Tag Archives: mirage studios

NECA Mirage Shredder and Foot Clan NYCC Exclusive Set

img_1522The Shredder had a rough go at things for awhile when it came to plastic. He was featured rather prominently in the old Playmates line, though perhaps not as prominently as one would expect. Playmates never did do a movie version of him, aside from Super Shredder, and his figure was arguably the worst from the inaugural line. All crouched over and such, he was a nightmare to stand and there was little that was intimidating about him. When the Turtles started making a comeback with the collector community, he received further humiliation. NECA released its Mirage Comics TMNT in 2008 and showed off the sculpt for a potential Shredder. That line either didn’t sell well or Playmates interfered because that Shredder was cancelled before release ending the Mirage inspired line of TMNT product. Playmates would go on to do its own retro line dubbed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics. They released the Turtles followed by Bebop and Rocksteady. Results were mixed, but at least it was new product. Playmates shocked the toy world when it unveiled a prototype for Shredder and Krang that looked pretty damn amazing. Had it been released it probably would be the best action figure Playmates ever put out. Sadly, it was not to be and that line was also cancelled. When Playmates did a Mirage inspired line of its own, it too overlooked Shredder. Bandai and SH Figuarts were the most recent to disappoint TMNT collectors. After releasing a wonderful set of turtles inspired by the old cartoon, a Shredder was unveiled. The figure didn’t look as good as the Turtles, but it would have still likely been the best Shredder released up until that point had it been released. As you could have guessed based on where this paragraph had started, it too was cancelled before release.

At least with that most recent disappointment, NECA was there to lift us up! Shortly after that Shredder was unveiled, NECA revealed its own Shredder sculpt based on the classic cartoon that was superior to the Bandai one and bundled him in a massive set containing all four turtles, Krang, and a pair of Foot Soldiers for good measure. It was a set made exclusively for San Diego Comic Con, but all of those figures have since been released to retail. Before that set came along though, there was the 2016 set from New York Comic Con. This one rectified that first disappointing cancellation as it contained NECA’s Mirage inspired Shredder, and to top it off, he was now joined by three of his minions. Better late than never, fans were happy to finally pair those figures from 2008 with some enemies almost a decade later. It was actually the second Shredder released by NECA, as earlier that year the arcade box sets were released with figures designed to resemble how they looked in the classic arcade game from 1989. It’s a set that has proven to be quite profitable for NECA ever since.

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Assemble the Foot!

Shredder and his gang of Foot Ninja come packaged in an extremely attractive window box. It’s adorned all around with images from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 where Shredder and the Foot debuted alongside their nemesis. On the back is a photo of the figures with a few extra and Shredder has word bubbles commanding them to attack which are directly lifted from the source material. Flip up the front flap and you’re treated to more images from the comics as well as a look at the figures themselves. Behind them is a nicely done street scene which also makes for a solid photo backdrop!

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I guess Donnie is the only one unhappy these guys got let out of their box.

I’ve had this set since it was released, but never opened it until now. When I saw it was being released, I bought it out of a sense of obligation. It was much easier to secure a NECA exclusive back then as I just saw it was available and went ahead and placed my order. My attention though was on the cartoon property and the figures coming out in support of that and when this set arrived I just wasn’t feeling it for some reason. Rather than make room on my Mirage shelf (which is admittedly small), I decided to just position the box behind my set of turtles and leave it at that. It’s an unusual move for me as I am not a mint-in-box collector, and even if I was, the design of this box makes it easy to remove the figures without damaging anything. These guys are designed to be played around with, and finally I was smart enough to do just that.

By now, these Shredder and Foot figures should look and feel rather familiar. Much of the parts utilized here have been recycled from (or will be recycled for) the other Foot and Shredder releases from NECA, excepting the movie line which is its own animal. Shredder is virtually identical to the video game figure, and he also shares arms, hips, and legs with the cartoon one as well. The Foot also share the same parts as their video game counterpart, and the legs, arms, and waist are shared with Shredder as well. The only thing sculpt-wise separating Shredder from his minions is his head and torso. I don’t point this out as criticism or anything, because the main base for these four figures is quite good. They feature ball-jointed heads, shoulders, and leg sockets with double-jointed knees and elbows. There are swivels at the bicep, thighs, and shins and the waist rotates as well. The hands have rotational articulation as well as a hinge joint in each. The feet can pivot at the ankle and rock side-to-side as well. And there’s also articulation at the toe. These guys are rather loaded and capable of quite a few dynamic poses. About the only thing missing is an ab crunch, but that would have taken away from the sculpt. The joints are all nice and tight and should be worked a bit out of the package. The only joints that felt dangerously tight were the shoulders, but I was able to work them loose without the need for hot water or direct heat.

The two Foot Soldiers in this set are basically the same figure. The only thing separating the two is the headband on one, which is actually a bit of an artistic touch as none of the Foot sported this movie-styled headband in the first issue. I’m not super familiar with the colorized version of the old books, so it’s quite a bit of fun for me to see these guys in color. Like the Turtles, there’s a lot of black linework to really bring out that comic feel. NECA could have taken it further with some of that dot work that was on the Turtles and present in the book, but perhaps that would have looked a touch too messy. I really like the soft gray color of the mask and pants as it really gives this version of the iconic Foot Soldier his own flavor. The burnt red tunic is complemented by soft plastic on the skirt portion so the figures have a great range of motion. All of the figures in this set come packaged with fists for hands, but also have a second set of gripping hands. And since they have so many fun accessories, you’re likely to pull those fists off pretty quickly to get those gripping hands in. A nice, firm, tug will lift them out easily enough and the other hands insert without much fuss.

The Foot Elite is a surprising addition to the set as he wasn’t featured in the first issue. These guys came later as they basically took over for Shredder after the Turtles kill him in the first issue (sorry….spoilers!). He’s the same figure as the standard Foot save for his head and cape. The head features a large straw hat that’s non-removable. Beneath that is a flowing piece of red fabric and a metal faceguard concealing an all black face beneath. The faceguard is different from Shredder’s as it has a more pronounced edge down the center and it looks really cool. The red fabric surrounding the head is a hard plastic, but he still has a pretty good range of motion at the head. The cape is made of a soft, rubbery, plastic and has a tattered appearance. The right edge is folded back a little to make the figure look a touch more dramatic than if it just hung there. I love the line detail on the hat and the distress effects on the cape are a nice tough. This guy also has some forearm guards with a square design on them that continues onto his hands. It just makes him a bit more special to look at than the generic Foot. He’s definitely one bad ass looking dude.

And that brings us to Shredder, the figure most probably desired more than any other in this set. Shredder does not disappoint as he looks like he was yanked from the pages of Mirage Comics. The Mirage Shredder is a bit unique when compared with other forms of the character as he featured a more bucket-like helmet. The faceguard has a rounded appearance to it and it covers far more of his face than it did in the cartoon, for example. The rest of the helmet is more or less the same though and it looks great. There’s some nice linework on it and the other metallic portions of Shredder’s costume to give it that comic appearance. I also like that the raised portion of the top of the helmet is a separate piece and those tines that wrap around it like a claw even come off the back of it which looks really cool. Shredder also has a little extra material on his tunic that hangs in the front and back and it too is done with a soft plastic so as not to hinder movement. The shoulder pads and spikes are actually quite firm with the forearm, shin, and hand ones noticeably softer. NECA decided to color Shredder’s face entirely black and go with white eyes. The actual comic switches between this look and a more natural one with pupils in the eyes so this was NECA basically choosing what it felt looked best and I won’t argue with the results.

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It’s time for a rumble!

There’s very little to nitpick when it comes to this set of figures. Most of the nitpicks I do have unfortunately rest with Shredder. The fisted hands he comes packaged with pretty much all got warped in the package from what I’ve seen making his blades look sad and pathetic. Thankfully, the alternate gripping hands came out fine and look great on the figure, I just wish NECA had packaged him handless so it could have protected both sets of hands as well as it did the gripping hands. It’s possible some heat could get them back into shape, but I haven’t tried. My Shredder’s left shin guard is also a bit funky. It doesn’t appear to be seated all the way in the peg hole, though since it’s glued in there it doesn’t wobble or anything. It’s mostly only noticeable from the side or rear. The hands on all of the figures are also a touch too stiff and inserting any weapon that can’t be slid in (like the knife with the spiked hilt) is tough. I think I nearly broke the thumb off of one figure trying to get that thing in there. Otherwise though, I really have no further complaints with the sculpt and general look of these guys. NECA did a great job bringing these comic characters to life, so much so that it’s a shame they haven’t really touched the Mirage stuff since.

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Check out all of that loot!

If you weren’t sold on the figures themselves, then maybe you will be once you get a load of these accessories. This quartet comes with a bunch of weapons and they’re all pretty damn awesome. Initially, I was a little disappointed there wasn’t one of those three-handled-nunchaku included (as depicted in the comic art on the box), but when I saw what we had I quickly forgot about it. In this box you get two katana, a dagger, a curved dagger with spiked-ball hilt, a ninja star, a large ninja glaive weapon, a large bladed weapon similar to the old Playmates one that fit on the back of Raphael’s shell, and the coolest of all, a mace and some other nasty looking bladed thing joined by a chain. That chained weapon is a thing to behold and I absolutely love it. All of these weapons were utilized by the Foot in the comic so it’s all authentic. The only challenge is choosing what to display and what not to. I do wish NECA was better at giving its TMNT figures a means of storing weapons on their person so I could get them all in, but this is a pretty good problem to have. And to top things off, there’s an Utrom included as well. For those unfamiliar with the comic, the Utrom is an alien race that was the inspiration for Krang in the animated series. They were also faithfully depicted in the 2003 series and the Kraang from the 2012 cartoon are essentially Utrom. He’s an ugly little dude and NECA even slipped in some articulation on two of his tentacles.

If you have a set of the Mirage turtles, then this set is basically a must have as well. The only true negative is scarcity. Though in fairness, this set is not nearly as pricey on the secondary market as some of NECA’s other TMNT product. I guess the company was right when it said the Mirage stuff just isn’t nearly as popular as the rest. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap, but expect to pay around $150 if this is something you desire which really isn’t all that bad for something that’s been out of print for four years. NECA is returning to the world of Mirage for the Loot Crate due out in a couple of months that features a new take on Shredder. Perhaps if people keep letting the company know it wants more Mirage stuff it will eventually happen, but for now this is all we have. What we have though is pretty sweet and these figures look dynamite alongside the Turtles. It may have taken longer than expected, but we have our Mirage Shredder and he was improbably worth the wait.

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Now they take their rightful place on my Mirage shelf, right below the Glenn Danzig album.


NECA Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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These guys don’t need no stinkin’ “turtle power.”

A dozen years ago, toy company NECA dipped its toe into the world of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the first time, and shockingly it failed to stick around. That’s incredible to hear for collectors currently chasing down Bebop and Rocksteady at Target, but it’s the truth. There are a lot of folks at NECA who grew up with the TMNT and my guess is they wanted to do something with the brand right from the start, but always getting in the way was Playmates Toys. Playmates, as we’ve covered in various other places, held the master toy license for the brand and was reluctant to allow others into their space. NECA was able to by way of making adult collectibles based on the original Mirage Comics release, which was something Playmates had little interest in. NECA released its product in early 2008 to great reviews in the toy world, but apparently sales just weren’t there. It could be that the licensing cost just made it unworkable, or the license was only available for a short window that just couldn’t be properly taken advantage of. Whatever the reason, the line only included the four turtles plus April O’Neil as it was cancelled before it could get to Shredder, who was shown off at conventions and left to haunt the dreams of TMNT collectors every where.

Since 2008, these action figures have become highly sought after. Those who passed on them initially even had multiple chances to rectify that before NECA said “good bye” for good. The original release was each character in its own blister package with a bunch of accessories. Following that, there was a boxed set with all four turtles and a second single-figure release, this one coming in a tube style package (sewer pipe?) with just the figures and their weapons as the other extras were scrapped. Lastly, there was another four-pack release, this one a boxed set variant depicting the brothers in black and white.

I grew up on the cartoon, mostly, and it was my favorite show for many years. I also knew about the comic origins of the characters, but never really sought it out. I would see some images of the comic art, like the cover for the popular Nintendo game, and I’d think it looked awesome. I also saw some others though that I thought were terrible and ugly. The funny thing is, most of those images I didn’t like were just covers or one-off pieces of art and weren’t representative of what the characters actually looked like in print, but I wouldn’t realize that for many, many years. When I first saw these figures though I thought they looked incredible. I pre-ordered a full set and eagerly waited for their arrival. I may not have had much interaction with the comic, but I was at a point where things that reminded me of something I enjoyed as a kid, but were more adult, was really appealing. And hyper-violent, gritty, and grim TMNT certainly fit that bill.

As you’re likely well aware, the four turtles consist of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. The four brother are depicted here as they would have appeared on the cover of Mirage Comics, and they are based on the first appearance of the characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. They’re green-skinned with brownish wraps and pads and all four sport a red mask. Each turtle comes with the weapons you would expect:  twin katana for Leo, a bo staff for Donnie, two sai for Raph, and a pair of nunchaku for Mikey. For the first time I’m aware of, Mikey’s ‘chuks were also linked by actual chain. It was perhaps the one detail most influential in me picking up this line. I thought it was so cool that basically every friend I had who had a birthday party in 2008 and had even a passing interest in TMNT received one of these Michelangelo figures as a gift from me. The weapons are well-detailed, and I love the gold accents on Leo’s katana. Donatello’s bo is articulated at the tape and I think it can come apart like the one that comes with other versions of the figure, though mine doesn’t seem to want to do that and I’m not interested in forcing the issue.

Since the turtles are all essentially the same, it should come as no surprise that each figure is essentially the same as well. That would be unfortunate if the sculpt was poor, but that’s not the case. These figures were sculpted by The Four Horsemen, whom action figure enthusiasts are more than familiar with in this day and age. Each turtle is articulated with a ball joint at the head, a hinge at the base of a very long neck (compared with the cartoon versions), ball-jointed shoulders and hips, bicep swivel, single-hinged elbow, wrist rotation and a hinge, thigh swivels, double-jointed knees, and an ankle hinge. At the time, this was probably the most articulation in any TMNT figure of one of the turtles, though over the years companies have found ways to sneak even more articulation into them, in particular with stuff under the shell. This level of articulation is fine though and I’ve never really desired more. NECA was smart to use a soft plastic for the chest which gives the legs greater range of motion than most would expect so you should be able to get some good posing going here.

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Each turtle comes with an alternate set of hands featuring their climbing spikes as seen in the first issue.

These figures move well, but also look pretty damn fantastic too. NECA used a nice, deep, green for the skin-tone with a darker green for the shell. There appears to be a wash over the figures as well so there’s a slight gradient to the skin tone with some brighter spots that works really well to make these guys come alive. Since the comics were in black and white, it makes these figures pop even more (unless you’re used to seeing the colorized versions of the comics that came later). There’s some nice, black, linework all over the figures and I especially love the little marks on the shell and chest. It really gives these figures a comic-book feel. The elbow pads and wrist straps are part of the sculpt, while the belt and kneepads are glued in place. The belt and the tassels on the masks are a soft plastic with a lot of give, though my Don’s belt was glued a bit askew. The green paint of the skin has a nice texture to it that is slightly rough and feels appropriate for the characters. The only difference separating each figure is the head sculpt, with each character sporting a different expression. Leonardo also has scabbards for his swords on his back while the other turtles do not have holsters of any kind for their weapons. Raph has unique hands which feature a wider gap between his fingers likely to support holding his sai with the center blade between them (I’ve never been comfortable doing this though as there’s little give in the sai and I fear breaking it). The oversized feet of these designs makes them quite easy to stand and I love the chunky legs they possess. And they have tails! If there’s room for criticism, it’s that NECA could have randomized some of the little details on the chests and shell for each turtle, but it’s not a big deal. There’s also some paint chipping on my figures, but I honestly can’t remember what was present out of the box and what may have been acquired through multiple moves since I bought these. As these were my favorite figures through those various moves, I took great care when storing and moving them though.

In terms of short-comings, there are few. I mentioned the paint chips and there’s some slight slop in spots, but nothing noticeable when these guys are on a shelf. The black lines on the mask of my Mikey figure are a bit light and not as pronounced as I would like them to be. He also has a blob of paint on the center of his shell. His hips are a bit loose, but he still stands well enough. The left hand of my Leo is super loose and has always been that way. It’s at least strong enough to hold his weapon, but move it at all and it will pop out. The only criticism I could levy at the sculpt concerns the shell, which sits a bit higher on their shoulders than it did in the comic. I only really notice it because it’s hollow and it looks a bit weird up close as you can see inside of it to the peg holding it on. It’s also a place dust loves to collect. Raph’s special hands also are a nice thought, but as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago the sai do not fit cleanly in them and I worry about them snapping. The added drawback is his wider fingers mean holding the said traditionally ends up quite loose. They won’t fall out, but you’ll want to position them after you place him somewhere and may have to fiddle a bit with his grip. Donnie’s bo staff also sits rather loose in his hands. If you want to do a one-handed pose he either needs the base resting on a surface or he has to hold it near an end where it’s a bit thicker, though if you play around you can get it to balance right (as seen in some of my pics).

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How it all started…

Each single-packed figure came with extra accessories in addition to their weapons. All four turtles came with a second set of climbing hands from that first issue of the comic as well as a baby turtle. The hands come off and on easily, though in reality I can’t imagine anyone displaying these guys with those climbing hands. Each turtle also came with a base: two sidewalks and two streets between the four. These bases connect to form one mini diorama that was a really nice touch. The same line work that’s on the figures is in play here as well and it looks awesome. Raph also came with a lamp post for his base while Leo came with a fire hydrant. Donatello comes with a can of ooze or mutagen while Mikey comes with three mini buzz saws. Raph also came with three little blades and those, as well as the buzz saws, aren’t in any of my pictures because they’re floating around in some crates. These weapons do appear in TMNT #1, but they still feel like kind of pointless accessories, and like the climbing hands, aren’t something you’re like going to want to display your figures holding. It probably would have been more fun to have additional hands instead, but the standard gripping hands each turtle has is plenty good. These guys were tools of vengeance in the comic, they didn’t hang out in the sewer playing video games and scarfing pizza, so you’re going to display them with weapons in hand.

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Mikey just hanging out.

Twelve years later, these four figures are still among the best TMNT action figures ever produced. I love the look, and going for that Mirage likeness was a great choice because it’s something that hadn’t been done before and has seldom been done since. Playmates did follow with their own version, but they’re nothing special and intended for more of a mass market appeal. There isn’t really anything I’d change about these guys even today. Could they have more articulation? Sure, but it’s also not like they’re starving for it. Plus I’d hate to disrupt the sculpt. Could they have more accessories? I guess, but there really wasn’t much else to take from in that first issue. And even so, they did deep cuts as-is with the additional weapons and climbing claws. Maybe fists for actual punches would have been neat, or open hands and finger-pointing hands for the sake of variety. If NECA were to re-release these though I don’t think they would need to do anything additional with them. If anything, a full Mirage-inspired street diorama would be pretty awesome.

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My attempt at the group shot from page one of TMNT #1.

Unfortunately, a re-release is not in the cards at this time. When asked about the possibility, NECA has indicated that the Mirage stuff just doesn’t sell nearly as well as the cartoon and movie inspired toys, so while there is some demand, it’s apparently not enough to warrant looking at re-releasing them. It’s possible NECA is playing coy, but I’ll take them at their word for now. It seems TMNT is just plain hot at the moment, so I imagine there’s room for more Mirage product perhaps when NECA is done with the Turtles in Time figures. And thankfully, roughly 8 years after the release of these figures a Mirage Shredder was finally released as a New York Comic Con exclusive(the box for which is prominently displayed in my images) along with some Foot Soldiers. Perhaps I’ll take a look at that next. And if you’re hoping for more Mirage stuff, a Mirage variant of Shredder is coming via Loot Crate in a couple of months so maybe that’s a potential avenue for more from this line. Otherwise, if you want these figures you’ll have to turn to eBay and you’re not going to like the prices. Happy hunting!

 


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Ultimate Collection Vol. 5

tmnt vol5It’s been a long break in between posts about this subject. So long that I’d rather not point it out any further! At long last though I have finally finished reading fifth volume of The Ultimate Collection, a line of hardbound, oversized, compendiums of comic books spanning the Eastman and Laird era of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Mirage Comics. The volumes are published by current TMNT comic publisher IDW and are presented in their original black and white appearance with new artwork by Kevin Eastman used for the back and front cover. Both Eastman and TMNT co-creator Peter Laird provide thoughts and reactions following each issue as they provide insight into their thought process and elaborate on where an idea may have come from.

This fifth volume is essentially the finale to this series, though two additional volumes follow. This one wraps up the City at War arc (issues #56-62) which was basically the grand finale for Eastman and Laird. At this point, they already had stopped drawing and inking the books and had moved onto managing the brand more than anything. These seven issues were originally published in 1993 when TMNT was past its peak, but still very much a money-maker. Artist Jim Lawson had basically taken over all of the pencil duties and was even contributing to the story at this point. Keith Aiken and Jason Temujin Minor handled the inking while Eric Talbot did the tones and Mary Kelleher the lettering.

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Karai has arrived and is ready to make her move.

In case you haven’t read my write-up on Volume 4, City at War tells the tale of the Turtles returning to New York to find that the Foot Clan has split into various competing factions with the loss of Shredder. Karai, leader of the Foot Clan in Japan, has arrived to clean things up and she’s targeting the heroes in a half shell who are currently holed up in an abandoned water tower. Splinter is injured and trapped by the Rat King, making his mainline debut. Meanwhile, April is off living in LA with her sister Robyn while Casey is engaged to a pregnant woman named Gabe and trying to start a new life himself after giving up on chasing April.

I found many of the issues in Volume 4 of this collection to be long and slow. It didn’t help that I wasn’t enamored with Jim Lawson’s take on the Turtles and I was badly missing the art of Eastman and Laird. Even though their art was often rough and had an amateurish quality at times, it was a good fit for the property and it was also improving. It was rewarding to see that maturation take place right before my eyes.

For this round of issues, my enthusiasm is much higher. It gets right to the point with the revelation of who is holding Splinter captive and also has Karai spring her Foot ninja on the Turtles early. This sets up the main conflict which is Karai’s wish to take out Shredder’s remaining Foot Elite, and she wants the Turtles to help. There’s a good scene of the brothers debating the merits of jumping back into the fray. They acknowledge, for the first time, that a lot of the violence is the result of their lost master’s quest for revenge. They were born to avenge Splinter, and they were successful, but their actions have not lead to a better New York for anyone. It’s a really introspective look at the Turtles and not something I was expecting. My only disappointment is that it didn’t eventually lead to a conversation on the subject with Splinter himself.

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Splinter goes through some real shit in these books.

For April, these issues also bring her back to New York. Her father passes away suddenly forcing her and her sister to come to New York for the services. Once there, she decides to stay, and it’s only a matter of time until her path crosses with her old friends. For Casey, tragedy brings him back as well in a rather bold way. The writing for him isn’t as strong as it is for the Turtles, but it still covers subject matter I wasn’t really expecting. For Splinter, he spends much of his time in a delirium and his sequences are pretty visceral. I am not sure what the overall message is supposed to be with Splinter, I guess they wanted him to embrace his primal side at the expense of his learned humanity. It was interesting though and it was nice to finally care about Splinter.

As would be expected from a title with the word “war” in it, there’s a lot of action across these pages. This is where Lawson gets to shine as an artist. His style seems to improve throughout and by the time I made it to the end I was onboard with his Turtles. He is able to convey movement so well and some of the detail work is gorgeous. This is easily a much nicer book to look at than the previous one, and Lawson is the main force behind that.

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I was way more into the artwork this time around and a lot had to do with the brilliant sequencing by Jim Lawson.

The story is a pretty satisfying one, though the ending is a bit unexpected. This is possibly the best arc Mirage ever tackled and much of the good stuff is contained in these issues. I am definitely glad I finally got around to going through it, even if I’ve had it since it was released. Eastman and Laird don’t provide too much in their comments. Eastman is at least good at setting the mood and placing the reader back in 1993. After that, he mostly just gushes about the talent involved in this project. Laird is a bit more critical and willing to point out things that didn’t work, though ultimately he just plain has very little to say.

A sixth volume in this set was released following this one, but it’s just one-shots and short stories not done by Eastman and Laird. A seventh volume is supposedly on the way as well which is basically going to be an art book. If you’re like me and just wanted to experience the original creators’ interpretation of these characters, then the five volumes are the only ones you need to concern yourself with. I’m not sure if any are still in print, but they have yet to become expensive to acquire. This is a good gift for any Turtle-loving person in your life. Though I feel obligated to point out that these stories are intended for mature audiences as these aren’t the pizza-loving dudes from the cartoons, but chances are if you’re even interested in these works you’re well aware of that fact.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) Season One Review

nick_tmnt_wallpaper1280x1024_02Back in September of 2012, Nickelodeon unveiled the newest incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a one-hour season premiere.  On August 8th, 2013, the first season came to a close with a one-hour season finale.  The symmetrical first season had its ups and downs, but no one can deny it was a smashing success from a commercial standpoint as Nickelodeon has already commissioned a second and third season.  Once again, the Turtles franchise has proven that it’s harder to squish than a cock roach as it rolls on into its fourth decade of cultural relevance.  Such was likely never predicted of the franchise back when it burst onto the scene in the late 1980’s.  I would be willing to bet most adults viewed it as the latest flavor of the month they had to endure to keep their kids happy as toys and various other merchandise was consumed by the millions.  Perhaps more importantly to fans, the first season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was not only a commercial success, but a creative one as well as it successfully melded the various depictions of the Turtles over the years into an all new show.

I watched and wrote about the season premiere when it first aired and described my reaction as tempered enthusiasm towards the show.  That would eventually be replaced with full-on enthusiasm as I set my DVR to record each new episode (which became a challenge to keep track of as the broadcast schedule was all over the place) to watch at my leisure.  The show got better as the weeks rolled by and the writers seemed to become more comfortable with the characters.  A lot of the humor early on missed the mark but eventually the show found its groove in that department and routinely was able to bring a smile to my face.  The show also introduced a major plot thread that was woven through the entire first season revolving around the alien race known as the Kraang which helped make the show feel more significant for regular viewers.  I’ve always been a big fan of this approach for television over stand-alone episodes.

The Rat King was one of the better redesigns for the show.

The Rat King was one of the better redesigns for the show.

That’s not to say the show didn’t have stand-alone episodes here and there.  And quite frankly, that was when the show was its most uninteresting.  There was a period in the early part of the season where each episode felt like The Villain of the Week where some poor soul would be mutated into a monster the Turtles had to stop.  There was still humor to be found in these episodes and some nice action, but there was little lasting appeal.  Some of these monsters were also severely lacking in the personality department, both in a behavioral sense and visually speaking.  That is definitely one area where the old cartoon still reigns supreme as the villains often had a pretty interesting and fun look to them.  That was probably due to Playmates wanting a fun toy to market, but it worked.  The show did get better as the season went along, with one of my favorite looks for a villain popping up towards the end in the form of a newt with a Punisher-like pattern to his spots.

Overall, when compared with the old cartoon, the show was less reliant on guest spots and was content to rely primarily on a core group of characters.  The Shredder, obviously, was a big part of the first season even if he was secondary to the Kraang threat.  The writers wisely kept him out of action though, which made the episodes where he took up arms against the Turtles extra special.  He’s also a total bad ass when in combat, a far cry from the bumbling Shredder of the 80’s or even the original comic book Shredder who is famously decapitated by Leonardo at the end of the series’ first book.  This Shredder still retains his old look but with more black and bigger blades.  He’s also far more scarred than any other as his face has been badly burned and he appears to be blind in one eye.  Like the old Shredder, this one also has two mutant henchmen:  Dogpound and Fishface.  While these two are not as stupid as Bebop and Rocksteady, they’re not any more successful and are often beaten back by the Turtles.  Baxter Stockman also falls in with the Shredder during season one and provides him with some heightened technology.  Karai, Shredder’s daughter, is also introduced as a bit of tweener villain in that she has a bit of a friendship with Leonardo which serves as the backbone for a series of episodes during the middle part of the first season.  Other characters familiar to longtime fans also show up, such as Leatherhead and the Rat King, sporting new designs and new personalities.  I particularly enjoyed the new design for the Rat King and thought he was among the best of the villains shown off.  I hope to see more of him in the future.

The Karai/Leo subplot was one of the more interesting parts of season one.

The Karai/Leo subplot was one of the more interesting parts of season one.

On the Turtle front, the cast basically stayed the same throughout the first season.  A lot of old favorites were brought back though such as a new take on the Turtle Van which is now a subway car.  The Turtles retain their signature personality traits but they feel more honest this time around.  Raphael, for example, doesn’t just get pissed-off because he’s supposed to and Leonardo is far from being an emotionless robot.  All of them have strengths and weaknesses, and for the most part, they also feel like teenagers.

Of particular enjoyment for long-time fans were all of the little easter eggs and throwbacks inserted into this series.  Metalhead was brought back as a robot constructed by Donatello.  He looks fairly similar to the old one, only much smaller.  There’s even a spot during the episode were one of the bran-like Kraang latches onto his head, which I have to believe is a nod to the original action figure’s sculpted brain.  The leader of the Kraang also inhabits a giant robot body and the antenna on its head evokes images of Krang’s body from the old cartoon.  Little things like that go a long way towards pleasing the older fans and trying to spot them is part of the enjoyment in watching the show for me.  The Technodrome is also introduced during the season finale, and the long-awaited Splinter vs Shredder confrontation takes place as well.  There’s a big reveal in the season finale that I think anyone familiar with the franchise saw from a mile away, but it was still done well and, despite being predictable, is actually a new direction for an old character.

The Donatello/April relationship could have felt forced, but the writers have handled it well and I'm actually curious to see where it goes (expect Casey Jones to eventually butt-in).

The Donatello/April relationship could have felt forced, but the writers have handled it well and I’m actually curious to see where it goes (expect Casey Jones to eventually butt-in).

From an artistic standpoint, the show animates quite well and is far superior to the DC CG cartoons currently airing on Cartoon Network.  The city streets of New York remained pretty barren for the whole of season one with some signs of life in the finale, but otherwise the show looks good.  I like the fact that each turtle has his own shape and anatomy instead of basically looking exactly like the others with the exception of the mask.

All in all, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a good show that strikes the perfect balance between action and comedy.  The story-telling was also better than could be expected and the writing staff will have a hard time topping season one.  Its start reminds me quite a bit of the 2003 cartoon which, for me anyway, fell off quite a bit in the second season and seasons to follow.  Hopefully this show doesn’t meet the same fate.  Because season one was spread out over so many months, the wait for season two to begin is actually a fairly brief one as its set to kick off in late September.  This version of the Turtles may not be violent like the originals, or say “Cowabunga!” like the old toons, but they have a chance to go down as the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles yet!


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