‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game’ is a series many years in the making and it kicks off with a solid character-focused issue that helps put all the pieces into position for the game to begin. There is a lot to like here as the overall TMNT story continues and moves into the next level, with tons of energy put into every single aspect of the comic book with care and love. A great even starter that is both new and old reader friendly.
All the opening moves have been made and the prologue has been told, it is now time for the games to begin. That would be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game specifically, IDW Publishing’s eight-part (plus some tie-ins) Turtleverse event series that has finally arrived.
When it comes to events in comics, it is a given that even with the various issues that might have been lead-ups to the event, the first official issue is going to be one that will set the stage some and prepare anyone that is just jumping in. Some will come with big action to just set the tone, big moments that shock or excite the reader, others will be more of an expository situation. With the Turtle’s event, it’s a bit of the latter rather than the former.
As a veteran of this Turtleverse, having been one of the people that helped kick it off all the way back in 2011, Tom Waltz of course has a firm grip on these characters and their world as it stands. Not only that but he very easily threads the needle when it comes to starting off a story right in the middle of an ongoing narrative but also making it something that is easy to follow even if someone hasn’t read the main TMNT series or one-shot/mini-series tie-ins that led to this moment. It’s commonly said that every issue is someone’s first and making an issue new reader friendly is not always possible, but those writers that can make something new and old reader friendly often can make it seem so simple to achieve.
As someone that somehow didn’t regularly start reading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles until issue 101 (shocking for a lifelong TMNT fan and comic book fan), I appreciate very much how Waltz handles things. Things like the Pantheon and Madame Null and other aspects were not that familiar having not read all those previous issues, but just in the tie-ins and through here it all just feels familiar and comfortable already. There is a ton of build-up in this issue as pieces are moved around and threads intertwined, but it remains entertaining through each of those moments. I don’t mind an issue that is lots of exposition when it gives us tons of character and big moments.
There are huge dark implications at play with this storyline and the machinations of the Rat King, and we got the right artistic team leading the way here with Vincenzo Federici and Matt Herms. There is just an inherent rough quality to Federici’s work while also being smooth and slick at the same time. There is tons of depth and weight to every single panel, and the paneling style/work is neat as it changes and slides around to fit the need of the scene framing things in interesting ways. That aforementioned character work is best when paired with great art that showcases the facial expressions/emotion, which is the case here, especially with the great number of close-up panels that give characters their due.
Setting the tone can be done in a number of ways, and here its something that Herms excels in with the colors. There are many really vivid popping bright colors but also a lot of shadows and darkness that border or accent the colors, all of them being put under a filter that keeps them more toned down or grounded. At the same time, there are pages that easily slip between much brighter colors and then darker or heavier ones and vice versa, without missing a beat. Another thing that works great is that even with the same palette of colors, Herms makes each space that is visited in the issue feel unique from one another.
It’s interesting looking at what these two artists are doing here compared to their work in a book like All-New Firefly, where many of the same qualities I’ve listed are on display, yet things just feel so different. It’s clear that both are their work, but they make sure that whatever world they are in they shift things to befit that world rather than repeating what they’ve done for another series.
Another veteran in the TMNT world is Shawn Lee who is just the lettering master of this universe, having his hand in almost every single thing that falls under the Turtle banner for quite some time now. There is a reason for that as Lee is a fantastic letterer that captures all the emotion and personality and energy in any letters he puts on the page while making it all flow smoothly. Because of this, it gives all of the TMNT books this connected sensibility beyond just the characters and world, as Lee’s lettering is like an easy-to-follow throughline across these books to give them something solid in common.
Bubbles of various shapes, sizes, and colors are always something I love to see and those are found here as the varied cast of characters have their own little nuggets to be found in their speech. This also allows for the shifting of tone and volume at any moment, making sure its clear to us within the character’s voices at what level they are speaking. Sure, we could infer such things when reading but having it be very clear in what we hear as we read is a simple and effective measure.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game #1 is now available from IDW Publishing.