Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TPB (collects #0 – 2) – Matthew K. Manning

1 out of 5

When I initially read the first issue of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – IDW’s newest attempt at comic book-izing a specifically kid-geared version of the brand, hewing much closer to the look and spirit of the Nick toon – I accepted what I thought was its valiant capturing of a TV show I assumed I hated.  In other words: I brushed off Rise the show, then gave the comic the benefit of the doubt at being a good representation of something I didn’t like.

After actually sitting down and watching Rise, I was really surprised to find that I liked it.  And so now, revisiting its comic variation, I can assess that it’s both not a very good comic book, nor is it a good snapshot of the show.

The team that worked on this – writer Matthew Manning, artist Chad Thomas, colorist Heather Breckel – all spent their time on the previous volumes of the animted TMNT IDW book, which rarely elevated itself above being an Archie style gag book, but it did what it did mostly with purpose.  Thomas, in particular, became a favorite of mine, his art energizing the pages, and Manning, while maybe not the funniest guy to be writing a funny book, had a good sense of patter pacing and found his story-writing groove: somebody mutates, Turtles fight him, there are lots of puns, rinse and repeat.  So we know this crew knows how to gel together.

What I see here is, at the very least, a valiant effort at firstly not just repeating their previous work – the Turtles have new ‘tudes; the book a new rhythm – and secondly at picture-and-wording the ADD zeitgeist of the show – which went down to 15 minute segment formats, and adopted the kind of yuk-a-second meme-ness humor of Titans Go! and the like.  But their translation of that is a mess.  “Plots” are pushed faaaar into the background in order to try to mimic that pacing, meaning that, sure, mutated villains arise, but are discarded a panel later.  What you read on page one barely matters a few pages later, much less the conclusions.  Manning’s flow is all screwed up as a result, with jokes that need to be snappy stretched uncomfortably across panel borders when the action has already moved on, and Chad Thomas seems equally hard pressed to keep up: everything seems to occur a few moments after the punchline; every single page is struggling.

To the general look, Rise the show is all neons and bright lights; Heather Breckel gives our backgrounds a matching purple/pink hue and the turtles all their highlights, but the sensory overload of the forced (non-stop) action doesn’t allow for anything to counter those colors, and it becomes a wash.

So it’s not funny, it’s not interesting – there are no characters, no story – and it’s even somewhat of a snooze to look at.  And I’m not sure what the need was to start with a zero issue, as it differs in no way from what follows – it’s not an origin story or anything; we start full throttle, assuming our readers don’t care much about how these boys came to be.

I know these cats do what they do well.  I recognize adapting Rise was a difficult job.  Unfortunately, the comic fails at it.