Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations Writer: Tom Waltz Pencils: Zach Howard and Cory Smith Colors: Ronda Pattison Letters: Shawn Lee Publisher: IDW
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the most recognizable and popular franchises to exist, despite it’s silliness but thats where a lot of the appeal is as well. So when IDW announced its Deviation series, it was no surprise that the “Heroes in a Half Shell” were going to be tackled. Deviations is IDW’s version of Marvel’s “What if” or DC’s “Else Worlds” series. Where they take a well known franchise, give it a plot twist, and deviate from the original story.
This one shot shows an alternate universe where the Turtles were all put under mind control by their quintessential villain, Shredder. As puppets they assassinate their long time ally Casey Jones, and the issue starts with them on the hunt for their mentor and adoptive father, Splinter.
This is an ambitions story to tell in a single issue and while there are glaring weaknesses within, writer Tom Waltz gives an admirable shot. There are many other plot points and questions that could have been explored but to the issue’s credit, it keeps its priorities focused. That being highlighting the emotional punch of seeing our once pizza loving heroes turn evil and hunt down their adoptive father. Waltz does a solid job of providing what he is able to in this one shot to execute as good a narrative as one can give with this premise in 24 pages.
A stand out here is how effectively Waltz is able to capture the Turtles personalities while blending them together with a villainous spin. It’s impressive that you’re still able to recognize each individual turtle through their dialogue when they’re talking about killing. The standout being blending Michelangelo’s lighthearted and goofball attitude with a thirst for blood.
Again, their are some missteps in this issue but that is really more an editorial issue. Their are certain characters who play a role in the story and if you’re not reading the current IDW TMNT series then you’ll be scratching your head, trying to figure out who they are and what is their relationships to the other character. It would of also been nice to see how the Turtles killed Casey Jones, rather then just a quick narrative in the issues opening. Other questions could have been examined as well. Such as how did the Turtles dealt with the death of Jones, as well as other characters who get axed off? Or how they reacted to performing Shredder’s bidding, being his puppets, and cold cut murdering people?
The artwork in this issue is superb and absolutely perfect for the tone that this deviation calls for. Pencils are done by Zach Howard with additions from Cory Smith and it’s damned impressive. Their are multiple fight scenes and each one of them are heavily detailed, busy, and at the same time have great clarity. The style is very reminiscent of the original Eastman and Laird comics. Ronda Pattison’s colors work in harmony with the pencils and capture the dark gritty vibe of this story. The highlight being the coloring on the “Heroes in a Half-Shell” themselves, as they are kept nearly covered in shadows to keep them mysterious and threatening but at the same time provide as little color as possible to make them out. And they’re all wearing the same color masks.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Deviations is an enjoyable and captivating read. This one shot is the first in IDW’s Deviations series to take emotional advantage of the premise given and while there are other areas in this story to explore, Tom Waltz keeps the narrative focused on the unsettling turn that our lovable heroes have taken. It’s unfortunate though that this was a one shot because it’s much better suited for a graphic novel or mini-series. However with detailed and stylized artwork that captures the dark gritty tone of this story, this is the one Deviations issue that can’t be missed.
Score: 4 out of 5
Review by Eric Bradach