Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a series that should be on the pull-list of anyone that is a fan of these characters because it delivers some of the best comic book work around every single issue. This slightly rotating creative team is masterful at hitting all the emotional, action-packed, and deep character moments as they continue to build a fully realized lived-in world for these pop culture icons to inhabit. Truly one of the best comic books on the stands right now.
Over the past few months, the Splinter Clan and their many allies have brokered a peace with the remainder of the Foot Clan, saved themselves and others from a potentially grim future, and captured Old Hob while removing the Mutanimals from power over Mutant Town. In a way that was all pretty easy. The hardest part is figuring, what comes next?
With many types of genre stories, there is a tightrope to be walked, balance needing to be maintained between the character moments/growth/quieter moments and the heavier action/blockbuster-style elements. Sometimes one dips more to one side or the other depending on the story. Some stories lose all balance and crash into one side far more than the other.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles maintains that balance, perfectly bringing the two sides together in an elegant fulfilling beautiful dance of sorts. No matter how fictional the setting or the individuals or some of the overall trappings, the series feels so very real. Characters must balance several things at once, winning and losing and compromising and learning and moving forward.
Sophie Campbell doesn’t shy away from elements that others might worry would ‘bore’ their audience, such as the hard work of building society as we’re getting here because the balance is maintained to bring some levity and character moments and actions that make it all work. Seeing these characters struggle and deal with issues rather than things being hand wiped away between arcs is one of the elements that make this book so strong and often unique among ongoing books featuring franchise/pop culture characters.
We feel for these characters, those most fans have known for decades and others who are somewhat newer to the TMNT universe, and that makes it work even more to see them through these moments. Even with the growth and the changes around them, the emotional baggage that some must carry, at their core they remain who they are, and we want to see them succeed. It makes watching them make the progress towards that success even more engaging.
For every moment where we get discussions about the building of infrastructure and powerful entities as well as how to handle enforcement, we get delightful scenes with the characters enjoying ice cream. We all have our happy places that we like to spend time in, and this book is truly one of mine every single month.
Not only are the characters and the world-building delightful, but the art is also always truly amazing because Jodi Nishijima, Ronda Pattison, and Shawn Lee are next level. One of the greatest strengths of this book is the continuity that is seen on the creative side of things, in the sense that even when the art rotates it’s between a tight group of creators that bring their all and work together perfectly (the in-universe continuity is pretty great too). Lee and Pattison hold things down alongside Campbell and whether it’s Nishijima or Campbell or Nelson Daniel doing the pencils it’s going to flow and work and convey all the same dynamic action and emotional moments or whatever else the issue needs.
Nishijima has a style that on the one hand comes off as very light and energetic, but it has such detail and depth. The light and fun nature of the art, bolstered by the bright colors that Pattison brings, take nothing away from the serious beats or the sad moments. Another place that this book places heavy emphasis on continuity is in the appearance of the characters, down to the fact that many are still dealing with injuries from previous issues. There is meticulous care taken to make sure that bandages or scratches or clothing choices remain the same as a story is going on, all part of helping make this feel like a very lived-in world.
Pattison helps with that regard because her colors can be bright for the most part but bring depth with the use of shadows. There are a few pages here that depict dark hallways, as the weasels run to see their “dada”, Old Hob, that are actually dark. There are slivers of light coming from doorways of illuminated rooms, but the areas are realistically dark and not movie/TV dark where they’re not really dark because of the logistics of filming. Even some comics at times shy away from depicting true dark in areas, understandable why, but it’s a nice touch when someone takes that extra effort.
While there is a continuity within this book with the creative teams, Lee is part of the glue across all the TMNT type books as he’s the letters master for a lot of the other currently running minis. One glance at the work tells you why that would be, as not only are there the really great personality-filled SFX that bring moments to life but there are really great bits done within the dialogue as well. Bubbles that feel distinct to characters and their speaking style, emphasis markers in all the right places, and sometimes just colorful font changing fun (like Michelangelo’s call for Trick or Treating in the Halloween related scenes)
Also quickly, the pages with the characters in their costumes (some very familiar ones in a few cases) were freaking awesome. The joy and fun in those pages and how they were depicted will have a smile on my face any time I think about them.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #122 is now on sale in print and digitally from IDW Publishing.