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Comic Review: TMNT Universe #5

The holiday spirit comes to TMNT Universe… sort of. It’s time to check in with a few fan-favorite supporting characters like Old Hob, Leatherhead, and Hun. Also, the Leonardo back-up story reaches its end… for now.

Comic Review: TMNT Universe #5

(W) Chris Mowry, Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, and Bobby Curnow, (A) Michael Dialynas, Kevin Eastman, and Bill Sienkiewicz, (C) Tomi Varga

If the intended purpose of TMNT Universe is to be the spiritual successor to Mirage Studios’ Tales of the TMNT, then this latest issue is a success. This world created under IDW Publishing is full of many rich and captivating characters, and it would be a shame for any to be lost in the shuffle as a result of only one Ninja Turtles title hitting the stands. With TMNT Universe #5, that purpose is fulfilled, with a couple side-characters getting a chance in the limelight.

It’s been quite a while Hun has played a significant role in the Turtles’ lives, and for good reason. He’s revealed to be laying low, running a small dog-fighting ring to earn some cash since the fall of the Shredder. Unfortunately for him, he’s running it out of a warehouse belonging to his former associate, Old Hob. Also, the gator-in-the-sewers urban legend is given credibility thanks to an appearance by Leatherhead, who also catches wind of Hun’s current activities. Truth be told, the setup for this done-in-one issue is stronger than the execution, but more on that in a minute.

The strength of Chris Mowry’s script lies in his characterizations of these three. With Hob, the moral ambiguity that has been his defining trait remains, enhanced by a glimpse into his own psyche. So far we’ve only seen him from a third-person perspective. Mowry gives us a first-person view, enabling readers to better understand his thought process and motivations. The reasons behind is general disdain for others actually make sense given his backstory. Leatherhead is given similar treatment. Though his sense of right and wrong is more defined than Hob’s, his willingness to cross certain lines also puts him in a morally gray area. For readers of both TMNT series, where the character is now is a natural progression after his encounter with the Turtles. However, those that are only picking up TMNT Universe will not be confused, as this serves as a solid introduction the character. With Hun, he exists to service the plot more than anything else. The folks at IDW don’t seem interested in any sort of redemption arc for him – and that’s perfectly fine. Given the stuff he’s pulled in the past, any sort of redemption for the character would come across as forced.

Speaking of forced, that’s pretty much how this issue’s main conflict comes together. As mentioned before, Hun is running a dogfighting ring out of one of Hob’s warehouses without permission. Hun has never been the smartest character in the TMNT canon, but he certainly isn’t the moron he’s portrayed as here. Leatherhead showing up is a matter of convenience too, as a couple of Hun’s goons are dragging a dog to the fight right past the sewer grate he’s peering out.

The art from Michael Dialynas is also lacking. While the page composition and layouts are solid, his character work appears sloppy or rushed (or both). Normally, he churns out consistent, quality art, but this issue is not up to his usual standards. However, the coloring from Tomi Varga enhances the overall visuals. The gray color palette matches our protagonists’ morality and gives the story a gritty aesthetic.

The issue’s real bright spot is the backup story written by Tom Waltz (with story contributions by Kevin Eastman and Bobby Curnow) with art from Bill Sienkiewicz and Eastman. Leonardo’s acid trip finally comes to an end (yes, it was really meditation, but that art was trippy) with “the one who leads” having a revelation about the Turtles’ struggle against Kitsune. Though certainly not friendly to those not reading the other TMNT series, it’s nice to see this tale have actual weight rather than being an unnecessary use of page space.

However, it’s the art from Sienkiewicz and Eastman that is the single best reason to pick up this issue. Even though it’s only 4 pages, the duo manage to cram in a ton of fantastic visuals, including Leo vs. Casey and Leo vs. Leo. There’s also a surprise appearance from spiritual influence on Leonardo, and April shows up too, sporting a look that is a fair compromise between her Mirage Studios and IDW iterations. It’s a gripping, 4-page story that is expertly crafted by the creative team.

TMNT Universe #5 is a step down in quality after a climactic confrontation in the previous issue. While it is no means a “bad” comic, it is merely okay – which might even be worse. Really good comics and really bad comics can elicit a passionate response from readers and critics alike, but average comics can be easily forgotten. And that’s what this is – an average comic. Fans of Hob and Leatherhead are sure to enjoy it, and possibly overlook some glaring flaws. However, readers might want to skip this issue. The only problem with that is missing out on the fantastic conclusion to the “Inside Out” backup tale.

Editor's Rating

Meh-rry Christmas Everyone! 7.0

The Author

Dan Gehen

Dan Gehen

Dan Gehen is a lot of things, but one thing he's been for his entire life is a TMNT fan (this has been verified by watching embarrassing home videos of his formative years). Though the classic 1980s cartoon caused his 3-year-old version to drive his parents insane via the constant repetition of "cowabunga dude", his true appreciation for the heroes in a half-shell came from the 1990 feature film as well as the comics by Mirage Studios. Today, he continues to enjoy comics from a variety of publishers, including the current TMNT series from IDW Publishing.

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