Wednesday, November 30, 2016

TMNT Universe #4

Publication date: November 30, 2016

Writer: Paul Allor
Artist: Damian Couceiro
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

"The War to Come, Part 4"



Outside TCRI, Bishop gives a rousing speech to his EPF troops, announcing that this is the first battle in humanity's war against mutants.  The EPF troops then march into the building, hot on the heels of the Turtles and Zodi.  The mutants manage to make it through a skirmish and into a laboratory where Leonardo yells for Stockman to unlock the door and let them pass through.  From the security command center, Baxter Stockman briefly considers letting the Turtles rot, but accepts that he must work with them for the moment and unlocks the door.

In the EPF command van, the detained Detective Lewis looks at the monitors and sees the EPF troops stuck at the lab door.  She suggests that Bishop recall his soldiers, but Bishop reveals that he’s already thinking several moves ahead.  While that one unit was keeping the Turtles on the run, a second unit was planting explosives outside the wall of the TCRI command center.

Inside the commander center, the wall explodes and dozens of EPF troops pour in.  The Turtles, Zodi and the armored Stockman take the troops down, but as soon as they do, a second wave begins its charge.  Things look bleak until a gang of Roadkill Rodney robots appear and begin using their taser whips to stun the EPF soldiers.  Evidently, this was April’s secret mission: To get out of TCRI and negotiate backup from Zodi’s employer.

Outside, the Roadkill Rodneys and Null Corporation troopers do a number on the EPF vehicles and standby troops.  Bishop is left with no alternative but to order a full retreat.  Detective Lewis talks her way into a ride, and her freedom, insisting that she’s onboard with the idea of the human vs. mutant war, even if she doesn’t think all mutants are the enemy, and that Bishop will need her to help spin his story to the authorities.  As the EPF command van drives away, a limo pulls up and out steps Madame Null.  Bishop and Null momentarily lock eyes, being aware of who the other is.

Inside the TCRI command center, the Turtles see the EPF retreating and Zodi calls off the Roadkill Rodneys with a voice command.  The Turtles try to make peace with Stockman, but he tells them to leave his property immediately.  Once outside, they honor the bargain April made with Madame Null by handing over Zodi and whatever tech she was originally sent to TCRI to steal from Stockman.  Apparently, Stockman knows nothing of the deal they made with Null, the cover story being that Null only showed up to bail Zodi out, and they’d prefer to keep it that way.  As Zodi leaves, Michelangelo tries to give her a speech about teamwork and friendship, but she blows him off, insisting that if things went south, she would have killed him to save her own hide without a second thought.

Inside the EPF command van, Colonel Knight and Sergeant Winter express their dissatisfaction with the outcome of the battle.  Not only did they lose, but they’ve officially sacrificed the element of surprise.  Agent Bishop isn’t quite so gloomy, insisting that they now have an idea of the players in the war, what they’re capable of and the sort of punishment they can take.  With that data to work with, they’ll be better prepared for the next major battle.

Back at TCRI, Baxter surveys the destruction of his new building as April “emerges from her hiding place” (the story the Turtles told Baxter to cover her absence).  April renews her offer to cooperate with Baxter for their own mutual benefit.  Contemplating all the new threats, and seeing just how vulnerable he actually is, Baxter agrees to a partnership.

Down in the lair, the Turtles return home (to their pet dino, Pepperoni!) and collapse in the living room.  Raphael is the only one who isn’t totally spent and empties his heart to his brothers, promising that he’ll try to do better as a sibling and a teammate.  The Turtles don’t hear him, as they’ve all fallen asleep, so Raph heads to the dojo to put in some extra practice.


Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Layouts: Kevin Eastman
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Colorist: Tomi Varga

“Inside Out, Part 4”

Leonardo emerges from the water and finds himself in Harold’s lab, somehow.  Harold reminds Leo that he no longer wants anything to do with the Turtles and sics Metalhead on him. 

Leo defeats Metalhead, but the robot turtle fuses with Harold and the disembodied head of the Fugitoid, becoming a gargantuan robot monster.  The robot starts smashing up the lab, as Leo hopelessly dodges the blows in search of a way out.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Universe #3.  For the Turtles, the story continues in TMNT (IDW) #65

*The series continues with a new story in TMNT Universe #5.

*Madame Null’s Roadkill Rodneys last appeared in TMNT:Mutanimals #4.

*Harold broke ties with the Turtles in TMNT (IDW) #64.

*Metalhead last appeared in TMNT (IDW) #50

*The Fugitoid was beheaded in TMNT (IDW) #56 and last appeared in TMNT (IDW) #58.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Regular Cover by Freddie E. Williams II, Subscription Cover A by Couceiro, and Incentive Cover by Agustin Graham Nakamura.


Evidently, this arc was called “The War to Come”, if the recently solicited trade paperback collection is anything to go by.  A little on the nose, but I’m certainly excited for the human/mutant war that Old Hob has been hinting at for a few years now.  I’m hoping THIS war is a bit more satisfying than the last one they tried hinting at, though.  Remember way back in TMNT (IDW) #6, when the dying Savate ninja ominously warned that a “war” was coming?  Then remember when that war happened almost entirely off-panel during “City Fall”?

Yeah, let’s not have a repeat of that.

This was an all-action issue followed by a bunch of epilogues, though it was enjoyable all the way through.  As a matter of fact, this whole arc has been action-packed with each chapter; it’s not frontloaded with story setup and then backloaded with payoff.  In that respect, I think Allor deserves an award just for his ability to pace and distribute plot/action fairly from chapter to chapter.  Though it’s consolidated to 4-issues, it doesn’t read like a “written for the trade” storyline, which unfortunately is how many of the arcs in the ongoing and some of the previous miniseries tended to read.

With that said, it DOES read even better altogether, and the TMNT’s epilogue has even more oomph to it when you take in the story without any breaks.  BECAUSE there was a dollop of severe action in each issue, the Turtles really do feel like they’ve been on the ropes through the entire arc with scarcely a moment’s rest.  When they collapse from exhaustion at the very end, you appreciate how worn they really are.

Couceiro’s pages continue that trend of spatial coherency I talked about in an earlier review, and the opening chase is a text book example of how it’s done.  He always provides a line of sight opportunity for the reader to see where the characters came from and where they’re headed as the EPF pursues them through the TCRI building: Through the rooftop door, down the stairs, into the hallway, down a stairwell, into the lab and then into the commander center. 

What works so well about the layouts is that by giving you a solid idea of where the TMNT have to go and how they have to get there, it makes the shortcuts the EPF troops take by blowing up walls NOT feel like bullshit.  Since you’ve just followed the Turtles, you KNOW what’s on the other side of each wall, so when the EPF just fucking goes THROUGH them, you share the tension of the protagonists because you feel like you’ve just been in those rooms and the enemies are only a breath behind.  And as said before, it’s something that when done well, you don’t necessarily notice because it’s intuitive to the reading experience, but when done poorly it pulls you right the fuck out.

The epilogue with Baxter and April was an interesting one; not the way I was expecting the story to end.  I had sort of forgotten that April had tried to make a deal with Baxter in the first issue (despite that being the entire reason she and the Turtles were at TCRI), so I hadn’t anticipated that element to be reprised as a sort of bookending device.  The way it’s superficially presented, you might think Baxter is agreeing to work with April because he’s upset that his new building was trashed, but I think it’s more about what all this represents to him internally.  Despite all of his precautions, he still got caught with his pants down and wound up being extremely vulnerable to enemies he didn’t even know existed; the Turtles were the only reason he made it out alive. 

Baxter makes quiet references to playing a “game”, an allusion back to his micro-series issue that likened his thought process to a chess player’s, so it’s clear that even in the form of a partnership, he’s using them to his advantage.  He also says that the Turtles “belong” to him, as they were originally his lab subjects, which gives further insight into his thought process of using the Turtles as tools and nothing more. 

And with both Harold and the Fugitoid currently out of the picture, Baxter might end up being their science/tech support character.  And won’t that be weird?

Also, hey, Madame Null and the Roadkill Rodneys.  Man, I love those little robots.  Anyway, I’m digging the ties back to the Mutanimals miniseries; this issue kicked off the war between humans and mutants, but the Mutanimals, the characters formed for the sole purpose of fighting in this war, were conspicuously absent from the events.  The strong ties to their miniseries at least makes it feel like they were there in spirit.

I was a little bummed that Madame Null didn’t retain the scars Hob put on her face.  I was hoping she’d be forced to carry his mark as a visual display of their rivalry or whatever.  It would’ve been nice symmetry with how Hob is stuck with the scars Splinter gave him.  But ah well.

As for the back-up, I’m enjoying the Sienkiewicz art and I think that’s all you’re really supposed to be getting out of it.  It’s been a lot of the same old, same old as Leo just runs a gauntlet of spookified TMNT rogues and the exercise is getting a little tiresome.  At least with Harold expressing his hatred of the Turtles we now have a clue where this back-up takes place in relation to the ongoing (you can pretty much slot it in-between this arc and TMNT #65).  Even though this arc is finished, the back-up isn’t, so I guess if they do continue with the back-up feature (and they’d better if they want to justify the $5 price tag) the shorts won’t start and stop at the same pace as the feature story.

And as for TMNT Universe, now that the initial arc is concluded, what do I think of the series so far?  Well, like I said in my review of the first issue, this new ongoing is really just an umbrella banner for the scattered miniseries, joining them as an ongoing anthology rather than a bunch of finite things.  However, I do think the ongoing approach is going to be beneficial in the long run, as now the writers aren’t limited to 4-issue arcs so everything can fit neatly in a trade.  Maybe we can get a pair of two-parters, or a three-parter and a one-shot?  Maybe the stories can only take up as many issues as they need in order to tell what they have to say, rather than stretch things out because they gotta fill a trade paperback?  And if we’re really good, maybe Santa will give us specials, annuals and minis in addition to the ongoing and Universe?

Content-wise, I’d like to see Universe cover the supporting characters from now on.  I know why they led with a Turtle-centric storyline, because it made it an easier pitch to new readers, but from now on I want to see TMNT Universe explore the UNIVERSE beyond the Turtles.  They have their own ongoing; let everyone else have this one.  And since the next arc will be about Leatherhead and the Mutanimals, I think I’ll be getting what I want.