Review – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #6 (IDW Publishing)

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Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer(s): John Lees, Nick Pitarra, Brahm Revel
Artist(s): Nick Pitarra, Brahm Revel
Release Date: 18th January 2017

When the search for a missing sewer worker is called off, NYPD Officer Maureen Lin ventures beneath the city to try and find the man herself.  While doing so, she stumbles into a certain pizza-loving “party dude” and the pair decided to work together to find the missing worker. Unfortunately, their investigations are interrupted by the arrival of a new threat in the form of Wyrm, a terrifying creature made up of, well, flatworms.

This standalone one-shot is probably the closest that IDW’s TMNT franchise has come to all-out horror, and who better to assist in delivering a tone like this than John Lees, author of such acclaimed horror comics as And Then Emily Was Gone and SINK. Lees and Pitarra inject the story with a sense of unease as Mikey and Lin venture deeper and deeper I nto the sewers, with the chilling hiss of Wyrm’s voice haunting them every step of the way.

If John Lees is the perfect writer for a story like this, then Nick Pitarra is definitely the perfect artist to illustrate a grotesque beastie made up of thousands of flatworms and various chunks of sewer trash.  And I mean that as a compliment, I swear.   Pitarra’s typically detailed fine linework works wonders in bringing Wyrm to life, and while his Michaelangelo is perhaps a little uneven at times (seriously, those eyes are fairly terrifying), the horrific centrepiece of the story is an absolute visual tour de force.

Extra credit should also be given to letterer Shawn Lee, who really helps to sell the menacing hiss of Wyrm with a creative use of fonts and colours.  It all comes together beautifully, creating an aesthetic that should feel familiar to long-standing TMNT fans while still being different enough for this story to carve out its own niche.

I won’t dig too deeply into how the story develops, except to say that, as with many great horror creations, Lees and Pitarra tinge Wyrm with a little hint of sympathy, making him an almost tragic figure as his origins and motivations are gradually unveiled.

The backup story, “What is Ninja?” by Brahm Revel delivers a stylised artistic approach as Raphael finds himself being watched and studied during a routine bout of crime fighting.  Revel’s narrative is a little confusing as it unfolds, before suddenly making sense once the end of the story is reached.  It also ends with a “to be continued”, which bodes well as the story provides a lot of interesting possibilities as things stand now.

Overall then, while the tone and artwork definitely provide a marked departure from the established TMNT style, that’s sometimes not a bad thing, and watching Lees and Pitarra working in perfect synergy here to craft a truly unique story based around a cult favourite character like Wyrm is thoroughly captivating.  Great stuff, and hopefully this isn’t the last we see of these two creators playing in this particular sandbox.

Rating: 4/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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