Wednesday, May 7, 2014

CBR Turtle Soup #4


Before moving onto more IDW TMNT comics, I feel I should have another look back at some Classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the past...

Comic title: Turtle Soup #4
Art by various
Written by various

Published by Mirage Publishing
From 1992
Lineup TMNT series
Format: Single issue from the Turtle Soup mini-series, #4.

Launched first as a one-shot anthology in 1987 by Mirage Studios to much success, it helped them follow this by launching Turtle Soup as a proper spin-off 4-issue mini-series collection that ran from 1991-92 - at the height of the Turtles' popularity at the time.

"Turtle Soup" was an occasion to have several guest authors or friends of Eastman and Laird try to have fun with their own take on the Ninja Turtles or explore along sidestories.

The franchise wasn't at its first one-shots, the Turtles got their first mini-series as early as their first year with the the likes of the "TMNT: Micro-Series" exploring either one of the Turtles or also used to introduce incoming plots such as the titular Fugitoid one-shot.

The Turtle Soup series was a fun anthology series short showcasing stories mostly running up to 6-page long max. Most of those in comedy tone but still offering plenty o' action for the Heroes in a Half Shell fans. Of course that means they're almost all non-canon to the main Mirage comics at the time, some even tried blending-in elements from the 1980s cartoon/Archie Comics tie-in series. 

For this occasion, today, I would like to review here the Turtle Soup #4 issue. Why #4 you might ask? Because it contains one of my all-time favorite TMNT stories....

Our issue opens with "A Green-Grey Sponge-Suit Sushi Turtles Solo Adventure: Pierrier in The Old Switcheroo!" by Mark Martin. 6 pages. It's actually another one of Mark Martin parodies, this isn't his first rodeo with the Turtles (not the first appearance of his "Sponge-Suit Sushi Turtles" either). Very cartoony almost-painted art, over-the-top random humor. Pierrier the living Turtles-parody gets on the scene to save a framed reporter gal. For a modern comparison, think Kyle Baker-style. Once again, ventriloquism saves the day!

Next up is the fantastic "Fifteen Years Later..." drawn and written by A. C. Farley, with colors by Richmond Lewis. Our tale follows a young sewers worker going on a check-up of the NYC electric grid. Our young man remembers that it was probably over this place lost his 4 pet baby turtles 15 years ago! That's right, turns out this young man was the owner of the Turtles back during the origins of the TMNT! Apparently he's had nightmares for years because he lost these little terrapin pets to the sewers as a kid. He's even been haunted by nightmares about his little turtles turned into giant monsters all these years later (probably because of sights he caught in the shadows, working in the sewers..) Then one day, this night, he finally gets a glimpse of the Ninja Turtles! Is that... his little baby turtles all grown up!? They'te alive! He found pieces of the glass bowl. Then suddenly, Raph was ready to attack him! Raphael threw a shuriken at the flashlight, Raph seems to have almost recognitzed him... That's them, there's no doubt! But Donatello reminds him there's no time for that. "Save it for the Foot"! That's right, this seems to be all happening that first night they took on The Shredder way back in the original TMNT issue #1. Our young man is identified as Chet. The Turtles head out for their final showdown with the Foot Clan. This story gave the Turtles their multi-colored bandanas from the cartoon series either as a goof, an "update" to their original look or merely a stylistic choice to recognite them, but that doesn't detract much from this great little gem of a story. It's a great short tale, a perfect use of this short story format. Dark, gritty, well done. Our tale comes full circle, which was sort of the theme of the original issue #1 what with Splinter sending the Turtles to avenge Hamato Yoshi from the Shredder. It does finally tie this loose end regarding the kid Chet. It's only sad it was only 3-page long...

Next we have "Turtles Attack!!! - Part 4/4", written and illustrated by Michael Dooney. As the title implies, this was actually the 4th part of a short story carried through all 4 Turtle Soup issues. The Ninja Turtles are trapped in time, fighting some bad samurai dudes. This whole resolution, even taken apart out of context, feels like if would have been much better had it gotten a proper full issue in the actual TMNT series rather than spread into a 4-part Turtle Soup short story. It all just feels so random and rushed, trading page numbers and introduction spread pages over a better developed story and better fight scenes. Also, it all ends up way too easy calling for Donnie to save the day once he figured all the scientific mumbo jumbo in time to bring our heroes back home. Still, despite that it featured lovely art all around.

Simply titled "Teenage Mutant Ninja TURTLE", next we have a short random meta story by Mark Thibodeaux and Guy Romano improvised around a pin-up illustration done by The King himself, Jack Kirby! Kirby was a big friend of Thibodeaux. It's basically Michaelangelo having a pretty weird dream/nightmare after reading some comics... Fighting vikings!! After that, Mickey promise himself to stop comics for a while and will instead watch some TV. What kind of nightmares could movies even give you? *starts falling asleep watching Nightmare on Elm Streets*. It's short, funny and well drawn. The colors are done in typical Kirby fashion, saturated and way over the top. It's great to have a simple story like this to have some fun. Kirby's always been a big influence on Eastman and Laird. Mark Thibodeaux' turtles look kind of "off" due to their huge nostrils, but otherwise it's all great!

"Failed Instant " was written and drawn by Michael Zulli. In one sentence, it's simply Leonardo fighting a Foot ninja on a roof. Where it surprises is how dark, gritty and realistic it looks compared to the rest of these short stories. Giving it a very different eerie feel from the rest. A ninja sneaks up on Leo, a battle ensues... but the Ninja vanishes just in time to avoid a fatal blow... Very martial, simple effective story. It's different from the usual, more realistic in tone as we watch this ninja waits patiently to strike our hero. It has great dark moody colors. One of the most memorable tales for sure.

Finally to close this comic we have an experimental short story, probably an attempt to play on the style of those 80s comics from DC/Vertigo Comics was putting at the time (think Animal Man, Sandman,..). "Thoughts on Paper" was written, illustrated and colored by the duo of Michael Gaydos and Dan Berger. It starts like some strange collages depicting the Turtles, their weapons, the becomes very abstract as we get some thoughts here and there. For years the Turtles have hidden themselves from humanity... Splinter always was more than a mere father figure but their master and trained them all those years past... Suddenly, Don is taken back from his drawing board! That's right, he was the one drawing this very 1980s indie-style comic. The others are back from McDonald's, time to grab something for lunch! Don leaves his sketchbook behind and laughs it off. What a very weird comic that was anyhow! Splinter takes a look and seems to enjoy Donnie's work. This was the last Turtle Soup tale and as such at to be different. Special. What we get here is an experimental tale of the TMNT, with great visuals. And what a perfect place but an anthology collection to play with the art style? If most of these Turtle Soup shorts have been silly comedy bits and action-packed tales, this one tries to be something else altogether.

And that was it for Turtle Soup #4!

Overall, this full-color Turtle Soup series was a great anthology collection.

There's been some true gems amongst this 4th and final issue by both Mirage veterans and guest authors. It's a great mix of artistic influences and style.

Great work all around, well recommended for any TMNT fan out there!

Even if not all the stories are as good as “Fifteen Years Later”, that one was certainly worth this entire comic in my eyes!

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Ampersands!

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