As a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan of 20 plus years, I was extremely excited about the release of TMNT Classics Volume 1. However, after reading it, I can leave this one out of my collection without feeling like I am missing too much. Classics collects 10 TMNT shorts originally printed in the collection entitled, Shell Shocked. While only a few of the stories are overtly bad, most are moderate with just two or three stand out issues.
This is a collection of Turtle short stories, where some are done by friends of the original creators, but seven of the stories which I consider “the good stuff” are by Kevin Eastman himself. For those of you keeping score that is over half of the material. These seven stories are well-written, action-packed classic Turtle adventures. Each of them has amazing art and layouts by Eastman clearly inspired by Silver Age greats like Jack Kirby. Even with no dialogue, Road Trip might be one of the most sincerely fun Turtle stories ever told. If this collection was a true TMNT Classic collection (like, say, the Deluxe Editions) it would be significantly more enjoyable. Unfortunately, Eastman’s friends had a hand in it too.
The first story in the collection, The People’s Choice, was written and penciled by Michael Dooney. I am not a fan of Dooney’s art or his very typical story telling. How many of us who grew up in the ’90s have read the classic tale of “Intergalactic would-be princess crashes on Earth whilst trying to outrun evil royalty that is either trying to maintain or steal power in another galaxy.” This story beat was a popular ’90s staple from a range of comics like Fantastic Four to X-men or Aquaman to Wonder Woman. Aside from the big two, Image and Wildstorm were notorious for “Sexy Runaway Space Princess” stories. Dooney’s other stories aren’t much better. His Junkman is just a short spoof of Chris Claremont’s Warlock from New Mutants and the X-men animated series episode that featured him and his star-crossed lover. Finally, his Meanwhile 1000000 BC, when taken out of context, feels like a page right out of the daily strip Alley Oop.
Other Eastman pals include the team of Michael Zulli and Stephen Murphy whose stories are at the very least – bearable. They are not ground breaking, but they are enjoyable reads. O-DEED is a trippy dream sequence in the vein of Alan Moore’s classic Swamp Thing story, Pog.
Perhaps the greatest story in the collection is Eastman’s Don’t Judge a Book, in which the Turtles are attacked while getting ready for a costume party. It brings laughs and excitement with impeccable timing that can ALMOST redeem an otherwise mediocre collection.