A Turtles Stalwart Ally Takes The Spotlight: Reviewing ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Best of Casey Jones’

by Scott Redmond


The latest issue in this anthology series brings together a trio of very interesting stories focused on the hockey mask-wearing vigilante ally of the Turtles, showcasing many sides of this often very broken yet strong character. Various art teams bring their A-game across a few eras to bring these stories to life in a lot of very interesting and stylistic ways.


When it comes to the supporting cast members of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe, there are quite a few characters that likely spring to mind. April O’Neil. Shredder. Krang. Bebop and Rocksteady. Casey Jones.

It’s this hockey mask-wearing sports equipment wielding stalwart alley vigilante that takes the focus for the latest issue of IDW Publishing’s bi-monthly TMNT centered anthology series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Best of Casey Jones.

There are a number of reasons that Casey and Raphael bounce off one another so well in the various TMNT incarnations, but a major one beyond their attitude issues is how both are saddled with a lot of the really sad or tragic stories where they must carry a lot of weight upon their proverbial shoulders. Within this issue, we get two of those stories for Casey and one that is a bit more off the wall.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #14 from the original Mirage Studios era comes the story Unmentionablesfrom Kevin Eastman doing the story, the pencils, and some of the inks with help from Eric Talbot on inks and Tom Smith handling the colors. This story is really bizarre on the first read as it’s all about Casey roping the others into a whole detective/film noir-like story about a missing brass cow that stood within the small town of Northampton, a place he grew up. For it being a Casey story after the very noir-like opening narration from him, he actually features in the story far less than the other characters and often is far behind while the Turtles and April are in the thick of the action.

Eastman’s artwork is great per usual and really brings back those strong nostalgia feelings for that original era and pairs so well with Talbot and Smith’s ink and colors. There are a lot of books these days really playing with white space and panel placement, and this is one of those classic types of books that used to do that quite regularly. It’s a really great way to set up pages as it allows things to breathe and feel more distinct rather than everyone all going with a standard panel layout.

Just look how powerful and striking some of these pages are. Casey standing there in the alleyway with his mask on flicking a cigarette away (featured below) is just powerful in so many ways. It’s a style that I’m glad has come back.

Overall it’s a sort of light and silly, if a bit too long, story that definitely takes some very police procedural/film noir types of twists. Writer and artist Howard Chaykin even has a cameo of sorts as one of the characters in the story has his name, and ends up being quite important to the overall story.

Next in the issue comes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #48 which is also from the Mirage era, with a story called “Shades of Grey” from Eastman and Peter Laird handling the story, Jim Lawson helping with the script and doing the pencils, inks by Keith Aiken, tons by Talbot and colors by Smith. This one starts off feeling like a bit more lighthearted affair, the Turtles and Casey playing a ‘game’ of sorts as part of their training dictated by Splinter. Casey features in this one far more because it takes a very dark and tragic turn.

Beating on people with hockey sticks and baseball bats, among other sports equipment, is not a light thing to do. In comics, people take beatings, even regular people, and often walk away fine. This time someone doesn’t, and Casey wrestles with the guilt while running from the police officer by day and vigilante at night known as Nobody, a Turtle ally. There are some really strong panels here poking at the hypocritical nature of Nobody’s day job and night job and the lives he’s taken, and a line drawn between the Turtles and their ally as they stand by Casey as he shatters at what he has done.

Lawson’s art is very similar to Eastman’s stylistically, maintaining a lot of that earlier Turtles feeling to it, while the inks and colors really bring a washed-out grey sort of feel to it all matching the title and subject matter. There are panels where it’s almost even hard to fully make out the various characters through the hazy shadows added in for the grey effect, but atmospherically it works. We know who these characters are and there are distinctive enough ways to tell who is who still, while the mood gets darker by the page.

Again there are a lot of really well-crafted pages here that play with white space and bring great focus to the characters and subject matter.

Lastly comes a modern IDW Publishing era story in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey Jones Micro-Series from Mike Costa and Ben Epstein on writing, Mike Henderson on art, and Ian Herring on colors. It’s a really rough story in a way as it focuses heavily on the abusive home situation of the younger Casey Jones of this rebooted universe, his father having fallen hard into the drink during the time before and after Casey’s mother passed away. This issue really fully showcases just who Casey is in this universe, and what has led him to do what he does and be the person he is, trying to remain strong as he promised his mother.

Henderson’s art is really dynamic and shows off a great range of facial expressions/emotions and action sequences throughout the story. Herring’s colors have this hazy and kind of awesome look to them that makes things feel grittier and more street-like but also very comic booky in the best ways. They shift from really bright in some pages to pitch black in others (where the action stands out more) back to more sort of solid but hazy colors.

Those colors take a muted, very memory like, turn when it comes to the tragic flashbacks with Casey’s mom, making them perfectly stand out from the present-day pages.

There is a lot of really great lettering work done in this book but for whatever reason IDW didn’t see fit to credit anyone that did the lettering in these three stories. This is a horrible choice as not only does everyone involved deserve credit for their work, period, but letterers are a giant part of the package of what makes comics work. The industry needs to respect that far more.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Best of Casey Jones is now on sale in print and digitally from IDW Publishing.

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