By: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz (story), Mateus Santoluoco & Mike Henderson (art), Ronda Pattison (colors)

The Story: A war that will brother turtle against brother turtle…atrocious, indeed.

The Review: One thing I always find interesting in fiction is the presumption that somehow turning evil makes a person more powerful.  I can see how the reverse correlation can be true—how the more power a person gets, the more tempted he’ll be to abuse it.  Yet it always struck me as unusual that going to the dark side would result in an automatic power boost.  I mean, why is Evil Ryu stronger than normal Ryu?  Why are the Sith more powerful than the Jedi?

Perhaps it’s not so much that people get more powerful when they give in to their baser urges, but rather that they get more uninhibited.  Looking at Leo post-Kitsune indoctrination, he doesn’t seem nearly as calculating or restrained in his fighting form than before, allowing him to take on all three of his brothers at once.  It’s almost surprising that he doesn’t just slay them all right away; he certainly has the opportunity for it, and even with Shredder saying he wants Splinter for himself, there’s no reason why the other Turtles should be spared, even briefly.

Most likely, Eastman-Curnow-Waltz had to find some way to stall until Leo’s inevitable return to the fold; we all know Leo’s change of heart is temporary.  You also have major doubts that Leo will do anything he’ll permanently regret before his recovery.  As sophisticated as TMNT has become, its maturity level probably stops just short of one of the Turtles killing in cold blood.  After all, it’d be cruel to force Leo into an alliance against his will and then have him live with any resulting blood on his hands afterwards.

So what can the characters get out of this scenario in the long term?  Well, for one, Raphael can step up to be leader in Leo’s place, which will require some changes to his usual temperament.  As you can see here, his anger-fueled style proves unavailing against his brother, so pure rage alone won’t be enough to do the trick.  It’ll be interesting to see the two most formidable Turtles grow in opposite directions: Leo honing his aggression, and Raphael learning control.

My hope, too, is that the other, more reserved Turtles get their moments to shine as well.  Mikey, at least, has his bonding skills to fall back on, which ultimately saves all their shells after he reaches out to Slasher—with candy.  But what of Donatello?  He’s really had a hard time asserting himself among his more outgoing and charismatic brothers; maybe the challenge of a citywide ninja invasion will spur his genius to new, more impressive heights.  One can hope!

Besides the Turtles’ family affairs, the TMNT writers have always done a good job keeping track of going-on’s with the supporting cast, even if only in bits and pieces.  The more Shredder fulfills his purpose as power-hungry megalomaniac, the more villains like Old Hob and Karai seem dimensional by comparison.  There’s some ambiguity to their motivations which sets them apart from the tunnel-visioned Shredder, and which may end up turning the tide against his plans.  Both of them have good reason to check his ambitions; Karai to promote her own legacy and Old Hob to save his own skin.

Ah, Santolouco.  Can he just stay on this title forever?  I don’t know what it is about the Turtles, but somehow they tap into the very best of his artistry, delivering a shamelessly cartoony style without venturing into campiness.  Even when there’s not much overt humor to the story, Santolouco’s attention to detail can deliver enough comedy to maintain that all-ages feel even when the script dives into some unhappy material at times.  How can you not enjoy Old Hob’s attempt at a winsome grin as he tries to convince the Turtles to trust him?  How can you not enjoy Raphael’s furrowed glare as he and his family tag after Hob?

Conclusion: As always, it’s TMNT as they’re meant to be read and seen.  Although the storyline is quite familiar in several places, our writers execute it well and Santolouco’s art puts it right on the edge of excellence.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Oh, yeah—whatever happened to Casey’s mom?  She’s dead, apparently, but from what?

– If Slasher’s willing to throw down with a whole mess of ninjas for a candy bar, imagine what he’ll do for pizza.  You can probably get him to suicide-rush a bomb for that.