Review – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #81 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Artwork: Dave Wachter
Colours: Ronda Pattison
Release Date: 11th April 2018

With the Invasion of the Triceratons now mercifully in the rear view mirror, IDW’s ongoing TMNT series uses this latest issue to take stock of the status quo the aftermath of the decimation of New York.

The splintering (pun intended) of Clan Hamato’s relationship with their father has reached almost irreconcilable levels, a dynamic which promises to feature heavily in the series for the foreseeable future.  Elsewhere, Baxter Stockman is adjusting to his new-found “hero” status in pretty much exactly the way you would expect, while Casey Jones and his father’s relationship is undergoing a surprising change of its own.

Amidst all this character-based turmoil, a formidable threat to the safety of the city’s inhabitants is (re)introduced, with our brothers taking some fairly drastic steps in order to combat an adversary against whom they are hopelessly outmatched.

This is very much a setup issue – a deep breath before we launch headlong into the next arc, if you will – but it also feels like things are starting to return to normal in terms of the quality and focus of the series. And a lot of that feeling falls at the feet of Dave Wachter, one of my favourite TMNT artists in recent years, whose typically detailed pencils give an instantly more ‘grown up’ feel to the story – particularly when it comes to the aforementioned threat, who in lesser hands could feel hokey instead of genuinely menacing.

There are some fantastic visual flourishes here, especially during the opening sequence (which you can enjoy in all its glory below) where Master Splinter and Leo’s separate meditations both identify the same impending threat.  The subtle differences between each leader are highlighted beautifully, and Ronda Pattison’s oppressive colours really help to hammer home the gravity of the shared premonition.

The final page sees the brothers taking the aforementioned drastic steps, steering the story into a playground where Wachter has a fairly stellar track record, and promising to keep the story focus firmly on our four brothers where it belongs.

Ultimately then, while the actual progression is fairly minimal here, this feels like an almost tangible slowing down of things after the cartoony chaos of the Triceraton Invasion.  It also serves as a welcome return to the great character work and multi-layered storytelling that has made this series such a runaway success for the past six years, and I can’t wait to see where this new arc leads.

Rating: 4/5.


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