[Review] IDW’s Best of TMNT Collection Vol. 3 TPB

PopCultHQ received an advance review copy of the trade paperback TMNT: Best of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Collection from IDW Publishing.

Available Tuesday, April 25th (in bookstores) and Wednesday, April 26th (in local comic shops), the new collection includes issues by TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, plus contributions from Dan Duncan, Paul Allor, Mateus Santolouco, Jim Lawson, Ryan Brown, Dean Clarrain, Tom Waltz, and Bobby Curnow.

Here’s PopCultHQ’s spoiler-free review of…

Best of TMNT Collection – Volume 3 TPB

What makes great heroes? Great villains of course! And the TMNT have some of the greatest in pop culture! This third collection digs into the dark underbelly of the Turtles’ world, focusing on Leatherhead, Baxter Stockman, Rat King, and of course, the sinister Shredder!

Gathering stories from throughout their history, see the characters develop from their early roots in the original comics to their monstrous present day incarnations. Delve into issues from the Mirage series, TMNT Adventures, and Tales of the TMNT to IDW’s current ongoing universe.

Uncover crucial tales of tragic occasional TMNT ally Leatherhead, conniving scientist Baxter Stockman, the otherworldly Rat King, and the Turtles’ archnemesis, Shredder.

PopCultHQ’s Comic Book Review:
Best of TMNT Collection Vol. 3 TPB

For as long as this reviewer can remember, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have always been a part of my life. Growing up as a 90’s kid, I was part of the epoch that had the cartoons, the movies, comics, toys, and more as part of our development. Which is why when this TPB was announced, it was instantly clear that reviewing it would be a great way to culturally expose myself to other takes on the main villains that have been become foundational in the TMNT mythos. To that end, this review will focus on a specific comic for each villain, focusing in on the script, artwork, and other components. 

It might seem self-serving, but the best origin/appearance for the Shredder will always be from the first issue from the iconic Eastman and Laird OG run of the comics (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1). The work that these two did back then, as both scripters and artists, paved the way for where we are now, with the Ninja Turtles being a global franchise, on par with the capes and tights crew from Marvel and DC. Eastman and Laird’s writing and layouts are still as smooth and fantastic as the day when issue #1 dropped years ago. Tom Smith from Scorpion Studios does a smashing job as colorist, adding flair with a rich palette that brings a little zest and zing to Eastman and Laird’s amazing artwork. Sometimes, starting at the beginning is the best way to go, and the creative team from the past will always be number one where it counts.

While Rat King has had many stories told about him over the years, and made his fair share of appearances in the three main animated series, the third issue in his little section (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #36 from IDW) was by far the most engaging, and honestly scary, origin that I have put eyes on ever. Eastman, Bobby Curnow, and Tom Waltz work in perfect tandem together to tie Rat King into what was the current iteration of the Turtles universe, while also throwing in the added layer of mythos from a very popular and well-known fairy tale (though I won’t say which one). Mateus Santolouco, Mark Torres, and Cory Smith knock it out of the park with the artwork. Leonardo and Splinter look so real, in the sense that they could jump right off the page and wouldn’t seem out of place in our world. And the artwork on Rat King is downright freaky. He is utterly menacing, from his creepy smile to the way he casually eats one of the little rats without a thought. The coloring by Ronda Pattison and lettering by Shawn Lee are fantastic, too. Ronda nailed it with the right tones for Leo and Splinter’s respective skin, not to mention the shading used to mingle the shadows as part of Rat King’s palette. And Shawn brought his A-game with the right amount of creepy, center-stage letters for RK’s dialogue. All in all, a home run effort from everyone involved in this issue. 

As much as everyone loves Shredder and Krang, Baxter Stockman is one of the most beloved and reviled villains in the Ninja Turtle Rouges Gallery. Whether being a straight-up mad scientist or a mutant fly-man, Stockman has always been a constant source of irritation for the Turtles. Which is why the Micro-Series from IDW was the most standout of his stories; not only did it provide our boy Baxter with more motivation for his villainous goals, but made him more then just your standout mad scientist man. Erik Burnham and Andy Kuhn work well together on the story and artwork. Burnham’s script does exactly what I described before, while Kuhn lends his artistic expertise to illustrate Stockman, the world around him, and every component that shows him going down the path of evil. With colors by John Rauch and letters by Tom B. Long to round out the creative roster, both John and Tom deliver their own unique creative skills to this retold tale. John’s colors have that see-through time quality to them, that recalls comics of the 1980’s, while still reminding readers that this particular telling is separate from the shackles of the past. As for Tom’s work, he gives Stockman a truly grandiose attitude thanks to the letters. All of the arrogance we have come to expect from the character over the years, and still standing apart from the other incarnations because of this story.

It wouldn’t be a TMNT villains collection without a showing from Leatherhead – by far the best of the three collected stories from the 1992 issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Picking up where our scaly fellow was left from the 80’s, here we see Leatherhead’s descent into villainy. Dan Berger, as both writer and artist, blends the work of previous creative teams (in terms of plot) with his own storytelling, and in all honesty makes our boy look way more awesome just by the nature of providing detailing on things like his hide, tail, and teeth. The Turtles and hapless Foot Clan soldiers look great too, but the focus here is, of course, Leatherhead. Add in the awesome colors by Digikore Design Limited and lovely letters by Rob Caswell, and it is all mixed up into a stew of success. Digikore plants one foot firmly in reality and the other in fantasy with the color choices, from the aforementioned hide, to the colors for the sewer lair, Turtles, and Foot minions. Lastly, Rob’s lettering landed nicely. Even though the design choice is seemingly basic, given the years of media that have grown the Turtles world, it was easy to hear the characters voices as something other then just internal echoing in my mind. Top-notch work from this team!

Overall Assessment:

At the end of the day, a world with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in it is a world where things are still familiar and safe. This wonderful book contains some of the best samples of storytelling, art, colors, and letters that have contributed to the TMNT franchise over the years. This is something any die-hard Turtle fan will want to add to their collection, so give ’em shell and grab a copy today! Cowabunga! 

PopCultHQ’s Rating:

5 out of 5 Stars

Publisher – IDW Publishing:

About IDW: IDW (NYSE AMERICAN: IDW) is a leading media company providing uniquely compelling stories and characters in various genres for global audiences across all entertainment platforms. The award-winning IDW Publishing and IDW Entertainment divisions holistically evaluate and acquire IP for franchise development across comics and graphic novels, television, theatrical, games, merchandise, and other entertainment platforms, in addition to bringing world-renowned storytelling to life with our creative partners.