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Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #13
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #13

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #13
Story by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz
Script by Tom Waltz
Art by Andy Kuhn
Colors by Ronda Pattison
Letters by Shawn Lee
Covers by Andy Kuhn, Kevin Eastman, and Valerio Schiti
IDW Publishing
Release Date: August 22, 2012
Cover Price: $3.99

For those who have been following this latest incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the series is likely a revelation. When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license was sold to Nickelodeon, there was a lot of consternation and wringing of hands among comics fans that the new series would be another cash-in aimed at children. Of course there’s still pleasure in seeing the characters you have grown with once again, but writers Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz have created something much closer to the original version, with enough tweaks that the series feels fresh and exciting enough to surprise you.

A lot of this work shows up in the turtles themselves. Their quirks — Donatello as the science geek, Leonardo the rigid leader, Raphael the hothead, Michelangelo the carefree bro — aren’t played up as such, but actually inform how each sees the world. They bicker and argue, not just for the sake of it, but because they disagree over how to handle a situation. Never before have they felt so distinct from each other and so fully realized as characters. When, for example, the turtles are presented with their own uniquely-colored masks, there’s a satisfying justification for it that helps build the themes of the story, and the differentiation feels earned. Elements like these are what makes the series fresh and familiar, and is the difference between reinterpretation and cash-in. Alright, sorry for gushing, now let’s get on to issue 13.

When we last saw the Turtles, they had narrowly escaped their first confrontation with Shredder. Both sides have seen what the other is capable of, and a few secrets are now out in the open. And so we begin again, but this time on equal footing, in a new story arc, with both Shredder and Splinter re-evaluating strategies and preparing for their next encounter. That the new story arc is entitled “Sins of the Father” is fitting, as the emphasis is on family dynamics and have been a theme thus far. The series has always been explicit about this, from the importance of reuniting the Turtles after the break-in at the lab to the focus on both Casey and April’s home life. In this issue, Casey’s situation starts coming to a head, and we get a peek at the relationship between Shredder and his granddaughter Karai. Krang is busy as well, but it isn’t yet clear how his plot ties in with the others. However, the stakes have been raised across the board, and there are sure to be some big payoffs around the corner.

Andy Kuhn, the artist for Firebreather, is stepping in to handle artistic duties for two issues, replacing Dan Duncan. It hurts to see Duncan taking a break, however brief, as his gritty and evocative style has defined the series as much as Eastman and Waltz’s writing. However, Kuhn is a more than capable replacement. He gives the Turtles a youthful makeover, with more expressive faces and motions, and a whole lot more smiling; they suddenly look a little more like the teenagers they still are. The color palette reflects the changes, as everything is a little brighter and warmer. This style works especially well for lighter moments, when characters are joking and razzing each other, but it doesn’t defuse the tension of more serious scenes.

If you haven’t been reading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this new story arc is a great place to pick it up, while we’re in a bit of a lull before the storylines pick up and intensify again. If you have been following, well, I’m sure you don’t need my stamp of approval, but you have it anyways, just in case.

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