It’s A Super Splinter! – A Ninja Turtles, Vol 3: Shadows of the Past Review
TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 3: Shadows of the Past
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
PENCILLER: Dan Duncan
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #9-12
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
RELEASED: October 3, 2012
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
One of the cardinal rules of supervillainy is that your evil minions have to be inept on some level. Your Koopa Troopas are stupid, your stormtroopers can’t aim, your Putty Patrollers can’t fight, etc. But even in these outrageous realms of fantasy, there has to be a point where the big bad guy just throws his arms up and says: “You guys suck, I’m outsourcing!” How the Shredder didn’t reach that point within the pages of this book is beyond me. A good portion of his army wasn’t even able to defeat a tired old mutant rat. Where does he find these guys, anyway?
Shadows of the Past officially introduces us to the character conspicuous by his absence in the previous books: The Shredder. When the Foot Clan gains possession of the kidnapped Splinter, the characters are able to connect various dots that the readers already have. Somehow, Shredder has been reborn in the 21st century just as the Turtles and Splinter have. Now Oroku Saki, his granddaughter Karai, and the rest of the Foot are set to put an end to the former Hamato Yoshi once and for all. Meanwhile, the Turtles, April and Casey Jones set out to find Splinter with the help of some unlikely allies.
Okay, so Splinter is a ninja master. I get that. But as we build up to the climax in Shadows of the Past, Shredder basically blows his entire wad trying to kill the guy. Keep in mind, Splinter has already been forcefully abducted by Old Hob and the Mousers. Then, presumably a short time later, Shredder sends a big muscly Foot soldier guy (who I assume is meant to be a stand in for Hun from the 4Kids series) after him, followed by a flock of regular Foot soldiers, then Alopex takes a shot. He also lets Karai shoot an arrow at him for some reason. But finally, after Splinter takes out all his opposition, not having sustained as much as a scratch, Shredder finally throws his hands up and says “FINE! I’ll do it!” Suddenly Splinter’s magic powers of endurance are depleted, for no other reason than he’s fighting the main bad guy.
I think I understand what they were going for with this sequence. Splinter runs the gauntlet, just barely scraping by until he finally gets to his old enemy the Shredder, and barely has enough strength to defend himself. It would have worked well, but Waltz and Duncan erase a lot of the tension that might have been present in these fight scenes by having Splinter defeat everybody with apparent ease. He takes a few hits, granted, and we get a few lines like “my body screams in pain.” But we don’t see any fatigue in the character’s face or body language at all. The fight doesn’t actually become dramatic until it’s almost over.
Remember, Splinter isn’t as young as he used to be. At one point he even describes himself as “a tired old rat.” He certainly doesn’t look tired or old here. Part of my take on the Splinter character is the reason he doesn’t take a more proactive role in the fighting is because his body can’t hold up to the stress of consistent combat. Why else would he send his four young sons in to do the fighting? He can still move pretty well when the situation calls for it, but there’s also a certain frailty to him. We don’t get that in this book. We get Super Splinter. I don’t like Super Splinter.
As for the Turtles themselves, they spend most of the book following Splinter’s trail alongside April O’Neil and Casey Jones. The most noteworthy aspect of their half of the story is that we meet this world’s incarnation of the Purple Dragons, who are a local street gang turned neighborhood watch. That seems a little hokey to me. But more importantly, it spreads the focus a little too wide as far as the heroes are concerned, especially once we get to the climax. To me, this first confrontation with Shredder should have been a family matter. I understand the importance of the Turtles’ surrogate human family members. But remember that in their old lives in feudal Japan (remember the reincarnation element), Shredder and the Foot Clan killed Hamato Yoshi and his four sons. This is the first time all these characters have been together since that moment. To have Casey and the Purple Dragons in the scene distracts us from the importance of the first meeting of the Turtles and Shredder.
The best part of the book by far is Dan Duncan’s art. He draws the Turtles in a way that allows them to be very facially expressive, as well as believably athletic. His work has a definite energy about it that compliments this world very well. Sadly, Shadows of the Past marks Duncan’s last go around with the Turtles for the foreseeable future. In subsequent issues the series has missed him greatly.
The first year of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started off strongly with an interesting twist, i.e. Raphael being separated from the others at birth. But it failed to follow up on that premise in any sort of meaningful way. It worked its way into a second wind, but then stumbled toward the finish line with Shadows of the Past. As a Ninja Turtles fan, this book still holds my interest. But it could do so much better. Here’s hoping for improvements in year two.
Front page image, image 1 and image 2 from comixology.com.
For more of IDW’s Ninja Turtles series, check out Volume One and Volume Two.
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