Publication date: June 20, 2012
Letters: Shawn Lee
Even now, in the present, Splinter can see Shen’s qualities shining through in all his sons: her intelligence and curiosity in Donatello, her passion in Raphael, her concern for others in Leonardo and her ability to take pure joy in all experiences in Michelangelo. After considering all this, Splinter finally comes to the conclusion that for the good of the world, he must fulfill his promise to end Oroku Saki’s life. Defeating the last of the Foot Soldiers, Splinter turns to the Shredder (flanked by Karai and Alopex) and asks if he remembers the promise he had made in his previous life.
*Chronologically, this story takes place between pages 7 and 8 of TMNT (IDW) #11.
*Splinter was taken captive by the Foot Clan in TMNT (IDW) #9.
*In a flashback, Oroku Saki killed Tang Shen, Hamato Yoshi and their four sons in TMNT (IDW) #5.
*Events immediately following the assassination of Lord Ochi will be seen in TMNT: The Secret History of the Foot Clan #2.
*This issue was originally published with three variant covers: Cover A by David Peterson, Cover B by Wilson III, and Cover RI black and white version of Peterson’s cover.
Hey, any of you reading Erik Burnham’s current Ghostbusters ongoing series? To go off on a tangent: You should be. It is really, really good.
So when I heard that Burnham would be taking on an issue of TMNT Microseries, you can imagine my excitement. And Burnham delivers with Microseries: Splinter, offering his same level of incredibly strong characterization and tightly paced but never rushed storytelling that has made him one of my favorite authors in the comics industry.
This issue acts as something of a sequel or to prequel to TMNT #5, giving us another in-depth look at the history of the Yoshi Clan back in Feudal Japan. It shows a different side of Burnham than his work in Ghostbusters, which as you can imagine is mostly comedy; giving us a rather moving tale about inner demons, squandering second chances and “the greater good”. This entire issue helps to quench a certain irritation amongst readers up to this point: How can a ninja assassin have a code against killing? The rationalization offered by Splinter in this issue feels very natural and convincing; if you could be “born again”, would you really want to waste that opportunity by continuing down the same path that previously led to your destruction?
It’s a stark contrast from Splinter’s characterization in the Mirage series, where he had his sons out killing people as early as age 12, if not younger, and was never shy in that he trained them solely for lethal revenge against the Shredder. That was always a rather unflattering element of Splinter’s original incarnation and clashed badly with some of the lighter stories presenting him as a loving and doting father. Here, Burnham actually manages to “have it both ways” and not make it a matter of contradictions but a genuine evolution of the character.
What surprised me most about this issue is the portrayal of young Hamato Yoshi as being, well, Raph-like. We always look at Leo as being “Splinter Jr.”, but in this instance it’s really Raph who takes the most after their father. It was a surprising and refreshing change-up to the formula. Things like this and the current Leo/Don rivalry have been some of my favorite “twists”, really making the IDW series stand out and keep me curiously on edge. Any hack rebooting a universe can “change things up” by, oh I don’t know, having Carnage kill Gwen Stacy instead of the Green Goblin and call it a “shocking twist”, but it takes a real creative mind to make the more subtle changes to characters and their relationships and have them feel perfectly natural; more like unexplored opportunities than stark changes for shock value.
Artist Charles Paul Wilson III offers a very visually satisfying issue with Microseries: Splinter, incorporating two distinct styles that contrast the present day sequences with the Feudal Japan flashbacks. He has a great handle on landscapes, architecture and fashion, making the Japan portions of this story feel highly authentic. And this is kinda weird, but I love his drawing of that bird on Page 5. It delivers an immediate sensation of tranquility to the reader, which is exactly the kind of atmosphere that section of the story was striving for (Yoshi being shamed by his brash actions and forced to find inner peace via meditation in the forest). Colorist Jay Fotos does something really neat with the Japan pages in that the empty space behind the panels is textured to look like parchment. Another very subtle effect that drives home the atmosphere of the period sequences.
This was a very strong issue and a wonderful “sequel” to issue #5, which was one of IDW’s best. Just a great collaboration of talent, really fleshing out the characters and universe of IDW’s Ninja Turtles.
Grade: A (as in, “Although I think we still need an explanation as to what a Chinese girl was doing in Feudal Japan, at a time when China and Japan weren’t exactly best buddies… Not that they’ve ever been best buddies”.)