Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Macro-Series: Raphael (#4) – Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz

1 out of 5

I quit reading IDW Turtles somewhere around issue #80, out of frustration at what I felt were cash-in printing practices – multiple reprints, multiple useless mini-series – and a consistently poor writing quality that took the series far, far away from even the, er, shell of what I’d call a Turtles book.

But: my feelings on the reprints and whatnot were certainly dependent on me being the type of TMNT fan who buys everything, and my writing tastes admittedly veer away from the soapier soap operas that the Big Two tend to offer, and maybe Turtles was just mimicking that… So after adjusting my Turtles buying practices (I’ll collect everything pre-IDW, and just trade-buy IDW…) and trying to approach the new Turtles books as a completely standalone property, I check back in here and there to see how it reads. And then, generally, go plodding off in disappointment once more.

So it is with Raphael: Macro-Series, the next in a semi-traditional line of solo-Turtled focused books, which have tried to showcase / explore whatever aspect of that teenage teen. Since this is Raphael, that means his anger.

The classic Mirage version of this story introduced Casey Jones – and so certainly affected the main storyline – but is 100% readable on its own, no context needed. The first IDW take already showed their penchant for trying to tie everything too tightly together (i.e. you must read book A to understand book B) and ridiculously hokey dialogue, but it also admittedly did a good job of revisiting the Casey / Raph showdown through Aloplex / Raph. Years later, IDW returns with this Macro version, layed out and co-scripted by Kevin Eastman, and it’s doubly indulgent in all of those IDW ways – I have no idea what the hell is going on, reading this in isolation; the dialogue reads like someone who doesn’t read comics, trying to write conversation based on screenshots of Golden / Silver Age over-expository writing – and then adds insult to these injuries by not being a very well told story even with context, and, though prettily arted, featuring questionable page layouts in terms of over-complicating simple interactions.

The narrative essentially boils down to Raphael being kidnapped, and having a memory that helps to define why he’s “the angry one,” because IDW never met a story point it didn’t want to toss 12 pointless, overly conflicted backstory twists upon; however, that narrative is chopped up in to a non-linear sequence for no apparent reason, suggesting at one point that we’re experiencing a mish-mash of memories while the kidnapped “Target R” is being tortured – yes, Eastman loves his references, and so we’re doing Weapon X here – but the mish-mash memory concept, as well as the non-linearity, is so poorly telegraphed, either narratively or visually, that it just becomes uninteresting. After reading the issue once, and feeling confused as to why this structure was employed – maybe I missed something, maybe there’s more to the story – I went and read some reviews and summaries, confirming that, no, it’s pretty much what I thought. The “more to the story” does come from all of the extra character and set dressing, and this is that IDW indulgence: Aloplex, Nobody, Agent Bishop are there, and I have grounding on these characters at least to suss out who’s good and bad, but the references to other storylines and whatever machinations are going on in the ongoing book aren’t compelling in the way I feel comic writing of this type should / can be – they’re just cheesily over dramatic. Yes, that’s an “I feel” – it’s my opinion – but books that are heavily invested in multi-issue stories should, theoretically, still operate on some basic plotting principles that allow a reader to hop in whenever, and get a taste of what’s what. And IDW TMNT (and modern Marvel and DC) rarely do that – it’s just empty-headed nonsense that only pays off if you’re following the previous empty-headed nonsense.

…He said, insulting all of the hard-working writers and artists and readers who are enjoying this.

It’s personal preference, and I’m sorry to use denigrating terms to describe it. I still, apparently, haven’t accepted that the modern Turtles just ain’t a book I want to read.

Anyhow, Ben Bishop’s art is definitely solid, but in the wake of Sophie Campbell’s popularity on the book, I feel like his figures are copying Sophie’s bubblier look, and so they lack a unique personality. And stuck to Eastman’s layouts – Eastman not being a great storyteller when he’s trying to tell anything more complex than a brawl – the pages are generally messy, eye-directionally. Tomi Varga’s pastel-tinted color hues also feel entirely inappropriate for this attemptedly dark and moody tale, though they’re also skillfully applied.

Everyone needlessly insulted, from my perch on high? Check.