Time for another installment in IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ongoing series, written by Sophie Campbell with art by Jodi Nishijima. In this issue we see the end of Old Hob’s Mutanimals, the core members all split between factions, and the potential resolution to this story arc about taking back Mutant Town. I had some very complicated feelings on this one, so let’s just dive right in.
To start, the plot of the issue is, of course, a follow up to the last. We see the endgame of the Turtles and their students vs the Mutanimals, with the citizens of Mutant Town beating Old Hob before he manages to run off before being apprehended again and caged until further notice. We also get a cliffhanger showing that Hob won’t be behind bars for long, so this storyline may not be quite ready to wrap up just yet.
Characterization I’m very mixed on. On one hand, you have characters like Hob, Ray and Sally Pride, whose histories with one another are palpable and dripping with dramatic goodness. You can really feel the hurt and betrayal between them at how all of this turned out, and I loved that. It displays a thorough understanding of the relationship the characters have had with each other over the years of this book’s existence, and makes that feeling of hurt they share all the more real.
On the other hand though, Raphael.
Raph is a character largely defined by his anger by many writers across many incarnations, but the strength of who he is as a character is his ability to be more than just his rage. Often he’s characterized by his regret, his shame, and his temper. A well-written Raphael would not be pushed to the point of stabbing somebody he’s already clearly winning against, for nothing more than to satisfy his own fury, and not feel immediate and devastating regret for his actions.
The briefest moment of realization he has is quickly passed by, and even smiled off by Michaelangelo, which dashed any hopes I had for this story’s take on this character. Maybe this will be addressed later, I have no idea, and the argument that Hob deserved what was coming to him is not for me to decide. Simply know that I found this moment to be a complete and utter betrayal of who I know Raphael to be as a character, and I am deeply, deeply disappointed.
To swing the pendulum back towards positive, I can say that I really enjoyed the art in this one. The layouts are very effective, and I can understand exactly what the artist is trying to convey with them. In general, it’s also just a very nice, cartoonish style for the Turtles. I always love when the art leans a bit more into a 2003 series-ish vibe with the expressions and proportions, and Nishijima delivered on my preferences completely. I loved it.
My feelings here are extremely complicated. While the art was good and there was some genuinely good character stuff to be found within, this issue re-ignited a growing feeling of disillusion I’ve felt creeping up for some time now. The highs may be high, but the lows are depressingly low. I’m close to being plain burnt out on this run, quite frankly. The Turtles are vastly underutilized at best, and outright mischaracterized at worst, and the juicy potential that I thought this status quo had for an exploration of the title characters has almost entirely evaporated away.
I want to keep reading, because I care about these characters, and I know this book can do better. I know this team is talented, as I’ve genuinely loved some of the issues they’ve put out so far. But I can’t say this issue has satisfied me as a fan of the TMNT themselves. That being said, I’m always willing to give what comes next a try, and tackle each new issue with a fresh perspective and an open mind. This one may not have done much for me, but that doesn’t mean the next one can’t be great. Here’s hoping.
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