Originally published in: TMNT Magazine (Panini) #9
Publication date: December 2013/January 2014
Script: Ed Caruana
Art: Cosmo White
Colours: Jason Cardy
Colour assist: Ed Pirrie
Letters: Alex Foot
Donnie invites Leo and Raph into his workshop to introduce them to his latest invention: Robo Ninja. He describes it as a remote controlled sparring partner (meanwhile, behind Donnie’s back, Mikey searches for his video game controller, finds it, and runs off to the living room). Leo and Raph are concerned that Robo Ninja might go bonkers and try to kill them all like Donnie’s last robot, Metalhead, tried to do. Donnie assures them that as long as he has the controller, Robo Ninja can’t do anything to harm them. He then produces the controller (a modified video game controller) and switches Robo Ninja on.
Nothing happens. As Don inspects Robo Ninja, Mikey boots up his copy of “Ninja Penguins”. The game won’t respond to Mikey’s controls, but Robo Ninja suddenly springs to life and begins pummeling Donatello. As Donatello fusses with the controller to try and shut Robo Ninja down, Mikey finds his game character bouncing all over the screen and not obeying his commands. Hmmm…
Back in the workshop, Leo and Raph finally decide to intervene once Robo Ninja starts getting too violent. They’re relieved that the robot doesn’t have any weapons or it might be a REAL threat. Robo Ninja proceeds to produce a bevy of sharp instruments from all over its body and rushes Leo and Raph.
As the fight moves into the living room, Don suddenly realizes that he and Mikey have switched controllers. Donnie gets his controller back just in time to shut Robo Ninja down before it kills Leo and Raph.
Mikey apologizes for getting the controllers mixed up. Raph accepts the apology and, taking Robo Ninja’s controller, he suggests a new game: “Pin the fist on the Mikey”. Mikey runs away screaming as Robo Ninja chases him around the lair.
*This story is continued from TMNT Magazine (Panini) #8. The next story in sequence is “Seriously Serious”.
*Metalhead went out of control in the season 1 episode “Metalhead”.
Hey, it’s nice to get a break from the Kraang, the Foot and really all other established villains. “Robo Ninja” stands out among Panini’s Nick TMNT comics thus far in that way, being perhaps their most offbeat story. It also deviates from Caruana’s typical formula (which I discussed last review) and is just a crazy romp with no moral agenda or rigid structure. The gag and resolution are setup on the first page and we’re simply invited to roll with the action. Fun stuff.
Caruana also addresses the elephant in the room, multiple times: "What’s the point of Robo Ninja if Metalhead already exists?" Caruana comes up with a handwave explanation to distinguish Robo Ninja from Metalhead and its good enough to get the reader to leave those queries behind and enjoy the tale. You might ask “why not just use Metalhead in the first place?” But then we’d wind up with TWO stories where Metalhead goes haywire and tries to destroy the Turtles and then this comic would have felt redundant with the cartoon episode. So from that perspective I can understand the necessity to create a new remote-controlled robot character. It’s ostensibly the same conflict, but I’d like to think that all the references to how “this won't end up like with Metalhead” were Caruana’s way of pulling a wink-wink nudge-nudge bit of self-awareness.
Cosmo White’s art is some lively and electric stuff; very expressive and off the wall with a strong sense of energy in the characters and layouts. The colo(u)rs of Cardy and Pirrie are likewise a great compliment to his linework and the bright, vibrant colors really pop (again, it contrasts heavily with the more subdued palette of the IDW TMNT New Animated Adventures series, and I think I prefer this take). There’s one panel where letterer Alex Foot points Leo’s speech bubble toward Don, but I feel kind of like a jerk pointing that out. Nobody ever mentions the work of the letterer unless they screw up…
Anyhow, this was a nice change of pace from the previous installments, which were getting a bit mired in formula.
Grade: B+ (as in, “By the way, Robo Ninja’s face kind of reminded me of Michael Dooney’s design for Junk Man, but that’s likely a coincidence. They BOTH sort of remind me of Warlock from the New Mutants, anyway”.)