Dive deep into the Turtle’s expanded universe with this collection of stories from the original Mirage Comics. Short, one-issue stories are presented in the Tales of the TMNT series that gave readers an in-depth look at Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Casey Jones, and Splinter, but also spent time delving into the stories of background characters like Nobody, Rat King, and Savanti Romero.
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writers: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Jim Lawson, Ryan Brown, Steve Murphy, Rick Remender, Eric Talbot, Dan Berger
Artists: Jim Lawson, Dario Brizuela, Rick Remender, Chris Allan, Dan Berger
With over five hundred pages, the Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Omnibus Volume One is a hefty book, and one that gives readers a broad experience. Collecting together all of the original run of the series, published from 1987 to 1989, and the first eight issues of the second run that started in 2004; which would go on to have 70 issues. Having the original volume, plus the start of the second, provides readers with very different content, from the original works of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, to the series as it would evolve over the next sixteen years.
Fortunately, despite this huge jump in the middle of the book, it doesn’t feel like a huge change, and still reads as one cohesive style. The main indicator that things have progressed to the second volume is the modernisation of the art styles. Both volumes of the title have the same opening splash page, the same one-shot style, and the line ‘let me tell you a story’ in the introduction. It shows that despite the writers and artists having changed, despite the comic industry having evolved, the people behind the title share the same love, passion, and dedication as the original creators.
The book itself doesn’t have a connective narrative between the issues, other than one story that is told across two parts all of them are single issue stories. Whilst this may not be to everyone’s taste, it does mean that we get lots of different looks into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe, with different characters getting the spotlight, crazy adventures, and some drastically different art styles.
Many of the stories in the book are fairly standard tales, grounded much more in the more normal reality and tone of early TMNT. The first story, ‘A Tale of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ sidelines the Turtles themselves, instead giving readers a look into the family history and personal life of their long time ally Casey Jones; ‘Nobody’s Fool’ has the Turtles team up with an vigilante cop who has gone outside of the law to track down a gun runner; and `Leatherhead’ shows the introduction to the mutant crocodile Leatherhead, who would go on to be a staple in the TMNT universe.
The book does, however, also showcase some of the more bizarre elements of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. ‘Complete Carnage and Radical’ tells the story of the super villain Complete Carnage, a gargoyle like creature, and his mission to destroy the super hero Radical, a story that barely features the Turtles; ‘The Return of Savanti Romero’ has the Turtles travel back to the Cretaceous period to stop history from being altered; and ‘Darkness Weaves’ tells the story of a pop star that is using her music to enchant her fans in order to make them drink her cursed blood in order to turn them into werewolves (yes, that one is particularly strange).
Whilst most of the stories collected within this massive volume are fun little stories that make a nice distraction, there are a couple that stand out as particularly brilliant.
‘Blind Faith’ tells the story of Leonardo having to fight against a blind ninja who holds a vendetta against him. Being blinded by a poison early on in the fight, Leo is forced to rely on his other senses to do battle. The issue depicts this brilliantly, with the panels being all black, and the action in stark white silhouettes. The issue immediately stands out, it’s art style vastly different from anything else within the book. Coupled with a devastating conclusion that ends on a complete down note, it’s easily one of the best issues of the book.
There’s also ‘Scars’, which tells the tragic story of a man whose life is brutally torn apart, and the lengths that he is willing to go in search of justice, which eventually becomes a warped quest for revenge.
The art styles of the early issues remain relatively similar, though they do begin to vary as the book enters the second volume. One thing that remains constant throughout all the stories, however, is that all of the turtles are wearing red bananas. I know this is how the characters began, and have seen a number of images of them all in red, but this is the first time that I’ve actually read a book with them without their iconic mixture of colours. Whilst it if fun to see the older style, unfortunately, it did lead to some confusion as to which turtle was which on more than one occasion.
Collecting together a large number of issues that tell a huge variety of stories, the Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Omnibus Volume One is a great read, one that is sure to appeal to both long time fans of the franchise, and to new readers alike.
Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Omnibus, Vol. 1 is now available from IDW Publishing.