Donatello (#1, Mirage, 1987) – Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman

5 out of 5

Guilty as charged: I love how Peter Laird’s / Kevin Eastman’s joint turtles art looks, and those volume 1 Mirage issues are very rose-tinted perfect in my eyes. But this Donatello issue even moreso. While I think the few mainline TMNT books we got from the duo have some scripting clunkiness and, early on, visual struggles, everything about the “one-issue micro-series” Donnie book is perfect. Tribute books – in this case, a tribute to Jack Kirby – can be all sorts of eye-rolling, indulgent bad news, especially when tackling such obvious luminaries like The King. But it works here because of how much of Kirby’s style is in the book’s tonal and visual DNA already, and also because there are zero clever attempts to mask what’s being done: the Turtles, living with April, suddenly have a tenant living downstairs named, eh, Kirby, and the dude loves drawing rather Kirby-esque creations which – thanks to a magical crystal, natch – come to life!

As the Raphael book felt more like an Eastman joint, this feels very Laird-led: it’s willfully goofy, with detailed, open panels. The duotones look wonderful, and when Donatello and Kirby fall through a portal into the world into which these drawn creations are disappearing, Laird gets to go even more gleefully O.D. with Kirby foreshortening and action, in a massive battle between creatures and a local humanoid race, Kirby drawing up a storm of mechanical tools to assist in the fight.

The details are hilarious toss-offs: dude found the crystal in a pile of coal (is that a reference to something?); the sudden appearance of Kirby. Setting aside that Laird would eventually (controversially) bring the crystal back up in volume 4, this was a truly isolated story, something Donatello experienced wholly on his own and never had need to bring up again. It’s main content is very fun for that reason – no need to be aware of anything else going on the Turtles’ world – and being fully transparent about this thing being for Kirby removes any feigned need to be overly clever in the execution. It’s just love, and that bleeds through on the pages.