Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ranking the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comics, even though I'm a grown man

This was the first comic I really got into as a child, during my conventional Turtles phase (c.1990). For a comic based on a cartoon based on a different comic, it was surprisingly good. Mainly for rebelling against its lineage and doing its own, often crazy thing.

Writer Stephen Murphy (a.k.a. Dean Clarrain) seemingly had free reign to take the heroes-in-half-shells out of their cartoon comfort zone and plonk them into stream-of-consciousness sci-fi adventures and heavy-handed environmental sermons. At five years old, I found it all compellingly unsettling.

I only had maybe seven issues in total back then, not counting a few of the inferior British comics they put out to fill time between the American reprints. As a 31-year-old man*, I had little to no interest in reading the vast majority of these that don't have the necessary nostalgia. But what kind of world would this be if we're allowed to pick and choose?

Ignoring the straight adaptations of TV episodes and films and all the spin-offs I can't be bothered to get into, here are The Top 52 Archie TMNT Adventures. When you're reading them inappropriately grown-up, anyway. At least outwardly.

* I read/wrote all of this months ago when I had more time to waste. I was too ashamed to post it, so kept delaying it another month. At least it makes my YouTube persona seem even weirder, so there's that.

Thematic key:

Buy these action figures
Tree-hugging hippie crap
Borderline racist cultural exchange
Space madness

Time madness
April's adventures

52. Mah Name! (#35)

Heralding the return of Stump Intergalactic Wrestling after a couple of years away (a long time in kid years), this supplementary story fills a few spare pages at the back of issue 35.

It reminds us about a few of the characters and provides an unrequested origin story for the most annoying one. Those pages would have been better used on adverts.

51. Gary's Gag Page: Meanwhile in Dimension X / What the Shredder Did for a Living Before He Was an Arch-villain (#45, 48)


50. Space Junk Face Funk Cyber Punk Thief (#21)

This is the standard you'd reasonably expect from a comic based on a silly cartoon. If it wasn't for Stephen Murphy's characteristic ecological guilt tripping, it could easily be a run-of-the-mill lousy episode of the TV show. They can do a lot better.

If you're in the right frame of mind, there's potentially a lot that's funny about it, in a laughing-at rather than laughing-with way. Vid Vicious seems to be the self-parodying personification of Murphy's hippie excess. The part where Donatello goes inside a computer and Shredder saves him on a floppy disk is the dumbest thing this comic ever did. At least I really hope so, there's a lot more to go.

49. The Good, the Bad, and the Tattooed (#32)

Having exhausted all the more worthwhile Japanese tropes over the last few issues, we're left with a lightweight (simultaneously heavyweight) Sumo pet heist caper.

It's just a standard crooked boxing story with about 100kg added on. Semi-guest-written, which I suppose excuses it.

48. North to Alaska (#67-70)

There's barely any substance (or dialogue) in this back-up story, but I sort of admire it. In a way. Mainly for tying in to the main feature, as Tattoo (who you may remember from another one of the worst stories – great to see him back) accidentally leaves his beloved dog at the airport. Inky subsequently joins a pack of wolves.

It doesn't continue to cross over, which is a shame. In fact, it ends on an eternally unresolved cliffhanger since the comic was cancelled shortly after. He'll be fine.

47. Origin of the Species (#71)

The belated story of the Turtles' first encounter with a mutated mammoth finally fills in the backstory that was seemingly missing from #44. Although it was probably published in a special or poster mag or something, since I'm not under the illusion that Ryan Brown randomly decided to finally tell this story here and now.

I'm not interested enough to find out either way. Without that minor mystery, this wouldn't have anything going for it.

46. ...And Deliver Us from Evil (#41)

Editor Ryan Brown wants to go back to basics with a story that wouldn't be out of place on the stupid cartoon. You can tell Murphy's a bit embarrassed about that, which is why we get an unnecessary intro with Raphael explicitly setting the events in the past.

But then this fictional flashback turns out to be the second time the Turtles have come up against the same mammoth. It took until the penultimate issue a few years later for us to finally see that scrape, unless it was also in an annual or something. Fortunately, it's a really rubbish story, so not something you have to waste any time thinking about. What's with the title?

45. How the Pre-TMNTs Got Their Colors (#58)

Recent events have left Michaelangelo [sic] blinded and captured. Rather than continue with that story, the sorry Turtle instead thinks back over unrelated life experiences so we can have the flimsy framework for a worthless flashback.

Guest auteur Brian Thomas provides both the story and the art for this never-before-told tale of how the Tiny TMNTs got their signature bandanas and initialled belt buckles. It's because Splinter's racist and thinks they all look alike.

44. How the Turtles Got Their Weapons (#71-72)

The next major arc is cancelled for some pointless page-filling. I don't know if Brian Thomas was commissioned on an emergency deadline or they just had these hanging around for when they needed filler, like the back-up stories in these final two issues. The fact that you can't tell gives you an idea of how fitting an ending this is to the series.

If you've been wondering all these decades How the Turtles Got Their Weapons, they chose them from a shop. Satisfied?

43. Red Sails in the Sunset (#72)

Another leftover from the early years that was either reprinted from a sideline publication or just wasn't deemed good enough back in the day, this ended up being the decidedly ungrand finale of TMNT Adventures. Never mind.

It's most notable for featuring the return of Don Simpson's distinctive Turtles-as-actual-turtles art, which I actually really enjoyed in 'Leave Heaven Alone,' but here just seems completely awful.

42. Mutations (#45)

There must be some bureaucratic explanation why we're being reminded of the Turtles' and Splinter's origin story 45 issues down the line. It's not like clip shows save any money in this medium, though I suppose Murphy didn't have to bother thinking of a story this month.

Something about readership cycles? The (really terrible) third film coming out and potentially attracting new readers? Whatever the reason, it's a story most people will already have seen/read in several different versions by this point, even if Murphy strives to make the Japanese portion of the tale a bit more credible and less reliant on stereotypes than the cartoon.

41. Something Fishy Goes Down (#5)

The first original story in the run is still mostly conventional. The status quo is the same as the early years of the cartoon, but that'll be upset before too long. Murphy's party-'n'-pizza-obsessed Turtles are all Michelangelo at the moment, but they should develop identifying quirks when he gets a handle on what he wants to do, or when the editors stop paying attention.

The main deviation is that the Turtles don't save the day themselves. That responsibility falls to Man Ray – a conservationist transformed by Mutagen into a prospective action figure with dialogue. This is the way it's going to be for a while.

40. Megadeath (#48-54)

This B-story was intended to be consumed in brief morsels over the course of seven months, and it was presumably written on-the-fly as well. I wouldn't recommend reading the whole thing in one go, if you insist on reading it at all.

The future Turtles come back in time to either help the Mutanimals avoid their predestined demise or just to morbidly observe. Either way, they fail miserably. New toys are introduced, but Dead-eye is the only one I might have requested.

39. The Angel of Times Square (#62-66)

A seemingly fully ninja-trained April O'Neil single-handedly takes on gritty low-lifes to rescue a trafficked damsel.

She's come a long way since being introduced as a kidnapped damsel herself, after being completely ignored for most of the issues before that. The girl power is commendable. Shame the story's a pile.

38. Of Wolves and Men / The Howling of Distant Tomorrows / Twilight / A Dusk, a Dawn (a.k.a. Moon Eyes Saga, #67-70)

Stephen Murphy's gone. Maybe he was off writing 'The Forever War' – the five-parter advertised as starting next issue that failed to materialise when Archie decided it didn't want five more issues.

Shame he didn't have notice, or he could have done something more worthwhile with these four issues than J.D. Vollman's mopey break-up saga.

37. Codename: Chameleon (#9)

It's disappointing to see the formula snap back to default, with Shredder sending his useless goons to capture some top secret weapon plans and the Turtles once again not really contributing to the resolution. This month's villain-turned-sometime-ally isn't as interesting as the previous ones, I don't think we'll be seeing The Chameleon again. Unless he's in every issue and we just don't notice because he's blended with the background.

The comics were evidently under the same pressure as the cartoons to promote the entire toy line, as the Knucklehead makes an unhelpful appearance following the useless Turtle Blimp last issue. So many of these stories would get by just fine if our heroes weren't even involved.

And am I just old and corrupted, or did they make a condom joke in a children's comic?

36. Wild Things (#8)

Back on Earth and everything's back to normal, except that the Turtles get to keep wearing their wrestling costumes for a bit of variety until they get a chance to change.

No Shredder & co this time, but there's another pair of action figures, I mean well-conceived characters, causing merry havoc around NYC. I don't remember if Wingnut & Screwloose showed up in the cartoon, but if you collected Turtles merchandise, you were aware of them.

35. Fight the Power (#17)

If that title led you to expect a showdown with the Turtles' new arch enemy, you'll be disappointed. Four issues in, Null is still a guy in a chair with his back to us. Instead, the Turtles just get to brawl with some illegal shrimp fishers.

I see what people mean, the eco warrior sermons are getting tedious now. It's frankly a relief when they're interrupted by the arrival of aliens dedicated to our planet's destruction. More than we're doing already, I mean. RECYCLE.

34. United We Stand, Divided We Fall (#38-39)

This annoying crossover exists solely to make people buy Mutanimals. I'm not that desperate to fill in the blanks in a weak story.

If you are a fan of all the action figures and failed action figures that were introduced in the early Turtles issues, here they are again. Fighting stuff and saying things.

They can't be that great if they can't even save the day without the Turtles' help.

33. Once, Again, Always (#61)

A slow, elegiac one before we hit more multi-parters, I appreciated the change of pace... but it was quite boring.

The rest of the loose ends are snipped as the future Turtles finally return to their own time and stop ineffectually mucking about in the '90s. We get another multicultural creation myth to confuse Christian children. And Jim Lawson's scruffy drawing make an unwelcome return.

32. Of Turtles and Stones and Mary Bones (#6)

On the surface, this is just another contractually obligated origin story for another human-turned-action-figure with an equally conventional fight at the end.

But rather than have Shredder accidentally drop a Mutagen canister every month, Murphy comes up with a more arcane alternative that kicks off this incarnation's distinctly weird mythology. Other seed-sowing scenes such as Krang watching intergalactic wrestling suggest this series wasn't as anarchically improvised as it appeared.

31. The Man Who Sold the World (#19)

The villainous Null is finally revealed, and he turns out to be a CEO with devil horns. If they don't want to use the silly cartoon characters, they're going to have to come up with something better than this.

This is another dawdling, in-between issue that spends most of its time solving mysteries we already knew for the benefit of the characters. On the plus side, Splinter giving April sword-fighting lessons makes her the most progressive iteration of April so far.

30. It Started in Chinatown / Dragon Rage / Questions / The White Ninja (#24-27)

The first story that doesn't have a whiff of turtle about it, the only way that was permissable was by chopping it up and shoving those pages to the back for four consecutive months.

I was ready to applaud the boldness of this unconventional April/Splinter team-up, except that it just doesn't have that much going for it. Turns out I'm conventional after all. I like toitles.

29. Stump'd Again (#37)

The slightly tedious TMNT World Tour is rudely interrupted as Cudley appears and whisks them back to Stump Asteroid for a complete re-hash of issue 7.

The only difference is that this time, the costumed Turtles are required to fight each other, so that might be pretty exciting if you're six. I was more taken with Splinter's musings on his insignificance in the cosmos. I didn't notice the exact age when I stopped empathising with the lean, green fighting machines and started to identify more with their middle-aged rat sensei, but now I want some Splinter stories.

28. Dreadging the Ocean Blue (#16)

I'm not even against the sincere environmental themes that characterise a lot of this series (especially at the moment), but I'll admit this one borders on annoying. Do you feel guilty yet, kids?

Man Ray returns after over a year, which seems superfluous but does fit the aquatic setting. It's handy that they set up so many thematic mutants in the early issues, really.

I'm also starting to get a sense of character development. There's a line about Michelangelo (or 'Michaelangelo,' as they haven't learned to correct 16 months in and counting) supposedly being more confident these days, which doesn't really relate to anything. But Raphael's getting over his anger issues. This intermittently violent tropical holiday has done him a world of good.

27. Mondo Metal (#18)

Making the Turtles travel from Brazil to New York by sea and land makes their homecoming quite heartwarming, and it's good to see that Murphy's such a stickler for his own continuity. I bet those empty Mutagen canisters were all in the same positions as the last time we passed through that leg of the sewer.

Less satisfying is the continued stalling of the alien invasion plot, instead spending the time telling another lazy action figure origin story. I actually had that one.

26. 1492 (#40)

It's the anniversary of Columbus' "discovery" of (inhabited) America, and Stephen Murphy is determined to correct some of those lies your teachers have been telling you.

He's so passionate about it, he even manifests in the story vicariously through a new character whose only purpose is to remind Donatello about smallpox and slavery. The ironically juxtaposed Statue of Liberty in the last panel presumably went over young readers' heads.

I quite like it when the comic gets all left-wing and preachy, but with all these sermons, there isn't much of a story. I'll be sure to check out the letters pages in the next few issues to see if any patriotic parents want to have a few words.

25. Fox Hunt (#46)

When Ninjara/Umeko's kid brother shows up at the lair to interrupt the interspecies perversion, she and Raphael make a very brief return to Japan while the other Turtles head off to deal with the much more exciting looking stuff that'll have to wait until next month.

Things get briefly interesting when they venture into the Underworld, but then they just walk out again. It's not exactly Swamp Thing.

24. In the Dark (#27)

You'd think I'd appreciate the comic doing a Lovecraftian horror story. But there's really no similarity beyond appropriating one of his public domain names and one scene taking place in a creepy old church. The Innsmouth creatures aren't hybrids, they're just animals inexplicably anthropomorphised by toxic waste. It doesn't even have to be Mutagen these days.

I wasn't fond of this one as a child either, mainly down to the overlong set-up. April shows up after a while, and the Turtles only make an appearance after the half-way point. Even as an adult, I'm itching for some Turtle action long before that.

23. Blind Sight (#59-60)

We finally get around to snipping a few dangling plot threads, as the Turtles are reunited and April helps them control the narrative of their public exposure.

It doesn't make much sense to follow this status-quo-shifting first part with a second half where the Turtles land at Area 51 and are mistaken for aliens. Just getting all the anti-military/anti-media angst out in one, I guess.

Oyuki's slutty distraction isn't one of the series' finest moments.

22. The Black Stone / Steel Breeze (#35-36)

The Turtles' world tour takes them across the Middle East. Splinter delivers more R.E. lessons along the way about the history of Islam, but the main impression young readers are left with is that the Arab world is an endless desert punctuated by the occasional Arabian Nights ghost city.

Because having the Turtles fight Muslims might have caused an international incident, Shredder chooses an opportune moment to make his long-awaited return. Accompanied by a cat version of The Terminator, because if early-90s kids loved anything more than the Turtles, it was violent 18-rated movies.

21. Going Down? (#10)

The Turtles finally get proactive, as Leonardo struggles to piece together a coherent arc from recent, random events and decides they might as well try to sniff out Shredder. Unfortunately, they don't get the chance, as not one, but two new mutants-of-the-month get in their way, before fatally turning on each other in a surprisingly violent ending.

Wyrm (seemingly the fusion of a flatworm and a rat, with no humanity to add charming quirks) may be the most unsettling villain in the franchise. Pronouncing that he "longs to suck the sweet flesh from their warm young bones," it's a mercy that he's so short-lived.

20. The Eyes of Sarnath (#47)

It turns out that frail little purple E.T. who crashed to Earth in that early cartoon episode (adapted as an early comic) actually came from a race of organ-stealing slave drivers. My childhood's unravelling, this is like those historic sex abuse cases.

The Turtles fight Sarnath and his weird dog, but it turns out he's a good dude after all and just looking for his missing eyes, so they all head off for more interdimensional adventures. I hope they run into Krang. I did actually find myself hoping that. I'm a grown man.

19. Out of the Blue (Into the Black) / The Dream of the Blue Turtle / [Untitled] (a.k.a. Black Hole Trilogy, #48-50)

Might this dimension-trekkin' Star War have been awe-inspiring if I'd read it as a kid, rather than as a jaded adult who's already long over being impressed by its influences? I still probably would have found it a bit boring and uneven, but I would have appreciated Donatello getting his time in the blinding spotlight.

18. [Untitled] (#7)

This intergalactic/interdimensional (they use the terms interchangeably) wrestling tournament was doubtless a favourite of a lot of 1989 kids. There's some typically unsubtle satire of ruthlessly greedy fight promoters, but the wrestling itself is just a fun knockabout between various muscle-bound anthropomorphs.

It still scores big Weird points for introducing Cudley the Cowlick, which is still one of the most inexplicable things I've ever seen. And if you thought you could go an issue without ecological doctrine being shoved down your throat, the Turtles take a brief, pointless detour to the flooded future that makes for an oddly downbeat ending. I preferred it to the wrestling.

17. Terracide (#55-57)

A darker space/time odyssey this time, during which the bloody massacre of the Mutanimals surprisingly doesn't get magically reversed by the end. It can only be a matter of time, surely?

The reveal that it was Null and the termites behind all this is disappointing, but at least it wasn't the even more forgettable bad guy from the Black Hole stories, I guess. Couldn't it have been Krang or something?

16. Shattered (#52)

The curiously chronological continuity celebration continues with the return of the most unpleasant villain of them all. Wyrm gets even more vile lines as he informs his victims where he wants to stick his tube, but surprisingly, he's not even the grossest thing in it.

There's a pretty strong Toxic Crusaders vibe here, it only lacks the humour. Now I think about it, those recent space adventures were a bit Bucky O'Hare. Are they getting worried or something?

15. White Light (#11)

This was the earliest issue I had as a kid. Fascinating fact. It wasn't the best starting point, with a bunch of events in media res, but it eases the transition before things get completely wacko.

It's entirely an A-to-B story, as the lean, green fighting machines continue their interrupted journey to Shredder's lair via more page-consuming encounters with the Rat King and a Foot Soldier.

They meet their match with the sinister Sons of Silence, and could have been finished off then and there if the bad guys weren't so fond of gloating. Lucky for them, Stephen Murphy isn't above a deus ex machina.

14. Chameleons Are Forever (#51)

I didn't think we'd be seeing The Chameleon again. He didn't even have a toy, how good can he be?

Better than before, apparently, as he's now inexplicably able to shapeshift rather than just blend in to backgrounds. And he's in angsty, unrequited love with his undercover partner. I've changed my tune, he's become one of the more entertaining mutants after all.

13. Rat Trap (#22)

It feels as if the series has been reigned in from its outlandish excess, as we're back to factory settings with the four Turtles reunited (plus the rat and the reporter) and fighting Shredder. No independent comic creations in sight, and even Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady aren't around (yet).

It was probably the right decision, especially after their attempt at a replacement villain didn't work out. I know things are going to get loose and weird again before too long, so I enjoyed this for what it is.

The most notable thing about this issue is that they got Marvel legend Gene Colan to provide the pencils. I guess that means this is the best it's ever going to look.

12. The Lost World / The Final Conflict (#12-13)

The comic's become proper entry-level sci-fi now, as we spend time on a dead, ancient world in Dimension X and meet some insectoid aliens with exotically-rendered dialogue. Then it just becomes a big punch-up.

But it does bring an end to events that have been vaguely going on since issue 6, while resisting the reset button that would put us back in line with the cartoon. Instead, Krang, Shredder and his henchmen are divided and put out of harm's way for the foreseeable future. The comic would rather be doing its own thing.

11. The Karma of Katmandu / The Search for the Charlie Llama (#33-34)

The Turtles' Asian adventure takes them to Tibet, once again taking the educational scenic route (even if they spelled 'Thialand' wrong on the map).

Murphy continues to twist local mythology in ways that might be insulting if you're a Buddhist, and certainly if you're a fan of the Chinese government, but is creative nonetheless. But for all the whirling dervish assassins, four-armed skeletons and tantric monkeys, the weirdest scene has to be Donatello and Splinter delivering a baby.

10. Leave Heaven Alone (#14)

The preaching begins in earnest with the start of a heavily environmental-themed arc set in the midst of the rapidly depleting Amazon. These are issues worthy of discussion, so why not? It's better than Captain Planet at least. Though bringing in the assassination of union leaders is a bit heavy for its juvenile audience.

Surprisingly, this is the first time April's been involved in the action (not counting the early episode adaptations). And she needs to be rescued right off the bat. Big on the eco stuff, a little less skilled on the feminism front. We're also briefly teased by the new Shredder-replacing villain, who sadly looks extremely boring.

I had this one as a kid, and the main impression I was left with was confusion over guest artist Donald Simpson's unique renderings of the characters, who he seemingly preferred to model on actual turtles rather than the standard templates. Now I like it a lot.

9. The Howling of Distant Shadows (#15)

The Turtles' Amazon adventure continues with a cruise downriver, taking in peaceful tribes, less peaceful slave owners, dinosaurs and a borderline-racist Jamaican wolfman.

April comes off a lot better in this, she even gets to hold a gun and punch someone. The regular artist is back, which is probably for the best, though continuing with the weird pseudo-realistic style would have made things more interesting.

8. Search and Destroy / Gimme Danger! / Raw Power (#23-25)

It's the return of colourful sci-fi as Krang escapes his toxic prison with the aid of handy new accomplices, and runs into old ones through astronomically unlikely coincidences. They all end up right back where they started, making this whole exercise a colossal waste of energy.

But I'm glad they bothered, otherwise we wouldn't have had one of the most memorable and affecting comic stories from my childhood, which is all down to the scene where Krang obtains his long-sought-after body by fitting himself over Shredder's head. It doesn't help that the imprecise art doesn't make it clear exactly what's going on. Pencilling duties in that issue are divided between Garret Ho and Jim Lawson, and one of them can't draw.

7. Dreamland (#62-66)

Playmates has launched a new line of figures, so the comic concedes to promote them. It didn't promise to behave though.

This is without doubt the strangest and darkest the comic gets. My juvenile reflexes tell me that's a good thing, but my boring reasoning side isn't so sure.

I assume most of the comic's fickle younger readers had moved on a long time ago (guilty as charged), or that parents just weren't paying attention any more, as there's a lot here that surely would have caused a stir if it had been released at the height of Turtlemania.

From bloody corpses and suicides by self-immolation and gunshot to a foot squelching Hitler's brain, this would have messed me up as a child even more than the early issues did. Is that a good thing? It might be a good thing. I preferred the first Future Turtles story either way.

6. Midnight Sun (#28-30)

We're now just past the point where my knowledge and nostalgia ends, so it's fitting that this feels like a fresh start for the comic. Simultaneously more realistic, in its presentation of Hiroshima now and then (are you feeling ancestral guilt yet, kids?), and more mythology-driven, as we explore Japanese creation myths and demonology with the zeal of Sandman, if not the coherence.

There are still giant dragons and a literal foxy lady, but it feels half a world away from those psychedelic aliens and contrived action figures we normally deal with. I wonder how long until we snap back to factory settings? (A: Seven issues).

5.The Animus War (#53-54)

Or, to use its correct title,"Cowabunga, Jerusalem!"

The Turtles are back on their world tour. Their sneaking through Israeli customs inside April's luggage requires the greatest suspension of disbelief in the entire franchise.

Murphy's feeling literary as he divides the action into chapters and has his villain and inappropriately boobtacular heroine make grand proclamations about the light and the dark that he probably imagines make him the Alan Moore of licensed cartoon spin-offs. It's not quite there, but the exotic location and all the Lovecraft imitation does give it a lot of atmosphere.

4. Turning Japanese (#31)

Shredder's loose in New York, but let's make the most of our Japanese vacation since we're here. The Turtles & co split up to pursue their respective interests, from Bushido to nuclear decontamination and, in more than one case, holiday romance.

I'm not sure about the timeline, but considering I wasn't requesting these any more, I suspect the Turtle bubble might have burst (or I might have just moved on to Thunderbirds). This comic isn't about selling action figures to fickle consumers any more, it's free to concentrate on stories.

3. Future Tense / Past Lives / Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (a.k.a. The Future Shark Trilogy, #42-44)

Someone's been reading his own back issues. And noting down things he seeded but then forgot to take anywhere in three years. From the flooded future to the Eye(s) of Sarnath, it's quite impressive how many threads this pulls together, and probably a little baffling for newer readers. But being confused and freaked out is what I remember most fondly about the TMNT Adventures experience.

Reading as an adult, this is your standard time travel story of interacting with your future selves and getting comforting and worrying insights into how things might turn out. Reading as a child, I imagine it was mind blowing. I wouldn't know, I was on Dinosaurs! magazine now.

2. Sun and Steel (#20)

We take a well-earned break from the surprisingly boring armageddon with what basically amounts to a New York based Godzilla story. But with a Chinese dragon spirit rather than Japanese nuclear anxiety.

The guest art from Bill Wray helps to set this apart further, and it's more to my taste these days than the regular bendy cartoon style. Though as a child reader, I found the lack of eye pupils more of an annoying continuity inconsistency than a stylistic choice. The acupuncture freaked me out a bit too.

1. The Keeper (#26)

I think this is the first time we've had a guest writer. It should happen more often.

Doug Brammer is clearly a Star Trek fan. This plays out like a mash-up of various classic episodes, complete with some barely disguised Next Generation sets, so it's no surprise it's one of my favourites (then and now). Like many of those classic episodes, it also has a heavy-handed moral, reprising the on-brand ecological theme. It's been a while.

He's also got a good handle on the characters. Since it's all over in less than 30 pages, there isn't time for everyone to shine, but Splinter and Mich[a]elangelo come out of it very well.

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