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Volume 4 is a cautionary tale for everyone going for decompressed storytelling. This book DRAGGED!
First 11 issues can be can be read just fine. It's slow, but it has few great moments and can be generously called 'finished story'. After that turtles split, with every single issue having 5 or more storylines at the same time. Book went hiatus (sorta, it's complicated) after 32 issues. Not a single plotline was finished, at least not in a satysfying way.
The only exception is secret behind April Origin, that was fully explained in #22. Read it if you want to learn about one of most overlooked, yet hated TMNT moment in history.
If you're a hardcore TMNT fan, you should read first 11 issues. There are some fun moments in there. Rest you'll be better off missing. Nothing you'll read there will compensate the frustration of cliffhangers or underwhelming conclusions.
At the same time, Mirage published "Tales of TMNT" (Vol 2), a bunch of one-issue stories spread around whole timeline (Vol 1,2 and 4). They all range from terrible and forgettable, though just okay, to few very best in the whole series. Personally, I recommend issues: 3-4,5, 9, 13-14, 27, 36, 50, 54, 55, 64, 65, 69.
(Sadly #27 requires reading that April Origin story I mentioned).
There were also 4 miniseries: "The Brain Thief", "The Third Kind", "Bad Moon Rising", and "Blind Sight", following events from "Vol 4" and "Tales". Do yourself a favor and ignore them.
The 90s 'serious' tone. Muddy white & black graphics, that half the time I had problems telling what I'm looking at. Ridiculous designs (google "TMNT Pimiko"). Swearing and implications that Turtles watch porn. Crossovers with Image that fail to interest me in other series, just waste time and mud the pacing of the actual storyline.
Let's just say that this Volume has a lot of problems. If this wasn't only 25 issues I would probably give up on it early on.
Which is a shame, because if you're willing to power-through it (and you must, this book is continuity-heavy) you'll find some of most original plots in the entire TMNT franchise. Basically, every good character/story in TMNT was re-adapted to death. Vol. 3 is a refreshing exception (due legal issues). It's probably most impressive feat was developing the Turtles in a way no other media did. I don't want to spoil much, but Rath joining the (now 40% less evil) Foot Clan was probably the highlight of the series.
The book ended on the cliffhanger and Mirage decided to write it out of the continuity. And then after almost TWELVE YEARS original creators and fans got together to write a 2-part finally that finished all the plot lines and tied it into events of Vol 4, sorta putting it back into the cannon. It was not official, so they did it for free. If that doesn't prove that the creators had a passion for the project, I don't know what does. It's a 90's book with all of its symptoms, but if you're a TMNT fan, there is a lot to like here.
Disclaimer: During that time Turtles cameo-ed in many Image books. If you ever wanted to check Savage Dragon (or you care about characters Radical & Complete Carnage) you might want to check "TMNT/The Savage Dragon" special and "The Savage Dragon #22" (it's a 2-part story). Rest don't bother unless you're a real Turtle nut.
Nothing accomplished. That's the best way to describe this series. I heard there off behind scene problems and series died earlier than planned, but you would think 13 issue would be enough to leave some sort of impact. Decompression storytelling be damned.
The first issue, for example, is a bunch of weird dreams that foreshadow future events. Spoiler alert, almost nothing comes out of them.
Next two are about Turtles wondering what will they do with their lives now that all plot points were closed in Vol 1. I get what they were doing, but "City at War" had plenty of this sorta thinking and that thing was bloody 13 issues long. It's got tiresome, not helped by the fact that later issue doesn't build up on anything suggested here (e.x. Turtles were supposed to split up, but didn't).
Issues 4-5 are about Giant Turtle in the sewers. It pretty random, even for a book about 4 big turtles living in a sewer.
In #6-9 Turtles about Baxter's giant robot. This is some decent action if anything, especially since Baxter wasn't seen in years in Mirage Comics. As far as I know, only this story has any repercussions in later volumes.
Last four issues deal with Government agents capturing one of the Turtles. This story could really use Agen Bishop from 2003 cartoon. It's bland, rushed, introduced some really forgettable characters and doesn't really accomplishes anything (except for pissing off fans of Nobody, a semi-recurring superhero character)
Vol 1 was a fairly good read. Not perfect, definitely not for everyone, but to this day it moved Turtles into a direction no later adaptations would dare to go (advantage of the little indie comic over big corporation handling old IP). Volume 2 is mostly the same thing (if you liked the artwork you it's still here) but just feels empty and inconsequential. It will kill an hour or two if you want, but skipping it is an option as well.
I can recommend the first Volume of TMNT to the two groups.
First are people who already love Ninja Turtles and just want more of them. They don't need any recommendation, just reading order (read micro series before issue 9, "Tales of TMN" Vol 1 #1-7 after issue 11, crossover with "Usagi Yojimbo Vol 2 #1-3" anywhere you want. Period #22-44 was a "guest writers" era, almost everything is uncannon. I would recommend reading "Souls Winter" (31, 35, 56) and "River" trilogy 24-26. If you like them, check also 27, 28, 37, 43. Everything else is can be skipped, it's mostly terrible comedy. If you need more details, check "TMNT Entity" site.)
The second group are people who like comic books. As if, prefer well drawn comic over a cartoon animation. I'm saying this because 2003 TMNT cartoon adapted almost everything worth to adapt (mostly in its first 2 seasons). Sure, the cartoon isn't without flaws, with some lame jokes, padding here and there (but it has WAY better Shredder and Baxter). But I feel it's much more accessible (for starters you can tell Turtles apart) and modern, making it better starting point then Mirage comics. And just to be clear: I'm not saying that 2003 cartoon is better than Mirage, far from it. Some later stories ("City at War" arc, guest stories I listed above) take Turtles into a much more mature direction that trumps most of 2003 cartoon. But those 'mature' stories work best if you have some kind of connection with the franchise and you're WILLING to take story about four giant ninjitsu turtles seriously. Which is why I would suggest starting with any of three cartoons or the first movie...
...unless you really like black & white art, which is arguably Mirage's strongest point, depending on your taste. If you're unsure yourself, just check one of the first issues. "Tales" #4 would be a good pick, standalone story, debut of the classic character, considered as one of best early issues.
The Return of Savanti is... well, it's really just a filler episode, but it immediately catches your attention by being a two-parter. When I read the episode's title, my first thought was: Who's Savanti? That's right, when I first saw this episode, I had completely forgotten about Savanti Romero. But how can you blame me? Before this, Savanti was just a minor villain who appeared in one episode, and was quickly revealed to be a mere pawn used by Ultimate Drako. In "Time Travails", Savanti didn't leave much of an impression, so I wasn't particularly impressed that the episode's title was announcing his return. Now, after doing some "research", I have discovered that Savanti, Renet and Lord Simultanious are all characters from the original Mirage comics, and this episode is a direct adaptation of one of their stories from those. I think it's great that this series actually uses material from the comics (a rarity among TMNT adaptations), but since Savanti had previously been a relatively easily defeated foe (not to mention a pawn for Ultimate Drako), I found it jarring to suddenly see him presented as a Badass Evil Sorcerer who can control dinosaurs and threaten the entire timeline. It doesn't help that Savanti is a very one-note bad guy: Half of his dialogue is just rambling about how "The time sceptre will be mine!/The time sceptre is mine!" or laughing maniacally.
And another thing: Why did this episode need to be a two-parter? It's based on a very simple premise that could easily have been fit into one episode: Basically, it's about an old foe who seeks revenge/world domination and the turtles plus Renet go and stop him. The end. This story just barely manages to fill two episodes by having lots of Padding in the form of the turtles fighting dinosaurs and escaping a dinosaur stampede. In the end, the turtles and Renet end up stranded in the past for three months, but then travel back to the present just after they left, making this seem entirely meaningless.
The Return of Savanti isn't a glaringly bad episode, and it just may have been saved because of the awesomely epic final battle against Savanti. But again, it is a filler episode in disguise. As far as filler episodes go, it's actually pretty good, but it clearly doesn't think of itself as such.
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