TMNT: Bebop & Rocksteady Hit the Road (#1 – 5) – Dustin Weaver and Ben Bates

3 out of 5

While not as deliriously nutso as Dustin Weaver’s and Ben Bates’ first Bebop & Rocksteady weekly mini, this (very) direct followup hits on jags of such gleeful inspiration and mirth to warrant its place as a worthwhile sequel… if also suffering from sequel-itis in the sense that it feels less plot derived now and more yuks for yuks sake.  But, hey, whatever works to get these guys creating: their two series have embraced the core ethos of the TMNT franchise more than the (as I’ve too often lamented…) ongoing IDW series ever has.  No, not everything has to be this bonkers, of course, but I’m brought back to the antics of Archie-era stuff, where you wanted to follow along with the story because you were wrapped up in the characters and worlds, and not just because someone slapped a Turtles brand on to it.  Hit the Road is an absolute case in point: Weaver and Bates are entirely wrapped up in their own chronology without a single “see X issue” editor note; the mini picks up countless bits from the previous one, but in a way that has no time or need to justify itself if you haven’t read it.  This is partially frustrating, I’ll admit, but, again, it felt more like a callback to an older style of comic writing.  It made me want to reread Destroy Everything!, and if I didn’t know that the core IDW series was lacking, it’d make me want to read that too.

Our two writers are also the sole artists on this outing, and they do mostly fantastic work.  Both have a great sense of comic timing and energy; I prefer Bates’ more anarchic page layouts and his gleefully jagged hand-lettered effects (which Weaver does as well, but Bates does it a lot), but admittedly, that anarchy sometimes sacrifices readability, which Weaver’s issues do not struggle with.  The slapdash tone is fitting for our leads, though, who are written dumb as stones but entertainingly so, constantly mixing up concepts and words to land on the most stupid and silly possible conclusions, thus furthering their quest to get back to New York, their dinosaur from the last mini in tow.  …And the Earth Protection Force on their heels, mostly serving as their foes for the series.

Alas, Hit the Road never really settles on a structural format to get either the road journey or the EPF chase going.  It seems like we’ll be doing a destructive travelogue per issue, pausing for hijinks and crossing over with recognizable or new friends and foes, and that does happen, but not in any sort of cadence.  So the issues move in fits and spurts, not slowing down – you definitely keep flipping pages – but not really “starting” either, making the climactic battle less-so.

Weaver’s and Bates’ dialogue (both Rock and ‘Bop and others) is so much stronger than Waltz’s in the main book: 1000% less exhaustive exposition, and unique voices for each character.  They also settle on a very interesting ending to the series that may or may not go off into something temporarily surreal.  Just prior to that, there’s a great dinosaur gag that makes the whole series worth it, regardless of any other criticism I could offer.

Please, please, I ask again: more of this.

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