Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #13 continues rising up to the challenge of returning the TMNT to their former glory. After years as a cartoon, an action figure collection and through three god-awful movies, the Turtles had become relegated to kids stuff. Now Kevin Eastman, one half of the team that created the franchise, and writer Tom Waltz (Ghostbusters, Zipper) are righting the former wrongs and making the TMNT kick ass again.
It’s a dark time for our half-shelled heroes. Though they managed to thwart Shredder and rescue Splinter, the war between the clans still looms on the horizon. While Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo remain unfazed by their recent adventure, Splinter knows what war will mean and is wondering if he can ready his students for such a thing.
As Splinter meditates, our heroes relax playing Twister until Casey Jones busts through the door beaten all to hell. Turns out his abusive dad has been handing out beat downs, a fact that raises Raphael’s ire and sends the turtle into the night to seek vengeance. Splinter gives chase and, while a tender moment unfolds between Casey and April, the villain Shredder decides he must find a worthy second in command. We also get a bit of Krang action for good measure.
A strong story from Eastman and Waltz is banged out into a solid script by Waltz alone. One of the best things they do is to push how serious a war with Shredder is going to be through Splinter’s reactions. The gravity of the situation is also clarified through the brutal treatment Shredder bestows to his granddaughter while training her. Shredder is evil here, and powerful. In a scant number of issues, Waltz has managed to strip away years of Shredder being a pratfall imbecile who got thwarted by pudding or banana peels on the ground. Now, the Turtles have a real nemesis.
What also works is that Waltz hasn’t forgotten to make the TMNT fun. The stuff with them playing Twister is a nice breather after the last few issues, and it shows the turtles as teenage boys without making them sling idiotic slogans like “Cowabunga dude” or “Totally radical dude.” Waltz adds a nice layer onto Casey Jones story with the abusive father. It makes him less superhuman and easier to relate to. The end of the book between Splinter, Casey and his father is pretty shocking. I’m fascinated to see where it goes next.
TMNT #13 does hit troubled water with the art, which sucks. Andy Kuhn is a fairly big deal in the world of comics but I’ve never been a fan of what he does. His work is too rigid for me. It looks too stylized. In TMNT #13, his work looks unfinished or at the very least rushed. Why do all the TMNT have really tiny heads? Why is Splinter so buck toothed? Why do all the humans have the same look on their face across the board? It’s especially offensive how badly Kuhn pencils Casey Jones. At one point, it looks like Casey has the mumps, in another, he has no lower jaw. Really sloppy work for an otherwise killer title.
(5 Story, 1 Art)