Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Comic Review: TMNT: Soul's Winter

     I've had this one sitting for a long time, worried about how to approach it.  When talking about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles there are fans of many types.  They've gone through numerous iterations in both comics and in television/cinema.  In the comics there was a slew of years that Mirage had guests doing small runs for a time.  This non-canonical era saw a variety of creators and styles come through.   Occasionally there would be one-shots, sometimes entire story arcs- but for the whole it was all about indie artists being given a shot at the series.  A chance at telling a great story.  This one in particular was one of my personal favorites, and honestly, these are the only issues that I've still kept in my collection.

***Spoiler Warning***

Soul's Winter: By Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli

     Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Soul's Winter was a 3 part comic series in 1990-91, comprising issues 31, 35, and 36.  Long before Michael Bay dreamed of creepy looking, realistic turtles Zulli and Murphy had done this short series.  These Turtles are realistic- beaked and almost monstrous.  They are frightening but fill their roles perfectly.

     In this take the Turtles are made, or awoken- it's never really clear- by Splinter with the sole purpose of Shredder's destruction.  Much like the earlier comics this is purely about Splinter's utter focus on the downfall Shredder.  It is never explained where Splinter came from, nor why he wants Shredder dead.
     What the creative duo has done here is taken the roles of the TMNT and made them work on multiple levels.  They represent the 4 elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire.  Shredder is a full on samurai and Splinter a spiritual warrior.  This is more than just two beings at war with each other, these are two forces of nature.  Two aspects vying for control in spirit and body, using what ever they have at hand.
     The Turtles are nearly secondary characters here really, as this is mostly about the battle between Shredder and Splinter.  It takes place on both the physical and spiritual plane, and even some of the afterlife or purgatory type of realm.
     The Turtles being drawn into this war are unnaturally forced into life.  Their creation/summoning is very vague and they are brought in for one purpose- fighting.  They have to fight the Shredder and the Foot clan, and even against the winter climate on the field of battle.  The elements personified in action.
     They are made to straddle two worlds- forced to find a ground where they belong.  As the Turtles aren't people, but they aren't quite animals either- they bridge both humanity.  They struggle against nature in every way possible.  Because they are between worlds they must fight to be accepted into either.  It all comes down to mysticism and symbols.

"Everything beautiful bleeds"

     What makes this series different and so great is the fact that Shredder is actually the good guy.  Not outright a good guy, but he becomes the good guy.  Despite almost killing them all he saves them.  During the conflict he achieves a sort of unexpected enlightenment and sets out to set the path right.  He even chastises a few others fighting along the way, like a young couple bickering.  It wasn't simply him defeating the abominations, as he calls them, he wanted them exterminated, but something changed.  He changed and it was amazing.  He beat Splinter in battle by hand, and on the astral plane.  The Foot beat the Turtles, taking one of their hands and leaving one near death.  But Shredder realized that life was bigger than that.  He came to see that all that lives is sacred.
     He came to save the dying and leave them to their lives.  He leaves Splinter with the quote, "Everything beautiful bleeds."  Moving at the least.  To me Splinter should be shamed by hearing this sentiment from his rival.  A turn of fate I had not seen coming when I first read Soul's Winter in my youth, and now that I'm older it makes much more sense.  The message is so much more meaningful, much more powerful in these circumstances.

     Then story then takes a turn and shows Splinter and the Turtles struggling to find their place between the living and the dead, between the worlds of man and animal.  When the last issue ends there are a ton of unanswered questions in a beautifully created world.  There is a lot of room for more, but sadly there was nothing else done with this arc.
     When it comes down to it, the series is great.  Although I think it should've really ended with the Shredder's admonishment and not drug on another whole issue.  Having Shredder saying that and knowing the Turtle will heal eventually would've left the reader knowing that they have a lot to learn.  That Splinter and the Turtles were really no better than their nemesis.  A hard lesson put in such a way to make a massive impact.  Outstanding.

     This isn't a great review by any means.  What I've done here is try and make it sound good enough and intriguing enough to make some of you go out and read this series.  Murphy and Zulli created a TMNT comics series with amazing depth that must be looked into.  It isn't all spelled out and it definitely isn't for children.  This is a dark and grim story of finding balance between life and death.  It's about finding your place in the worst of times, and it is worth looking into.  There are no clear lines of hero and villain, and that makes this 3 issue series truly amazing.  I've never seen another TMNT tale even remotely like this.

     For more of my Turtles posts [ TMNT ]

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