Once again, I am tasked with looking at the latest issue in IDW’s long running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a book and franchise very near and dear to my heart. After a promising setup last issue, I went into this month’s terrapin tale with hopes that it would ride that wave into an equally entertaining experience. While the action and artwork are, as per usual, absolutely stunning and candy for the eyes, I found myself a bit disappointed in other areas.
This issue follows up from the last, but instead of working off Jennika’s darkening feelings about lethality, and how that may put her in conflict with her adoptive brothers, the storyline takes a turn back into the subplot of having to start a metal band. Jenny’s desire for vengeance against Karai will (according to the most adorable time-traveling Turtle of all time, Lita) only be curbed if she starts this hypothetical band, something she obviously isn’t happy hearing about, or having an easy time dealing with. Jenny’s frustration over this comes from the fact that she feels she no longer has any choice in the matter, and that even if she did want to pursue a musical career one day, the pressure behind averting her own dark future makes it easier said than done.
It’s being used here presumably to lean into the theme of autonomy somewhat, which isn’t a bad call. Similar ideas have been brought up in the run so far, mostly in relation to Mutant Town’s residences being “created” against their will, a scenario that feels tailor made to relate to Jenny’s current situation as an unwilling mutant herself. That being said, Jenny’s mutation is not the metaphor used to explore this theme, it’s the metal band. In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Jennika and Jennika II miniseries, Jenny is made to grapple with the fact that she is no longer a human being, and the effects that situation has on her life and mental health.
Jenny’s struggle with her bodily autonomy in those titles feels like the perfect arc for the character to hone in on and explore, given what we know about how she was mutated. By comparison, Jenny being pressured into making music feels far less gripping or thematically relevant, and doesn’t feel very connected to the run’s ongoing narrative about Mutant Town’s unrest at their situation. While I appreciate the anxieties and pressure Jenny is feeling, and even find it well done and wholly relatable, it feels like the topic would be better explored under different circumstances.
For how often metal music has been brought up in this run so far, I’m not surprised to see that it’s taken center stage as the core emotional conflict in Jennika’s character arc. However, with how little it seems to connect to the larger ideas at play, it ultimately comes across as self indulgence on the writer’s part.
Unfortunately, there’s not much else to say about the rest of the cast here, since most of the book is spent fighting Tokka and Rahzar, and then the fan favorite duo of Bebop and Rocksteady. I’ve talked briefly before about how underutilized the cast of the book feels at present, but given that this is Jennika’s first story as the central character, I fully understand and support that creative decision. One thing I would like to praise Campbell for here is how bad I felt for poor Tokka and Rahzar after the brutal beating they get. As the Shredder would say, “they’re babies!”
Art, as always, is great. Sophie Campbell is one spectacular artist, that much cannot be disputed. The fight scene of the issue is both action packed and a bit emotionally moving, as we’re made to feel sorry for the victims of Bepop and Rocksteady’s brutality. It really tugs at your heart strings. As I’ve said in a previous review, her style feels like the perfect match for TMNT, and I hope that she stays on as the main artist for as long as possible. Out of every artist the IDW Turtles books have ever had, she’s by far my favorite.
All in all, this issue felt very middle of the road. It isn’t bad by any stretch, but sidestepping something like Jennika’s growing darkness almost immediately after setting it up last issue, only to double down on the subplot of her musical destiny, just didn’t grab me. While my opinion of this could easily change when this arc is concluded, for now I just wasn’t feeling what this issue was offering. What’s there works on a surface level, but it had the potential to be (and be about) so much more.
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