Review: Together Again In ‘TMNT #104’

by James Ferguson

The pieces that were the lives of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael, start to come back together at long last. Among all the grief and sorrow and the dystopian setting, they’re finally ready to move on. More importantly, they’re all in the same place for the first time in months. What’s next for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? How can they help the city and the loads of new mutants walking the streets?

Since this arc began, writer / artist Sophie Campbell has delivered a fascinating look at grief and depression through the lens of the heroes in a half shell. Despite this, I was just starting to get a little frustrated with the series, wanting the plot to move onto whatever should come next. That’s when Campbell delivered this massive move, setting the Turtles on the path for what will be a major next step in their lives.
In hindsight, I’m disappointed in myself. Grief is different for everyone, even mutants. As a reader, I wanted this to move along, but the characters weren’t ready to do that yet. They just lost their father and they needed time to process what that meant and how they felt. Turn that around and think about how you’d react to a friend or loved one in the same situation. Now I feel like a jerk. If nothing else, this comic has helped see how deep mourning and depression can go and how everyone needs a different amount of time to go through it. You can’t just tell them to get over it.
TMNT #104 is bursting with emotional character moments. Campbell can say so much with a single glance, like the heartwarming exchange between Raph and Alopex in the alley behind the shelter, immediately followed by an even more heartwarming one between Raph and Donnie. These are presented with little to no dialogue, but they speak volumes. Letterer Shawn Lee gives the sparse dialogue the impact it needs with expert placement and font choices.
A big part of this issue – and the series as a whole – comes when the Turtles are finally reunited on the farm. They’ve been apart, both physically and mentally, for some time so this was a little awkward at first, but they’re family so they came together quickly.
Jennika is a wild card in this dynamic. She’s a literal Ninja Turtle, but she’s not related to the others by blood (although one could argue she is now because she became a mutant thanks to a blood transfusion). She helps each of the Turtles achieve clarity and move through this moment. She doesn’t explicitly spell out what they should do next, but she does give them just the right kind of nudge along the way so they can figure it out for themselves. She’s a welcome addition to the team.
Since this arc began, colorist Ronda Pattison has created a stark contrast between the city and the farm. The former is dark and dingy while the latter is bright and welcoming. That still holds true here, although by the end of this issue, they’re a bit more mixed since the Turtles return to the city. They bring some of that warmth back with them.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is heading into uncharted territory now. As they, pardon the pun, come out of their shells and feel ready to face the world again, they realize that it’s different from when they went into seclusion. Mutants are public knowledge now so there’s no reason to hide in the shadows. They can live a normal life like a human being without fear of persecution. What does being a mutant (aka being different) mean in a world where everyone is like that? That’s a fascinating idea and I’m looking forward to how it’s explored.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #104 from IDW Publishing is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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