By: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (story), Ben Bates (art), Ronda Pattison (colors)
The Story: Every war goes a little smoother once you get ninjas involved.
The Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is kind of a funny bird in the world of comics. At first glance, it looks a lot like a kiddy comic book, the kind you’d buy for your eight year old as a gateway drug to the graphic novel form. In some ways, the series can be a little juvenile—and yet it’s really not. While it may be a little silly and gentle in its humor and plotting, you’ll never catch it being stupid, cheap, or cocky (see Scott Lobdell’s Teen Titans).
Take, for example, the characters’ reactions to Krang using the Neutrino king and queen as hostages. Though Zak completely blows his stack, Commander Dask quickly shuts down his tantrum, but also shows empathy for his soldier’s feelings. Princess Trib also stands strong, admitting her fear for her parents, but remaining resolute in resisting Krang to the end. The Turtles, having found a stake in this fight (as Krang does plan to take over Earth once he’s done here), cautiously voice their support but make it clear they an agenda of their own.
This kind of respectful characterization really reminds me of Young Justice, which also portrays its characters with a lot of integrity. Another way Eastman-Waltz channel the spirit of YJ is they’re not afraid to aim for some thoughtful commentary beyond pure action-adventure. However, whereas YJ can be pretty subtle in the way it mixes in a political subtext to the show, Eastman-Waltz go for more direct, preachier statements: “Mankind is rarely swayed into action by compassion alone. Too often it requires personal gain as the driving force.” Thankfully, they keep this to a minimum; I usually find such pontificating an irritant in stories.
Despite this more grounded style of storytelling, TMNT is at heart a fun and heartwarming series. Open displays of loyalty, gratitude, and compassion abound, which I appreciate since you get hardly any of that in most comics nowadays, not unless it comes attached with no small measure of irony or cynicism. For example, I love the growing bonds between the Turtles and the Neutrinos, particularly the parallels between Dask and Leonardo, both of whom commiserate over the stresses of leadership—particularly where hotheaded comrades are concerned.*
We also get some important plot developments in this issue. While April, Casey, and Splinter are still trying to work out what’s going on at Burnow Island, it’s Karai who actually makes it to Krang’s secret base and makes a rather surprising move against him. If you’ve kept up with the Secret History of the Foot Clan mini, you’ll understand the significance of her commanding one of Krang’s lackeys to lead her to the “alien ooze.” At this point, however, it’s unclear whether she’s motivated out of loyalty to her grandfather, personal glory, or even nobility.
Bates maintains the balance between the Turtles’ inherent cartooniness and a more credible comic book style. I do love the tiny, cute details he throws in here and there, like the musical note Chet hums as he tests out his newly fixed voicebox. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to ignore that TMNT is more of a PG comic (light swearing—“Damn you, Krang…damn you!”—aside). As much energy and activity as he puts into the battle sequences, somehow the intensity of war doesn’t quite come through. Pattison’s high-saturated colors also bring out the cartoonier side of the issue, though generally in a pleasant, not excessive, way.
Conclusion: A good monthly does of pure fun—without the guilt! A very nice thing, indeed.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Speaking of which, I’m getting rather alarmed about Mikey’s increasingly flirty behavior with Princess Trib. Interspecies romance does get a little more icky when one of those species is amphibious, doesn’t it?
– I’m also pretty sure that Eastman-Waltz fixed Chet’s voicebox because it gets pretty darn annoying finding spots to add those extra sutter-letters.