Time to once more take a look at IDW’s long running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic series, written by Sophie Campbell with art by Jodi Nishijima. This issue is dealing with the aftermath of last issue‘s big fight with Old Hob, as one would expect. Much like my last review though, I’m very conflicted on how I felt, so lets just go right to it.
It’s fairly standard fare for this run, story wise. The characters chat a bunch, the bad guy escapes to enact another plot in the future. I can’t say I was that impressed with the plot of this issue, which is emblematic of problems with this storyline, and this run as a whole. While I see no issue with the ideas of this plot, the execution of past issues has made it extremely hard for me to care about what it’s giving me here. The ideas present — the Turtles helping the displaced and disenfranchised, helping to build them a livable community they also contribute to — are all really interesting and sound ripe for great stories and character moments. However, I can’t help but feel that nothing is being done with this, and time that could be spent exploring its own ideas or advancing the plot is instead spent with meandering and fluff conversation that doesn’t ultimately accomplish anything.
My problem with this issue, and many before it in this current arc, is that there’s a lot of talking about doing things without much actual doing. This run has a very bad habit of introducing plot threads and not even bringing them up for issues on end no matter how pressing it may be. The Turtles have known Stockman is planning something big for some time in-universe, but the issue was quickly pushed to the side with hardly an acknowledgement. So, given that, how am I supposed to be confident Hob’s plans for Mutant Town will even lead to anything remotely satisfying? The Turtles will likely shrug off his escape, and not even attempt to find him or put any effort into figuring out his plans until he’s already enacted them. The Turtles, historically, have never been intended as proactive protagonists, but they’ve also never been intended to be this passive either.
I can’t even say it succeeds as a story about underdog revolutionaries triumphing and installing new government, because the book prefers to skip those details and just tell you how they want to get things done without actually giving us a chance to see the characters do anything with it.
The characterization is honestly barely serviceable — it hits the most basic of notes you’d expect from these characters, but doesn’t really give them anything interesting to do or talk about. The issue draws some attention to Raphael, but I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to read into this as being his story or not. There’s subtle and there’s obtuse, and the problem I have with how characterization is done in this story, and to a larger extent this run as a whole, is that it’s extremely obtuse about what it wants you to pick up on. It’s to the point I’m not sure if a moment I read as significant is intentional or I’m letting my expectations read into a scene more than is intended.
The best thing I can say is that the art by Nishijima is honestly stellar. Their style is a perfect match for the world of the Turtles, with every character looking well proportioned and distinct. It’s a cartoonish style with plenty of details to give it that trademark TMNT vibe, which goes a long way in making an issue fun for me to read even in spite of misgivings about the story or characters.
The best way to describe this issue is “wasted potential”. The comic isn’t even in the realm of what I’d classify as bad; from a technical standpoint it’s at the very least well put together and easy to read, with some fantastic art to give your eyes something pleasing to look at. I’ve read truly bad comics, and this isn’t that. But it is dry, and boring. Character-driven narratives, when done well, shouldn’t feel like the characters themselves are just going through the motions. There’s no spice here, no interpersonal conflict for the characters or intrigue in the plot. It’s just TMNT characters chatting, and a fight scene thrown in there every so often to remind you that it’s sort of a big part of who these characters are and what they do.
I can only hope that this turns around at some point, because I do really think this story has so much potential and is presenting many, many great ideas I’d love to see explored. Campbell’s concepts and themes are honestly great, and continues to dangle exciting ideas for story right out in front of us. Which makes it all the more frustrating that it’s barely even living up to its own potential, because I really WANT to read about what’s going to happen next.
Ultimately, I just think that’s a real bummer.
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