Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures Special (#9, Summer 1994) – Paul Castiglia

3 out of 5

A Jeff Smith cover??  Man, as a kid, I just had no idea how awesome that was.

Stepping away from the Stanley Wiater / Milton Knight mini continuities, we have Paul Castiglia giving us an A and B story, both co-starring his creation, ‘Headrush,’ who looks like a star-nosed mole and acts like a Mr. Mxyzsptlk variant.  In the A-story, the big-headed, bubbly character models from Gary Fields (especially Splinter) very much recall Fred Wolf style animation, and Paul’s story-telling sort of falls in sync with that, with groan-worthy non-puns on every page and an isolated set of hijinks; in the B-story, we warmly welcome Stan Sakai, who adds a great sense of classic cartooning energy to the page.

In ‘Full Circle,’ Splinter hires Headrush – who can control matter and make people believe they see things – to teach his boys a lesson in teamwork.  Castiglia’s take on this involves putting the TMNT through trials which correspond to each of their ‘strengths’ (gadgets, leadership, etc.) and then putting a freeze spell of sorts on the brother to whose skills the puzzle is geared.  This is actually a clever spin on the “we’ve gotta work together!” lesson, and though those puns don’t get any better, you quickly reach sensory overload due to their frequency, which edges the story into being goofily charming.  In ‘Be a Star,’ unleashed from any tasks, Headrush just starts some trouble with some barbarians (having Sakai pencil this is rather inspired, as he’s a longtime letterer on Groo…) and the Turtles hitch a ride with Cudley to come to the rescue.  While the story makes very little sense, it’s more of an excuse to have Sakai draw some massive comedic scuffles, and it’s certainly a lot of fun.

I can’t say Headrush is a character I necessarily need more of than this one special, but #9 is a fine, silly distraction.