Four Brothers, Together Again: Reviewing ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2022’
by Scott Redmond
Sometimes it’s easy to see a creative team’s love for characters and concepts on the page, and ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2022’ is one-hundred percent that type of issue from that type of creative team. It allows one to emotionally take a trip back to Turtle’s adventures of old while never sacrificing the growth and developments they are currently going through within this wonderful IDW world.
Annuals are a beautiful tradition within the realm of comic books. These issues can be used to continue whatever the main storyline of a series is (sometimes adding backstory/origins to characters) or they can be a story that isn’t connected to the main series storyline allowing parallel stories (often by a different creative team) to be told with the cast of characters.
This second version is what we get with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2022, as the heroes in a half-shell take time away from the goings-on of Mutant Town for a personal mission. Leading them on this journey is Juni Ba who writes and draws the issue alongside regular series colorist Ronda Pattison and regular series letterer Shawn Lee.
It’s been a while since the four brothers have been able to do things on their own as a unit, as they’ve been dealing with various personal losses and expanding into new roles within the growing Mutant Town (including running a dojo, helping build a new community, and becoming parents). Ba manages to perfectly create an issue that returns to those classic feeling types of stories with the brothers out on a mission while making sure that all the weight and growth that has come from the past few years is still very much present and weighing on them. Leonardo’s narration through captions is spot on, short direct to the point like him, giving us insight into how they are no longer gelling as a team unit because it’s been so long, and they are rusty.
In fact, all the voices are perfect and energetic, and all of the character’s personalities and relationships flow just like one would expect. It’s beyond clear that Ba loves these characters and this world and hopefully there is a ton more to come from him within this world as he’s got such an interesting style and voice.
This goes for his art as well which is filled with a powerful kinetic and fun energy, that feels both light and heavy at the same time. What helps make the action feel like it might actually burst off the page in many cases is the just out-of-the-box paneling style that Ba follows. White space and black space are embraced, panels take on odd shapes, things push beyond the borders of traditional panels, panels askew, panels over panels, and more.
There was a page where each of the Turtles using their weapons to fight their mystical foe were in their own small overlapping panels and the motion of the weapons and their arms is motion blurred and even reaching beyond the panel itself. It’s just freaking cool. That’s what this issue is at its heart, it just looks and reads as something amazingly cool.
There is always so much to love about any of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle issues and one of those things time and time again is the work that Pattison and Lee put on the page. Both of them are some of the best at what they do respectively, a major part of that is how they are easily able to make their work fit the style of every single type of artist that comes to the series. Taking this issue and the most recent main series issue showcases just how much truth is in this statement.
Within that issue, the colors that were added to Pablo Tunica’s artwork that has a nice rough quality to it were toned down and took on a lot of earthy shadowy tones with flashes of bright popping color. Within this issue, there are those same pops of color with a heavier emphasis on shadows in this nighttime story where the heaviness of their grief and fear and pain is palpable. Merging the colorful nature that is inherent with this type of fantastical story with a heavier emotional shadow weight just works perfectly.
Similarly, Lee keeps many of the elements from his normal work such as the natural flow of dialogue that is full of little flairs of personality, while taking it up another notch. There are noticeable differences in each Turtle’s dialogue, but then there is the just big wobbly bubbled dialogue for the Leech Spirit which fits such a massive overwhelming sort of foe. Then there is the SFX to consider.
Anyone who has read these reviews knows how I feel about SFX, and Lee puts on a clinic on how to do SFX so well. The variety and color pops that appeared in the SFX of the main series are still here, but it’s also so different at the same time. There is a ton more, just all over the pages with fights, and is colorful but also has motion blur itself in many spaces and seems to absorb the energy that Ba and Pattison’s work is putting off and radiates it right back out itself.
People talk about issues they would give people to get them into a certain series, and this is one that I would put high up on the list alongside a lot of other issues/arcs from this current era to entice people to check out TMNT stuff. It’s so worth it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2022 is available in print and digitally from IDW Publishing.