‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is a series that easily juggles and pays off a variety of storylines, oftentimes in the same issue, without anything feeling like it got the short end of the stick. Turf war, interpersonal moments, and the doctor body horror elements all mesh easily in this issue as we get one step closer to the big upcoming event.
Things have been pretty non-stop for the Splinter Clan and their allies for quite some time, especially since they returned to Mutant Town at the beginning of this run, and that’s not changing. In fact, with this issue, we get to see numerous plotlines quite literally crash into one another.
After seeing the Turtles fight them for quite a few issues, it was nice (though not nice for them) to see the origins of the Punk Frogs and see where they were coming from. There are a number of things that are great about Sophie Campbell as a writer, and one of them is showcased between this and the last issue. Whether the focus is narrowed to a few characters or expands to include a big cast again, she’s always able to hit all the character beats and give everyone a bit to play and none of it feels extraneous.
One moment that really was good to see was the confrontation between Raph and Casey so that the characters could air things out and begin to repair their strained friendship. It was a rough moment and they both had their reasons, and this made it feel very realistic.
As noted above we get the Punk Frogs situation, as well as more with Doctor Barlow and his work on Venus, mixed in with Donatello’s attempts to escape which brings Oroku Saki back into the story and the ending brings the Triceraton Seri right back into things. There is a ton going on but it all flows and feels natural, each plot element and character group getting their moments. It’s one of those issues that is a normal number of pages but feels super-sized because Campbell just packs so much into it all.
We have an artistic change in this issue as Tony Gregori steps in following Pablo Tunica, with Ronda Pattison still on colors. There are a number of similarities in Gregori and Tunica’s artwork in the energy they capture, as well as notable differences as well. It works though because it keeps up a lot of the same energy from the rest of the arc so that the change isn’t really jarring as it can sometimes be with wildly different art styles in the same storyline.
There is heavier use of blacks in various levels of the artwork, which fits with a darker story that deals with a turf war and horror elements at the same time. There is a good amount of sparseness in many panels or pages that forego background or background details to allow us to focus on the character moments. Such as during the Casey and Raph altercation, choosing to go with colored backgrounds along with the extreme closeups so that the emotions on display and the intimacy of the moment is right there in our face.
Just like with the rest of the arc, Pattison’s colors have a more Earthy toned-down quality to them here befitting the energy of the story at play. Plenty of pops of colors, as there would be with such a literal and figuratively colorful cast of characters, but the aforementioned background colors are light yellows and grays and other shades that aren’t going to catch the eye away from the forefront action at times. Also, there are a number of different color tones to be found in each place as the lab with Venus is a cooler blue-green while the lab with Donatello/Alopex/Sheena is a more sickly yellow and the Clan’s current home is grayer with some yellow-green added in.
There is a lot of exposition here as there is a ton to fit in, and Shawn Lee makes it all work as usual in an energetic flowing way that never feels overwhelming. All while adding in the little things here or there that showcase emphasis or volume/tone by shifting the size or quality of the font accordingly. The astral projection telepathic conversations are some of my favorites, as they feel so different and the characters’ bubbles are given little colors to set them apart.
There are a ton of characters here as stated above, but each of their dialogue feels unique and their personality is coming through even with the same font or bubble being used for them. They’re well-written characters and that comes through on a writing front but there is just something that great letterers can do that enhances that and makes each character ‘voice’ clear within the mind of the reader. This is always the case with Lee’s work.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #129 is now available from IDW Publishing