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Comic Review: TMNT Urban Legends #1

by Dan Gehen

The infamous “Volume 3” of TMNT comics is finally being reprinted! The 1990s series comes with a fresh new title – TMNT Urban Legends – and in living color! And we promise that’ll be it for jokey 1990s references.

Comic Review: TMNT Urban Legends #1

(W) Gary Carlson (A) Frank Fosco (I) Erik Larsen & Chance Wolf (C) Adam Guzowski

The Image Comics volume of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is something that cannot be merely described, but rather something to experience. Though it was originally in canon with the beloved Volume One and Volume Two by Mirage Studios, Gary Carlson and Frank Fosco’s take on the Turtles does not hesitate to take the characters in a wildly new direction. With IDW reprinting these under the “Urban Legends” banner, the series is treated to new coloring by Adam Guzowski, giving the original black-and-white series a bright new finish.

TMNT Urban Legends #1 lets readers know right away that no-one is safe. Carlson and Fusco have Donnie get caught in an explosion, Raph losing half of his face, and Splinter seemingly vaporized. Though these moves can be characterized as over-the-top and the embodiment of terrible 1990s tropes, they do establish that the stakes in this book are very real. Even the IDW series has been guilty of having consequences be superfluous rather than drive real, lasting changes.

As concerned as the book is with having the stakes be real, the characters themselves lack awareness of how serious their predicaments are. Though Donnie has just been mangled in an explosion, his brother fight their attackers while making glib comments, maintaining the lighthearted personalities of their more famous cartoon counterparts. This continues throughout the issue. As Raphael has his face melted off by a laser, he and his brother remain glib.

While this may seem like a failing of the issue (and to an extent, it is), it is a courageous decision for the era to try and successfully blend elements of the dark, weird comics and lighthearted cartoons. It does not work well here – especially as well as what IDW has done – but this was not common for a big IP during the era. During a time when superheroes were watered down, bland, or over-the-top extreme, Carlson and Fosco attempted to do something wildly different.

Of course, the whole reason we’ve waited until this issue’s release to dive into the Image series is because of the addition of Adam Guzowski’s colors, and do they pop! The opening page – a full splash of the aforementioned Donnie explosion – is an eye-grabber with its wonderful mix of reds, oranges, and yellows. These bright colors are contrasted with the silhouette of Donnie’s charred body being thrown through the air. Guzowski’s stellar work continues throughout the issue. Whereas the added colors are an unnatural addition to the Mirage books as seen in IDW’s “Color Classics” series, their addition here is seamless.

TMNT Urban Legends #1 is sure to satiate the appetites of readers looking for a “new” and different take on the beloved reptiles. Yes, it is very flawed, but it is also very engaging. Someone who has never read this series before, here’s to hoping that the best is yet to come!

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