The Brain is Back! – A Ninja Turtles, Vol. 2: Enemies Old, Enemies New Review
TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 2: Enemies Old, Enemies New
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
PENCILLER: Dan Duncan
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5-8
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2012
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
As a longtime fan, I really enjoy IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. It incorporates elements and characters from various incarnations of the TMNT, while introducing new elements of their own. Dan Duncan’s art fits the Turtles really well, and they’ve got Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman along for the ride. All this being said, they missed a big opportunity in this book to do something fresh and different with the Raphael character, which left me really disappointed.
Picking up about a month after the first volume, this book gives us the reworked backstory for the Turtles and Splinter. We see that in feudal Japan, Hamato Yoshi and his wife Tang Shen had four young sons. But in the end they were all murdered by Yoshi’s rival in the Foot Clan, Oroku Saki. Now Yoshi and his sons have been reincarnated as Splinter and the Ninja Turtles (all the ooze stuff still happened, this is just an added bit of background). Splinter knows he and his sons are fated to once again face Saki in this life. But in the meantime, the boys in green must face Old Hob again. This time Hob has Baxter Stockman’s horrific Mouser robots on his side. But as bad as Hob and Stockman are, they work for someone far worse: the evil Lord Krang!
I’ve got no issue with the new reincarnation backstory. It certainly works better than having them be aliens. What I do have an issue with is how Raphael’s reintroduction into the family is handled. When the series started, Eastman, Tom Waltz and the crew added yet another twist to the origin by separating Raphael from the rest of the Turtles during the mutation process. Ego, while Leo, Mike and Don are training with Splinter and searching for their lost brother, Raph is on the streets fighting to survive. In previous takes on the Turtles, Raph was just a natural hothead with loner tendencies. This series actually gives him a basis for some of those feelings. Coming into this book, I was expecting him to struggle as he came to terms with his new life, and having to follow Splinter’s rules. I was hoping we’d be able to see what happened to the family when the novelty of having this lost brother back wore off. In addition to dealing with Hob and the mousers, the Turtles would have to learn to work with this new brother who’s more street smart than ninja skilled. Instead, they just tell us that after a month, Raph is “really picking this up fast.” He simply fits in like a missing puzzle piece.
The book justifies Raph’s quick learning by telling us that his body is simply learning to enact what his brain already knows from his previous life. I can buy that, I suppose. Based on what we see in this book, the boys seem to have a certain subconscious recollection of their old lives, while Splinter seems to remember everything. But I don’t buy this idea that Raph just seamlessly fits into the team. Even if I could, wouldn’t it just be a better story if he didn’t?
We also see April O’Neil and Casey Jones meet in this book. I like that April and Casey are teenagers here, presumably about the same age as the Turtles. This gives all those characters a commonality they didn’t have before. Casey also isn’t as much of a brainless brute as he’s been in other stories. He still has a knack for violence, but in this book he’s more of an academic underachiever than anything else. I will admit though, that I miss some of the character’s loose cannon vigilante ways. Up to this point he just seems like a kid with a mask and hockey stick who follows Raph around. Hopefully they’ll rectify this at some point.
I continue to be impressed with Dan Duncan’s art. He’s great at injecting emotion into the Turtles’ faces, particularly anger, fear, or any sort of urgency. His take on Krang’s robot body is interesting, as he’s clad in a Nazi-esque military style univorm. This works well, though admittedly the kid in me misses the bald headed red trunks suit from the old cartoon.
This new series isn’t perfect, but it’s doing more right than wrong thus far. It obviously respects the hell out of all the source material (Tragg and Granitor are in this book!!!), but is relying on fresh storytelling and some new ideas to make it work, as opposed to nostalgia. With luck, it will only get better from here.
Front page image from matthewledrew.wordpress.com.