good nature is put to the test. After Donatello disappeared Shredder took over the world. Master Splinter is dead, and the only thing standing in Shredder’s way is the resistance, led by April and the three remaining Turtles. When our Donnie shows up, they decide to defeat the Shredder once and for all. Shockingly for a “kid’s show” every character dies except for Donnie and April.This is Donnie at his most awesome, especially his method for defeating the Shredder, but it is also the most horrifying in the context of the show. In “The Darkness Within,” it is revealed that Donnie’s deepest fear is that of losing his brothers. In this episode, he is forced to watch as what remains of his family is killed before his eyes. That’s harsh. The final season, Back to the Sewer, is Donnie’s moment to shine, and shine he does, even if the rest of the season isn’t perfect. Final Verdict: Donatello is awesome.

Raphael: He’s the hot head. Also, for whatever reason, he’s the only Turtle with a Brooklyn accent, but it fits him. He’s the tough guy who is the first to fight and the last to retreat. He suffers from anger issues, and has been known to lose control when fighting, especially when Mikey taunts him.  He actually meets his best friend, Casey Jones, after blowing up at Mikey. At the time, Casey was a psychopathic vigilante, and Raph, of all people, played the voice of reason. He and Leo have a subtle power play going on. He takes orders from Leo, but would be the first to criticize him or physically fight him. I really liked how, in this series, when Leo and Raph fought, they both had a point, instead of Raph being in the right and Leo being punch-able. For example, in the “City at War” story-line, he and Leo get into an argument over whether or not they should get involved in a gang war. Leo takes the position that they should because they are the ones who accidentally started it, and Raph thinks their involvement will only make things worse. This is one of my favorite story-lines because not only is it handling the repercussions of the Turtles’ actions maturely, but it also introduces one of my favorite characters, Karai, which I’ll get to in a minute. Raphael also has a softer side, which usually shines when he has to team up with a kid or blind old lady. The most shining moment of this happens in the episode “Tales of Leo.” Leo is thrown into a coma by the Shredder, and his family tells stories about his childhood in the hopes of bringing him back. After Raph tells his story, he actually starts crying. This is even more meaningful when you realize that this is one of the only times he cries in the series. Then, when Leo is moping about the battle, he is the one who snaps him out of it. Raphael may be the most likely to be fight with his brothers, but at the end of the day he will always be there when they need him.

Michelangelo: He’s the super athletic goofball of the group. Mikey is the first to crack jokes in battle, and the one his brothers pick on the most. He may have the most natural talent of the Turtles, but he is a fanboy who would much rather read comics than train, (something I can identify with). Mikey even briefly became his own superhero, Turtle Titan. He’s also the one who most easily gets under Raph’s skin, as seen in the episode, “The Big Brawl.” In that episode, all four Turtles enter a contest where they fight they greatest warriors in the multiverse. He and Raph are pitted against each other, and he defeats his brother without landing a single blow. He then goes on to win the tournament, defeating a warrior named Kluh. In a later episode, Mikey ends up in a rematch against Kluh and defeats him again while the safety spells aren’t working. That battle was glorious. Mikey also has a pet kitten named Klunk. I like kittens.

Splinter: Like most of his incarnations, he’s the wise, stern, protective master and former pet of Hamato Yoshi. This is one of the few versions where he actually refers to the Turtles as his sons and the Turtles refer to him as father. So, whatever you do, never, ever threaten his sons. Splinter will beat you up so badly the doctors won’t ever be able to tell your hands from your feet.

April O’Neal: She was a brilliant intern scientist working for Baxter Stockman until she discovers that Stockman works for the Shredder. Stockman sics his weapons on her, and that’s how she meets the Turtles. I always liked her scientific background more than her being a reporter, because, as a scientist, she’s smart enough not to be captured all the time! Seriously, unlike her eighties counterpart who got captured every other episode, she was only captured three times in series. Her brains mixed with her love interest, Casey Jones’s brawn is a lot of fun and the two characters have great chemistry. Speaking of Casey…

Casey Jones: He is a vigilante who fights the Purple Dragons after they burned down his dad’s shop as a child. He is the first to make friends with Raphael, and later marries April. Casey can go from a scary vigilante to a lovable goofball in the blink of an eye, and is the Turtles’ closest ally. Unlike the first series, which only had him as minor character, Casey is vital to the plot from the start. He is also awesome. One of his coolest moments happens in the episode “The Shredder Strikes Back.” The Turtles are cornered in April’s store by the Foot, and about to lose when Casey rides his motor cycle through the window and single-handedly takes down twelve or so ninja without breaking a sweat. Goongala!

Oroku Karai: Before I move onto the villains, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite anti heroes of the show, Karai, the Shredder’s adopted daughter. Out of all the characters, she is the most frustrating, but in a good way. Even though she was raised by Shredder, she has more of a sense of right and wrong. From the “City at War” story-line onward, she teeters between her loyalty to the man who cares for her and raised her as his own, and her own sense of honor. She is just so likable and interesting that you desperately want her to do the right thing, and you feel the Turtles’ disappointment every time she sides with the Shredder. Her relationship with Leo was always interesting because they never became love interests. They were fair-weather friends out of respect for one another’s skills. I always felt like Karai is what Leo could have been if Splinter had been evil. When the Turtles finally defeat the Shredder and Leo and Karai become enemies, you reluctantly root against her,  because Leo would react the same way if she had killed Splinter.

Oroku Sakai, Ch’rell, Duke Acureds, The Shredder: There are actually multiple Shredders in the series, but he is the main antagonist, so I’ll only talk about him. In this version, he is an alien war criminal from the race of  the Utroms. The Utrom were the ones who accidentally dumped the toxic waste on the Turtles and mutated them. I’ll admit, the idea of the Shredder being a brain-like alien is silly. Silly, at least, until you see him in action. The villain is dangerously competent and smart. If he leaves the Turtles to die in an explosion, he’s intelligent enough to go back and have his underlings make sure there are bodies. He’s also a deadly warrior that can bounce back from almost anything. In season one, he gets a water tower dropped on him and is (sort of) decapitated. In season two, he gets blown up, twice. Yes, twice. And is finally exiled at the end of the third series, but not after giving the Turtles a good beating. He then is killed once and for all in Turtles Forever.  Jeez, the guy has more lives than a cat.

Hun: He’s the leader of the Purple Dragon and the Shredder’s top lieutenant. Hun is a giant of Liefeldian proportions, and relishes in being evil and violent. He is the one character on the show with absolutely no redeeming qualities outside of his blind loyalty to the Shredder. Heck, even Baxter Stockman loves his mother. Hun is just an evil sadist, but boy, is he a fun one. The guy is a thug who relishes in beating the shell out of the Turtles. He always comes into a fight cocky and arrogant, but gets his butt kicked every time. In a way, you just have to admire his scrappiness. Every single time he is defeated, Hun faces the Turtles again with an arrogant smile. The guy just doesn’t know when to give up. Oh, and here’s an interesting fact, they were planning on having Hun and a minor villain named the Garbageman to have been conjoined twins who were separated by a seedy back-alley surgeon. Hun was kept and raised while poor Garbageman man was thrown in a dumpster and left for dead. The episode was meant to air, was scripted, and animation was started, but then it was decided that the episode was too dark.What the shell? I mean…just…wow. As much as I’d like to have seen such an incredibly dark episode on a “kid’s show,” isn’t that just a little too horrifying? This is the stuff of an R rated movie, so, in a way, I’m impressed that they got as far as animating the episode. Good for them…I guess.

Baxter Stockman: He’s a brilliant scientist who falls in with the Shredder. Every time he fails Shredder, he gets a limb removed until the man is reduced to nothing but a brain. The brain part was a little silly, but this character is just so magnificently arrogant that you don’t care. Even as he has limbs chopped off left and right, he still remains insufferable. This is the only man who will openly insult the Shredder. He wasn’t always bad though. In the episode banned for graphic content, “Insane in the Membrane,” we see that he truly cared for his mother before she died. It’s too bad that the censors decided that the episode was traumatizing to kids, because it has some genuinely sad and character developing moments. I accidentally bought it on DVD in first or second grade, and I watched it without batting an eye. Again, at that age, I was freaked out by a fake horror movie scene in a Disney channel original movie, but could take this.

Overall this show is–

Whoah, whoah, whoah, wait a second. You only talked about the first half of the series. There are seven seasons, and you only discussed seasons one through four.

*Sigh* Fine, but the first four seasons are the best out out of all of them. Rassum Frassum Executive meddling…

Season Five/Lost Episodes: This is actually a really good season that I don’t want to spoil. It was originally meant to be aired after season four, but, partially due to complaints about the dark tone of the other seasons, it was shelved in favor of Fast Forward. They later released the episodes, and I initially thought they were too weird. Tpon rewatching, though, I see that they were quite good, and a satisfying conclusion to the series. I highly recommend it.

Fast Forward: This season was okay. The Turtles are accidentally brought to the future by Casey and April’s wealthy and brilliant  great-grandson, named Cody. He’s a sheltered, lonely kid who’s only companion is his snarky robot butler. Cody isn’t a bad character, he just isn’t all that interesting. He is marked for death by his evil Uncle Darius. It’s up to the Turtles to thwart Darius’s evil plans. Um… I thought this was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, not the Perils of Penelope Pitstop. Anyway, this season is much weaker than the first five, but isn’t necessarily bad. Heck, I’ll recommend a few episodes right now. “Night of Sk’Okanabo,” “Obsolete,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Bad Blood,” and especially “DNA is Thicker Than Water” are all pretty good episodes.

Back To The Sewer: For whatever reason, this season is stuck in the 1990’s awe of this magical thing called the Internet. During their attempt to time travel back home (using the Internet??) Master Splinter’s data bits are scattered across the world wide web. It is up to Donnie to bring their father back while the rest of the team discovers that they were gone for a year. Now, in the first five seasons, the Turtles would have returned to a post apocalyptic nightmare, but since they were going for a lighter tone, the fact they returned after such a long absence has little bearing on the plot. They may as well have been gone for a week. This season is not very good, and the only reason to watch is to find out what happens to Master Splinter and see Casey and April get married. There are a few good episodes, but none are very memorable. It’s entertaining, but not up to the usual 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles caliber.

Overall–oh who am I kidding? I freaking love this show. Sure, the dialogue has its corny moments, sure, some plot points were silly, and sure they overused the word shell in the later seasons, but the awesomeness outweighs the corniness. I love the complexity of the characters, the action, the animation, the one liners, the witty script, and the fact that the Turtles are, above all else, family. 2003 TMNT never talked down to its audience, and knew how to balance mature subject matter with great action, funny dialogue, and lots of heart. This show is the Justice League Unlimited of TMNT franchise.  TMNT is the show that got me used to the multiple part format of comics and introduced me to my all-time favorite comic book series. Since the second grade, my favorite color is blue, for my favorite Turtle. This is the show that had me fall in love with the characters and mythos of that universe. What can I say, other than “I love being a Turtles fan.”

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1980’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Show

Hello, I’m a unicorn. (sing to the tune of theme song) Eighties Mutant Ninja Turtles! Eighties Mutant Ninja Turtles! Eighties Mutant Ninja Turtles! Heroes in a half-shell, Turtle Power! Or, if you’re European– Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles! Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles…you get the picture. For my first TV show review, I’m going to discuss the 1980-1990’s TMNT animated series. Now be warned, out of the three TV series I’ll be discussing, this is my least favorite. This isn’t because the show is bad, far from it, I just think that the other two are better.

Yes, your precious 2003 series can do no wrong.

Yes it can, and I’ll get to that next post. Anyway, for this post, I’ll break it down to the basic plot and characters. Now remember, I’m not an expert on this series, so if I get anything wrong or you disagree with my sentiments, feel free to comment below.

The Plot: After being tricked into insulting their sensei by Oroku Saki, Hamato Yoshi is excommunicated from the Foot clan and forced to live in the sewers of New York. He finds four turtles in the sewer and keeps them as pets. One day, Yoshi discovers his four turtles are covered in a type of goo called mutagen. The mutagen had the effect of partially transforming the Turtles  into whatever creature they had last come into contact with, and since Yoshi was the last being to touch them,they became part human and he became a… rat. Wait, how did that work? Erm, anyway, you all know the story after this. Splinter (no, I don’t know why he decided to start calling himself Splinter) trains the Turtles in the art of ninjitsu and names them after Renaissance artists.

The Characters: Well, as the song goes, Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines(that’s a fact, jack). Raphael is cool, but rude (gimmie a break), Michelangelo’s a party dude (party!), but let’s look at these characters and the villains a little closer.

Leonardo: He’s the leader.

No, really? I hadn’t guessed.

Textbox, I think there’s a Golden Girls marathon on.

Really, where?

Why don’t you go find out?

Okie Dokie.

Whew, I think he’s gone. Where was I? Right, Leonardo. Out of all the Turtle’s, he’s the most serious and level headed, but wasn’t given much to work with other than that. I understand that, like Superman, Leo is a hard character to write. You have to make him intelligent without being Mr. Perfect. He’s a goody-two-shells and can sometimes come off as bland or go the other way and become sanctimonious. That’s kind of what happened here. He wasn’t given much of a character, because most of his personality centers around being a boy scout. Now, there were episodes that centered around him and tried to give him an arc, but the arcs were too short to actually mean something. In one episode, he fears that he is losing his edge and he does a little soul searching while the other three get in a mess of trouble. Leo realizes that he’s as competent as ever, and the credits roll. That’s it.

Donatello: He does machines (pull your minds out of the gutter). Donnie is the inventor of the group and a literal genius. The guy can turn just about any piece of junkyard material into a working and well oiled machine decades ahead of our time. He’s brilliant, no need for extra comment.

Raphael: He’s cool, but rude. That’s Raph in a nutshell. Instead of the brooding personality he has in most other incarnations, he’s snarky, and loves to break the fourth wall.

Oh, a kindred spirit.

Yep, and he’s actually one of the few changes in personality that I don’t mind. In most of his other incarnations, he’s brooding and grumpy, so it’s nice to see him be a little silly every once in a while.

Michelangelo: He’s a party dude. Here’s an interesting fact. For whatever reason, at the time the show was released in Europe, the censors really hated the idea of ninja and thought that Michelangelo’s nunchuku were too violent and decided to replace it with a grappling hook. The sword guy and the guy with over-sized forks were perfectly fine though. Anyway, Mikey is the most laid back and talks like a surfer.

Splinter:  He’s the strict and wise master who trained the Turtles and his personality has stayed pretty consistent throughout the different incarnations. My one issue is that in the first few episodes they make a big deal out of turning him human again, but seem to forget about it after that. Donny is a genius, and is more than capable of figuring out a cure when he puts his mind to it, yet they only bring this up once.

April O’Neal: Oh deary, this is the point where I start to rant. In the comics, movies, and other TV shows, April is a competent fighter in her own right, and has been trained by Splinter. In this show, she is demoted to the resident damsel in distress, in the same vein as Lois Lane. Sure, she’s likable and tenacious, but whenever she actually is in danger, she is completely helpless. This is insulting to her great character that she should be treated as an idiot that has to be rescued all the time. That is just bad and they should feel bad. Speaking of bad, let’s talk major villains.

Shredder: Uh-oh, time to rant again. In every other version, the Shredder is the Turtles’ worst nemesis and ridiculously competent. Every time the Shredder shows up, you’d better grab some popcorn, because you know that things are about to get good. In this version, he is reduced to the bumbling lieutenant of a whining brain. Yes, the Turtles’ greatest foe is reduced to a lackey. Even as a little kid, I thought he was a cry-baby. At that same age, I freaked out about going onto the Tower of Terror at Disney World. I even remember the point where I realized that he wasn’t a threat. Just after he and Krang (more on him in a minute) are trapped in an alternate dimension called Dimension X, he whines, “But I don’t want to conquer Dimension X, I want to conquer Earth.” Oh, and I forgot to mention that the voice of the Shredder is none other than Uncle Phil of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Krang: He is the disembodied brain of a warlord in Dimension X who has been banished to Earth. He’s also the metaphorical brains of the operation. The Shredder answers to him and the two often bicker and whine like an old married couple. While this isn’t very threatening, I do find it pretty funny.

Bebop and Rocksteady: They’re the Shredder’s gangsters that volunteered to be mutated. Bebop was turned into a warthog human amalgamation, while Rocksteady became an anthropomorphic Rhinoceros. They’re the Shredder’s top henchmen even though they are complete morons. I honestly have no idea why the Shredder keeps them around; they’re more likely to louse up his plans than anything else. I don’t hate them, I just don’t understand why they were tolerated by Shredder.

Usagi Yojimbo: Okay, this is more of a fan-girl gripe than anything else, but really? Usagi Yojimbo? The character’s name is Miyamoto Usagi. Usagi Yojimbo is the name of the comic, not the person–er–rabbit. This is almost as bad as pronouncing Ra’s Al Ghul “Raaz Al Ghul” instead of “Raish Al Ghul”.

*Cough* Nolan Batman*cough* Arrow*cough*

Just because theysaid it that way doesn’t mean it’s right. Anyway, for what it is, I still enjoy this show. While eighties TMNT is arguably the most iconic version of the Turtles, it isn’t the best version. It is the Adam West’s Batman of the incarnations. It’s silly, but knows exactly what it wants to be. Eighties TMNT doesn’t ever take itself seriously and that works to its advantage. When you watch the show, you know you’re in for some crazy adventures and good jokes. Next post, I’ll look at the incarnation that isn’t just my favorite version of the Turtles, but also my all-time favorite TV show. In the meantime, sit back, grab some pizza, and watch some old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes! Cowabunga!

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1

I am a unicorn. I clicked a wrong link somewhere–now I’m caught, my computer frozen on a shifty looking craigslist ad. Barring the way out are fifteen spam-bots from a lose weight fast scam filled with the most identity stealing malware on the site. The only way they’ll let me out is if–

Whoa, whoa, whoa– really? A parody of the opening of issue one?

Why not?

Why not? Do you have any idea how lame that is?

I don’t care. I love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and in light of the Holiday Season, I’m giving myself a gift, by discussing my favorite ninja team’s incarnations. What better way to kick off this month than with the comic that started it all? That’s right, I’m taking a look at the very first issue of Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

This issue opens with Leonardo, my favorite Turtle, narrating what I have just parodied. The narration, in true Dark Age of Comics fashion, is extremely melodramatic, but I can’t help but feel fan-girlish glee every time I read it. As the fearless leader puts it, “We made a wrong turn somewhere– now we’re caught, our backs to the wall in this trash strewn alley. Barring the way out are fifteen members of the Purple Dragons, the toughest street gang on the East Side. The only way they’ll let us out is if we’re dead!!” If this sounds familiar, then you have either read this issue before or seen the first episode of the 2003 animated series. That’s right, the first episode lifts this narration, word for word at points, from this issue, which I find incredibly cool, but I’ll discuss that show in a later post. Anyway, while Leonardo is narrating how his brothers are reacting to the prospect of a fight, the Purple Dragons are taunting the Turtles, telling them that nobody is allowed to trespass on their territory, especially in stupid turtle costumes. Then we get an awesome two page spread of the Green Machine leaping at the reader, and Leonardo telling us that the Purple Idiot is wrong, dead wrong, because “We’re not wearing costumes.” The Turtles promptly unleash a can of whoop-shell on the unsuspecting Purple Idiots.

Killing them all in the process.

Yes well, I can excuse the heroes killing in their first outing this time.

Didn’t you say, and I quote “We know next to nothing about these characters, so when they kill, we can’t sympathize with them. Characters like the Punisher, Deadpool, or Wolverine work because we know their back story and why they do what they do. And they usually kill people who are bigger monsters than themselves. We see why these monsters must be killed and they suffer the repercussions for killing them. These characters have none of that. They kill indiscriminately and we can’t sympathize with them because we have nothing to sympathize with,” in your Cyberforce review?

That is a totally different situation, and I’ll get to why in a minute. As I was saying, the fight scene is decent, but not great. Leonardo’s narration, while entertaining, can get a little goofy, but that’s a part of the fun. The main problem is the lack of backgrounds in the panels. They are either a gray gradient, gray bricks, or non-existent. This makes it hard for the reader to gauge how large the alley is and have a sense of proportion. Other than that, the fight scene shows the Turtles as a competent team and a deadly fighting force. The police arrive and the Turtle return home to the sewers, where their sensei, Master Splinter, is waiting. When Splinter hears how the turtles fared in battle, he decides that it is time to tell them where they came from.

During a discussion of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with a friend, I was asked which origin of the Turtles was true, Master Splinter once being a man (as seen in the 1987 and 2012 versions) or that he was always a rat (as seen in this and the 2003 version)? While both are legitimate and decent origins, I would say that the origin in this comic is the canonical one, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Splinter explains that he was the pet of a ninja named Hamato Yoshi and his cage was kept in Yoshi’s dojo. Yoshi was the most prominent and skilled ninja in the Foot clan, and Splinter learned all he knew from imitation. Yoshi and a fellow ninja named Oroku Nagi competed against each other for everything, including the love of a woman named Tang Shen. Tang Shen chose Yoshi, and one night, Nagi entered her home and demanded her hand in marriage. She naturally refused, and Nagi decided that if he couldn’t have her, no one could. He had nearly beaten her to death when Yoshi arrived. In his anger, Yoshi murdered Nagi. Yoshi was disgraced and given a choice: kill himself or flee. He, Splinter, and Tang Shen fled to America, leaving behind the clan and Nagi’s vengeful younger brother, Oroku Saki. Saki, after swearing revenge, becomes the clan’s best assassin and the leader of the American chapter of the Foot under the name of The Shredder. He didn’t forget his vow, though, and one night, he broke into Yoshi’s apartment and murdered both Yoshi and Tang Shen. Splinter escaped in the skirmish and wandered the street until the fateful day a boy pushed a blind man out of the way of a speeding truck. A canister of radioactive science goo fell out of the truck, struck the young man, and bounced into the Turtles’ glass bowl. The Turtles fell into the sewer, where Splinter decided to take pity and rescue them.

I guess that now is as good a time as any to explain the origins of the comic itself. It was originally written as a one shot stealth parody of the most popular comics at the time, especially Frank Miller’s Daredevil. Allow me to refresh your memory on the origin of Daredevil. While rescuing a stranger, a young Matt Murdoch was blinded by radioactive material that fell out of a truck. He was trained by a master named Stick (Splinter) to fight a clan of ninja called the Hand (Foot to our heroes). They were also meant to parody the New Mutants, Dave Sim’s Cerebrus, and Frank Miller’s Ronin, but the connection to Daredevil is the most obvious. I find it extremely ironic the parody of these works actually became more popular than the works themselves.

Anyway, back to the origin. After discovering that the Turtles were intelligent enough to walk and talk, Splinter decided to train them in the art of ninjitsu and gave his students names he found in from a book on Renaissance art that was thrown into the sewer. Splinter finishes his tale by telling the Turtles that they must avenge his master’s death. Now, let me explain the difference between this team’s first issue and Cyberforce’s. In the first Cyberforce issue, the reader is given nothing about the “heroes” back story at all. We do know where the Turtles came from, how they can do what they do, and why they kill. While we’re on the subject of why they kill, I just want to say that Splinter isn’t exactly the good guy when you think about it. Sure, he took the Turtles in and treated them as sons, but he only raised them for one purpose: to kill Oroku Saki. I would like to mention that the Turtles are thirteen years old. That is two years younger than me. They are essentially children that Splinter has manipulated into killers. Yes, they are going to kill an evil man who has gotten away with his crimes for too long, and yes, they are extremely skilled fighters, but they are still children going up against the greatest warrior of Foot Clan. In a way, this reminds me of the fourth Batgirl, Cassandra Cain’s back story; all were trained from birth by their fathers to be assassins, sent on their first kills at a young age, and succeed  in murdering their targets. The big difference, other than the abuses Cassie suffered that the Turtles didn’t and being sent to kill at a younger age, is that the Turtles’ “father” is considered a good guy.

Anyway, enough griping and back to the story. Raphael is chosen to deliver their challenge to The Shredder. He kills a few guards and interrupts a business meeting by sending the note to Shredder through a window. The melodramatic narration is back, but not bothersome. The one thing I’m wondering is this: why are The Shredder’s guards are only equipped with swords? There is a reason most guards carry guns, and that’s because swords are large and only work in close quarters. If an intruder wasn’t a skilled fighter, but had a gun, the guards would be dead before they got close enough to cut said intruder down.

Anyway, the next night, the Turtles go to the meeting place specified in the challenge. They call out to The Shredder, who himself  is wondering why the crime he’d committed fifteen years ago is now coming back to bite him in the shell. After being asked if he is a coward, he shows up with his best cannon fodder–er I mean, students. The Turtles defeat them quickly and now have to face the master. They each attempt to fight him one on one, but fail miserably. Leonardo decides on a change of tactics and has all four attack at the same time, first attacking at a distance, then facing him in close quarters when he is off balance. I really like this part, because it shows Leonardo to be an intelligent leader as well as a competent fighter. Leo stabs The Shredder, but give him the chance to die honorably. Instead The Shredder decides to take everyone out with a thermite grenade. Donatello throws his bo staff, knocking The Shredder off the rooftop as the grenade blows up. The exhausted team starts to head home, and finds a piece of Shredder’s armor, and “It seems that… the Shredder has been shredded!

My copy of the first issue had an additional story that I assume wasn’t in the original printing because it features April O’Neal, so I’ll only briefly discuss it. This story is called “Not One Word”. Donatello decides to leave April’s apartment for some fresh air and to get the newspaper for his hostess. Things quickly go wrong when he falls into a dumpster, makes his way out, but slips on a banana peel and falls through a skylight and into a vat of pink dye. He retrieves the paper and returns home to the laughter of his brothers. It’s an entertaining story, except for one thing. My copy is a fifth printing, and I don’t know if this is the same for every fifth printing, but page four and page five were printed backwards, making it very confusing to read at first. Like I said though, this could just be my copy that has this problem.

Overall, this is a great read, especially for a huge TMNT fan like me. I nitpicked on a few things, but this is still a lot of fun. If you were only a fan of the 1980’s TV show, you might be surprised by how dark and gritty this story is, but it isn’t bad, especially considering the entire dark age of comics. Personally, I wasn’t that shocked when I read it, but that was mostly because the 2003 series followed the spirit of the comics pretty closely. Despite the lack of backgrounds, the artwork is great, and the story does what a first issue should do. It introduces the characters and their back stories in such a way that the reader won’t be at a loss as to what is going on. So what are you waiting for? Read it now, for we are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans. We strike hard and fade away… into the night.

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