When I cracked open Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Saturday Morning Adventures by Erik Burnham, Tim Lattie, and Steve Lavigne, I knew I was going to love this book right from the first page. In the space of literally one panel, Burnham taps into each Turtle’s defining personality traits that were so prevalent in the 1987 cartoon: Donatello is analyzing a weather report, Mikey’s making a sweaty pun, Raphael is annoyed with said pun, and Leonardo is crestfallen at the idea that the bad weather could keep him from patrolling the city. It’s absurdly economical and not only shows Burnham’s familiarity with the characters and confidence in the material, but it also just made me smile ear to ear. Right from the first page, this is nostalgia done right.
There are a ton of Easter eggs hidden throughout this first issues for eagle-eyed fans, including a very fun “character select” screen on Donatello’s VR system that will be instantly recognizable to TMNT fans who’ve spent a good number of quarters in their day. There are also some serious deep cut baddies in this issue that made me wish I could go digging in my old toy chest right about now.
Admittedly, some of the story gets a bit silly and over the top, even by TMNT ’87 standards, and some of the group’s decisions during the issue feel like a bit of a stretch. But then again, that’s a lot of the fun of revisiting the 1987 cartoon series: The Turtles are constantly getting into wacky trouble and have to band together and rely on one another to win the day. Even though it strains its own internal logic in a few instances, this totally feels of a piece with the classic animated show. And c’mon, it’s a bit difficult to scrutinize things too much when you’ve got a sequence in which Groundchuck and Dirtbag engage in a deadly go-kart race.
And naturally, Donatello reminds us all that in this world, nobody ever gets hurt too badly — a perfect encapsulation of the tone of the cartoon. This idea brings me to another thing that I think this book does splendidly: It functions as a loving homage to the original cartoon series and subsequent Archie Comics run without ever feeling like it’s poking too much fun at it. There aren’t any meta jokes at the show’s expense, nor any references to how the world has changed since then. Instead, this truly feels of a piece with the animated series, which made me truly happy. It’s so easy to be cynical about the brightly-colored New York in which everything is reset to a comical status quo by the end of 30 minutes’ time, but Burnham and co. embrace that brightness and deliver two dozen pages of sheer joy.
There are also a couple of big pages in here that feel like the creative team saying, “If we never get to do TMNT again, here’s how we leave our mark.” There are so many classic villains that you’ll either recognize from the screen, the page, or your toy chest in the latter part of this issue. Lattie and Lavigne bring these characters to life in a whole new way, taking the design hallmarks of the ’87 series and applying more modern sensibilities to them. The acting of the characters is nicely done, especially when they’re mugging to the “camera” or really straining during a fight. There’s a depth to the color and shading here that makes this book feel unmistakably new, even as Lavigne embraces some of the bright and eclectic palettes typical of Saturday morning fare. The fights are bombastic and fun, taking us through multiple different types of encounters in just a handful of pages.
Basically, this first issue is not only a ton of fun, but it feels like a mission statement. Nothing is being held back here as the classic animated Turtles race back into action. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series was huge for me, and I think this team is already nailing everything that made it great. You’ll find me sitting on the floor with a bowl of cereal waiting for the next issue to drop.
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
- ❌ Remove all ads on the website
- 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
- 📗 Access to our monthly book club
- 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
- 💥 And more!