By: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz (story), Mateus Santolouco & Charles Paul Wilson III (art), Ronda Pattison (colors)

The Story: A mother’s love remains the same, even if her child turns out to be a violent turtle.

The Review: The thing that continually impresses me about this series is how much work Eastman-Curnow-Waltz put into it when they could have just as easily coasted on the TMNT brand alone.  When you consider how reputedly major titles from the Big Two occasionally lack strong character work or even a sense of direction, it’s pretty remarkable that a comic book adaptation of a series people mostly associate with kids’ cartoons strives for better.

I mean, TMNT has actually been around as long as the oldest ongoings from the new 52, and in that time, it has established a really vibrant world and delivered several cohesive storylines in a natural flow.  City Fall has the weight that it does because it represents the culmination of a lot of careful work put into the series from the very beginning, involving nearly all the principal characters and many more besides.  However this arc turns out, it’s certain to have a wide effect on the TMNT universe with so many of its figures having some kind of role in it.

With the Turtles at a disadvantage of both power and numbers, they’re calling upon every possibly ally they have, which means looking outside their usual network of friends: Raphael turning to Angel; Mikey to pizza guy Woody; and Donnie to grouchy, scientist genius Harold.  These are all useful endeavors and we get some solid set-up for the climax of the arc out of them, even if we don’t really learn too much about the characters themselves.*

It’s still problematic that Eastman-Curnow-Waltz continue to focus all their work on only a few primary characters while the others get minimal attention.  Mikey and Donnie have really gotten overshadowed not only by the sheer amount of page-time their brothers and father get, but by how substantial those pages are in comparison to their own.  While Mikey and Donnie are relegated to support duty, Raphael works out his inner turmoil with Casey, Leo works his out with a vision of his mother, and Splinter finds himself compromising his morals and making deals with the unsavory Hob to save his son.  When will our orange and purple-banded brothers get more to do than serve as comic relief or brainy exposition?

Another disappointment you encounter in this issue is how disposable Victor, leader of the Savate, turns out to be.  Not that he melts into a puddle the moment he gets confronted by Leo, but he doesn’t put up much of a fight, either, and that’s a shame, considering he’s supposed to be the Foot’s biggest opposition.  With him essentially out of the way, that leaves only Karai to fill the position of the arc’s dark horse—which, actually, is a very good place for her to be.  In a situation where Shredder is poised to conquer the city, and only the remaining Turtles and their limited resources defying him, Karai may turn out to be the deciding factor to the whole conflict.

I don’t think I will ever get over how marvelous Santolouco’s art is on this series and how it only seems to get better, sharper, more effective with each issue.  Unlike a lot of the neutral expressions you see in many comics, the faces in TMNT are bursting with personality, but never over-the-top.  The action sequences are also impeccable.  The martial arts in comics tend to look overly posed and generic; here, you can see the swiftness and skill in Leonardo and Victor’s every move.  Once you see Leonardo drop, kick up to disarm his opponent, then flip back to avoid a counterattack, you final appreciate why Shredder has coveted his loyalty all this time.  Pattison’s bold colors keep TMNT looking cheerful and lively, reassuring you that the series will never descend into the kind of grimness that has infected so many titles on the market.

Conclusion: As the calm before the storm, the issue accomplishes much of its preparations for next month’s blow-out, though it short-shrifts certain characters and storylines in the process.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * This is particularly rough on latecomers like me.  I only have a minimal understanding of who Woody is, and none at all of Harold.