A slew of creators over the decades showcase the versatility of the orange bandanna-wearing nunchuck twirling member of the ninja turtle clan with a variety of fun and engaging stories. Each art team brings their own distinct and stand-out style to the table with a spread of colorful and intriguing choices on each and every page.
Every member of the Turtle/Splinter/Hamato Clan has their specific niche that they seem to fill when it comes to personality traits or hobbies. Michelangelo is often just summed up as the party dude, the comic relief, or the one with the nunchucks/nunchakus. That’s only a portion of who the orange-clad Ninja Turtle truly is. Mikey’s biggest role is as the heart of the family.
That’s perfectly on display within the three stories chosen for IDW Publishing’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Best of Michelangelo. These stories are pulled from the original Mirage era of TMNT as well as two stories from the modern IDW incarnation of the characters.
This status as the heart is very well showcased in the first story from the Michelangelo Micro-Series titled “The Christmas Aliens.” Co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird are joined by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios on colors and Steve Lavigne on letters for this sweet Christmas tale. There is a beautiful, detailed simplicity and energy that comes from this original era’s artwork. This feeling is spread through the bright snow and Christmas light-filled scenes of the streets of New York to the joyful quiet moments with Mikey and the much more action-packed moments later in the story. There is a big full-page spread of Mikey taking on some cops in a truck that is just so great. It’s enhanced by the loud and big shouting lettering that seals the deal.
There is a verbosity to the story with the number of balloons and words, but it’s never too much because it’s like Mike, who is the talkative one of the Turtles. There is heart just splashed all over the pages as Laird and Eastman have him not only fight hard and long to protect toys bound for a children’s home, but save Christmas by becoming a Santa to these kids with a special delivery. Also, any story that has Mike and his great care for the cat he named Klunk is a winner just for that cuteness.
On the other hand, for IDW’s own TMNT: Michelangelo Micro-Series issue, Brian Lynch, Andy Kuhn, Bill Crabtree, and Shawn Lee take a similar but different tact with the character. Instead of Christmas, this tale is set at New Year’s and has Mikey trying to fit into the human world as the party dude and a costume party provides the best way to do just that. Roped into a heist through mistaken identity, he’s able to play the role and channel his family while playing the hero.
Through this, another facet of the heart idea is shown. Mikey is the one that truly embraces more often than the others this idea of being heroic and making a big difference in the world. He wants to explore and be part of that world. It’s a pure curiosity and a desire to do good.
The art side is quite fun as it’s very similar in some ways to the Eastman and Laird era, while also playing a lot with minimalistic backgrounds and splashes of dominating color that totally changes the feel of a panel. Lee has been handling the lettering on Turtles books for quite some time now, continuing that work in current issues, and picks up whatever energy the story is putting down seamlessly.
Wrapping up the issue is TMNT: Michelangelo Macro-Series which is a perfect capper as it combines both heroic/heart-filled takes on Mikey into one that fully hits the idea home about what type of hero he is. The story by Ian Flynn, Michael Dialynas, and Lee takes place during a time where Splinter has control of the Foot Clan and his sons are somewhat clashing with the changes this has brought to their father. When Splinter designates a group of orphans, brought to him by the Turtles, to be trained as the next generation of Foot Soldiers, each of the brothers seems to begrudgingly accept this reality except for Michelangelo.
At this moment the jokester personality on display that starts the issue fades away, as he rebels against his father and flees with the children. Mikey is pure and the heart of the family, but it’s not always in a happy-go-lucky sort of way. This time it’s shown by the fact that he will risk everything and fight to ensure that these kids have a genuine chance at life rather than used as weapons in a forever-lasting war as he and his brothers have been.
Dialynas’ art is very detailed and much closer to the style that is found within most of the modern takes on the Turtles. The coloring that he chooses is brighter, despite some of the ‘darkness’ to the story, but he shifts that to a more subdued almost yellowish palette for flashback sequences peppered in. Lee just nails it as always when it comes to the lettering, as mentioned above for the last story.
Overall, all three stories give a really good look at Michelangelo and every facet of his personality while hitting home how much care and feeling he has as the heart of the team. All of the Turtles are the glue that holds them together as a unit, but it is Mikey that in a way makes sure they stay on the brighter path no matter what happens to them.
TMNT: The Best of Michelangelo is now on sale from IDW Publishing in print and digital.