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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) #44 [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw044Attack on Technodrome (part four)

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Cory Smith
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Cover: Cory Smith, Ronda Pattison
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Published by: IDW
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

It’s been a few months since I’ve covered an issue of this title–I think it was the end of the previous arc. Here we are at the end of the next arc–already! Though we’ve had Krang since the earliest issues, this arc and issue is where the “long arc” of stuff pays off.

The Leo, Raph, and Mikey tangle with some of Baxter’s flyborgs, before the scientist recalls them to make his escape…which leaves them free to get the mousers away from the Fugitoid…though this does not go over well with Krang. Meanwhile, Bebop and Rocksteady have been ordered to kill Donatello, and take great pleasure taking on the turtle and Metalhead. While the other turtles face Krang directly, Splinter is aided against Karai by Alopex and Nobody. Back on Burnow Island, Shredder’s mutants fail to help him, and escape…not realizing Baxter has designs on an alliance with their (probably now former) master. The turtles and Fugitoid end Krang’s plans for the Earth though they’re unable to prevent the island from being terraformed. The legacy of their battle is a space on Earth that can be a haven to surviving Utroms. While Honeycutt returns to Dimension X to see Krang answers for his crimes…the turtles return home to find that everyone was too late to save their brother.

Even long as the above summary is…it hardly does justice to the feeling I had reading this issue. I was expecting something big–I may have seen something hinting at a major event, or might’ve just felt like there’d “have to” be something big given all the “buildup” to the Technodrome activating and that it’d be a letdown if “all” that happened was that the turtles defeated Krang with no other lasting repercussions.

The art and writing together made for quite a scene between Bebop and Rocksteady vs. Donatello…and I honestly felt a bit sick reading it, at seeing Donnie take such an outright beating from the two. Gone are the overblown words and threats and no-one-actually-gets-hurt notion of the turtles facing the supposedly-dangerous lunkheads as we got throughout the ’80s/’90s animated series. Here, as I turned the pages I had a mental flash to Batman: A Death in the Family…exacerbated by the panel of Rocksteady’s hammer-swing quite looking like a crowbar. And though we don’t get detail, we get enough–the crack and crunch on the shell, and my realizion that I’d just been contemplating before that I’d never really read any TMNT story with any of the turtles truly having their shell damaged. They’ll be shown with scratches or cuts and such but the shell is generally shown deflecting a sword blade or some other object…but they’re not superhuman or invulnerable.

And we’re shown just enough to SEE that yeah…this is bad. VERY bad. Of course, that itself is made worse by the two talking over what they’d just done, remarking on the damage and what it looks like…definitely solidifying that it wasn’t just some “visual sound effect” and not just some visual angle.

And the end of the issue certainly suggests that the turtle family has been truly reduced by one…and yet no one comes out and says the “d-word” here, and I’m reminded of a key scene in the original Eastman/Laird series when Leo’d been horribly beaten by the foot and his near-lifeless body thrown through a window to the floor amidst the rest of the turtles. While mentally processing as I read the rest of the issue, I’d also thought immediately of the Image TMNT series, in which Donatello wound up a cyborg after a horrific accident all but killed him…the specifics remain a blind spot in my TMNT knowledge but given how much this series has drawn from prior incarnations of the property, I certainly have some expectation of where things can go from here…it’ll be the details and pace that are gonna hold my attention in a big way.

The immediacy of the issue–it’s the current issue as of this writing; it just came out this week; there’ve been no other new TMNT issues SINCE–certainly lends to a sense of importance by itself. Yet, I do truly think that in the long run, this may well be a key, defining issue in the series as well as moment for all the characters…something that’ll be referenced and relevant and to some degree inform the heart of the characters and the series for a good long time.

There’s not much “context” given, this is the fourth chapter of a four-part story, so it’s not particularly a jumping-on point. I certainly recommend the series, whether you backtrack to #41 and the start of this arc or pick up the entire series in collected format. Though I hurt for the characters, look forward to seeing how they get through, this remains one of my favorite comics being published currently by any company, and just about the longest I’ve kept up with any single series consistently on a monthly basis for such an extended time since the late-1990s.

While not the foundation/building blocks of the property, in terms of story quality, development, longevity, consistency, and quality…this is probably my favorite TMNT series, period…and after this issue I am all the more eager to see what comes, and even at the $3.99 price point, would likely enjoy weekly issues as long as the quality was maintained.

[ “The Scene” behind the cut. ]


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