There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are iconic; there’s no denying it. Even for people who have never watched the original cartoon or, god forbid, the live-action movie, they know who the team is. A third animated series hit the air back in 2012 on Nickelodean so, unsurprisingly, a new comic series emerged that tied into that universe. As someone without any experience with the characters, but an ample amount of curiosity, I saw a recent digital sale as an opportunity to delve into this world. This first volume contains three original stories from an assortment of creators that both look and read like a brand new episode of the TV show.
Each new issue has a self-contained narrative that follows a very standard cartoon structure; they introduce a new concept at the beginning, explore how this affects the team and then eventually return to the same-old status quo by the end. There’s nothing wrong with this approach; it’s a tried and tested formula that works. It's been created to make it easy to follow for the book’s younger audience, which it does, but unfortunately feels very predictable for an older reader. I don’t need a grand sense of continuity to enjoy a series, although it certainly helps, but it would be nice to gain an appreciation that these stories matter. It’s definitely worth noting that the intended audience for this book is going to love these little additions to the universe; each one feels like a brand new episode of the show for them to enjoy.
However, the art is there for everyone to love. It’s definitively stylised in a way that draws influence from the cartoon and uses its own peculiar sense of perspective to keep everything moving. The bright colours are carried over from the Saturday morning cartoon realm and the world feels fun and vibrant from the offset. As characters that have always represented the sense of hilarity that comes from a slightly immature view of the world, the TMNT gang belong in a style just like this. You can track the action easily across the page and the panels are left feeling uncluttered and the core cast are always the focus of every scene. The collaborative art team are magnificent at capturing this tone, selling this series as one that is aimed at a younger audience.
If the episodic format of this series works for you, then bear in mind that there’s a high chance that the jokes are going to grate on you as an older reader. Humour is very subjective, so you may find yourself laughing along with this series, but there isn’t much depth or breadth to the comedy. The majority of it manifests as little punny quips that are very hit-or-miss but unquestionably belong in a series like this. I can imagine roars of laughter from little children reading this book and I highly recommend giving a copy of this book to them. There are times when I cracked a smile, but I never came anything close to a laugh.
April primarily serves the reader’s eye into this world of madness. Although her appearances in these three stories are slightly sporadic, she serves her role as wish fulfillment admirably. Not only is she occasionally allowed out on missions with the turtles, we are shown glimpses of her training with Master Splinter. As someone in their mid-twenties, there’s little for me to gain from this point-of-view character; I don’t wish to live in the sewers and accompany the acrobatic reptiles in their fights against enormous animal villains. Not only does this skew the audience for this book into that pre-teen bracket, it easily alienates all but the die-hard fans.
There’s plenty here for the right kind of reader to enjoy. The plots are unrelenting and the perfect balance of action and humour that you would expect from a title with these characters on the cover. Excluding their master, every main character in this series is below the age of eighteen, so all of these tales are moments where they attempt to define who they are. This book has a lot of important messages for that youthful audience, but feels very shallow as someone not in that age range. It’s not inherently bad; it’s simply not for me.
Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or head over to thegreengorcrow.com for a daily dose of comic reviews, interviews and more!