While I can’t speak to the financial success of the ongoing Teeange Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series from IDW Publishing, all I can tell you is that it has been a hit with the fans. I don’t need sales figures for that statement to ring true with you either (although, breaking Diamond’s Top 100 every now and then would be a plus), all you need to know about IDW’s Turtle success is the fact that there are, as of right now, over one hundred and ninety four issues of the this version of the Turtles out there right now. Ninety four of those issues is just the mainline, ongoing book. There are, so far, over one hundred issues* of various side stories by the same creative teams used as a way to flesh out the veritable universe our Heroes in a Half-Shell occupy.
*some aren’t released yet, and some aren’t really continuity at this point…sorry.
But with almost two hundred books in the series available right now, where the hell does a new reader begin with this series? Issue #1? #51?
Don’t worry readers, your friendly neighborhood shell-head is here set you straight.
Step 1: Buy the collected editions. Ask yourself: Honestly, where am I going to put almost two hundred issues of stuff? Sure, you could buy a long box to store your comics, but that is somehow always used in an argument as some kind of Uno-style, reverse card to prove, not only your intelligence, but your worth as a human being. Also, IDW has put out several hardcover collections (with more to come), collecting both the ongoing series, and the many side quests, in chronological order. This is nice, but as with all hardcovers over ten issues, they’re a huge investment. So tread carefully.
Step 2: Don’t get overwhelmed. Any series that has been in print for the better part of a decade and is nearing two hundred issues seems like an uphill battle for knowledge of what exactly is going on. Fortunately, this series seems to love jumping-on points. Every five or ten issues, someone in the stories casts will reference something that happened in the previous few storylines. That’s the hilarious, somewhat annoying, thing about this series, it loves referencing itself. And it does so is often awkward ways. You ever been in a gunfight with a six-foot tall cat-man, and you’re lamenting that all you have is a wooden bo, and you wonder how you got to this point in life…and then your brother starts telling you about the ups and downs of the last year of your life? That ever happen to you, because it happens in this series a lot.
Step 3: Embrace the nostalgia. If you’re reading this, let’s assume that you’ve been alive for the past twenty five to thirty five years. That means you have, at least a passing knowledge of the Turtles being a thing that has been happening for a while now. Maybe you’re just interested in the book, or maybe you’ve been invested in the franchise for a while now, you’re going to see something that looks familiar to you and you may be surprised by how big of a deal none of it seems to be. When you read a Marvel book, they spend five to ten issues of Spider-Man explaining why he’s suddenly wearing the same suit you see on the big screen, but with the IDW TMNT comic, you see characters like Bebop and Rocksteady, or a deep cut like a Roadkill Rodney robot and it’s refreshing to see a book that doesn’t spend six pages reveling in it’s own brand of nepotism. While some character, or even whole storylines (Turtles in Time) might hit that nostalgic chord, it’s never been a selling point so much as it’s been a wink to the reader that you and IDW are in on the same story.
Step 4: Recognize the creative teams. This series, as a whole, has been the brainchild of series writer Tom Waltz, but there have been a few other writers including, but not limited to, Mateus Santolouco, Sophie Campbell, Kevin Eastman(!), James Tynion IV and a few others. While there have been more than a couple of writers working on the series over the last eight years, as we near issue one hundred, it should be noted that not one writer stepped on the toes of another. Every side series found within and around the ongoing series served to strengthen the narrative threads holding together the main book. While the main book, referenced and often dealt with the fallout of various side quests the Turtles have been on, legitimizing the existence of books like April and Casey, The Mighty Mutanimals and the various Macro and Micro series.
Step 5: Choose your own adventure. I know I’ve said a thousand times that this is a massive, ongoing series stretching almost two hundred issues and that it can be a daunting task to navigate, but honestly, you can start wherever you want with these books. The core concept of this series, is the same one that’s been a part of the Turtles for the past thirty five years. It’s about a family that comes together to fight bad guys, and it’s mainly for kids. Don’t listen to that one friend you have that swears they started reading Turtles comic back in 1984 when they were three, the IDW Turtles book is the best series the Turtles have ever been a part of, and the real beauty of it is it’s accessibility. You can start with issue one, fifty or even pick up next weeks issue #95 and you will more than likely find yourself quickly invested in each of the characters found within.
Essential Reading: I understand that lists are subjective, arbitrary and unnecessary, but they sure are fun. With that being said, here’s my list of collected editions you should be on the lookout for.
Vol 1: Change is Constant
Vol 3: Shadows of the Past
The Secret History of the Foot Clan
Vol 6 & 7: City Fall, part one and two
Vol 12 and 13: Vengeance, part one and two
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe vol 3: Karai’s Path
Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, vol one
Vol 18: Trial of Krang
Four Part Macro-Series: Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael
Bonus: Shredder in Hell, this series is currently ongoing and is probably the most fun I’ve ever had reading about the Shredder.