Right off the bat we’re thrown into what we were teased in the last issue, which is Casey Jones (in trademark mask) and Raphael hitting the streets to kick ass. The promise made there in #2 is lived up to on page one, Casey cracking a mugger with a baseball bat and having Raph retrieve the stolen purse. The bit of introspection by Casey on page 5 comes pretty quick and hits pretty hard. It’s a little bit much to lay on all at once, but at no point does it ever not ring true. As someone that has a father who only recently lost his long battle with cancer myself it’s easy for me to relate to at least a big portion of where Casey is coming from here, I didn’t find myself questioning for a moment how this might shape this young man. The camaraderie between Casey and Raphael is probably this arc’s strongest point — it makes sense, it’s organic, and sets in motion the partnership these two have shared in the Mirage material.
We get some glimpses into the Turtles’ training regimen with Splinter before we get a flashback to Splinter taking the eye of Old Hob as he gets away with baby Raphael. Splinter gets away, rejoins the turtles and then we get the big revelation that the Turtles — and Splinter himself — have basically spontaneously mutated/evolved into humanoid forms ala the Fred Wolf cartoon from the 1980s. More on that later.
There’s a bit with the Turtles mounting what are apparently regular patrols to attempt to locate their lost brother. There is dissent among the ranks, Donatello voicing the opinion that maybe Raphael is dead, has been dead for a while, and that maybe it’s time to stop wasting time looking for someone that’s probably dead by all accounts. This is one of those bits where I give a lot of props to writer Tom Waltz — in the fandom it is not uncommon to see folks (perhaps subconsciously?) getting mad when one of the Turtles displays an emotion or emotional response that doesn’t correspond to whatever pigeon-holed business the cartoon or toy cardboard backing beat into our/their heads as a kid. “Leo is the leadery one, Raphael is the angry one, Michelangelo is the goofery one, Donatello is the thinkery one” so heaven help us if one day Leonardo gets angry, or Donatello makes a joke, or Michelangelo has a creative solution to get the team out of a bind… it’s just absurd — how one dimensional do people want their characters? I applaud Tom for again thinking outside the box.
End of the issue comes with the big return of Old Hob, squaring off face to face with Casey and Raphael, his gang flanking him.
Let me take a moment and lapse into fanboy mode. Doing so, I will say that the Fred Wolf cartoon instant mutation thing revealed this issue (even if the “what you touched last” nonsense is removed… or is it?) vexes me a little bit. I really hope that it was one of the things that Nickelodeon insisted on (or if it wasn’t, that it was something everyone in the room at IDW felt strongly about with a master plan in place to have it all make good, rational sense), as I struggle to figure out the pros vs. the cons of it:
* In this given universe in which the idea is to interwine April into their most humble beginnings, if they instantly mutate then there’s not a 15 (or whatever) year gap between when she first “meets” them and when she sees them next. Keeps things moving, organic.
* With the rule set that mutagen in the IDW TMNT universe is relatively instantaneous, the gates are opened for the IDW TMNT universe to freely, actively have new mutants being created via the same mutagen as opposed to taking years to grow naturally into the fully humanoid mutant state. Though I’m not entirely sure this is really a “pro” at all. While I don’t quite share Peter Laird’s longstanding embargo on, “Keep them unique, any other mutants make them less unique” I have no interest in things becoming a mutant-of-the-week affair either.
* Fred Wolf cartoon fans can feel a little more at home, I guess?
Drawing a blank on other pros, frankly.
* We have to swallow that the Turtles’ entire state of sentience is strictly 15 months, yet they somehow possess the minds of teenagers (if I throw mutagen on my 10 year old cat and tomorrow he’s Cat Man, he wouldn’t be telling me about how 4 years ago I forgot to clean out his sh*tter… this is silly). 15 months. If this was the Fred Wolf cartoon, in which all kinds of wackiness and tom-foolery (no pun intended) was going on left and right it was easy to overlook… but it’s very difficult to understand how and why this take on the mutation was settled on by IDW if apart from it they seem to be bending over backwards to explain the science of things and grounding things in reality (at least at the base level).
* Everything else aside, we absolutely need to buy that the Turtles are ninja. I’m OK with seeing a little bit of a “they’re still learning the ropes” at this starting point, but I don’t know how long it’s going to make business or creative sense to still see them fumbling around with their weapons. And if the plan is to just kind of bury our heads in the sand and go, “It was a particularly strenuous 15 months of ninja training, they totally kick ass now!” then that’s not a plan at all. I’m sure more sooner than later we’re going to see the TMNT fighting fully training ninjas in battle and we’re going to be seeing the Turtles winning… and at this point the Turtles’ mere 15 months of training is going to be firmly in the back of our minds, sucking all the sense of realism the comic has been striving for right out of the room.
* The family bonds between the Turtles themselves (though I like what this means for Raphael, who is now, truly the outsider) and Splinter, while not thrown out the window, are greatly diminished. No matter what word balloons are shown, the bond forged over the course of 15 months is not the same as a bond forged over the course of 15 years of depending on one another.
There’s other cons, but those are my three main rants, none of them indicative of any critique on the quality of writing or storytelling in the IDW comic so far but rather basic concerns that are arising from what is becoming clear of the basis of this iteration of TMNT.