IDW Publishing's TMNT is doing a great job building a whole new story for the franchise, but with this annual, they're going back to the heroes in a half shell's roots. Co-written and illustrated by Kevin Eastman, this pricey annual feels like a comic from the '80s that was never printed. The only way you can really feel its connection to the current run is because of where the team lives. Aside from that, it's mostly a standalone tale. So no, it's not mandatory if you're following the current storyline.
You've probably noticed the hefty cover price. $7.99 is asking a lot for a comic, isn't it? Well, if Kevin Eastman's art and a whole lot of silly fun sounds like your cup of tea, then this just may be worth the price tag for you. Now, it's worth adding that the story isn't compelling, takes a whole lot of familiar beats, and seeing as most of it is in black and white, you just may become confused about who's who. Needless to say, there's quite a few bummers and I'll share more details about 'em below (see The Bad, silly), but Eastman brings his A game and there is some legitimate fun and laughs to be had with this ride.
Eastman's work remains consistently strong and it's a real treat seeing over 40 pages of him working with the team he co-created. Series colorist Ronda Pattison only chimes in in the beginning and the end, but her talented work really enhances Eastman's pencils and stays true to the tone he's creating. The story delivers a whole lot of nostalgia, too. It slightly expands the IDW mythos and brings back a familiar name or two. But for the most part, it's about silly banter and a lot of action illustrated by Eastman. I mean, we're talking about a story that has a sword called "stab slasher." Old school fans will probably have fun. New ones, though? This will likely be a disappointing way to spend $7.99.
I'm obviously a big fan of Eastman's work, but the Ninja Turtles looked far too small in some panels -- like the Mirage versions -- and the IDW incarnations aren't that tiny.
New fans will likely find this to be an exhausting read. As said above, it feels dated and like something pull from the original Mirage series. That's not a jab at that series, because there's obviously stories from it that can stand the test of time. The very first issue is still something I enjoy a great deal, after all, and I regularly find myself rereading the collections. However, this story aims for a classic feeling but definitely drags at points and it's very dialogue heavy. I can only recommend this to people that'll embrace the fact it feels like an old and often sillier comic. If you accept it for what it is, you'll likely have a good time. Everyone else should avoid it, though.
Minor gripe: the Turtles engaged a new group of enemies -- a group which included a Triceraton -- but they seem shocked by his presence when it becomes the team against just him. It's just a little odd they didn't notice, you know, the big walking triceratops prior to that!
Honestly, I'm left feeling very mixed on this annual. First and foremost, the story has quite a few rough spots and has no strong connections to the current story arc. However, it is occasionally funny, expands the mythos in a fun way, and Eastman's art is a consistent joy (especially when Pattison's coloring is included). I found myself very torn between 3 and a 4-stars, but seeing as Eastman's art delivered regularly and this issue essentially embraces the franchise's earlier years, I'll side with 4-stars. I have my gripes, but overall, it did put a smile on my face every now and then and I had a blast looking at these pages. However, if you're not a big fan of Eastman's artwork and you don't want to read something that feels like a dated standalone story, I'd strongly recommend holding onto your $7.99.