Graphic Novel Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (new) Volume 1: Change is Constant
Collecting: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1-4
Original Release Date: 2012
Publisher: IDW Comics
Characters: the heroes in a halfshell! Donatello, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Splinter, Old Hob, April O’Neil, Chet Allen, Baxter Stockman, Casey Jones
Writer(s): Kevin Eastman (original TMNT co-creator), Tom Waltz
Artist(s): Kevin Eastman, Dan Duncan
SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):Storyline – 9 Art – 9 Captivity and Length – 9 Identity – 10 Use of Medium – 8 Depth – 8 Fluidity – 10 Intrigue/Originality – 9 The Little Things – 10 Overall awesomeness – 10
If you grew up in the 80s and 90s like we did, you grew up loving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While everybody might have a favorite picked out, No turtle was better than the other. And with a new animated series that’s actually worth something and a video-game to accompany it (review on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows by the end of September!), the heroes in a half-shell look to be making a full comeback, giving older and younger generations a subject to bridge them together. Change is Constant is both a love letter to original comic book series that started with two friends and $1,000 – co-creator Kevin Eastman was actually asked to come back to help launch the series. While older fans can relish in nostalgia, there’s enough surprise to keep even the most well-read fans wondering what is going on. It’s a growing trend in the industry right now that I love: re-imagining popular concepts in different mediums instead of just adding a modern and unrealistic spin on an already polished idea (ie – the opposite of Total Recall).
The new TMNT series has a distinctively science-fiction vibe, with the turtles’ transformation not being due to a freak accident, but rather a laboratory experiment. April O’Neil is a lab intern who actually gets the credits for naming the four turtles. The mutagen is being tested by none other than Baxter Stockman, the bitter black nerd with a chip on his shoulder. He’s employed by another legendary TMNT villain, but I won’t spoil that. You also get to meet Casey Jones, who along with April, are both high school students at this point. While their backgrounds differ from the origin story of the movie and the comics, their personalities feel very familiar to the past 20 years.
Readers jump right into a gang fight between the turtles and Old Hob, a newly created character that has some personal hatred invested in the turtles and Splinter. A fight scene is always the best way to introduce a bunch of ninjas. Old Hob is a dirty player and a goon, but there’s more to his story than the writers let on to. As the main villain of Change is Certain, Old Hob is an important catalyst in the turtles’ development. He’s had a hard life, and he wants the turtles to pay for it both physically and emotionally. As his name leads on (Old Hob is a Middle English reference for a goblin or demon), Hob plays Devil’s Advocate between the humans and the mutants for his own benefit, or just to watch the destruction of others. He’s a great character in the making, and you can tell by the end of the story that his role is far from complete.
My favorite thing about the new TMNT series is how it can feel like an adult book and a pre-teen book at the same time. The spot-on art of Dan Duncan pays tribute to the dark, Frank Miller-inspired days of the past, but the writing can be hilarious and witty. I feel that this is a quality that makes all iterations of the Turtles accessible and why it can make a comeback in any generation. To expand on the art, this artist is pretty much brand new, being a TMNT fanboy all his life. Passion bleeds from Duncan’s work on every panel, and although it might not be the most beautiful artwork in the industry, you can definitely tell that Duncan channeled his inner-Eastman, conveying grit and emotion perfectly.
One key element of the story is that the turtles do not start four-strong. From the very beginning, Raphael is alone, angry and afraid. But mostly angry. For a majority of the book, the other three brothers have to fight through old Hob and the rest of the city to find their lost brother. It’s a twist that tugs at the heart strings so hard, seeing the turtles missing their brother. There is some good that comes of it though; Raphael finds his own path, but it eventually crosses with that of a hockey enthusiast. The bond that Raph and Casey form in this world is much more friendship than it is hardcore rivalry.
Long story short, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1: Change is Constant is more than just a tribute, and more than just a reboot. The new TMNT series is all heart, and it has a brand new story to tell. Nostalgia runs deep, as does the passion of bringing back a franchise that had been buried deep in the closets of Hot Topic for over a decade. The art is crisp and fitting of the dark origins of the turtles. The personalities of all the characters shine through the pages, as even characters you’ve never seen before come to life. The turtles are back, y’all! Go, Ninja, go!
Related Books: The original TMNT series is a great place to start, but if you loved this re-imagination as much as I did, check out Volume 2: Enemies Old, Enemies New
More by the writer: Kevin Eastman is the man who co-created TMNT, he also had a run with Heavy Metal Magazine. He split with co-founder Peter Laird and sold out, but was invited back to help re-introduce the franchise to a new generation. Tom Waltz is a senior editor at IDW that has worked on titles from Ghostbusters, Silent Hill, etc.
More by the artist: Dan Duncan is a brand new artist that started his career because of the turtles; what a dream to work beside the legendary Kevin Eastman. After drawing the first two books, he is currently an animator for Marvel’s new Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H. television series.
*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app.
Written by Sherif Elkhatib