‘TMNT’ flashback: ‘Raphael,’ ‘Michelangelo’ and ‘Donatello’ miniseries (2007-09) (Comic book reviews)

Springing from “Tales of the TMNT” Volume 2 came four four-issue miniseries, one featuring each Turtle. “Leonardo: Blind Sight” (2006) launches from Issue 5, where Leo gets temporarily blinded by a Shredder Elite and accidentally kills a homeless man, and “Raphael: Bad Moon Rising” (2007) grows out of Issue 7, where Raph saves rebellious teen Shadow from a werewolf cult. “Michelangelo: The Third Kind” (2008) takes place in the six-month gap during “TMNT” Volume 4, Issue 5, when humanity deals (very poorly, it turns out) with the peaceful alien visitors, while “Donatello: The Brain Thief” (2009) takes us back to the “TMNT” Volume 2 era to deal with the last vestiges of Baxter Stockman’s villainy.

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‘TMNT’ flashback: Mirage ‘Tales of the TMNT’ Vol. 2 No. 54-70 (2009-10) (Comic book reviews)

“TMNT” long ago taught us that, in the end, life is at best bittersweet, and that’s how I’d describe the last year-and-a-half of “Tales of the TMNT” Volume 2, which delivered some outstanding issues but ultimately ended with many threads unresolved. Still, at least it delivers a major moment in the dark Mirage Turtles future that had been hinted at so many times: Dan Berger’s Issue 69 (“Dark Shadows”) shows the Utroms evacuating many humans as the ocean levels rise, and it shows Shadow taking a rowboat to various NYC buildings in this future of wiped-out coastal cities. While it is by no means a tidy bow on the Mirage Future mythos, it at least is a juicy nugget for speculative analyses on the Mirage saga’s future such as Mark Pellegrini’s excellent essay over at TMNT Entity.

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‘TMNT’ flashback: Mirage ‘Tales of the TMNT’ Vol. 2 No. 42-53 (2008) (Comic book reviews)

The 2008 batch of “Tales of the TMNT” Volume 2 was defined in two major ways: One, editor Dan Berger began informing readers of where each tale takes place on the timeline; and two, Jim Lawson began regularly contributing artwork. With Volume 4 producing no more than one comic per year at this point, Lawson was free to draw eight of the 12 “Tales” issues in 2008.

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‘TMNT’ flashback: Mirage ‘Tales of the TMNT’ Vol. 2 No. 31-41 (2007) (Comic book reviews)

Part of the purpose of “Tales of the TMNT” Volume 2 was to go back and fill in all those little story gaps that cropped up in 20-plus years of dozens of writers contributing odds and ends to the “TMNT” mythology. If there was a theme to the issues of 2007, when Steve Murphy handed off editorial duties to Dan Berger, it was going back to the source material and filling in key story elements. Mostly, this led to an enrichment of the grand story, but …

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‘TMNT’ flashback: Mirage ‘Tales of the TMNT’ Vol. 2 No. 19-30 (2006) (Comic book reviews)

In 2006, Mirage Volume 4 stopped its bimonthly publishing schedule and went to a trickle-out approach, but that same year, “Tales of the TMNT” Volume 2 continued as a monthly and put out more consistently compelling work than in its first two years.

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‘TMNT’ flashback: Mirage ‘Tales of the TMNT’ Vol. 2 No. 1-18 (2004-05) (Comic book reviews)

For the editors at Mirage Comics, it was both a blessing and a curse that most of their readership got hooked on TMNT through the cartoons and Archie comics: A blessing because they got new readers, a curse because a lot of those readers had a hard time differentiating between the original material and the licensed material. Many letters in Mirage Volume 4 and “Tales of the TMNT” Volume 2 request appearances by non-Mirage characters ranging from Ace Duck to Ninjara, and I can sense the deep sigh and 10-count before each of Peter Laird’s responses.

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‘TMNT’ flashback: Mirage Vol. 4 No. 14-19 (2004) (Comic book reviews)

Volume 2 starts with each of the Turtles finding his own place to live, but they soon come back together again and mostly work as a team throughout Volumes 3 and 4. But in the 2004 batch of issues in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Volume 4, each of the 30-something Turtles branches out for his own adventure within the wider Utrom visitation arc, and it leads to the volume’s best characterization – or at least personality exploration — to this point.

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‘TMNT’ flashback: Mirage Vol. 4 No. 8-13 (2003) (Comic book reviews)

Peter Laird’s decision to have “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Volume 4 unfold at a leisurely pace, reflecting real life rather than an action movie, frustrated a lot of readers when these issues came out at two-month intervals. But as I get further into re-reading this volume, I think the approach is paying off. In Issues 10-11, Splinter’s death and funeral are poignant because of how “real world” they are. At the same time, this grand story’s sci-fi aspects – talking velociraptors dining on Utroms in Venezuela – carry more weight because of the down-to-earth elements they are interspersed with.

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‘TMNT’ flashback: Mirage Vol. 4 No. 1-7 (2001-02) (Comic book reviews)

Around the turn of the century, Peter Laird bought out Kevin Eastman’s share of the “TMNT” empire and soon got his second wind of interest in telling Turtles stories. According to an editorial in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Volume 4, Issue 1 (December 2001), we can thank three passionate fans named Ria, Sarah and Bridgett, whom Laird met at a convention, for re-stoking Laird’s interest. And what a second wind it turned out to be: Volume 4 has run for 31 issues (with the slim hope of more in the future), and Mirage staffers put out 70 issues of “Tales of the TMNT” Volume 2, plus a four-issue series on each Turtle. That’s 117 issues between 2001 and 2010, just slightly less than the total number of Mirage and Image issues from 1984-99.

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‘TMNT’ flashback: Special issues and crossovers (1985-2007) (Comic book reviews)

 

In previous “TMNT” flashback posts, I delved into the short stories, the one-issue micro series and the two Casey Jones series as sources for more Turtles stories outside of the regularly numbered issues. Now – before diving headlong into my reviews of Volume 4 and “Tales of the TMNT” Volume 2 — I’d like to look at two other sources for “TMNT” stories: Special issues and crossovers. Unfortunately, a lot of these issues are far from special and will appeal only to completists; however, there are enough little gems among the crossovers that they are worth a look.

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