‘Turtles In Time’ #1 Has Ninja Turtles Riding Dinosaurs To Fight Brains In Robot Suits, All Other Comics Are Inferior By Definition
This might be obvious if you caught last week's installment of Ask Chris, but I've been thinking a lot about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lately. More than usual, I mean. Because let's be real here, there's nobody who was a kid in the late '80s who doesn't think about how Raphael is cool (but rude) on a fairly regular basis. With all the talk about the franchise's enduring appeal and the increased media presence from the upcoming movie, I've been thinking about jumping back into the comics, something that, despite being a life-long comics reader who loved these characters, I've never really done.
Which is why I'm glad that this week saw the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time #1. Because really, if you're going to read one comic about the TMNT, it should definitely be the one where Raphael is punching out dinosaurs on the very first page.
To be honest, the entire selling point of this comic for me, before I even knew the full title or the premise, was that it was going to be Ross Campbell drawing the Turtles. That dude is easily one of my favorite artists working in comics today -- everything that he does, whether it's something as complex, emotional and thrilling as his work on Glory with Joe Keatinge, his pioneering work on Wet Moon or just big-haired redesigns for Jem and the Holograms, there's something about his art that's incredibly appealing to me. Or, to put it more accurately, there's everything about his art that appeals to me, but especially the energy that comes through. Nothing that he draws looks static, everything's in motion, to the point where even scenes of two characters sitting quietly feel like they're breathing before they start talking to each other.
Not that there's, you know, a whole lot of sitting around talking going on in Turtles in Time, but I'll get to that in a second.
On top of already loving Campbell's art, I know just from being a fan that he's a huge Ninja Turtles guy, and it's fun to see the kind of passion that a long-time fan brings to a project that they already love. Even if it doesn't work out well, it's always interesting -- and in this case, it definitely works out well.
Joining Campbell on the writing side of things is Paul Allor, and again, that probably would've been enough to get me interested in the book. Allor came onto the scene pretty recently with a run on G.I. Joe that included a look back at the Cobra Commanders throughout history, and what I'm getting at here is that once you do a comic where Cobra Commander is a pirate, I am going to be following your career with a whole lot of interest. It's just the way I am.
Put those two dudes (along with colorist Bill Crabtree, who always does fantastic work, and letterer Shawn Lee, who does a bang-up job as well) on virtually any comic, and it's going to be something I'm going to want to read. But when you put them on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a story where the TMNT are battling against dinosaurs, aliens, and aliens on dinosaurs, then you have come very close to my platonic ideal of what comics should be.
"Turtles In Time" is, as we all know, a concept that was strong enough to carry both a pretty terrible movie and a completely unrelated video game, and in this first issue, Allor and Campbell are wasting no time using it to its full potential. In true complicated comic book time travel fashion, Turtles In Time is actually the sequel to a story that hasn't been published yet. Apparently the upcoming 2014 Annual will be the "introduction" of Renet, a cheerful time traveler whose inability to keep her equipment from malfunctioning is going to cause no end of trouble for the Turtles, like, say, causing them to inexplicably get zapped back to dinosaur times where they're attacked by a team of Utrom scientists. Which actually might be my second favorite thing about this comic.
Not the dinosaurs and Utroms, although those are pretty great, but that everything about Renet and the time travel is explained in a quick paragraph on the inside front cover and an upcoming story, meaning that the opening of this issue is dinosaur punching. That's page one, panel one -- there's no wasted time with setup. It hits the ground running and drags the reader along to catch up at the same time as the characters do, and that's my absolute favorite kind of storytelling. It plays to the strengths of the creators, Campbell's dynamic, energetic visuals and Allor's knack for high concept fun, and it works beautifully without ever feeling like you know exactly where it's going
It's tempting to hear "Ninja Turtles fight dinosaurs" and think that's all there is to the story -- because wouldn't that be enough? -- but there are great twists and a focus on shockingly strong character work that comes through in how they play off each other. I'm not actually sure if it's based on the Nickelodeon cartoon that's running currently, since I haven't been keeping up with the show or the comics before now, but it definitely reads like an all-ages comic in the best way. The colors are bright, the characters are well-defined and engaging, and it's exactly the kind of thing that you could hand to a kid and feel good about -- not because of the lack of blood and cusses, but because it's a great comic that's not going to talk down to them.
Oh, and incidentally, my actual favorite thing about the comic? Raphael gets a pet. I'd say more but I don't want to spoil it.
The "Next Issue" blurb indicates that the comic is going to fulfill TMNT III's promise of the Ninja Turtles becoming the Samurai Turtles for an issue, and I am all in. Campbell and Allor have managed to take an idle curiosity and hook me into someone who's going to be looking forward to this comic every month, and really, isn't that exactly what this book should be doing? With dinosaurs?!