Tag Archives: april o’neil

NECA TMNT Movie Ultimate April O’Neil – Signature Edition

The coat you’ve all been waiting for!

NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line has so been so successful that it’s allowed the company to branch out. It wasn’t that long ago that Playmates was the only game in town when it came to TMNT action figures and the company showed little to no interest in releasing anything other than the turtles themselves. If it was a toyline tied into a current cartoon, sure, there were secondary characters to get ahold of. The Playmates Classics line? Shredder and Krang were sculpted and shown off, then quietly cancelled. They did do Bebop and Rocksteady, but when it came to the movie line it was just the four turtles and fans were left wanting.

When NECA first started making figures based on the 1990 movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they too focused on the usual subjects. The line was so popular though, that they soon found the courage to branch out. And that decision was made even easier when actress Judith Hoag, who played the turtles’ ally April O’Neil in that film, was enthusiastic about seeing herself molded in plastic. She was so eager to make it happen that she even talked Elias Koteas, who played Casey Jones in the same film, to give his consent to do a proper Casey Jones figure which I reviewed just last month. Judith is pretty active on social media and was very active during the pandemic of 2020 so she was well-aware of the NECA experience and how frustrating it could be to acquire these figures. Her only conditions then for giving permission to use her likeness was that the figure had to be put up for preorder and she wanted to document the process through her social media channels. NECA was more than amenable to those requests and Judith, with coordination via NECA, was able to reveal the figure over a series of video installments earlier this year culminating in a preorder when all was said and done.

The figure comes in a box most should be familiar with (though now with a cool lenticular cover) and an ID badge in a padded envelope.

As NECA promised, the April O’Neil figure was put up on their webstore for preorder in April (obviously). Anyone who wanted one had a couple of weeks to log in and secure a copy. And, like clockwork, people were pissed. The online toy collecting community does not have a great track record when it comes to reacting in a calm, rational, manner when faced with disappointment. In this case though, there was some reason for the anger. During the reveal process, and even back to the announcement a figure was coming, a common request on Twitter and other outlets was for April to come with her yellow raincoat. The raincoat was worn by the character in her first scene when she stumbles upon a robbery and has to be saved by the turtles. It’s a scene that lasts maybe 3 minutes and then the coat is never seen again. A small detail, especially considering most expected NECA to depict April in a different outfit from later in the film when she’s properly introduced to the turtles, but one fans had a connection to. I don’t know if it was on purpose, though I suspect it was, that yellow coat was put on the character as an homage to the April kids were used to seeing in the cartoon when she almost always wore a yellow jumpsuit. They weren’t going to put Hoag in that outfit, an outfit no reporter has ever worn, but the yellow raincoat was plausible enough. It practically screamed to the kids in the audience, “Hey! It’s April!” and it felt right to see her in that color. I know it worked on me when I saw it in theaters as a wee lad, and yeah, I’d prefer a figure of April come with the coat than not.

I have to hand it to NECA, they did a solid job of finding stuff to pack-in with a news reporter figure.

When the figure was put up for order, the coat was included. However, it was included in the special “Signature” edition of the April action figure. What was the “Signature” edition? Well, as you could have probably guessed based on the name, it’s a version of the figure that comes signed by Judith Hoag. Or rather, it comes with a replica press badge signed by Hoag. The figure and packaging is the same, except NECA added the raincoat behind the blister in the box. It’s also limited, and fans were irritated that what was being billed as an easy purchasing process was being mucked-up with a special edition containing an accessory most fans wanted. The real kicker, though, was the price. The standard edition of the figure retailed for the usual $30. The signature edition was $100. Sixty bucks for an autograph and a tiny raincoat seemed excessive at the time, and still does. And yet, this edition sold out relatively quickly so if you didn’t make up your mind right away you missed out. I, being a sucker and completist, grabbed the signature version. We actually didn’t know the price until it went up for sale, so it felt like a hostage situation. The adrenaline got the best of me, but I was also holding out hope that we’d get a nicer product. Maybe something with the packaging, just anything. Instead, we got delays.

With the signature edition you get an autographed ID badge and a rain coat for your figure.

2021 has really been marked by issues with the supply chain, and toys have been hit especially hard. That’s not surprising as they’re nonessential goods and thus aren’t going to take priority over essential ones. It’s still frustrating to deal with. The April figure actually, remarkably, stayed on track. Most who ordered it in April with an expected release of July/August got their figure in that window. Unfortunately, those who paid for the more expensive option did not. NECA did not elaborate, but that version was delayed and one has to assume it was a production issue with the coat. The coat is a soft goods addition as opposed to a plastic one so it was probably manufactured in a different factory. The delay was described as a several months delay, and that came true as the figure started shipping in late October and I suspect most will get them in November. Mine arrived the first week of November putting an end to the lengthy wait, but the delay ended up bringing about another issue we’ll get to.

Some would say if you spend extra money on a special edition you should keep it mint-in-box. I am not one of those people.

If you stuck with me this long, well now I can actually tell you about the figure. April O’Neil comes in the standard five-panel Ultimates box NECA is known for. The front flap features the Shredder’s wall of TVs he famously tosses a knife at when April comes on the screen and the rest of the box is reserved for product shots of the figure. The front is a lenticular image and the TV screens transition from static to April’s visage and it’s pretty cool. April O’Neil is depicted in her outfit she wears when she’s rescued by Raphael in the subway and is brought to the turtles’ lair. It’s a skirt, vest, and blouse combo that is definitely of its era. As is April’s full perm hairdo. This is a seven inch scale line and April comes in right around that 7″ mark. She’s wearing high heals which help push her past the turtles in terms of height and basically puts her on equal footing with Casey. Where scale was a large issue with the Danny Pennington figure, it’s basically spot on here with April.

Portrait one: serious April.
Portrait two: fun-loving April!

The overall sculpt and looks of the figure definitely reflect April from the first film. The likeness is quite good, maybe not on par with NECA’s Doc Brown figures, but definitely good enough. She comes with two portraits: neutral and smile. Both have a slight wide-eyed quality to them, but they also both work pretty well. The difference between the two is a bit subtle and thus hard to pick a favorite, but they’re both appropriate for the character. The hair piece is the same on both, and I do wish one featured her hair pulled back slightly as it was when she was interviewing the police chief and assaulted by the Foot. The clothing, especially the blouse, is well-sculpted and the detail looks terrific. She’s sporting the somewhat infamous NECA double-elbows, but with bunched up sleeves the joints look fine. The knees are a different story. NECA opted for double-jointed knees and while the overall shape looks good, the joints above and below the knee are a bit awkward. Some may designate them an eyesore, but I wouldn’t go that far. Normally, I think the trade-off in articulation is worth the added cuts. This is an action figure, after all, not a statue. Here though it’s probably not the right joint as this is a character that doesn’t need tremendous range in her knees. A single joint would probably look better and would be similar to the change NECA made with the Casey figure and his elbows. And NECA apparently agrees as a running change has already been made to April that does just that. It eliminates the double-jointed knees for single hinges and this is presumably what collectors will see when the figure hits Walmart at some point (right now, she’s only out in Asia). And that’s the other issue I was referring to had this come out on time we’d have already had the figure before this change was revealed. Collectors probably still would be irritated, but it’s a little added salt in the wound to see a better version of the figure in the hands of collectors before you’re extra expensive version ships.

The knees I’ve heard far too much about at this point.
The rear of the knees are definitely unpleasant.

Knees aside, the sculpt is good enough. There will be variations though when it comes to the paint, as is the case with all mass produced figures. NECA painted on nylons onto April’s legs, a curious decision since casting them in the color they’re painted would have achieved the same end result. They still could have painted them, as NECA often does, but by not casting them in a similar color you get ugly chunks of flesh tone in the joints. The paint flakes off easily, or was never there to begin with as it is with the back of the knees and was on my figure’s left ankle. It’s an error NECA continues to make and is a frustrating one. It’s obviously a cost saving measure, but it’s also one of the lesser costs associated with figure production and an expense most collectors would rather shoulder than not. There are other small paint imperfections with my figure. The default portrait has a blueish mark on her forehead (and I don’t think it’s supposed to be a bruise) while her right shoe has a black blob near the toe. Beyond the paint, the shin on my figure’s left leg appears to be warped slightly and I can’t get her toe aligned with her knee on that side. I could try to heat and reform it, but considering her whole leg is painted I’d rather not risk it.

There’s a lot of articulation on this figure, but for the most part, she’s only suitable for fairly neutral poses like this.
You can certainly try though.

I suppose we should talk about the articulation though, since it bled into the talk about the sculpt. April is fairly conventional, though limited by her attire. The head is on a normal ball peg and the range is okay, but her hair is obviously going to present some posing challenges. The shoulders are simple ball-hinges and the double-jointed elbows provide bend slightly better than 90 degrees with swivels as well. At the wrist are horizontal hinges and swivels. There are no vertical hinged hands for April, which may not seem like a big deal since she’s not a fighter, but vertical hinges would work better with a microphone than horizontal. I wish NECA would just make that hand direction the default rather than horizontal. There’s likely a diaphragm joint in the figure, but the overlay for her clothing renders it useless. She does twist with a slight ability to pivot at the waist, and the hips feature the older style of joint, like every figure in this line so far. Her skirt is going to really limit what she can do there, so the range is almost inconsequential. The knees do give her bend past 90 and rotation above and below the knee, and the feet are hinged. There are ankle rockers on this figure, but again, be careful with the painted hinges. Because she has heals, she’s going to be a challenge to stand. NECA foresaw this and included a simple, black, disc stand that pegs into her foot. It’s all right, but she really would have benefitted from a more robust stand that grabs around the waist. Even if it was like a Barbie stand that didn’t pose, that would have been far more functional. She obviously doesn’t need a dynamic action stand, but she does need to stand.

Frozen pizza!
The bag is unfortunate.

In addition to the stand and alternate portrait, April comes with a few expected accessories. She’s got her microphone for conducting interviews and it has a long, bendy, cord on it. In the box, she has open hands, but she also has a set of gripping hands. The open hands can grip the mic, while the tighter hands get a more sturdy grip. NECA also included a pointing left hand and a right fist, because sometimes she needs to get her hands dirty. She also has a stack of frozen pizza for when the boys are hanging out at her apartment. In true NECA fashion, they’re parody brands and in this case we have Smellio’s, an homage to Elio’s (which I loved as a kid, but I bet it was awful), and Josh Pizzas. She also has her handbag and the sai she snatched from the crime scene. The sai is the same as what we’ve seen packed with Raphael, only the paint job seems lesser. Mine even has a silver blob on one of the tines. If you want to stash it in the handbag you’re in for a challenge. I couldn’t get it all the way in and I’m not sure if it’s even possible. You will want to be careful if you try though because the printing on the bag, which looks great, is also prone to peeling. I don’t know what the failure here is, if it needed an acrylic coating or if the printing isn’t suitable for softer plastic, but it’s a bummer. I’ve seen a few bad ones online so I at least had the gift of foresight as stressing the plastic obviously makes the problem worse. And even so, mine had cracking right out of the box anyway. If you want it to look as nice as it can, definitely go easy with it. No word yet on if the running change with the legs improved upon this aspect as well.

Not the fit I was hoping for.
Don’t you dare bad mouth my yellow coat!

Since this is the signature edition, we have the additions to speak of. First up is the press badge. It’s signed by Judith and looks fine, though it’s also paper. I was expecting an actual badge like what every office gives out to its employees, so this was a bit disappointing. This might be accurate to the film though, so that would certainly be one reason to do it this way. It’s in a plastic sleeve with a clip like a functiong badge would have and if you’re into cosplay then I guess this is just what you needed. The much talked about coat is also here and it’s certainly yellow. It fits on the figure, and if you really dislike those knees then here is a way to conceal them a bit. The fit is a bit bulky, but I suppose it’s better to be on the larger end than small as that would just make it hard to put on and take off. And I would argue it’s less bulky than the actual coat in the film. It’s stitched in several places and made of a shiny, vinyl, material so it certainly looks the part. The sleeves are permanently rolled up and there is a sash, but it’s mostly for decoration and not really functional. Honestly, the figure looks better without it, but I basically paid 70 bucks for the stupid thing so you’re damn right I’m displaying the figure with it on.

She can be a challenge to stand, but she does fit-in just fine with the rest of the line.

NECA’s movie April O’Neil figure from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a bit of a tough one to properly rate. If this were just a figure I picked up at Walmart for 30 bucks then I’d probably be more enthusiastic about it. I think the peeling on the bag though is inexcusable and disappointing. That’s the type of thing a company can really affect its reputation with. It’s one thing for it to be poor, but to not address it is almost a worse sin. Had NECA come out and said it was replacing all of the handbags then it would possibly raise people’s opinion of the company and do more good than the harm of the faulty product. Similarly, NECA had an opportunity to do better with this signature release. Suppose they just tossed in the new legs as a way to make-up for the delay and to add a little more value to the set. I think fans would have been singing the company’s praises had it pulled such a move. The reality is, I don’t know how easy a fix that would be for the average collector, but presumably anyone paying 100 bucks for April is either a mint-in-box collector or an experienced one capable of switching out some legs. Doing so also isn’t unprecedented. Yeah, it would cut into NECA’s bottom-line on the release, but that’s exactly what Super7 did when it shipped out some Thundercats parts when the final release of those figures didn’t live up to their expectations. It’s the type of move that really helps foster good customer relations, but it’s also unnecessary since this stuff sells and likely will continue to sell well regardless.

It’s a shame they didn’t last.

Setting aside some of my disappointments with this release, I do want to say I think the figure is fine. A figure of April was never going to set the world on fire since she’s not a ninja turtle or a hideous monster. The likeness is well done and this April should fit in with the rest of your display. She poses well with Casey, and she also looks great beside the turtles so you have options. Most of the errors with the figures are of the unforced kind. NECA was way too ambitious with those knees and should have learned from the first Casey release that less is more. And the paint issues are also something the company repeats too often. If you’re just looking for this figure to hang out in a display though and look good, then I think most will be happy.

This shelf is pretty much full and there’s more on the way. What’s a guy to do?!

NECA TMNT Cartoon April O’Neil and Bashed Foot

The true subjects of today’s post.

There’s a line from one of my favorite Christmas movies, Bad Santa, in which the main character, Willy, says to The Kid, “Well, they can’t all be winners,” when The Kid pulls a candy corn out of his advent calendar. Bad Santa isn’t a movie for everyone, but the sentiment expressed by Willy in that moment could be applied to this latest two-pack from NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line.

When it comes to the original cartoon series, the list of essential characters goes something like this: the four turtles, Splinter, Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, and April O’Neil. We have received versions of almost all of those characters from NECA, and now it’s April’s turn. All of the characters NECA has targeted thus far have arguably become the definitive take on that particular character from the show upon release. Some might argue in favor of a different set of turtles, but few would argue anyone has created a better Shredder or Bebop and Rocksteady. The expectations are now set for this line and fans pretty much assume that NECA will nail the likeness on any character it does, but maybe such an expectation is unrealistic.

Unfortunately, the line’s first lackluster offering is the ravishing reporter April O’Neil. When it comes to the sculpt released here, there’s a lot to be desired. April stands just a tick taller than her turtle allies, when she should at least be a head taller. I have her at 5 1/2″ and the turtles at about 5 1/4″. She has her yellow jumpsuit complete with white boots and all the details appear to be in place, but the proportions are off especially when it comes to her head. I think most fans are accepting of a figure that is maybe a little too short or too tall, but missing on the facial likeness is perhaps the greatest disappointment. Her face appears to be too full and round, and the size of her head is far too big for her body. I think that’s largely a product of her face being too large as her hair was fairly poofy in the show, but few would deny that something is off here.

When it comes to nailing down the scale and look for these figures there’s an admitted challenge. The original show could be wildly inconsistent when it came to scale, colors, and so on. When NECA did its initial figures for the Turtles, it cited the first series which was animated by Toei and was a mere five episodes. It allowed for the company to have a more consistent look to reference, which mostly came in handy when it came time to color the Turtles as the sculpts were actually reused from the arcade series. April appears in every episode from that inaugural season, and it would seem it would have made the most sense to base her sculpt on that season. Maybe that’s what NECA did, and maybe it didn’t, either way it’s a shame an integral character like April failed to live up to expectations.

The image on the left is what I think of when I hear the name April O’Neil.

I don’t want this to turn into a rant or anything, as a subpar NECA figure still gets a lot right. And when it comes to April she possesses a lot of the articulation one would come to expect of a NECA figure in 2020. For starters, her head is on a ball-peg and it’s pretty easy to pop her head off and on, which is good as it’s preferred for one of her accessories. She has ball joints at the shoulders and then she has some funky double-jointed elbows. There are basically two ball joints on top of each other. The first joint is in her sleeve, and the second is part of the bare portion of her arm. Her arms are quite thin, and I had to heat her up to get any movement out of the upper joint. The yellow portion of the joint is painted, and as you could probably guess if you’ve read my review of the other figures in this wave, the paint flakes off quite easily. Fortunately, the plastic is also yellow so it’s not nearly as much of an eyesore as it is with Casey, Leatherhead, and Slash. The bicep also swivels where the sleeve meets the arm and then it also swivels at the triceps at the second ball joint. April’s wrists are just on pegs and can rotate, she also has hinges in her hands, but they feel really fragile. The watch on her left hand is a separate piece of soft plastic and will fly off if you’re not careful when switching hands. April’s upper torso is on a ball joint just below her bust and she gets a lot of motion out of that joint which makes up for the lack of a waist swivel. Her thighs can rotate at the joint and are on ball-pegs, and she does have double-jointed knees, but the top joint doesn’t really do much. She can still bend her leg rather far at the knee so it’s not a big deal. There’s no boot cut on her, and her feet just have vertical hinges so no rocker or swivel motion is available. It kind of stinks because I envisioned displaying her on one knee with her camera sneaking a shot of a battle or something, but she can’t quite pull that off without being able to rotate her ankle. Oh well.

April could stand to be taller and probably not so thin.

Aside from her head, the body sculpt is pretty good. The arms feel a little thin and flimsy, but they’re obviously trying to make her noticeably smaller and slimmer than the other figures in this line. I do still wish she was a little taller and fuller though, I don’t think she needs to be quite so thin. I do like the very bright yellow NECA went with and the black line work helps make the figure have that extra pop when looking at it. I do see some room to argue that maybe yellow plastic with a wash instead of so much paint might have worked just as well, or better. Some of that black line-work does get a bit messy in places, but overall it’s pretty clean. NECA did match the plastic of the foot hinge to the white of her boots, thankfully, but that also means from behind the white hinge is visible among the otherwise gray backside of her boots. If one part of the hinge has to be off, might as well let it be the back. There’s also some nice attention to detail with the little white, o-rings, on her pants and the tape recorder on her belt.

April is not lacking in the accessory department.

If April is a bit underwhelming, well at least she tries to make up for it with a bunch of fun accessories. She comes packaged with open palm hands and she has a set of gripping hands as well. She comes with a Channel 6 microphone as well as a corded microphone affixed to a reel-to-reel recorder. It’s on a strap, like a purse, and this is where it’s nice that her head pops off easily if you want it to go across her body. I suppose you could also just drape it over her shoulder too. She also has a Channel 6 camcorder which she can carry by the top handle or hold via the fold-down handle for when she wants to record something. She has her Turtle-com, which opens and closes, though doesn’t feature the face of a turtle on the inside. She also has the Maltese Hamster from the episode of the same name, which is a bit fun though it doesn’t do anything. Lastly, there’s a little, baby, pizza, monster. I have to assume an ultimate, adult, version is in our future at some point. He’s pretty cute, despite being vicious, and even though he’s non-articulated he’s packing a lot of personality in that sculpt.

With April being part of a two-pack, one would naturally look to the second figure in the pack to perhaps help elevate the total package. Unfortunately, April comes bundled with what I would consider the least exciting figure in this line so far. The Bashed Foot Solider is essentially the same Foot Soldier that has been released in two-packs with the Turtles and in a double-pack as part of Wave 2, only now it has a new torso with some battle damage. This one is referred to as the Bashed variant because the wound appears to be blunt in nature, perhaps a jab from Donatello’s bo staff, and is basically a rip in the clothing with some exposed metal and wires beneath. The effect is neat, but if this figure weren’t packed with a character as important as April then I’m not sure I’d have bought it. I think it would have been neat to bundle it with an undamaged Foot to give consumers more of a say in the matter. Bundling it with April feels like a bit of ruthless capitalism.

Now in the unlikely event you do not already have a Foot Soldier, the articulation here is the same. He has ball-joints at the neck, shoulders, and hips with swivels at the thigh and bicep. The hinge joints at the knees and elbows are double-jointed and the wrists are on pegs. He also has some ankle articulation and stands pretty well. He comes with the same the rifle other Foot and even Bebop and Rocksteady came with, but also has a new gun that’s bit more cartoonish looking. It’s not my favorite weapon design from the show, but I welcome the additional variety for the bad guys. He also has the same assortment of hands which include fists, gripping hands, and karate chop hands plus a pair of open hands that are new this time around. There’s another communicator, this one with an image of the Bebop action figure on the other end, and a pair of ninja stars. The ninja stars appear to be a deliberate throwback to the Playmates line as one is even brownish-orange like the old toys.

If that all sounds familiar it’s because it’s the same round of accessories the Slashed Foot Soldier came with as part of the Casey Jones two-pack. The only difference between those sets is the sticker on the communicator and the battle damage on the torso. I think many fans expected April and Casey to come together, so it was a bit disappointing to see that wasn’t the case. While I liked the battle damage of the Slashed Foot quite a bit, this one doesn’t excite me. It’s not that it isn’t done well or anything, but it hardly feels essential.

Let’s see what you had for breakfast!

Which is the downside to these figures being released as two packs, because April does feel essential. Unfortunately, she’s a letdown as well so I can comfortably say this is the least glamorous two-pack released in this line thus far. And based on the promotional images for what’s up next, it looks like this will be the low bar for a long while. It’s definitely the set that fills me with the least amount of excitement. These things are hard to get a hold of, so there’s a sense of glee whenever one can be acquired, but the lackluster results mostly squash that enthusiasm. There’s little to sugar coat here, this April is a poor representation of the cartoon character. Since it’s largely her head that’s the problem, perhaps NECA can remedy that at a later date. The company has big plans for the lines and is exploring concepts for vehicles and even a sewer lair. Perhaps an alternate head is included with one of those along with alternate happy heads for the Turtles as well? It’s a long shot, but hopefully NECA is receptive to criticism and doesn’t just dig in its heels because mostly I’m just surprised this one made it past the approval stage. It’s the burden of success, I suppose.

Smile for the camera, Donnie.

I do also want to stress that it isn’t all bad. April is subpar, but anyone who sees her still knows it’s April O’Neil from the 80s cartoon. She has a ton of neat accessories and is certainly not lacking there. It’s hard to even come up with an accessory she should have come with that isn’t present. Maybe swap-able cat parts like the upcoming Vernon is going to feature? That’s just wishful thinking though, and how many collectors would prefer to display mutated cat April as opposed to a more traditional April? Probably few, though then again, that head…

In terms of battle-damaged figures, it’s pretty hard to top that slashed Foot Soldier.

For now, April will be a part of my cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles display. She’s April, so she has to be! I’m just thankful she has so many killer accessories so I can hide that melon behind a big old video camera or maybe wrap her up in Leatherhead’s net for the time being. This is the last two-pack of Wave 3 though, and as mentioned in the prior paragraph, more additions to the Channel 6 news crew are indeed on the way, but not until 2021. The next wave is probably going to be staggered like this one and it appears that the rock soldiers Granitor and Traag are up next. A deluxe Krang is coming as well in October and you know that will be a big hit. For now, at least until I get my hands on Metalhead, it appears I’ll get a reprieve from cartoon turtles, but NECA is hardly slowing down. Super Shredder, Toka, Rahzar, Splinter, Baxter, and on and on are all expected this year! Enjoy the breather while it lasts!


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 4

1336705It’s been hard for me to find the time to sit down at the computer and contribute to this blog since becoming a dad in the spring of 2015. It has become especially hard as my offspring has learned to crawl, and then walk. Even so, that event occurred well after I posted my review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  The Ultimate Collection Vol. 3 in January 2013. Hopefully, no one has been sitting around waiting for this post since then, but at long last, I’m finally getting around to reviewing volume 4 of The Ultimate Collection.

For the uninitiated, The Ultimate Collection is a five volume set of hardcover, oversized comic book compilations chronicling the early years for the TMNT and collecting only the works of their original creators:  Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The comics are presented in their original black and white with new cover art and liner notes by both creators. As someone who primarily experienced the Turtles as a kid via the cartoon and the films, I wanted to get this collection to experience firsthand the genesis of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

If you go back and read my review of Volume 3, you will notice I apparently took a long time in getting to that one as well. That was due to my lack of enthusiasm towards the product. For Volume 4, much is the same, unfortunately. Though I should point out right off the bat that Volume 4 is a better read than 3 as it compiles the last major arc of the original run:  City at War. Volume 3 concluded with the re-death of The Shredder and Volume 4 picks up right where that one left off with the two-part Shades of Gray plot commencing in Issue 48. This volume runs in perfect continuity as it contains issues 48-55 as it represents a point in time where Eastman and Laird both had a renewed interest in the comic and a desire to put a finishing touch, of sorts, on everything before going their separate ways.

2659266-tmntvol1_48page12

This encounter ends up making a large impact on Casey Jones.

Shades of Gray focuses on the Return to New York fallout and takes stock of where all of the main characters are presently at, in terms of their frame of mine. The Turtles return back to North Hampton but intend to return to New York after consulting with Splinter. Splinter is not coming with them, and Donatello wrestles with where his place is. Meanwhile, Casey is returning to his vigilante routes and accidentally takes a life in self defense, which gets the attention of Nobody, another vigilante introduced in the Tales of TMNT stories. Casey is spared, with some help from the Turtles, but is a wreck in the aftermath. April is also shown as lost and decides she needs to leave, especially with Casey being so distant. There’s some nice attention paid to Donatello as the story succeeds in giving his character a little more color than usual and he and Casey have a poignant encounter in the woods nearby.

Shades of Gray is basically a setup for City at War as it sets all of the characters out in new directions. April, searching for a fresh start, heads west to LA where her older sister Robyn resides. The Turtles head to New York, and Casey resolves to go after April after he clears his head. City at War also welcomes back Eastman and Laird to the artist’s chair for issue 1. Aside from that though, all of the pencils are handled by Jim Lawson in this collection. Eastman and Laird’s crowded, cross-hatching heavy art lends itself well to the congested city setting and their take on the Turtles is a welcomed return. Their still pretty amateurish when it comes to illustrating the human characters, in particular April, but overall I enjoy their artwork the most in this collection. It’s a shame it’s only for one issue.

tmntv1_050_015-016

City at War Part 1 marks the return of Eastman and Laird as artists.

The City at War arc is primarily focused on the Turtles and their place in the New York community. They take on a Batman like role upon their initial return which frustrates Raph. The other brothers confide in one another that they’re unsure of what their place is and Leo has the hardest time with it and struggles with his role as leader for much of the collection. Meanwhile, the Foot Clan is in disarray and has splintered off into multiple factions. We see a rag-tag group of the ninjas mostly making trouble, but also a more sophisticated faction that targets the others financially via cyber warfare. And then there’s the Japan faction which is teased throughout the entire collection. They’re lead by Karai, who finally reaches New York by issue 55, but her presence isn’t felt until Volume 5. The Foot Elite are also around making trouble, and their allegiance is unclear. One encounter seems to place their allegiance still firmly with their deceased master making them a chaotic force simply out for revenge. It’s also unclear how large their numbers are, but considering they’re the elite force, probably few.

April’s adventures in LA are shown and they’re dull by comparison. Her scenarios often retread familiar ground as she still feels lost and without a home even with her sister and her sister’s young son. Robyn is the foil who tries to get April to loosen up, have fun, meet a guy, and so on. She humors her sister, to a point, and shows some genuine enthusiasm in the upcoming Christmas celebration she’ll be able to share with her sister, but not a lot happens.

Casey, on the other hand, gets sidetracked out in New Mexico when his truck gets stolen. He falls in with a waitress named Gabby, and the two quickly become an item. When Gabby confesses to Casey that she’s four months pregnant, he seems to find some new purpose for himself. The scenes between the two are hard to get a read on as Casey becomes consumed by this new role for himself. Does he genuinely have feelings for Gabby or is he too just looking for some new purpose for himself? Someone to take care of and protect?

tmnt-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-mirage-comic-54-city-at-war-nm-htf-a8d88acc01400d9fa7e5e5acf5d210b2

AC Fairly handles the covers and he prefers a “chunky” kind of turtle that I’m not particularly fond of.

It hurts that Eastman and Laird aren’t the most gifted storytellers or script writers. There’s a lot of groan-inducing dialogue, some intentional as Casey is basically a lunkhead, throughout the two more grounded arcs. The parts with the Turtles have minimal dialogue at times. It is frustrating to see, that after such a strong character-driven opening with Shades of Gray, that the Turtles mostly return to their personality-less roles for City at War. Only Leo and Raph are given room to show-off their personalities, which has become a reoccurring problem for the books as a whole. Mikey is the most criminally overlooked as his comic book counterpart has almost no defining characteristics beyond his weapons. Perhaps it was an unintentional reaction to his oversized personality everywhere else that Eastman and Laird chose to keep the spotlight away from him.

Not to be forgotten, is the Splinter arc which is mostly small, but contains a nice reveal at its end in this collection. Another Tales of TMNT character makes their main-line debut and one that is familiar to longtime TMNT fans. The setup is done well and I really enjoyed the brief depiction of this character. Hopefully it pays off in Volume 5.

5303

Lawson’s version of the Turtles is not one of my favorites.

As I mentioned before, Jim Lawson handles almost all of the pencils in this collection and it was the reason I grew so disinterested in the volume to begin with. I do not enjoy his take on the Turtles. They’re blocky and his art is sometimes sloppy. I’m mostly okay with his April, even if she seems to not have any of the physical traits of the Eastman and Laird version, and his Casey is fine. His backgrounds are a lot less crowded which works for some of the action scenes but sometimes there’s an emptiness to them. Perhaps the over-sized format draws more attention to all of the white space. He does have some awkward transitions where he tries to convey too much motion on one page, but at least he’s not beholden to the traditional panel approach. There’s also an overuse of splash pages in issues 54 and 55 that feel like filler. Even Laird admits in the liner notes he’s not sure why they went with so many. Lawson’s art does shine some in issue 54 when he gets to depict a cloaked Mikey in the snow. For some reason, the snow is abandoned in the following issue. I guess they had a heat wave.

The cover art and some of the interior art is new and handled by Eastman. It’s in line with the other collections, though not my favorite. I think the back cover would have been better off as the front as it depicts the Turtles surrounded by Foot Ninjas which is a nice representation of what’s contained inside. Otherwise though, it’s fine. The liner notes feel more substantial here as well, especially from Laid. Eastman is still too in love with everything they did while Laird is a little more critical. The quality of the set is once again very high and there’s little to complain about there. The pages are nice and thick and the whole set has a nice weight to it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to be a mostly action-oriented affair. The attempts at actual story-telling work better here than they did in some of the other issues, but a lot of it is also cliche and amateurish. No one picks up a TMNT comic expecting Shakespeare though, and there are some genuinely good bits of character development contained in these issues. I just wish they had a better artist.


%d bloggers like this: