Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW, #65) – Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow

5 out of 5

I’ve been so bummed by my dislike for the majority of the ongoing Turtles series’ arcs that its a true relief to have legitimately enjoyed an issue, no exception context necessary.  Wouldn’t ya know: It’s a standalone, fun issue, not reliant on scripter Tom Waltz’s (in)ability to effectively write non eye-rolling drama.  This Christmas one-shot – wherein Mike gathers the crew for a much needed sigh-of-relief holiday get together – shows off the wealth of TMNT characters IDW has admittedly added/evolved, with just the right dash of goofy Turtles’ humor, plot awareness (i.e. I might rag on the story but I appreciate that this sidestep didn’t take place in a vacuum), and – most fittingly – a rewarding sense of family.

As a bonus, after a pause, Mateus Santolouco returns.  That in and of itself may not be great news for people like me who have also managed to dislike aspect of the dude’s art, but in what is hopefully a permanent change and not just Santo taking it easy for a lighthearted story, he’s massively toned back the Image-esque over-detailing and has matured his Turtles models a little, resulting in a fantastically weighty look.  Mikey no longer looks like a five year old, and – especially seen in Raph – there’s a nice stockiness to the body shapes.  And thank Christ the dumb foot / arm wrappings have been dialed down to something slightly more functional seeming.  Santo also proves pretty great at casual dialogue sequences and comedic timing, which rarely get a workout before being hijacked by action or into dumps in previous arcs.

…Once the family gets together, issue 65 is a legitimate joy, and might sincerely be, for me, the best issue of this series thus far.  And less judgmentally, I can understand that that enjoyment was earned by a lot of dedicated years of world-building.  So while I hope the ratio of good to meh issues gets much better, here’s to 65 more…