I've been completely in the tank for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics ever since I caught up, but to be honest, I've had a much harder time getting into the animated series that's running on Nickelodeon. I've liked pretty much everything I've seen from it --- especially that one episode where they start LARPing their way through the sewers in full-on wizard costumes --- but since there actually is a pretty complex continuity on the show and I haven't found a real streaming option to start from the beginning, I haven't tried.

When Nick announced that it was putting the hour-long "Fight From New York" episode online, though, I decided that I'd do my best to give it a shot. Sadly, it's one of those login-with-your-Cable-Company dealies, but if you can, I'd suggest giving it a watch, because it is 100% bananas. I mean, where else are you going to see Corey Feldman get in a fistfight with Gilbert Gottfried?

 

 

The main thing that made me want to catch up with the animated series is that "Battle For New York" and the episodes leading up to it seemed to be playing with the same kind of story elements that I loved so much in IDW's recent comics, particularly the arc that ran through City Fall and Northampton. Heck, these two episodes even feature the Mighty Mutanimals, just in time for the launch of their miniseries from IDW and for their role in the comics continuity to start heating up.

The entire season leading up to "Battle For New York" has taken place at the O'Neil farm in Northampton, where the team relocated after an the invasion of the Kraang hit New York and Shredder beat Leonardo so bad that he had to get a new voice actor, and folks, I don't know how hard you have to get beat down to transform from Jason Biggs into Seth Green, but I hope I never find out.

Either way, those episodes are themselves pretty bizarre, including one where the Turtles have to build a car powered by radioactive eggs laid by a mutant chicken in order to win a race against a demonic mutant hot rod that looked like something Big Daddy Roth drew after a three-week mutagen bender. And that wasn't even the weirdest episode of the bunch.

In reality, "Battle For New York" is the culmination of about five episodes about the Turtles' return to the city in their brand-new Party Wagon, a nice little homage to the original cartoon for long-time fans (read: super-old people like me). There's a lot that goes down in those episodes, and they're all pretty tonally distinct from other parts of the series that I've seen, even though there's still a lot of funny stuff, like the news report from the Kraang about how NYC has been sealed off:

 

 

By the time we actually get to the big Battle of the title, the Turtles have returned to New York and found it almost completely empty. April O'Neil's psychic powers --- April O'Neil has psychic powers now by the way, told you it was complicated --- can only detect a couple hundred people, with the rest of the millions having been mutated into slaves and dragged off to Dimension X. The Turtles have the retromutagen that they need to turn everyone back into regular ol' humans, but actually getting past an army of Kraang, into Dimension X, and then back out alive, is going to be a pretty big problem, which is about where things start to get weird.

Yes, "start." I mean, I'm willing to expect a certain amount of bizarreness from a franchise called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but this stuff goes like eight steps beyond, and it's pretty great.

First off, we have the Mighty Mutanimals, and they make the entire hour worth it all by themselves.

 

 

Pigeon Pete has been delightful across all media, but in this show, where he is literally directed by Slash throwing bread at whatever needs to be tackled and Pete gleefully crashing into everything, he's the absolute best.

I honestly didn't think things could get weirder than they did in the first half of the episode, mainly because there's a big chunk of it that involves Slash, voiced by Corey Feldman, bashing a robot that looks like a teenage goth girl, voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, with a mace. If you're like me and you missed the episode where it was revealed that April's friend Irma was actually an alien spy from another dimension in a robot body, then that's a little strange, and it only gets moreso when an entire army of Irmas commanded by a lady with a laser whip show up.

 

 

That second half, though, makes the first look like a completely normal story of mutant turtles who have been trained in the ancient Japanese art of invisibility. The Turtles break through to Dimension X, which is sort of a cross between Balloon Fight for the NES and Wackyland from the old Warner Bros. cartoons, where Michelangelo is a weird barbarian master of all he surveys and everyone else just has to roll with it.

I think part of the reason that I liked it so much was because I hadn't seen the whole series, and watching this proved that there are still things out there that can be weird and surprising, but the other part of it was just that it's so darn fun. It's an adventure that kind of has everything you want. There are fight scenes that look great, where gigantic snapping turtles and reckless pigeons throw themselves against a giant transforming robot that looks like it's been capped off by a creepy assortment of mannequin parts. There's a journey to another dimension full of strange physics and giant flying worms with faces on each end. There's even a happy ending, and while it's a pretty bizarre road to get to it, it never feels like the people behind the show weren't aware of what they were doing and fully capable of piecing it all together in a way that makes it really enjoyable to watch.

It might not be what I expected going into the show, but then again, this show is rarely what I expect. That's what makes it great --- there's not a single frame of this show that's ever boring.