By Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz, Dave Wachter, Ronda Pattison, Shawn Lee
The TMNT family is slowly coming apart, right when they need to be most united.
Casey has left April to indulge in his anger, Alopex is missing thanks to Kitsune, Michelangelo has drifted from his family since they’ve assumed control of the Foot clan,and Darius Dunn is slowly getting stronger.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is like Saga as it’s such a consistently strong series that it often becomes hard to discuss every month unless an especially great single issue comes out. This being one of them. Michelangelo is usually the jokester in the TMNT, but since about issue #50, he’s become the conscious of the team. He doesn’t support his family being part of the Foot Clan, much less running it. Raphael and Donatello see it as a means to an end (Raph has a way to keep the other bad guys in line, Donny wants to use more resources to advance his and his friends scientific studies), Leonardo dutifully follows his father and Sensei’s lead but also has his own doubts about the direction his family is heading.
By this issue, Raphael sits down with Mikey to urge him to rejoin his family. He wants him to see the bigger picture and convinces his brother to trust Master Splinter’s plan. By the end of the issue, those plans become shockingly severe and questionable. Before it always seemed as though he was fulfilling a lifelong dream to lead the Foot Clan and was attempting to restore them to a place of honor that they lost when Shredder took over. Now its less clear what Splinter is doing, but it raises the stakes for the story quite a bit.
On art Wachter and Pattison bring an interesting visual style with pencils and color respectively. Wachter’s illustration is reminiscent of Eastman’s with lines and heavy shading, but his designs for the turtles are softer. It’s an interesting contrast, because the TMNT are able to be more expressive with their eyes which I don’t know is something that’s common for the characters. Artists use the white pupils for “battle-mode” pretty frequently, but its rare to see Disney level eyes to show Mikey’s sadness or Raph’s empathy. Now that I think about it, Wachter’s inspiration might be current with the Nickelodeon cartoon which would be a surprising turn. Pattison’s palette compliments Wachter’s art well, ranging deep and cool to pale and warm colors. This helps to emphasize night scenes and the drama of the story.
I have a feeling this may be one of the strongest issues of the year for the series, which is saying a lot because it’s been pretty great series overall. Several plot points get tense as they’re reaching various climaxes. It feels as though a new story is being told with TMNT. I’ve seen Raph and Leo leave the group briefly, I’ve seen the TMNT beat the Foot (repeatedly), but I’ve never seen Mikey withdraw or the TMNT become the Foot. Also the fact that each of the turtles has a different reaction to the current status quo just gives some much subtle characterization. None of them are exactly the same, but they play to the turtles personalities (Don wants to learn, Raph wants to fight, Leo wants to please his father, Mikey wants to have fun) without just giving clear-cut answers for how they should act. It’s immensely satisfying for a book I’ve been reading for about six years now. For characters I’ve known since I was six years old to still surprise me without losing who they are, it’s one of the best things about comics and this series.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent