Patrick: I’ve always considered Back to the Future Part II to the be only movie in the series that’s really about time travel. The first movie is kind of a send up of the ’50s (through the eyes of ’80s, all of which is hilarious in the ’10s), and the third one a fish-out-of-water cowboy story. It’s only really in the second film that the consequences of time travel become the subject of the story, and not just the result of the story. This isn’t a knock against the other flicks at all — you should never underestimate how much fun it is to put characters in a time which they don’t belong. Free from any worries about paradoxes and time-loops, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Time sets out to simply have fun plugging the iconic characters into a history that has no place for them. And holy shit, is it fun.
How do our intrepid heroes find themselves tumbling through time? Great question! Seems there’s been something of a timing-SNAFU. No, not in the story — in the real world. The gang was going to meet up with an interdimensional nomad named Renet in the TMNT Annual 2014, but the issue has since been delayed. The finer points of what’s happening to the Turtles themselves seem to be lost on them, so it’s actually all the more engaging that we’re dropping into this with absolutely zero context. Plus, my questions about “what are the turtles doing in dinosaur times?” are quickly replaced with non-questions like “OMG! DINOSAURS!”
It’s not just the dinosaurs inspiring that boundless enthusiasm from me, but the unbridled cuteness of Ross Campbell’s art. Previously, Campbell did the art for the phenomenal Northampton story arc, which found the Turtles contemplative and uneasily recovering from their losses during City Fall. Campbell’s character designs took on somewhat chibi features, but the solemnity of the story grounded much of his work. The result was thoughtful and atmospheric, but ultimately hopeful. In this issue, Campbell appears to be off the leash, as Paul Allor’s script breathlessly moves from fun chase sequence to fun rescue sequence to fun fight sequence. All four Turtles, the dinosaurs, and even some of the Utroms are downright adorable, and it matched the tone of the piece perfectly. I mean, just look at how Campbell draws the darkest part of the issue — when Raph is trapped in a cage with no realistic hopes of escape.
Allor also allows this story to be unapologetically silly. He never goes so far as to unrealistically motivate any of the characters or have them strain the fourth wall in any way, but there’s definitely a sense of carefree fun about this issue that’s not present in the series proper. There’s a running gag about attempting to take down a T-rex by throwing an apple at it that had me laughing out loud on three separate occasions throughout the issue. First, when Mikey confidently says he can take care of it.
The acting on all four of these characters is hilarious, and the persistent wide shot lets us really take in the predictable disappointment. Just a few pages later, Mikey insists again that he’s “got this” and is immediately shouted down by his brothers. Much later in the issue, one of the utrom warriors is running for his life from that same T-rex and tries the same defensive move. Again, it’s kinda silly — he’s a soldier, why wouldn’t he try to shoot the thing? — but the timing is absolutely perfect: instead of seeing the whole throw from start to finish, like we did with Mikey, there’s just one panel of the utrom coolly bragging (what else?) “I’ve got this.”
Taylor, I had a hell of a time with this issue. I know it’s lighter and fluffier than we’re used to from TMNT, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t charm the hell out of me anyway. I was a little bit heartbroken to see Raphael and his brothers spirited away from lil’ Pepperoni by the issue’s end, but I guess them’s the breaks when you’re slipping through time. Did you have as much fun here as I did? Or did you maybe want more of an explanation from Renet?
Taylor: Unapologetically I’m a fan of anything involving dinosaurs. The explanations for them being present in a story can be as pseudo-scientific as Jurassic Park or as silly as Dino-Riders. It really doesn’t matter. So am I bothered by the fact that there’s basically no explanation for the turtles being thrown into a dino-landscape? Not at all! Like you said Patrick, this issue is so damn fun and because of that a reasonable explanation isn’t even needed. I think Allor is cognizant of this fact and even pokes fun at it.
After the turtles arrive in prehistoric times (most likely on Earth, though we don’t really know for sure) and survive their first run in with dinosaurs they begin to question how they got here. Turns out that one second they were training in their dojo and the next they were in the middle of dino-stampede. As they’re discussing this Renet appears for a second and attempts to explain what’s going on.
Hilariously, albeit a little predictably, her translator device fails just as she’s about to tell the turtles what’s going on. It’s a funny gag and it cuts to the heart of the issue surrounding the turtles’ circumstances. They don’t know what’s going and neither do we. While we can put together that time travel is involved we don’t know how or why that came to passed. But it doesn’t matter. Thinking about such things isn’t important to this issue and to spend too much time worrying about it takes away from the fun that this issue is. By having Renet show up and attempt to explain the issue, Allor both acknowledges and dismisses the issue in one swift stroke. Overall, what a great way to handle a scheduling snafu!
Patrick, you highlighted a lot of the things I like about this issue already, so there’s no need to rehash those things here. I do, however, want to comment on Campbell’s art. As usual, it’s amazing and just fucking adorable. I would agree that he’s “off the leash” in terms of what he’s allowed to do in this issue. His chibification of the turtles and their world is more pronounced than ever in this issue. While I love that, what I really appreciate is Campbell’s design of the dinosaurs in the issue. He has a way of making the dinosaurs both cute and fearsome, but also scientifically accurate and recognizable. Perhaps the best example of this can be found on last pages of the issue which show us some of Campbell’s concept art for the issue.
So first off, Pepperoni is fucking cute. But also she has feathers, which is something most paleontologists believe dinosaurs had. She’s also recognizable as a dinosaur and even though her species is kind of undefined there’s no doubt what kind of animal she’s supposed to be. And while Pepperoni never appears fearsome (though that mask is pretty tough) other dinos, such as the T-Rex, certainly are. Campbell is doing a lot of neat stuff with his portrayal of the dinosaurs and the attention to detail he includes in his designs reward the attentive reader.
As a footnote to the above, why aren’t there more concept drawings included at the end of issues? I love seeing the early sketches and ideas that artists create while making an issue. It gives the reader a cool insight into the creative process and lets us peer into the brain of some of our favorite creative types. Is there anyone who reads comics who wouldn’t want to see that?
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?