Saturday, May 26, 2018

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends #1 Review

Colorized in a Half Shell

Writer: Gary Carlson
Artist: Frank Fosco
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release Date: May 23, 2018
Cover Price: $3.99

Review by: Ron Freilich

“Urban Legends” is the latest Turtle offering from IDW and is unique in that it reprints an older ongoing TNMT series originally published by Image Comics back in 1996.
The series was originally simply titled “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, published in black and white and ran for 23 issues before being canceled and unfortunately was never completed.
What makes this reissue campaign different is that the series isn’t being collected into a trade paperback or a hardcover right out of the gate but is instead being re-released in its entirety in a single issue format on a monthly basis, but this time is done in full color!  The plan here is to re-release all 23 original issues, and then to finally finish out the series with 3 additional brand new issues by the original creative team some twenty plus years later!

(Warning: Spoilers ahead. For a straight-up review and score rating of the book look further down)

The first page of the first issue starts out with a bang. Literally.
A huge explosion interrupts the Turtles’ birthday party thrown by Master Splinter... and Donny is down.  Giant, futuristic looking cyborgs burst into the turtle lair, the guys have no idea why they’re here, what they want and fighting ensues.

These Cyborgs are no slouches as we find out that they are able to regrow body parts which they lose courtesy of the turtles during the battle and they are even kind enough to over-explain in painstaking detail exactly how the regrowth process works if you’re into that sort of thing.

Out of nowhere, a female Ninja chick appears and she’s holding a sword to Splinter’s throat.
Miss Ninja lady (Pimiko’s the name in case you were wondering) explains that she and the cyborgs are here to take the rat and one turtle as prisoners of the mysterious “Dragonlord” and that the other green guys best stay out of the way or Splinter gets it.

A flash bomb is thrown, throwing our heroes off for a quick second while the bad guys escape.
The Turtles are after them and even though Pimiko and crew kidnapped Splinter and Donatello who’s bleeding to death, Raphael and Michelangelo find this a good time to discuss the hotness of Pimiko which is beyond hysterical.

Unfortunately for the green gang, the villains take off in a helicopter leaving our heroes confused as to what to do and bickering ensues.
One of the bad guys by the name of Jackson proclaims Donny dead but Pimiko assures him that even if that’s the case, an autopsy will still serve the Dragonlord’s needs.

We now cut to a Donny dream state/flashback scene which takes place moments before the start of the issue: Splinter is throwing the guys their 18th birthday party, he’s very proud of them, they’re his greatest accomplishment, but he’s getting old and he knows these teenagers have their issues with being different and not fitting into this big world out there, but he wants them to see what their life would have looked like if it wasn’t for that fateful encounter with the mutagen all those years ago.
He whips out a fish bowl with four little (nonninja) turtles inside so the guys can look at them and understand just how special they truly are, how far they’ve come and that they have a great gift they should be thankful for.

Boom!! Donny wakes in the chopper, and even though he’s in very bad shape he starts kicking butt!
Pimiko unlocks the chopper door and Donny and the cyborg he’s fighting find themselves skydiving headed down quickly without a parachute.

Back in the lair, the turtles are pissed off and Raph and Leo take it out on one of the half-dead cyborgs left lying around when all of a sudden a vision of Splinter appears projected from the astral plane where his consciousness is currently at while his passed out physical body is floating in the helicopter.  Splinter manages to fill the guys in on Donny’s dive from the chopper and that he’s not doing good.
Pimiko sees this, freaks out, Splinter gets taken out, the astral transmission stops and our first issue ends!!!

***Burning Matters***

*Just who is this Dragonlord and What does he want/need from the Turtles and Splinter?

*What happened to Splinter after the transmission ended? Is he OK?

*What happened to Donny? He has really banged up already, did he survive the landing OK? Where is he?

*The Turtles have no real leads on the identity of the captors or where they’re headed. What will our heroes do?
Tune in next month (or hunt down issue #2 of the original print run) to find out!

***Astute Observations***

Right out of the gate, this book is lots of fun.  Big. Dumb. Fun.  If you are a fan, then other than Pizza, this book probably has everything you’re looking for in a Turtle book: humor, big action, some touching father-sons moments and mean villains who put our heroes in danger.

The threat feels real as just like our heroes, at this point in the story we don’t know much about Pimiko and  Dragonlord, what their plans are and how difficult will they be to overcome.
This is a quick, fun, fast-paced read, doesn’t drag for a second, keeps you engaged throughout, and the most important part, when you get to that final page/panel, you want it to keep going!
This is a mature book and isn’t recommended for kids. It’s very violent, bloody and has some risqué dialog.  This version of the Turtles enjoys being violent, and I feel like they wouldn’t mind killing somebody if they had to.

On the story front, I really feel this is a terrific first issue, hits all the right beats and tells a very compelling, memorable action-oriented story with some heartfelt drama thrown in.
This could’ve been written today and doesn’t feel dated in the least.

On the art side, I can see some folks having issues, as it very much looks like a product of its time.
The art is very loud, obnoxious, in your face, dirty, not very clear or well defined in spots and can’t really be described as “beautiful” or “pretty” but it is definitely “cool”!

If I could nitpick something, it's that since this is a modern coloring, I would personally have preferred it if each Turtle had his own distinct color bandana instead of the old school, uniform, all red bandanas which I’m not a fan of and find confusing, since I grew up on the Blue-Red-Orange and Purple.

I have not read the original run and will approach this as a brand new series and keep reading it month to month and won’t cheat and go binge read the rest (I think) This issue did the job and I’ll definitely be back for # 2 next month!

Bits and Pieces:

There’s really nothing to criticize in the story/writing department, it’s pretty much as perfect as you could ask for a first issue and it gets you sucked into the story straight away.  The art is more subjective and won’t appeal to everybody but it shouldn’t keep you from enjoying the book.  If you’re a Turtles fan, or an action genre comic fan, then, by all means, check it out... It is Excellent!!



  1. wasnt sure how much I would enjoy this going in not having read all the Eastman stuff that lead up to it ... aside from a few things I could look up on a wiki I had a blast and dont mind this 'elseworlds' tale outside the current continuity IDW is putting out. Bonkers action and I loved the art.

  2. Thanks for the great review! I've been thinking about jumping in to some of the old school Ninja Turtles I passed on when they were first on the stands because I hated the cartoon (and black and white comics), this looks like it might be a nice place to start.