4 out of 5
Red skies; robot battle suits; Michael Bay; it’s always fascinating (or maybe heart-wrenching?) to see how whomever the current owner(s) of the TMNT franchise are decide to ‘reimagine’ the look and vibe to meet a new audience. After maturing alongside its readership into its own complicated mythology via Dean Clarrain and Chris Allan’s guide and then subsequently losing that audience – commentary on the series’ quality aside – to the eventual ravages of maturity’s non-comic book reading age range (damn you, hormones!!) – Archie comics hit a hard stop with some flashback issues which gave way to Dan Slott’s rejiggered pitch as this Year of the Turtle mini-series.
And y’know, it’s not bad at all, and had Slott had the opportunity to pilot it further (assuming he would’ve stayed on), I bet some of the final hiccups would’ve smoothed out down the road. Alas, the winds had changed and this was the end of the initial Turtles era, but as we know now, the license would prove remarkably resilient, and this series is a pretty fun and respectful ‘what could’ve been’ cap to an important bundle of comics for many of us.
The series’ subtitle comes from a pretty humorously (a.k.a. gloriously comic booky) over-complicated backstory about a secret 13th zodiac – the turtle – that, when it comes into alignment – will charge a particular talismen up that gives the holder the power to remake the world (omg Cullen Bunn obviously ripped this off for Sixth Gun). Thankfully the talisman was split up and scattered into three pieces; but d’oh its alignment time and that pesky Shredder – and three new dated ‘techy’ recruits – are after the thing. Why the zodiac? Why this talisman? It hardly matters, but ‘it’s science!’ Don assures us. Though his proof is hardly scientific, it’s evidence of Slott’s willingness to put the story through its paces a bit, which grounds the antics surprisingly well and makes them fairly thrilling: a sign of the successful b.s. tactics Slott would employ for years to come in his many comic achievements.
Better, though, is that the directional shift of these issues – while still maintaining the TMNT vibe – has everyone acting wholly effectively: all the boys are ace martial artists – Mikey is the funny one, Raph the gruff one and etcetera but there seems to be a personality behind it instead of a punchline – and the Shredder, though still showing questionable taste in goon hiring, is pretty dang badass, even before he (spoiler) nabs some talisman pieces. The ante-up agenda is fully helped along by artist Hugh Haynes, who does an interesting mash-up of the Archie designs and movie Turtles (from the original flicks) to craft an imposing foursome, fluidly leaping and fighting through some impressive layouts. Many of us love the creativity and stability Allan brought to the Archie series, but I don’t know if he ever offered up the surprising insanity of Haynes’s splash pages in which Shredd takes on an entire army.
There’s also some good twists in the tale that keep the read truly fresh, even after…. geez, a couple decades.
I’d been sitting on issues 2 and 3 of this for a while, unread, dispersions cast upon it due to some silly covers, but I was totally proven a poor judge of the content. Issue 1 was worth tracking down, and the series is absolutely worth a read for any ex-Archie Comic reader.