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Review – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #96 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Artwork: Michael Dialynas
Colours: Ronda Pattison
Lettering: Shawn Lee
Release Date: 31st July 2019


It’s interesting to me that with IDW’s landmark “City at War” event now in full swing, and all the various factions of ninjas, gangsters, street thugs and shady military organisations careening towards each other in massive bout of mutually assured destruction, all everyone is talking about right now is the fate of Jennika.

For those unfamiliar with the arc so far, war has broken out between Karai and Splinter over leadership of the Foot Clan. While things started amicably enough, Splinter’s refusal to a trial by combat incensed Karai, setting off a chain of events that led to her mortally wounding Jennika in an underhanded attack. Desperate to save their friend and ally, the turtles were forced to roll the dice and give Jenny a transfusion of Leonardo’s blood, inadvertently turning her into a mutant turtle in the process.

It’s a cracking centerpiece for the sprawling conflict, and grabbed a lot of press headlines by virtue of its unexpected shaking up of the status quo. This latest issue heavily focuses on the fallout, including a reunion between Jennika and her beau Casey Jones that goes about as well as you might expect.

Tom Waltz’s strong script and Michael Dialynas’ typically impressive artwork really help to sell these moments, and while a lot of the issue falls into the familiar ‘series of one or two page scenes where we check in on all the different characters’ style, this particular exchange is given a little extra time to breathe, and rightfully so.

One of the things that has always impressed me about IDW’s ongoing TMNT series is the way all the different storylines intertwine and feed off one another, an approach which is very much on display here. That said, it’s also something of a double-edged sword, with the slow-burn style of storytelling making it fairly tricky for new readers to jump in and immediately understand exactly what’s going on.

It’s also worth mentioning that some of the subplots here are definitely a lot more interesting that others, and it becomes more than a little frustrating when the great stuff gets sidelined by the slightly less great stuff (seriously, is anyone out there really clamouring for more Null stories?)

On the visual side of things, Michael Dialynas turns in another solid effort, capturing the necessary emotion during the early scenes (Casey’s forced smile in particular is brilliant), while also getting to cut loose with a little carnage near the end of the issue. His ability to blend the serious with the cartoony puts him right near the top of my list of TMNT artists, and he works well alongside Ronda Pattison here to put together some genuinely eye-catching panels.

The final pages feature another showdown between Karai and Splinter, and in spite of the confusing contradiction in Splinter’s moral code (refuses a trial by combat to avoid unnecessary bloodshed but has no qualms executing rivals in cold blood), these moments always deliver the goods in terms of drama and sizzling dialogue.

Ultimately then, while the core of the arc is pure gold, it does feel a bit like “City at War” is groaning under the weight of its various subplots and offshoots. The Splinter/Karai, Jennika/Casey and Bishop/Metalhead stuff is fantastic, but some of the other peripheral characters and situations feel like they’re suffocating things just a little. It’s still an enjoyable read, and I’m completely and utterly invested in finding out what happens next, but I’m just not loving it quite as much as I hoped I would going in. Not yet, anyway.

Rating: 3.5/5.


[PREVIEW ARTWORK]






ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-(aka Ceej)
Article Archive: Ceej Says
You can follow Ceej on Twitter


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