Today, Ryan D and Taylor are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Bebop and Rocksteady Destroy Everything 1, originally released June 1st, 2016.
Ryan D: The premise is simple: what happens when two borderline sociopathic idiots get their hands upon a time travel device? Think Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure but with two mutated, monstrous gang members. But there’s actually quite a bit going on under the hood of this comic, exploring two beloved characters and making the reader ask some questions while still being a fun punch-up.
The Turtles found something peculiar in their local museum: there seems to be a mummy with a “future time master technology” gem, and — even more curiously — two fossilized remains of the ninjas’ adversaries, Bebop and Rocksteady. After triggering the teleportation of their time-hopping friend Renet, the Turtles are dragged to Brazil, where Bebop and Rocksteady recently finished their violent excommunication from a gun-runner’s crew. During the ensuing scrap, a time-controlling staff is activated and the Bebop and Rocksteady disappear…into the PAST.
For what could be a seemingly silly plot and idea, this title asks a great deal from the audience. As mentioned in the amazing interview which you should read immediately with the writer and artist Ben Bates, Bebop and Rocksteady are treated as the heroes of this saga both visually and thematically. There is, however, a large difference between being the main character vs. being the hero. We are also encouraged to look past their stupidity, blatant disregard of human or mutant life, and very flexible — or nonexistent — moral compasses to empathize with the two, particularly through exploring their relationship as best friends. I find it incredibly compelling to see these characters through this light, but there are moments in the comic which are very strategically used to highlight their disturbed, violent sides. Both of these moments are drawn spectacularly in two very differently stylized fashion by the artists and stand out as signature panels. I, admittedly, find it a big ask of the writers to keep us on such shifting footing with our titular characters, but I want to read more, despite the internal wring which this juxtaposition causes for me.
It is important to keep visual continuity in an issue with multiple artists, and this title does so with aplomb. I enjoy the Turtles’ museum explorations being drawn in a style similar to what many of us may expect from the main TMNT series, but I enjoyed writer Ben Bates’ segment best. Bebop and Rocksteady are not pretty; they are monsters. Bates brings a chunky, heavy feel to the characters which fits for me.
The characters of Rocksteady and Bebop have existed for nearly thirty years now, and I found it interesting on this page to see these two come to terms with their drastic physical changes, reminding the audience that, even if we have their action figures in a bureau under our beds from a long time ago, these two people are irrevocably changed into the stuff of nightmares. Also, kudos goes to Bates for including some pretty brutal looking wounds, blood, and murder to a title backed by Nickelodeon. These injuries are important in the transition to hero status mentioned before: I am unsure as to whether this series would work if the two kept the “unstoppable, impervious tank” status they often have while playing the bruisers in the most depictions.
Taylor! With the recent release of the new TMNT film and the silver screen debut of Bebop and Rocksteady, how are you feeling about these two nostalgia-drenched characters getting more narrative time? What possibilities presented by this series make you excited to read on, if any?
Taylor: Ryan, I’m super happy to see Bebop and Rocksteady get a narrative devoted solely to them. The battle for your story to be heard is a plight that is well known to most henchman, and these two are no exception. Even though they have appeared in several incarnations across the Turtleverse, they have rarely moved beyond the stereotypical outlaws who are high on brawn, but low on brains. With these two finally getting a series all to their own, I’m really jazzed by the prospect of actually seeing who these two muscleheads are behind the rhino and warthog mutation.
That being said, I think Bates has already established in this issue that we will indeed find out more about the personality of each mutant in this series. It would be a stretch to say that I ever feel empathy for either of Bebop or Rocksteady in this issue, but at least I’m beginning to understand a little more just why they act the way they do. Take, for instance, their recollection of their run-in with Savanti Romero. When he tried to offer the two a spot in his gang, they beat him up for basically no reason and stole his magic, time-traveling wand. When recounting this, Bebop has the following thought:
He thinks that returning the wand to Savanti will fix everything and that he and Rocksteady will be able to join his gang. This is the type of simplistic thinking a three year old would use to try to get what he wants. Any reasonable adult wouldn’t even consider such a course of action for second. Not only does Bebop have this idea, but Rocksteady readily agrees that it’s a good one. On some level, I can’t help but feel sorry for these two idiots. The level of cognitive ability displayed here goes beyond just being funny. I actually pity them. It’s no wonder Shredder was able to manipulate them into doing his dirty work; they essentially have no ability to function on their own. They basically need someone to tell them what to do or else they really have no idea how to function.
While I feel sorry for Bebop and Rocksteady, that pity only goes so far. It would be one thing if they were dumb and didn’t hurt others, but that’s not the case. As the title of this mini-series, Bebop and Rocksteady have a penchant for death and destruction wherever they go. When they get into a fight with their boss – “Reggaeton” – near the beginning of the issue they somewhat-accidentally kill two of his henchmen by crushing them with a shipping container.
The fact that they think the two might still be alive despite a pool of blood once again demonstrates their mental shortcomings. The difference here is that these shortcomings have resulted in the deaths of two people. It would be one thing if these two were dumb and only a danger unto themselves, but they’re not. They endanger basically everyone they’re around, even those who are technically on their side. Making the situation even more troubling is the way Bebop and Rocksteady afford no weight to the violence or murder they render. To them, death and destruction are just another part of everyday existence. They don’t realize that they are the cause of this mayhem, and until that happens, it’s unlikely they will ever change their ways. In this way, these two are at once pitiable and reprehensible. Whether the ensuing issues tip the scale one way or the other is anyone’s guess, but it’s wonderful to see Bates giving some dimension to these characters, even if what we see is troubling.
While the discussion of these two rightfully takes center stage, I would be remiss to not mention the turtles in my write up. After all, even though this issue is called Bebop and Rocksteady Destroy Everything, a good portion of the issue focuses on the heroes in a half-shell. I love what Bates and Weaver have done with turtles in this issue. Instead of trying to capture the themes and drama that surround the turtles in the main series, they have chosen to give their story a lighthearted tone that stands in stark contrast with the violence of Bebop and Rocksteady’s. This is best shown at the beginning of the issue when Donatello is leading his brothers into the museum. Like true teenagers, the turtles are being goofy and basically just having a good time.
Things aren’t so serious for the turtles and for once, instead of worrying about reincarnation, family, or the destiny of the Foot Clan, they have some time to just relax and goof around. Their dumb jokes are endearing and are reminiscent of nights out with my own good friends. This proves an unlikely source for drawing me close to the turtles. Late in the issue, when the turtles eventually find Bebop and Rocksteady, the jovial nature of their appearnce in this series continues. Upon witnessing Bebop and Rocksteady vanish into a different time period, they are all befuddled and Michelangelo let’s out a “daaaannnng.” It’s funny and goofy, and I get the sense that turtles aren’t taking any of this seriously. This is far different from the turtles we normally see, but it’s welcome. For once we get to see them having a good time and that’s just fun.
So to answer your questions: I’m super excited to continue reading this series. Bebop and Rocksteady are being developed in a complex, if unsettling, way and the turtles are having a blast. What more could I ask for?
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?
Oh my god, Ryan – “like Bill & Ted, but with Bebop and Rocksteady” is just about a perfect pitch for this series.
Whoa, hey this is an awesome review! I’m glad you guys are on board with exploring this direction on the characters. One major correction though, Dustin Weaver is the lead writer. I’m second banana!
I guess you just spoke with such authority that Ryan got confused. I corrected it in the article (but not in Ryan’s heart – someday I’ll learn how to edit that thing, but it is not today).
Ben, my apologies to Dustin, I just get so excited about these two characters that my journalistic integrity goes right out the window!
Patrick, I look forward to whichever punishment you have reserved for me, dearest Editor.
Excuse me, Ben, does Rocksteady wear a custodian helmet, a black work shirt, and green cargo pants?