Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends (#17 – 18) – Gary Carlson

4 out of 5

This book remains a hoot, and I remain flabbergasted that my assumptions about it being a simplistic grim n’ gritty Image makeover made me ignore it for so long.  I’m the type of Turtles fan who owns most of the originals, but some gaps in that set made me wait to read it, so I’m thankful to IDW reprinting this stuff to give me the chance to finally go through it, and to completely dump on those assumptions.

Carlson’s choppy, everything-at-once writing style does lend the series a slapdash feel, but that’s also very much part of the charm: while we could wallow in the dramaturgy of Leonardo feeling left out by Raph being the new Shredder, Donnie going on robot tech adventures, and Mikey shying away from ninjitsu for writing, Carlson barrels through it and jams him into a battle with Leatherhead and mutated komodo dragons in the sewer, which splinters off of him running away from a group of hunters who’re out and about with shotguns to bag the reptile that’s been chompin’ on their sons and daughters as of late.  And yet, while this stuff is happening at a zippy pace, there’s still time, somehow, to explore some camaraderie between Mike and Casey, Raph’s shifting allegiance towards his Foot, and to hint at some forthcoming problems with some alien-hunting black-suited types and, probably, Pimiko and her loyal ninjas.  The second issue is all scuffle, and I love how offhand violent it is; certainly what gave the Image series its rep, but it’s written with a cartoonish harmlessness to it that butts up against how grisly it is, and it’s downright hilarious how these characters just shrug off when, say, their hand gets chewed off.

Fosco and Heike mostly kill it throughout, with the former’s rough style energizing any given page, then weighted and given dimension by Heike’s inks.  The back half of issue 17 sees an odd shift, though, where the line style starts to look too clean and cartoony, but it’s back on point for issue 18.  Adam Guzowski’s colors for IDW are especially great this issue, finding a range of purples to play against the nighttime outdoor scenes and sewer battles, fronted by green turtles and light brown komodos.