While the first two episodes of this new volume focused on the differences in which our heroes and Karai dealt with the remaining forces of the Shredder, “The Insecta Trifecta” gave us a more straight forward adventure. Pitting the Turtles and company against Baxter Stockman and his new hench-bugs, Scumbug and Antrax, the episode gave us a fun romp through the city at nighttime, character moments for both Raphael and Stockman (of all people), and some really great one liners to boot.
Unbeknownst to our heroes, Shredder is still healing in his secret base, faced with the fact that all of his trusted minions have failed him time and time again to not only defeat the Turtles, but also hold onto their territory in NYC. The only one who seems to be helping him, much to Shredder’s chagrin, is none other than Stockman. Stockman has been using mutagen injections to heal Shredder, and it seems to be slowly doing the job. This success, of course, is eaten up by Stockman. He’s always wanted recognition and friends, and much of this episode is centered on this desire.
Determined to continue this string of success, Baxter whips up some insect minions of his own. Antrax, a self replicating ant mutant, and Scumbug, a spider/beetle hybrid. While his initial plan is to create an insect army “For the glory of Shredder,” after Scumbug finishes mutating, he immediately declares him his friend and talks about all the awesome things they’ll do together. But first, they’re going to rob a bank to refill Shredder’s coffers.
The other central character to the episode is Raphael, focusing on his “bug-phobia.” Despite stating, “Once you’ve been to a planet full of bugs, nothing bothers you anymore,” Raph breaks down upon confrontation of the titular Insecta Trifecta. His phobia results in him going into a trance like state, where he is faced with visions of Lord Dregg and his insect army, Mona Lisa either turning into a bug or getting overtaken by a hoard of them, and worst of all to Raph, Cockroach Terminator. These were some good callbacks. I almost forgot how rightly terrified of Cockroach Terminator Raph was. Also, it seems Raph still has some misgivings about Mona Lisa’s betrayal, despite them coming to terms at the end of that episode. That’s a real mature statement for the show to have; sometimes the feelings of a particular problem remain, even after the problem has been “resolved.” Finally, I wonder if Raph’s phobia was a convenient way for the writers to remind us that Lord Dregg is still out there, and will most likely return at some point.
Ok, fun stuff. I’d love to hear more from Leo and Mikey over which show is better, Crognard or Space Heroes. That police officer referring to the insect mutants as “dirty, filthy, hippies” is hilarious in how completely ridiculous it is. Either he saw some really weird stuff in the 60s, or this is just what he thinks the natural evolution of hippies are. I loved Mikey’s line, “I hear a voice, but no way it’s Raph. It’s way too high and whiney.” Also his slapping Raph being exactly what his brother needed. Finally, Splinter was really on point in this episode. Not just in the way in which he helped Raph, but also his shellshock dad-pun, and the whole joke behind the meaning of Raph’s new mantra.
Really this episode had a moment for everyone. Leo got to make fun of Karai for once again needed his help. Donnie got to make some awesome grappling hook tech that gave us some real Attack on Titan style aerials. Mikey got his slap therapy, “I’m the one who brings sanity” line. April and Karai had a sweet team up moment. “The Insecta Trifecta” proved to be a fun episode all around.
I always like to include a few things about the style of the episode, whether it be art or writing, and this time I’d like to focus on the art. I don’t know if this is a conscious shift in the animation, or if it was a result of all the crazy mutations, between the insects and Karai’s snake form, but the art really seemed to come alive in this episode. The fight scenes, in their quality and fluidity, felt almost claymation in style. I’m interested to see if this style continues, if it was just a one off, or if it was just the insects bringing a different quality due to their design. Additionally, woah did this episode cross into some body horror moments. Antrax’s duplication was creepy and Scumbugs butt-mouth was suitably disgusting, as many characters pointed out.
“The Insecta Trifecta,” with it’s breakneck pace and liberal character spots, leaned into the fun for a solid, one off adventure. Raph and Baxter got some solid attention, and the episode also set up what seems to be the inevitable introduction of Super Shredder. Volume 8 has a really good flow going right now, and the season looks to take it into September, with strong writing and an interesting evolution in art style. Here’s hoping they keep up the good work.