A Creepy Doctor In The House: Reviewing ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ #127
by Scott Redmond
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ continues to be a dense and character-rich series that keeps moving the characters forward while expertly indulging in meaningful and massive world-building. After an arc that saw political overhauling of their new home, the characters are at their lowest as they find themselves overwhelmed by unexpected and colorful new foes.
One of the best developments in recent years for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ comic world was the emergence of Mutant Town. Not only has it given the Splinter Clan and their allies a place to call home where they don’t have to be hidden away all the time, as well as a burgeoning community/society to be part of developing, but it also gives a new setting where anything can happen. One of those things happening is the natural emergence of a variety of threats and foes who have their own reasons for being and a real challenge for the Turtles.
Showcasing the rising tensions and hostility between the Utroms/Triceratons alongside the main troubles that the Splinter Clan is facing is a great choice. Both are desperate struggles that find characters on the side of doing good or right in the moment in the direst circumstances. Commander Zom has been betrayed and her daughter Seri’s fate rests in the hands of the still loyal Utrom scientist Ma’riell while the Splinter Clan’s home is gone and now, they are dealing with the sinister Dr. Jasper Barlow and the secrets he’s keeping.
Sophie Campbell does such a great job of giving every character their moments and balancing giving these characters bigger win-like moments before putting them through the wringer again. It’s great to see references to things that happened over the years in the title, making sure that things like Donatello’s replacement shell are not forgotten. All of these characters are in far different spaces, for good or bad, since she became the regular writer over two years ago.
As much as we like our heroes to win, seeing how they deal with struggle and loss is just as informative to their character development. It’s interesting how many have seemingly switched places as the stresses are piling up. Raphael becoming the voice of “reason” as the new law in the town has put him at odds with his family, in different ways than his rage often does. It’s Leonardo, Alopex, and others that are filing more of the role of being the voice of doing what must be done like Raph might have been in the past.
All of these changes are not jarring in any way because Campbell has put all the time into building these storylines and making everything a natural consequence of what they have been through. Their glimpses of futures that could have been as well as the pressures of being part of overthrowing the Mutanimals and putting the future of Mutant Town in flux probably is a large part of these changes.
Campbell’s ability to bring in a variety of elements of TMNT past, while mixing them up is so great to see. After getting Tokka and Razhar, we’ve now gotten the Punk Frogs and the reemergence of Venus de Milo the very first female Ninja Turtle from the short-lived late 90s Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation live-action television series. Truly, I cannot wait to see what other forgotten characters or gems of the past get this new treatment and find new life again.
Pablo Tunica and Ronda Pattison continue to hit the mark in really hitting home the darker and more dramatic energy of this story arc with their artistic choices. As noted, before, Tunica has such an interesting and fun art style that has the right amount of roughness to it in a chaotic sort of way that fits so well. It’s a story full of fantastical dramatic aliens and mutants and humans within a fantasy sort of realm, and Tunica’s artwork brings that right to the forefront. While at the same time nailing all the emotional weight of the moment with powerful and spot-on facial expressions/body language.
Pattison is one of the pillars of this title, alongside Campbell and letterer Shawn Lee, and shows it off by bringing the same energy to every single arc but changing her approach to the colors depending on who is doing the artwork. Those colors had a brighter pop to them with the same shadows in the last arc to complement Jodi Nishijima’s artwork, and here are still colorful but take on a toned-down appearance with a sort of Earthy tone. Opening scenes on Burnow Island have more grays and yellow tones and Dr. Barlow’s office has a sort of green almost sickly tint (fitting with what it turns out he’s doing), while the scenes in the Splinter Clan homes (and going forward) have more pops of color and are brighter.
Rounding out the trio of stalwarts on this creative team is the aforementioned Lee, who is most assuredly one of the top letterers out there. Just like how Pattison’s colors match whatever energy the artwork brings, the same can be said of Lee’s lettering. There are slight noticeable differences in the way the font is laid out in this issue compared to the last arc, while still flowing naturally and never becoming overwhelming in any way.
As many know I never ever tire of talking about really great SFX work, and Tunica delivers some that are colorful and bold and right there in the moment and bring such fun energy even with the darker tones of the story. At the same time, they also can bring horrifying energy. The big giant red chomps that come as Alopex has her tail viciously attacked are just powerful and bring a shudder at the moment. Also, someone’s name being said in the format of a logo right smack dab in the middle of regular dialogue font is just the type of thing that leads to the use of a chef’s kiss motion or gif.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #127 is available now in print or digitally from IDW Publications.