Monday, August 24, 2009

TMNT Adventures #1-#4

Return of the Shredder

Credits: (Issues #1-#2) Dave Garcia (writer/artist). Adapted from a script by David Wise and Christy Marx.

Archie’s monthly TMNT series begins, unfortunately, with more adaptations of the cartoon. The first two issues adapt “Return of the Shredder,” which has Krang sending Shredder back to Earth in order to prove himself. Out of spite, Krang sends Shredder alone, without Bebop, Rocksteady, or any Foot Soldiers for support. Shredder decides the most efficient way to lure the Turtles out of hiding is to overtake the thugs at the “Slash 4 Cash Gym” and have them commit robberies in ninja turtle disguises (although Shredder kidnapped Splinter in the initial storyline, so it seems like he should already know where the Turtles live).

The fake Turtles go on a crime spree, which reaffirms April O’Neil’s boss’ suspicions about the Ninja Turtles. While Spider-Man’s mortal nemesis J. Jonah Jameson is motivated by his distrust of people who hide behind masks, or his own insecurities and jealousy (depending on which story you read), Burns Thompson’s hatred of the Turtles is driven by a more basic desire.

When Krang receives word of Shredder’s master plan, he chides him for wasting time on a plan that could take forever. Shredder, eager to please Krang for reasons that aren’t particularly clear, heads to the “Sunnydale Home for the Extremely Overwrought” to recruit Dr. Baxter Stockman. After Shredder frees him, Stockman creates another rat-catching machine and once again kidnaps Splinter in the sewers. The Turtles track Stockman to Shredder’s hideout, where they easily defeat their imposters and soon confront Shredder. Shredder is preparing to kill a captive Splinter with a massive battering ram, but Baxter Stockman suddenly breaks through the walls in his ratcatcher machine. The device soon goes out of control, enabling the Turtles to rescue Splinter and escape.

With Splinter saved and the imposters exposed, it’s a happy ending all around…except for Burns Thompson, who must pay the price for journalistic integrity.

The Incredible Shrinking Turtles

Credits: (Issues #3-#4) Beth & Ken Mitchroney (writers), Ken Mitchroney (penciler), Dave Garcia (inker). Adapted from a script by Larry Parr.

Issues three and four adapt the “Incredible Shrinking Turtles” episode. Since every ‘80s cartoon character had to shrink down to either toy or insect size at one point or another, I guess the producers decided to get this story over with early. This is the debut of Ken Mitchroney, whose art I fondly remember throughout the run of the series. He’s a very expressive cartoonist who can also do action quite well, making him a perfect fit for the book.

The story has the Turtles discovering an alien who’s crash-landed on Earth. The dying alien tells the Turtles that they must recover the three pieces of the Eye of Sarnath, which will grant “power undreamed” to whoever possesses it. Shredder secretly follows the Turtles on their quest, and steals the first fragment they discover. The jewel’s power shrinks the Turtles to just a few inches high, and they’re quickly washed into the sewer.

Shredder contacts Krang, hoping that he’ll send his Foot Soldiers back to Earth (I guess that’s why Shredder is so eager to please him, but it still seems like an odd inversion of their original relationship). Krang doesn’t believe that Shredder has eliminated the Turtles, and demands proof of the crystal’s power. Shredder’s response, of course, is to shrink the Empire State Building.

Krang isn’t impressed by the “toy building,” he just wants those Turtles dead. (I don’t quite understand why Krang hates the Turtles so much. Originally, he just wanted Shredder to give him a robot body, which he did. Krang really doesn’t have much to do with the Turtles, but he sure does hate them. I guess his motivation is just anger over the fact that they defeated him in the initial miniseries.) Meanwhile, the tiny Turtles are floating through the New York sewer system. The shrunken heroes gimmick is used pretty well, as the Turtles are forced to sail on a bar of soap. When they’re attacked by a snake, Leonardo has to feed the snake larger and larger chunks of the soap before it gets sick and retreats. The Turtles are left with a tiny piece of soap to sail on, which is shrinking by the second.

Soon, they're swallowed by a storm drain, where we discover their uncanny ability to speak underwater.

They’re rescued by Baxter Stockman, who brings the Turtles to Shredder. Shredder shows off the shrunken Turtles to Krang, then prepares to kill them with a crowbar. Luckily, Splinter and April O’Neil arrive to save the day. Splinter and Shredder have a martial arts fight for a few pages, while April retrieves the shard of the Eye of Sarnath. The Turtles somehow reason that it couldn’t possibly make them smaller (I guess they've never heard of the Atom), so April uses it to restore them to their natural height. Soon, the Turtles rescue Splinter from Shredder (whose hideout is apparently an abandoned cheese factory, because he’s trying to kill Splinter with a “cheese-wrapping machine”). However, they lose the shard after Splinter accidentally knocks Shredder into April. Shredder escapes, which leaves the Turtles without any of the three shards of the Eye of Sarnath (according to Wiki, the Archie series continues this subplot, and resolves it differently than the cartoon). As for the Empire State Building, April later reports that the “shrinking business” has stopped, so I guess the jewel’s power was never permanent in the first place.

Splinter tells the Turtles that there’s much to learn from failure, which I’m sure was supposed to be the pro-social message of the episode. They return home, where we uncover the Turtles’ intense loathing of Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas.

Since the book is still adapting cartoon episodes, there’s really not a lot going on. Issues three and four aren’t bad, but that’s largely due to Ken Mitchroney’s charming artwork. The book is now taking two issues to adapt one episode, which does at least alleviate the claustrophobic feel of the earlier issues. With more room to tell the story, it feels like more of a legitimate comic book. However, the stories that are being adapted, with the exception of a few jokes, are pretty bland. At least the original material begins next issue.


Matt said...

I always liked Mitchroney's work too, during his initial run. When he returned later on to do the occasional fill-in (which I think were probably inventory stories because they were usually out of continuity), I thought he'd gotten way too lazy with his style.

I remember many years ago -- but a few years after his TMNT work -- I saw Mitchroney's name on the end credits of the "Marvel Action Hour" Iron Man and Fantastic Four cartoons as a storyboard artist.

As for the stories in these issues, as you say, they're adaptations of the cartoon, so it's hard for them to be that great. I loved the TV show for reasons that didn't carry over to the printed page very well (namely the voices, music, etc.). So it was a relief for me when the title diverged from the cartoon.

I've honestly never understood comics that just adapted episodes of cartoons, or how they managed to last! Marvel's X-Men Adventures adapted TV episodes for years before it ended! I seem to recall in the 80's, the opposite happened with Marvel/STAR's ThunderCats -- it started out telling original stories, but later switched over to adaptations after like 8 or so issues.

Anonymous said...

I remember being vaguely fascinated by the comicbook's later follow up to the Sarnath storyline when Sarnath himself showed up.
I think I was surprised to see something from a fairly early point in the series being followed up quite a few years later. I did rather like it, though.

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