(w) Ben Bates (a) Dustin Weaver (c) Brittany Peer
When it comes to TMNT bad guys, there are few fans have greater affection for more than the despicable duo of Bebop and Rocksteady. They are loud and obnoxious goofballs, but they are also extremely dangerous. It is that combination of being lethal, unhinged, and clumsy which has earned them the affection of not just readers, but the larger TMNT fandom. And in the case of this first issue, it puts them squarely in the cross-hairs of the Earth Protection Force (EPF).
The best thing this issue does is flesh out the world that the TMNT inhabit. Readers by know should know the familiar settings. New York City, Northampton, Burnow Island, and Dimension X have all played major roles in the series. But Bebop and Rocksteady Hit the Road (from now on shortened to just Hit the Road), brings readers outside of the familiar settings to see how the larger world reacts to mutants. The issue introduces Agent Ravenwood, a physically imposing member of the EPF whose stance on mutants is surprisingly sympathetic. Instantly, this gives readers a buy-in to the series. Her empathy is a great contrast against longtime TMNT foe Agent Bishop, and showcasing characters with different opinions on a complex matter makes this world more believable.
The major plot of this issue is that the titular characters are trying to go straight. After years of being murderous beasts, they think they can make a heroic turn and be lauded for it. It’s actually very much in character for these two, as they happen to be complete idiots. Unfortunately, the two are best when in a supporting role, allowing their comedic tendencies to cut through tense situations. As leads, they offer nothing of substance, and it shows with Bates’s script. In attempting to accommodate its titular characters, Hit the Road #1 struggles to maintain any sort of momentum due to its erratic shifts in tone.
The art itself is a bit of a mixed bag. Colorist Brittany Peer delivers a wonderful variety of earth-tones, cool grays, and vibrant splashes of primaries to give the issue a dynamic look. The same could be said for Dustin Weaver’s linework. It’s big and expressive. However, every character is an exaggeration – whether they are human or mutant. TMNT books such as this offer artists an opportunity to be very creative, but when everything is unique, nothing is. Then there’s the issue with Rocksteady’s skin. It looks like Weaver is attempting to draw the cracked and wrinkled skin of a rhinoceros, but it look like scales. It’s an unnecessary detail which only distracts. Had the zaniness of the designs been limited to a few characters, the book as a whole would have been better serviced. As it stands currently, it is merely okay.
There are things to like in Hit the Road #1, but as a whole the issue feel like an unnecessary cash grab. IDW appears to want this duo to make the transition from villainous sidekicks to lovable anti-heroes akin to Marvel’s Deadpool or DC’s Harley Quinn. The difference is that those characters danced along the lines of morality from the very beginning, whereas Bebop and Rocksteady have always been proud baddies. Seeing them attempting to transition, as ill-fated a decision as it may be, reads as a cheap gimmick. There really is no reason to pick this book up other than to fulfill completionist urges.