Friday, January 05, 2007

SOUL'S WINTER by Michael Zulli

While looking for some information on the Terrorsaur thing from a few posts back, I came across this page of upcoming Mirage books, including a reprint of "Soul's Winter", a Ninja Turtles story by Michael Zulli (with Stephen Murphy scripting the first part) from the original TMNT series #31, #35 and #36 (several pages from each issue at each link), from back around 1990/1991, along with some other Zulli drawn stories that I'm not familiar with and a new cover and an afterword by Steve Bissette.

This publication is as unexpected as it is delightful. I was never that much into the Turtles, mostly paying attention only when other creators I was interested in were invited to play in that sandbox, and I had discovered Murphy and Zulli's PUMA BLUES not too long before this began (and was hoping, in vain as it turned out, for that story to continue). An issue of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES probably wasn't the oddest place to find Zulli's art popping up (that would come a few years later when he drew some Spider-Man and X-Men stuff), but it was up there on the list. At the time, around the release of the first Turtles movie, the characters were everywhere, mostly in their most commercialized, colour-coded, kid-friendly format, but creators Eastman and Laird left the original series open to quite a few different takes on the characters, probably none more different than this one. Zulli doesn't take much more than the basic concept (four turtles trained in martial arts with a rat sensei and a samurai based opponent) and takes it off on an entirely different course, with a story far more rooted in Japanese myth and culture (more the Ninja, with a more realistic helping of Turtles, a more thoughtful reflection of Mutant and far less of the Teenage than most TMNT stuff), and with Zulli's insanely detailed artwork taking it all to a new level.

The story itself is pretty odd, with a lot of things going unexplained, and weird animal spirits and dream imagery. You sort of just have to let it carry you as far as it's able. The ending is kind of a letdown, if only because you really want it to continue and find out what happens next (which I don't think the stories outside the original three issues do). Anyway, I pulled out and re-read those three issues on finding out about the reprint, and I get more out of them each time, and they're one of the most attractive series of books from that era never to see a nice reprint you could stick on a bookshelf. If you've never read this before it's definitely one of the best $10 you'll be able to spend on comics in the next few months.

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