Thursday, February 23, 2012

Paul's Picks! - Feb. 22, 2012

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And in celebration of this weekly, well, celebration, Paul is here to give you his favorite book of the week.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #7 by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Dan Duncan

Wait, no Aquaman? No Flash #6? I've been waiting on those two issues all month, looking forward to some really cool stuff that the Manupal/Buccellato duo have promised us from the Fastest Man Alive! Not to mention the really cool new arc that Johns set us up for last month with Arthur being stuck out in the desert. Yes, I know, very true, but the facts are the facts people, and out of a pretty tall stack of issues this week, IDW won it by a landslide. Those of you that have been with us over the last few months are surely aware of my adoration for the Heroes in a Half Shell, but please don't think for a second that I'm handing out this week's pick based solely on some pizza loving banter from my favorite turtle in orange. The truth is, there are so many things to love about issue #7 that there was really no other option than to give praise where praise is due.

Who is that mysterious character? Hmm...
For those of you who have not been reading this book so far (ahem, Seth, ahem), I'll try to remain mostly spoiler-free throughout the book. I have been pulling this series since issue #1, and I have no shame in saying it is one of the few books on my pull list that has never let me down. Every time I come back for the next issue, there is always something big or small to bring a smile to my face. Whether it's the token back-and-forth between the brothers or some unseen twist that gives new life to an old series, I just can't get enough. Issue #5 put the turtles on a pathway that I could've never seen coming, and as a life time fan of these characters, that's not particularly easy to do. Often times, whenever creators take a beloved franchise such as this and begin shaping it for a new generation, it gets a little scary. I witnessed a little bit of that in the changes of the new 52 from time to time. However, the team on TMNT have shown us fans that they aren't looking to mess with what we love, they're only making it better. As a matter of fact, it is the new and updated versions of these classic characters and villains that have given the series new life for me. Don't get me wrong, I love the 90's cartoon and the old movies, but this series needed to set itself apart as something new, but with the same spirit that makes them so endearing to us. From the lackeys Rocksteady and Bebop to General Krang and the robotic Mousers, Eastman and Waltz are pulling out all the stops in making this a series to remember.

Almost by definition, this book is a blast. From the constant banter between the brothers to the outlandish villains and bizarre storyline, most people would put this series in a genre of its own. This isn't Batman, with a non-meta human being doing all the butt-kicking and detective work. This is a story about four teenage terrapins that have mutated to human size and happen to have a real knack for martial arts. Not to mention they are being raised by their sensei Splinter, a life-sized talking rat. For some, this will automatically be filed with the "all ages" comics. This is probably in no small part due to the generalizations brought on by the campy cartoons that we've been given throughout the years.

That is one creepy little brain-dude.
Were that the case, I wouldn't have any problem with it. I mean, not every book has to be deep and dark, sometimes it's great to have a comic that is unashamedly fun. But the thing is, this is not that kind of story. Sure, there's plenty of pizza talking and dude-dialect (especially from Michelangelo), but this isn't a reincarnation of those campy shows. This is a remaining of the original series from Eastman and Laird, with its darker tone alongside its general zaniness. Issue number 5 brought this out in full swing once by revealing the true origin of the turtles and splinter, and I'm not talking about the mutagen. The rich backstory from feudal Japan set a tone that I can feel reverberating through these subsequent issues. There was one moment in this issue where Leo and Donatello were arguing about whether or not Splinter was right about their reincarnation as the family of Hamato Yoshi, and there's this panel of Leonardo's flashback to his dead mother. While Duncan can draw some crazy cool action, his art and Waltz' scripting work together perfectly in expression the emotion of this book. While the characters are indeed quite over the top, it doesn't change the fact that at its core, this series is about family, and honor, and overcoming the most challenging of adversities. To pass over this book due to some incorrect assumption at face value would be a real shame, when there is so much more here to be found.

While the first arc was a great beginning, issue 6 gives us a glimpse of what we can expect from the future. This is shaping up to be a tale of epic proportions, with plenty to both lure in the old fans and excite the newcomers. During what is (in my opinion) a very exciting time to be reading comics, IDW has delivered an ongoing series that has come to contend with even some of the best titles from DC and Marvel. If you don't read comics, you should go out and give this one a try (the trade from the first arc was just released this month). If you do read comics and you're not reading this, then why the heck not??

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