The Game Is Afoot: Reviewing ‘TMNT: The Armageddon Game’ #3
by Scott Redmond
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game’ #3 continues to meticulously build towards something bigger as the various characters are moved around, closer to achieving their goals and coming back to the same space once more. Plenty of big bold moments are surrounded by solid character work, a visually dense and delightful experience that showcases a perfect way to approach event comic books.
Event comics fall into a variety of realms, either jumping right into the matter at hand or spending time building to something bigger. Sometimes the latter path can bog things down pushing the big moments or momentum back till the last possible moment. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game walks the line of a slow and steady build with expert precision, because of one major factor: solid character.
Tom Waltz knows these characters forward and backward, having been there to kick off the revitalization of these characters back in 2011 and staying on until the one-hundredth issue of the main series. Much of the groundwork for this event was built out of stuff that Waltz helped bring to the pages over the last decade. In some ways, the pieces are still being placed onto the board for this big game, but it’s compelling to watch as the Splinter Clan is spread out across Earth and the cosmos.
Even with Jennika and Donatello and the regular supporting cast of characters doing their own part of this event over in the main Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, there is still a massive cast of characters in this story, but it never feels crowded. Everyone gets their moments, and their own focus as they begin to make their own moves or search for answers or the means to stop Rat King once and for all. We begin to see some of the dire nature of this plan as Krang is turned into a bigger threat (MetalKrang…that’s the comic book stuff I crave right there!), the clone Turtles carry out more of Madame Null & Baxter Stockman’s plans, and Raphael and Michelangelo complete their missions to gain very necessary allies.
I’m digging this slower build because it makes it feel like a complementary Turtles title rather than a hurry-up-and-get-to-some-big-fight style of event, though I love many of those types of stories too. It’s just a big scale fun character-rich Ninja Turtles story that is also a love letter to so much of the Turtles lore from across mediums and the decades.
All of this energy is felt through the artwork that Vincenzo Federici, Alex Sanchez, and Matt Herms bring to the page. As noted, there are a lot of big character moments but also some big bold action moments and Federici captures all of that. It’s such a smooth detailed style that nails each of the emotional and action beats by creating accurate facial expressions/emotions as well as very flowy kinetic movement on the pages. Sanchez’s inks make all of that have even more depth and weight, giving the world the right amount of firm pop.
As smooth as it all is there is an inherent roughness to be found too, just enough to add to the overall direr or sometimes darker tone of some of the proceedings. Much of that comes from the dark color palette that Herms employs, using a lot of shadows but also a lot of cooler toned-down colors next to some spaces that have more vivid pops of color. A lot of the space stuff has more vivid but still toned-down colors because of the alien or other-dimensional vistas that are so different from the pages where we’re in New York City, as it should be.
Federici has such an interesting paneling style going on as there are pages where one panel might somewhat bleed into the overall backdrop with the others piling on top and standing out, putting negative space to great use. I love panels being stacked over others because it is just such a different site compared to the more standard way to panel, but it also creates an interesting visual guide as our eyes slide across the page and quickly move right into the next thing without missing a beat. There is a double-page spread of panels with Shredder and Leo at one point that is littered with a ton of panels, but they are just so varied and smooth in how they flow that it’s compelling rather than overwhelming.
We get a chance in this issue as Shawn Lee, who letters a lot of the Turtleverse books, is not here so the letters are picked up by Jake M. Wood for this go around. I totally missed that it wasn’t Lee till I went back to the credits page, because Wood captured all the same sort of energy and steady direction that Lee usually doles out in the letters.
Hitting the marks for character and emotion within every bit of words on the page allows us to perfectly hear how any given line should be delivered. Louder moments come with accompanying bigger text, that perfect comic book moment of a loud word being so big it even bursts out of the bubble, while softer moments come with text that is smaller or slightly different from the normal. It’s just as easy to follow as the paneling style, as the words flow around the rest of the artwork in a way that complements the rest of the page and also doesn’t leave us swimming through too much dialogue.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game #3 is now available from IDW Publishing.