Tag Archives: casey jones

NECA TMNT Cartoon Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier

It’s never a good day to be a Foot Soldier.

Something that is likely common to most of humanity is a desire to be successful. We all measure success differently, be it professional, financial, or something else, but we all strive for it. And sometimes success can feel like a burden. Take NECA’s line of action figures based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property. Since these toys hit retail over a year ago they’ve been a challenge to get hold of. Exclusive arrangements with big box retailers, who definitely do not specialize in collectible toys, can make simply tracking them down difficult. And when anything is hot, it attracts the attention of re-sellers, or scalpers, as they are often referred to as. With unemployment at record highs, the temptation to make a quick buck off of a toy might be even more tempting than it normally would be. Collectors who simply want a hunk of plastic that resembles a cartoon they watched 30 years ago are forced to fight a system not designed for them in addition to the scalpers, bots, and other collectors. Not to mention a global pandemic.

As such, tempers have been running a bit hot lately on social media. Follow NECA on Twitter and likely any tweet will be met with a reply, usually several replies, about folks complaining about their inability to find TMNT product. The most cheeky and overused response is usually something like “Check out this eBay exclusive!” but sometimes things can get downright abusive. NECA’s Creative Director, Randy Falk, even went on the Pixel Dan show recently just to talk about TMNT and the difficulties in getting product to fans. It’s one part rant, one part informational, with a little room for announcements and optimism towards the end (and I encourage you to check it out if you have any interest in NECA’s Tokka and Rahzar set). It has become a rather insane situation, and collectors come out looking the worse for it based on the reactions of a few, but NECA is at least acknowledging that some change is needed so hopefully things can improve.

One way to combat this scarcity is simply to buddy-up! I have had no luck finding the newly released Target exclusives in my area, but a fellow collector out in Illinois has hooked me up with one of the releases: the Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier Two-Pack. This two-pack is the first two-pack in Wave 3 of NECA’s line of figures based on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series from 1987. In an attempt to get more product on shelves, NECA has opted to release this wave in a staggered fashion. This Casey two-pack arrived first alongside the single figure release of Metalhead. Later this week, the second two-pack is scheduled to start rolling out and the third will follow two weeks later. That next two-pack might be even more hard to get as it features the villainous duo of Slash and Leatherhead. This third will feature April O’Neil and a “bashed” Foot Soldier. Fans in the UK had the whole wave dropped all at once so you may see fans from across the pond with all three sets already. What hasn’t been clarified is if Metalhead will continue to ship with the other two-packs. I sure hope so, because he’s been difficult to find with most stores apparently only receiving two per shipment. As a result, he is going for roughly triple the MSRP on eBay at the moment, which is a shame because he looks like a contender for toy of the year and one that deserves to be in the hands of collectors as opposed to scalpers.

This two-pack marks the second such two-pack headlined by Casey Jones this summer, the first being the movie version of Casey Jones with Raphael in disguise. It’s kind of amusing that both versions of Casey have arrived bundled with a variant of a previously released figure, but maybe that speaks to the popularity of the Casey Jones character that NECA thinks he can carry a two-pack with a variant alongside him. Casey Jones is definitely one of the most memorable allies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the old show and action figure line. He had a strong presence in the comics and obviously the first film. The hockey mask look is striking, and in the cartoon he was voiced by Pat Fraley doing an obvious Dirty Harry impersonation. He only appeared in five episodes and was basically just some crazed vigilante whom the Turtles had to hold in check, but he definitely left an impression. He didn’t form any real personal connections with anyone which is a distinction between this Casey and the others.

The accessories!

NECA’s action figure of Casey is based off of his first appearance in the show. His costume and weapons are quite screen accurate as he has the cut-off shirt and sweatpants look. He carries a golf bag over one shoulder that you have to pop the head off of the figure to slip on and the bag can hold all of his included weapons. He stands a little over six inches making him taller than the Turtles, but shorter than the villains. He is fully articulated,as one would expect, with articulation in the following places: ball-jointed neck, ball-jointed shoulders, bicep swivel, double-jointed elbows, wrist swivel, waist swivel, ball-jointed diaphragm, ball-jointed legs, double-jointed knees, and ankle joints on a hinge with some pivot motion from side to side. This is fairly standard of NECA which tries to avoid things like cut thighs and ab crunches so as not to take away from the look of the figure. The only consistent complaint I see for this figures is the lack of hinges in the wrist area that allow the hands to move in four directions as opposed to just in and out.

The sculpt work on Casey is pretty damn fantastic. He looks like he’s pulled right from the show. NECA did a great job adding subtle detail to the mask, which is non-removable as he never took it off in the old cartoon, to really allow the character’s personality to shine through. He’s also a rather fit dude, but the sculpt doesn’t go overboard with the muscles. A lot of Casey’s attire is done with a separate piece of soft plastic which gives the figure a nice feel and texture. The little strings on his sweatpants are in this soft plastic so they have some play as is his shirt and shoulder pad. The pliability of the plastic allows for some movement in the diaphragm area, though the shirt does hinder it as well. The shoulder pad also limits some of the range of motion on his left arm. The only articulation I personally miss is a butterfly joint in the shoulder area which would have allowed him to do more forceful looking, two-handed, weapon swings. My figure was quite loose and ready to rock out of the box, so no heat was needed to get things working. His elbow and knee hinges though have a very rubbery feel to them. I worry about durability down the line. Hopefully my fears are unfounded.

Casey seems to scale rather well with the other figures in the line.

The paint job should seem familiar to fans of this line. You either like it or don’t when it comes to NECA’s shading. They apply a darker shade of paint to the backside of their figures to mimic the shading from the show. Sometimes this looks fine, and sometimes it comes across as overdone. With Casey, I think it mostly works on his clothing, but looks a bit silly on his arms. Natural lighting should take care of this without the need for the added paint, but it appears this tactic is here to stay at this point. The paint itself though is rather cleanly applied with little slop. NECA did a great job matching the plastic arms to the paint on the exposed knees. NECA also likes to use a lot of black lines to give the figures added pop. I’ve seen some complaints of this online, but it’s something I’m a fan of.

The only area I see for criticism is just in the amount of paint and choice of plastic. There’s a lot of paint on this guy and I worry about it flaking off down the road. It’s already an issue on the ankle joints and wrist hinges where NECA used a flesh-toned plastic and then painted green to match the boots and brown for the gloves. This paint has a tendency to flake off (or the entire hinge was never painted to begin with) leaving an exposed area of flesh tone in the middle of the boot and at the base of the glove. Casey’s wristbands do hide the hinge on the hand fairly well, so it’s more of an issue with the boot. NECA would do well to have the factory match the color of the foot with the plastic rather than paint in future releases. The paint also has a tendency to rub off when it comes to the hands. This is particularly an issue on the bone-white hockey stick which already has a brown smudge from inserting and removing it into Casey’s hands.

Casey is known for having a small arsenal on his person at all times, and NECA doesn’t disappoint here. In addition to the golf bag he uses for storage, Casey has the following weapons: a hockey stick, a goalie stick, a baseball bat, a metal bat-like rod, and a mallet. All feature a lot of black linework giving them a real toon appearance. I think my favorite is the traditional hockey stick, but that mallet is certainly fearsome looking. In addition to the weapons, he also has a few extra hands. He comes packaged with closed fists for when weapons aren’t needed and has a set of gripping hands. He also has an optional right hand with a pointing gesture, and a left hand giving a thumb’s up. The gripping hands seem to work just fine with all of the accessories. Some probably wished for an open hand or double thumb’s up hands, but this allotment certainly gets the job done.

And of course, Casey is not alone! Joining him in this two-pack is the Slashed Foot Soldier. Initially, many fans simply assumed that Casey and April would be packed together since they were first unveiled side-by-side and the two characters have an established relationship outside of the cartoon universe. That didn’t come to pass though and instead both come with a battle damaged Foot Soldier. I was initially disappointed with this development as I’m not the army builder type, but I will say this particular Foot Soldier is pretty cool.

The majority of the figure is the same as the previously released Foot Soldier. The only difference is in the torso which features the battle damage. The clothing has been ripped away exposing some of the robotic parts inside. All of this is sculpted really well and you can see where parts were severed and intended to match up and so forth. There’s one thick wire that’s still connected and it holds the two halves together. It’s bendable, though coated with plastic so you will want to go easy with it to avoid cracking that plastic coating. This allows the figure to be displayed as he’s in the process of being torn in half. He could be doubled-over, in mid-slash, or even pulled apart entirely. It’s a very descriptive figure and one toy photographers might actually want multiples of. It wouldn’t shock me if down the road we get a refresher wave that bundles the two battle-damaged Foot together if there’s a demand for it, and maybe then Casey and April will be bundled together as well.

The Foot looks great and his battle damage is quite possibly the best application of that concept I’ve ever seen. He also comes with accessories though so he’s more than just a prop. He has the same hands and rifle as the previously released Foot, plus he has a new, more bulbous, gun that undoubtedly showed up in the show at some point. He also has the same communicator released with several figures previously, only this one has a sticker of Rocksteady on it. If you’ve been collecting everything, that means you should have a communicator with Shredder, Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady now which is a fun little touch.

The Casey Jones and Slashed Foot two-pack is a worthy addition to NECA’s cartoon line of TMNT product. Casey is a fan-favorite and I think fans will be very pleased with how he turned out. While the Slashed Foot may not be something fans were crying out for, it’s a fun, gimmicky, figure that works well in a display especially considering he comes with a figure who’s a big fan of slashing, as is. There will be a handful only interested in Casey, but I’m sure if that’s the case they won’t have much trouble unloading this extra figure considering how in-demand this line is. This set is sold exclusively at Target in the US and at various specialty shops outside of the country. Since NECA stocks its own product at these stores they won’t show up on the website or on inventory tracking sites like Brick Seek except for under rare circumstances so get out there, make some phone calls, and good luck!

The collection is growing! And if you’re wondering why all of the glassware is present, it’s because the best place to display these in my house happens to be behind my bar.

I need to send out a special “Thanks” to the fellow poster over at thefwoosh.com for hooking me up with this figure at cost. Without him, I may have never encountered it in the wild. And that’s the thing I want to stress in this review – help each other out! If you’re a collector, get onto social media or a forum and find fellow collectors that can help you and that you can in turn help out. I see too many selfish collectors who buy up stock with the intention of keeping one for them and flipping the others to in effect “pay” for the one they kept. That’s just using the rest of the collecting community to fund your hobby and it’s a dick move. So if you happen upon these things don’t be shy about buying two and selling one at cost to a collector in need. Some don’t live near a Target, or might be immunocompromised and shouldn’t be out in public places right now. If there’s another collector at the store then by all means don’t take one out of their hands, but we should do what we can to try and make sure these don’t fall into the hands of scalpers. And it should go without saying, but don’t buy from scalpers. If people weren’t paying 80 bucks on eBay for this set, then no one would bother trying to sell them. It’s tough out there, but you don’t have to go it alone.


NECA TMNT Casey Jones and Raphael (In Disguise)

“The class is Pain 101. Your instructor’s Casey Jones.”

There may not be a more quotable scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than the encounter between Casey Jones and Raphael. Raphael, after taking in a movie he appeared unimpressed by, stops a purse-snatching and scares the kids off with a simple gesture to his sai. The kids take shelter in Central Park, where they have a chance encounter with the vigilante Casey Jones. Jones witnessed the attempted thievery, but he’s not as forgiving as Raph. Before he can really lay into the teens with an assortment of sports equipment turned weapons, Raph breaks it up which brings about the memorable encounter.

It was a trip for me as a kid to see my favorite green heroes on the big screen, and it was almost equally as entertaining to see Casey Jones. Played by Elias Koteas, Jones basically leapt from the comics and cartoon and took to live-action effortlessly. His attire was simple: sweatpants, t-shirt, vest, and that trademarked hockey mask. It should have been easy to translate to a film, but the performance of Koteas throughout the film should not be dismissed so easily. He’s an entertaining and even endearing character. There was probably so much more that could have been done with him, but in an effort to tone down the violence from the first film the Casey Jones character was written out of the sequel, I suppose in favor of the much less-celebrated Keno. He did return for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, but the less said about that film the better.

As has probably been noted in every one of my reviews of NECA’s movie-inspired Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of action figures, this is a notable release because it’s the first of its kind. The movie was not expected to perform well, so Playmates did not support it with any toys. When it did prove a surprise hit, the company went straight to producing toys based on the sequel. That meant the Turtles themselves at least received figures as well as many others, but the characters and designs unique to the first film never did. And it doesn’t look like Casey received a figure for the third film, which is a bit surprising. Fans of Casey Jones have had to wait 30 years for a proper figure, but he’s finally here and fans are left to determine if he was worth the wait.

Not to be ignored though, is the fact that Casey Jones is part of the first movie two-pack released by NECA exclusively through Walmart. Along for the ride is Raphael in disguise sporting his trench coat and hat. This Raph is a scaled-down version of the quarter-scale figure, which is also just the regular movie Raphael, but with a coat and hat. It’s a fairly iconic look for the character that deserves a proper action figure and bundling him with Casey Jones makes perfect sense. I suppose there are some out there who would have preferred he come with another all-new sculpt, (April? Tatsu?) but I can’t say I feel cheated or anything.

Let’s talk about Raph first before getting to the main event, of sorts. Raphael is the exact same figure released previously as part of a four-pack of Turtles as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive and also released as a single-pack through GameStop last year. NECA has taken the movie line from GameStop to Walmart, in case you were wondering, and the previously released figures should start showing up any day now in two-packs as well. In comparing the figure with my SDCC edition, his face looks a touch lighter to me with a little more yellow mixed-in with the green. The eyes on my original Raph were kind of screwy as well, but this new one looks fine. It might have been neat if he could have had a new head, perhaps one with more teeth such as when he rescues April in the subway, but this is a good likeness of the character. His default mask “tails” is a new piece that diverts the tails around his neck instead of off to one side. He comes with the other two pieces, one going left and one going right, should you wish to swap it out, but I think the default one looks best. The coat is a soft goods coat and it looks really sharp. There’s one loose string on my Raph’s left shoulder, but otherwise the cut looks great. The buttons are non-functioning, but the belt and pockets are real. His hat is soft plastic and there’s a little hole for the knot of his mask. You could, if you wanted, pop out the tail piece and re-insert it through the hat to possibly get it stay on better, but he looks good no matter what you choose to do there. He also has his backpack, which is made of more soft plastic. It’s the biggest hindrance to getting the coat off and I suspect you would either need to cut the straps or pop his arms off to do so, but why would you?

Underneath that coat everything appears to be the same. All of the spots and battle-damage on Raph’s shell all look to be there. This also means all of the articulation is still in place as well. Raph will be restricted by his coat to some degree, though the cloth nature of it means it’s not as restricting as you may have expected. Raphael features a nice, tight, ball-joint at the neck. The default mask tails restricts his mobility a bit, but that’s what the other parts are for. He has ball-joints at the shoulders and elbows, plus hinges at both as well. There’s a forearm swivel and wrist swivel plus a hinge at the hand. Underneath the shell is a torso ball-joint that provides a little movement, but the shell (and coat) don’t allow for this joint to do much. He has ball and hinge joints at the thigh to go along with double-jointed knees. His feet are on a hinge, but there isn’t much movement there. It can also rock side-to-side a bit. This was plenty for the standard release, though for this version I wish the feet had more range of motion as the added bulk of the backpack makes him a challenge to stand. I can get him to stand in some poses, but ultimately I think I’ll use a stand when I place him on a shelf.

As far as accessories go, Raph seems a bit light compared with his box-mate. That’s fine since Raph really doesn’t need much aside from his outfit and trusty sai. That outfit is the star, of course, since it looks and feels fantastic. Despite not featuring a wire inside it, I found the coat easy to move and position. It can be bunched up in places to gain more range of motion at the arms, or allowed to conceal as much of this big turtle in a trench coat as possible. I was even able to get him to properly hold a baseball bat without much hassle. Raph also comes with both sai, even though he was down to one when he met Casey. He comes with gripping hands affixed to his arms, and optional open palms and finger-pointing/optional sai grips as well, just like the standard figure. NECA also tossed in a slice of pizza for good measure since I guess you can never have too many of those, though I kind of wish they had stuck a hole in the middle for his sai even though he didn’t do that until the second film. Or maybe a chewed up apple would have been fun.

Raphael is pretty sweet, but he’s also a variant of a two-year old figure. What collectors are really excited for is Casey Jones! Casey stands at about seven inches making him roughly half an inch taller than Raph, which feels about right. He’s in his first-appearance attire which includes a non-removable hockey mask. Underneath the mask is indeed a face that vaguely resembles Elias Koteas (you’ll have to search online to see for yourself), but the only way to get it off is to chisel it since it’s glued on. The mask also features pegs, and the straps are part of the sculpt, so your figure will look pretty stupid without a mask. NECA was unable to secure an agreement with Koteas to use his likeness, which is why there’s no unmasked head included. Though let’s be honest, basically everyone is displaying this guy with the mask on anyways, even if he only wears it for a small part of the film. Koteas confirmed on Instagram recently that he has actually given his blessing to NECA to go ahead and do a figure with his face on it, so don’t be surprised if we get an unmasked variant down the road (or a quarter-scale version with a removable mask) as part of another two-pack.

Sounds like we can expect a variant of Casey in the future.

Casey’s sculpt looks to be pretty damn accurate to the screen version. He has a white t-shirt with a vest over it that’s actually a shirt with cut-off sleeves. Both the shirt and vest are a soft plastic, though the sleeves on his arms are sculpted. He’s got his gray sweatpants on and black high-tops to go along with fingerless gloves for added bad-assness. The mask is the star of the show though as it looks great. It’s a thick plastic with a glossy paint-job that looks great. The decision to sculpt it separately with a face underneath also means his eyes looks menacing and the slits over the mouth could be actual cuts in the plastic rather than painted lines. If anything appears to be a touch off, it’s the hair which looks heavy as opposed to the more frizzy appearance it had on film. Hair is notoriously difficult to sculpt though so this barely registers as even a nit-pick. The knees also a look a tad odd, but again, that’s because NECA is trying to recreate a soft cloth like sweatpants in plastic form. NECA opted to make the plastic of the thigh go over the lower leg rather than do a kneecap. It’s tough to say what would look better and I bet the sculptors were left wishing the character had sported knee pads in the film. I’m curious if the expected quarter-scale version will experiment with soft goods for the sweatpants or stick with plastic.

Casey is pretty well loaded with articulation like his little, green, buddy. His head is on a ball-joint and partially restricted by the hair, but nothing that should cause issue. He has ball-jointed shoulders and double-jointed elbows to go along with a forearm swivel and the same swivel-hinge articulation at the wrist enjoyed by Raph. What I can’t determine is if he has any kind of ab crunch as the t-shirt prevents me from figuring that out. He has some waist articulation, but the shirt again prevents much of the movement. His thighs are on ball joints, but he features just a simple hinge at the knee. The ankles can swivel freely and there’s a hinge joint as well that’s quite restrictive. He’s a bit tough to stand as well, especially with the golf bag on, so he’s likely going to end up with a stand as well. He would likely need bigger feet to stand better, but that obviously wouldn’t be screen-accurate. More leg/torso articulation could have possibly helped as well, but then you’re cutting up those sweatpants and shirt even more which would have been less aesthetically pleasing.

The paint job on Casey is simple and effective. The clothing is done with a matte finish, but the shoes have a bit of a shine to him. His laces are painted black as well, which is probably screen-accurate, but I’ve never tried to stare at the character’s shoes. The t-shirt has an understated dark wash applied to it giving it a grimey look which is a nice touch. Casey doesn’t seem like the type who stayed up doing laundry. The only negative with the paint is the hinge piece of the shoulders was left unpainted, so if Casey’s arms are up it will look a bit ugly.

That’s a full bag.

As expected, Casey comes with a lot of goodies. He has his golf bag to store everything in which fits easily over his head and arm. It’s soft plastic so it’s fairly light, but once it’s full of stuff it’s no longer quite so light. The strap is rather thin and doesn’t disconnect so you’ll want to handle with care to not snap it at one end. For weapons, Casey comes with a pair of baseball bats (sadly, no Jose Canseco signature spotted on either), a hockey stick (left-handed, interestingly), a goalie stick, golf club (wood), and of course the infamous cricket bat. The weapons all look great with a paint-wash applied to nearly all of them to give them a weathered look. Most feature athletic tape, and the only one that looks brand new is the golf club. And it should, since that’s from the end of the film when Casey uses it to finish off Tatsu (“I’ll never call golf a dull game again.”) and is a nice touch since NECA could have chosen to omit it given the set is so scene specific. You can also fit everything into the golf bag with some effort, though the giant goalie stick looks a bit ridiculous sticking out of the bag. In the film, he only ever needed room for the two bats and the cricket bat so being able to fit them all wasn’t even a realistic goal, but they pulled it off. Not much to complain about either in terms of screen accuracy. I noted that the hockey stick is left-handed, but it looks like a righty stick on screen. And Casey certainly swings that cricket bat right-handed. The bats also probably could have been lighter in color, but I can’t say either thing is something that bothers me. These weapons are a lot of fun and I’m glad to see that Casey has a full assortment.

Look at all of that stuff!

Casey is going to need some hands to wield those weapons, and he has a bunch. His default hands are simple fists for when he wants to get his hands dirty. He also has two sets of gripping hands. I can’t really tell what’s different about them, the gripping opening might be just a touch larger on one set versus the other, but it’s pretty light. The goalie stick does require a bit more room to wield properly, but I seem to have little trouble regardless. His gripping hands are also really soft so you can bend the fingers around whatever he’s holding. Maybe the extras are just in case of ware and tare? He also has a pointing right hand and a more relaxed open left hand to rest a hockey stick or bat in. It’s a nice assortment and the long pegs and soft nature of the plastic makes swapping them pretty effortless.

Casey Jones is a more than worthy addition to what is perhaps the most impressive line NECA has ever produced. The likeness all of the figures from the first TMNT movie have been incredible, and Casey is no exception. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the fine work of sculptors Trevor Zammit, Kyle Windrix, and Trevor Grove. And no one should be snoozing on the Raphael in this set either. I was a bit on the fence with him and questioned whether or not I would have purchased a single-carded version of the character in disguise, but now that I have him I’m pretty happy to say that I do. My collection would have been lacking if I had a Casey Jones with no Raph to go along with him. As much as I identify Casey with April, a two-pack of them on a porch swing is certainly not nearly as exciting as the confrontation between mutant hero and vigilante.

If you want to add this two-pack to your movie collection, it can be found exclusively at Walmart for $49.99. It just started showing up last week and is still shipping to stores as I type this. Some areas will just start to receive it this week. It was also offered for purchase online, but basically sold out in seconds as NECA’s TMNT product remains extremely hot. Because of that, this set is not the easiest in the world to find, but it can be done. I’m just a blogger so my toys come from the store just like everyone else and I was able to find a set, so don’t despair if you don’t find one right away. And NECA is certain to keep producing these and I definitely expect at least a Casey re-release some day now that Elias Koteas is onboard. And above all, network with folks, make friends in the collecting community, and don’t feed the scalpers! Good luck!


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.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon) Season 2

TMNTThe resurgence of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been one of the more fun story lines from pop culture for me over the past two years. With an all new comic line, cartoon, and feature film, the TMNT are almost as relevant today as they were in 1990. Considering other old properties from the 80’s have been successfully resurrected recently, perhaps it’s not all that surprising the Turtles were able to accomplish the same. What has been surprising though is how successful the relaunch has been from an artistic standpoint. The general consensus for the vast majority of new films based on properties from the 80’s is that the material has been lacking. While no one can dispute how commercially successful a franchise like the Transformers has been for Hollywood, the movies themselves come across as overstuffed toy commercials. Like the Transformers, the return to the big screen for the Turtles was decidedly lacking when the new film was released in 2014 (I’d call the film trash but I personally have not watched it and don’t plan to). However, the comic book line launched in 2012 has been pretty well-received while the television show has been a smashing success.

When the cartoon was announced by Nickelodeon I was not optimistic about its chances at success. I was borderline indifferent, but my past romance with the Turtles was enough to make me curious. I set the DVR to record season one, and by its end, I was a fan. The show is witty, action-packed, and stuffed with enough in-jokes and material to appeal to 30-somethings who grew up with the Turtles. The cartoon successfully melds the old cartoon with the comic books while also taking its own path. The 2003 cartoon attempted the same, but was probably too reliant on the original Mirage comics. The old comics are an entertaining read, though nothing magical, but they do not possess an energy that lends itself well to animation. While on the other hand, the original cartoon was set on creating a fun series that appealed only to children. It never put the characters in any real danger and would eventually lose its audience as it grew up and acquired an appetite for more mature material. When the show finally made an attempt at change, it was too late.

What's old is new.

What’s old is new.

Like with season one, season two of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opts for a more serialized nature with plots carrying over from one episode into another with few stand-alone episodes and characters. When a stand-alone episode does pop up, it serves as a palette cleanser from the main plot and is often a more offbeat episode. Most of these episodes are packed with humor with season two’s “Mazes & Mutants” topping the list of funniest TMNT episodes so far. The writers have found a nice balance in the humor for the show with it coming up at opportune times and resisting the urge to go for the easiest joke or pun. The show is genuinely funny, but it also knows when to let up on the humor and isn’t overly-reliant on the Michelangelo character.

Season two picks up right where season one left off with The Kraang being beaten back temporarily. Shredder and The Kraang have appeared to have forged an alliance, and an early mishap with a canister of mutagen mutates April’s father, Kirby, into a bat monster causing tension between the Turtles and their lone human friend. Meanwhile, Splinter (and this is a spoiler for those who missed season one) is coming to terms with the fact that his daughter is alive and well but has been brainwashed by the Shredder into believing she is actually the daughter of the Foot Clan’s leader and not Splinter. These two threads, April’s distrust of the Turtles and Karai’s lineage, are major plot points for the bulk of season two. The Karai plot twist could be seen coming from a mile away, but it was still effective as the writers handle it well. Karai naturally does not react well when the truth is first presented to her, and her response to it is complicated and appropriately remains unresolved for several episodes. The Kraang maintain a healthy presence throughout the season as well, often playing a role in a small way in most of the episodes. The season concludes with another big face-off between the Turtles and Kraang and it would seem the alien race will not be going anywhere anytime soon.

Casey Jones and Raph team-up yet again.

Casey Jones and Raph team-up yet again.

Season two introduces several characters, old and new. As was revealed in press kits, Casey Jones made his series debut in season two. Like April, he has been aged-down for the show from his original depiction but remains a vigilante of sorts. And like the Casey of old, he forms a bond with Raph pretty quickly and the two are a crime-fighting duo in some episodes. And as predicted by me (and likely many others), Casey forms the third corner of a pseudo love triangle with Donatello over April. Naturally, April is more taken with the human and this creates tension between Don and Casey that is sometimes entertaining, and sometimes feels a little stuffy, but is one of the ongoing aspects of the show that serves to remind the audience that these characters are, in fact, teenagers after all. Other characters familiar to fans of the old show that make their debut in season two include Slash, Mutagen Man, and Pizza Face while other characters are obvious references to old ones (Kirby bares an uncanny resemblance to Wingnut, for example). The show also does a good job of hinting at future characters. When a thief with a purple mohawk shows up it’s only natural for fans of the old show to assume this character has a date with a warthog and some mutagen in his future.

Don't be surprised if Kirby's Party Wagon gets a make-over in season 3.

Don’t be surprised if Kirby’s Party Wagon gets a make-over in season 3.

My main point of criticism with the show early on was for its lifeless take on the city of New York, and while the show has done a better job of making it look like people actually inhabit this city, it’s still a relevant criticism for season two. The character designs though have improved. Some of the villains in season one were pretty boring to look at, and that has mostly been remedied (though some are underwhelming, I’m looking at you Tiger Claw). There’s very little for me to complain about when it comes to this show. The writers have also wisely made the Foot Clan robots in season two (and not just randomly, it’s explained in an episode) so the Turtles are free to user their weapons against them. The more graphic violence is handled offscreen, but the consequences are shown. When Leonardo gets isolated from his brothers in the season finale and beat-up by Shredder, we don’t see any of Shredder’s bladed strikes landing. However, when an unconscious Leo is tossed through the window in April’s apartment where the other turtles are holed up (awesome reference to the comic and original film, by the way) his body is cut and bruised.

Just like with season one, season two does a great job of tossing in winks and nods to the old material that came before it. They’re sometimes hidden in the background and other times in your face (the party wagon!). Shredder remains a credible threat to the Turtles throughout the season and is a more than competent ass-kicker when pressed into battle. And while the April plot is resolved during the season, the other big ones are still open heading into season three. The season concluded with an hour long special that was perhaps the best in the show’s short existence thus far. It was satisfying on an emotional level while also delivering the humor and action the show has become known for. I’m even more enthusiastic for the show’s third season than I was the second (aside from the fact that Seth Green is set to takeover the voice-acting duties for Leonardo). If you were a fan of the Turtles in your youth and still have a fondness for them residing somewhere inside of you then you should be watching this show.


%d bloggers like this: