Your Instructor Is Casey Jones: Reviewing ‘TMNT: The Armageddon Game – The Alliance’ #2
by Scott Redmond
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game – The Alliance’ #2 easily juggles a story that works as both an event tie-in as well as a deep character study for Casey Jones, weaving together years of stories and characters. At the same time, it’s pretty new reader friendly in many senses as it puts the cards on the table, without having to spell out every single detail along the way.
One thing that helps make any solo hero or team franchise even more impressive is a very strong supporting cast. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in all formats has a truly stacked supporting cast of characters, that has grown enormously over the decades. At the center though, stalwart and true, are the two major human allies to the Turtles: April O’Neil and Casey Jones.
It’s the latter’s turn for a bit of spotlight in the middle of the ongoing The Armageddon Game event, as the second issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game – The Alliance turns its eyes upon the hockey mask-wearing vigilante as he works to patrol the outskirts of a Mutant Town in chaos. Casey is just such a well-developed character, no matter which version we’re talking about, and it’s always a delight to spend time with the character. Especially since there is a whole lot of emotional and life baggage to be explored that has built up over the past few years of the main series.
Writer and artist Will Robson dives right in and captures Casey’s spirit and drive while allowing us to get so deep into the character. As noted this is a very emotional story and Robson lays that all out on the page not just through Casey’s words but by wonderfully capturing the facial work and body language as well as manipulating the paneling style to maximize the effect. There are plenty of distance shots to take in all the world and detail around Casey at times, but then we get powerful panels that are just a zoom-in of Casey’s eye full of sadness as he speaks about how hurt he is in the aftermath of his best friend Raphael thinking the worst of him recently.
On that note, I truly liked how connected this was not just to the ongoing event but that Robson picked up various threads that Sophie Campbell began over in the main series from the aforementioned Raphael/Casey issues to the return of the Punk Frogs and even the fallout from Casey abandoning the Purple Dragons previously. There are a lot of really well-structured and natural fight scenes, between Casey and the Frogs and then the Frogs and Casey vs the Purple Dragons, alongside the more character-heavy dialogue moments. On the paneling front, Robson employs great uses of negative space to create borders that shift between white and black and in some cases, where panels are on top of one another or a central panel, borders of color.
One aspect that stood out too was how on many of the fight pages the panels are ordered but slightly more chaotic than pages of talking. Meaning that on a fight page the eye might be made to move from left to right in an almost zig-zag or such pattern, and then some of the talk pages are panels just leading straight down.
Color-wise there is a lot of variety to be found in the work done by Andrew Dalhouse and Gigi Dutreix. They have pages where the colors are slick and vibrant, popping off the page and matching the fact that this is a fantastical world with mutant turtles and frogs and colorful clans/gangs. Then on other pages, namely many of the more personal or emotional pages, the colors retain their slickness but are more constrained and toned down. Heavier in shadows or darker tones, setting up the vibe that is required for any given moment.
A lot of the issue takes place in alleyways and those spaces are both adequately darkened in some spots, but then have just the right amount of light to them. Such as one where Casey is framed within the beam from a single light overhead, casing shadows but not falling upon the others before him that are in the shadows. It speaks to the accuracy that is being put forward to make the scenes fit the time of day and space they are occupying, rather than just going a route that would make it all brighter just for the sake of it.
Truly one of the MVPs of the entire line is Shawn Lee who is around to tackle the letters of so many of the Turtle-verse issues. There is a lot for Lee to do in this issue, because as I noted it’s heavy on dialogue and other lettering elements. Lee captures the energy and tone that is needed for any story and makes sure that the words are carrying that around with them everywhere they pop up. There is a flow to the dialogue and its position, making it easy to follow and not get lost in the spots where there are far more words to take in. All while making sure we can tell what the volume and tone should be, dropping in some of those big giant bold exclamations or words that are somewhat smaller to indicate softer or further away speaking elements.
Alongside the main story, we have a secondary story from Erik Burnham, Roi Mercado, William Soares, and Neil Uyetake. It picks up the story from the first issue that Burnham, Mercado, and Soares were telling about the Foot Clan’s leader Karai moving to create something new and find new alliances, as the title indicates. It brings her to Casey Jones, which is where we saw her saying she was headed in the previous issue.
In just a few pages Burnham creates an engaging narrative, as the two characters bounce off each other in a way that reminds us that they have a history. We see more history played out perfectly in some of the panels brought to life by Roi, who has such a great eye for detail and an art style that has weight and power to it that is smooth but also a bit rough at the same time. Which fits both Karai and Casey in many ways.
Most of the four pages are the characters standing around chatting, but it’s still very dynamic thanks to the movement and the way that Roi sets up the panels. Even on that history page where Karai is mostly featured on the same side of each panel with a different scene, the image beside her is different and moves and she is given movement in each one to make sure they are all unique panels. Given even more pop and weight from Soares colors that are mostly thick and heavy with some vibrancy but other parts of the pages, like the montages, are lighter in tone with a bit more color alongside the heavier shadows.
Uyetake does a great job of capturing the voices and energy in the amount of dialogue we get here, making sure it flows around the page in the best way possible. Even when there are multiple packed bubbles on a page they don’t feel overwhelming or like they are taking up too much space. They fit right into the overall scheme of things smoothly and are rife with little elements that help change the volume or tone of given words, making it clear to us how we should be hearing those words.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game – The Alliance #2 is now available from IDW Publishing.