What happens when you combine the addictive cuteness of Funko POP! figurines with a nostalgic fondness for the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon? You get a freaking amazing comic that is tons of fun!
Comic Review: TMNT Funko Universe #1
(W) Caleb Goellner (A/CA) Nico Pena
If you like your comic stories to be grim and gritty, high stakes, or with emotionally complex narratives, TMNT Funko Universe #1 is not for you. However, if you have a soul and like fun, lighthearted stories that are truly for “all ages,” then this comic is worth picking up. Writer Caleb Goellner and artist Nico Pena’s one-shot immerses the reader into the world of 1980s and 1990s “Turtlemania” that is as enjoyable as it is self-referential.
First, a tip of the hat is due to Pena, who manages to create bright, expressive, and dynamic visuals while confined to using the likeness of figurines which – despite their popularity – are good for nothing other than sitting on a shelf. Another factor working in his favor is the uniform height of the Funko POP! figurines, which means there is no differentiation between the Turtles, Kraang, Bebop, Rocksteady, and Shredder. Despite these limitations, Pena breathes life into the pages that leans heavily on elements of action and physical comedy. Furthermore, the expressiveness he gives the faces – again despite the limitations of their designs – provides the reader with an emotional hook to connect with these characters.
What ties everything together is the Turtles themselves. Goellner nails their characterizations, from Mikey’s surfer-dude playfulness down to Raphael’s fourth-wall-breaking sarcasm. As for the story itself, it’s silly and low stakes, but it has a lot of heart thanks to Caleb Goellner’s writing. The plan devised by Kraang and Shredder is delightfully goofy. Though I’m not sure they still put physical prizes inside cereal boxes, the idea of using said prizes for mind-control is exactly what I’d expect from these classic cartoon villains. And when the incompetence of the Foot Soldier factory workers leads to a prizeless cereal box (and Mikey’s subsequent disappointment), the adventure begins.
It’s not just the silly story that’s enjoyable, but also the many meta-references that Goellner throws in for Turtle fans. Whether its a reference to the game Turtles in Time, a nod to Fred Wolf, or awareness of “getting dragged into a subplot,” there is a lot of fan service that does not distract from the main story. Though the price tag may be pushing it a bit (really IDW? $4.99? Have you learned nothing from Marvel’s recent struggles?), TMNT Funko Universe is a worthy addition to anyone’s comic collection. Sharply written and beautifully drawn, this is truly a comic for nearly everyone.