The finally finished and re-printed series is very heavily reminiscent of the beloved original Turtle stories with a heavy dose of nineties style to it, rarely ever slowing down from the break-neck pace that runs through the entire series. Newly added color makes the pages pop even more than they did in their original black and white, upping the extreme nature of this book. Definitely not a series for the faint of heart or those with a specific more modern idea of who and what the Turtles characters are.
Every decade has a certain flavor that spreads across all forms of entertainment within that era’s bubble. It’s quite easy for most that are at least passing familiar with the current and previous decades to easily detect where some entertainment came from year-wise. That’s very much the case when one cracks open the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends Vol. 2 trade from IDW Publishing, a re-printing of a 1990s era volume of Turtle adventures.
Just how ’90s is this series? Pages full of scantily clad women ninjas, tons of cyborgs and cybernetic like beings, edgy nature mixed with lots of visual brutality, the Turtles dropping off-hand offensive remarks every other page or so oh and a requisite Wolverine parody cameo to boot. That was just from the first volume of this series.
Every issue, written by Gary Carlson and penciled by Frank Fosco with inks by Fosco and Mark Heike, is pretty briskly paced with the action moving at lightning speed. Even the quiet moments, which show a lot of character moments between the brothers and their allies and foes, move rather quickly. There are times where days and weeks are just skipped ahead between issues, with cliffhangers that are only explained once the next issue gets going.
Overall, it feels like a giant ‘What if’ style issue turned into a full series, and that’s not a bad thing. It is firmly set upon foundations of the original run of Turtle comics but takes sharp departures since co-creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman were not involved with the series at all. Learning that it was originally published through Image under the guidance of Erik Larsen is one of those lightbulb “Oh it all makes sense now” moments.
Not only does the series set itself upon the foundations of the original Eastman and Laird books continuity-wise, but Fosco’s art is also very reminiscent of the artwork seen in those early issues. There is a nice ‘simplicity,’ for lack of better terms, to it in the sense that it’s just straight to the point and is detailed when it needs to be but also just goes for effect in other points. The physical changes that happen to most of the Turtles make it easier to tell them apart as the more action pace makes it harder to tell when they don’t have their signature weapons or are directly called out by name.
This series is definitely not for the lighthearted or anyone with only a passing knowledge of the Turtles and their world, as it pulls out everything and anything from the Turtle realms and just throws it out there. Sometimes there are explanations, other times it’s just straight to the point stuff with no intention of stepping on the brakes.
Adam Guzowski does a tremendous job coloring these issues which were originally run in black and white, bring some different light to the overall moments. Sometimes black and white is far more effective for brutal books, like how things were done with The Walking Dead, but in this case, there is something that elevates it all once Guzowski added colors. It’s dark and bright at the same time and despite being done modernly none of the colors takes away the hardcore ’90s aesthetic of this series.
There is a whole ton of lettering for Pat Brosseau and Shawn Lee, the second of which is the regular letterer for most of IDW’s current TMNT content, to work their magic on. From the loads of dialogue that fill the pages to tons of gritty and brutal sound effects that can be found everywhere in this hardcore series.
Honestly, if you are a fan of Turtles and want a glimpse into that which used to be for a brief moment in the mid-90s, before it was marked as non-canon when Laird launched a series in the 2000s, it’s work checking out. There is a whole lot of very problematic stuff stuffed in around the interesting so beware. If a lot of that “edgy” premium cable level stuff was taken out, the very intriguing action-packed high-stakes storylines would be a lot easier to digest overall.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends Vol. 2 is now on sale in print and digitally from IDW Publishing.