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Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #78

by Dan Gehen

“Invasion of the Triceratons” marches on into its third installment. The Turtles come face-to-face with Splinter, but will this family reunion be a happy one? Can the TMNT and the Foot work together for the good of the planet?

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #78

(W) Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, (A) Damian Couceiro, (C) Ronda Pattison

One thing that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has not managed to do throughout its extensive run is be political. Family dynamics and being outcasts are the strongest themes of the franchise, but that’s by and large the extent of it. And while that mostly continues in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #78, it is clear that the creative team is beginning to dip their toes into those rich, albeit muddy, waters. But for the most part, this issue sees a progression in the “Invasion of the Triceratons” with Casey and the Purple Dragons defending their turf. Also, we see the Turtles’ reunion with Splinter. Unsurprisingly, their reunion does not go as planned.

Since the end of the “Vengeance” arc (way back in issue #50!) there has been a wedge dividing the TMNT and their father, which only grew deeper with Splinter’s execution of Darius Dun in issue #64. And while there may be signs that the wounds are mending, Splinter goes ahead and reopens them. To be frank, this interpretation of Splinter is both interesting and disturbing. With the reincarnation origins of this saga, the creative team has leaned hard into the old-world mentality that Splinter must have retained from his past life as Hamato Yoshi. While the Splinter we were introduced to at the beginning of the series maintained the compassionate wisdom most associate with the character, these later issues have seen him evolve into a cold, ruthless leader of the Foot, not too dissimilar from his old nemesis – the Shredder. While it may grate longtime fans of the TMNT, this new direction for the character keeps the story unpredictable and readers on edge.

One of the most interesting sequences throughout the issue sees April’s parents discuss the state of the modern, 24-hour news cycle. Holed up in their apartment in the wake of the Triceraton invasion, the couple provides an entertaining back-and-forth regarding the state of not just news media, but journalism as a whole. This type of social commentary is unusual for the TMNT, but it is a welcome addition. The writing by Tom Waltz is on point, as the O’Neil’s conversation makes valid arguments that should satisfy readers no matter where they fall on the political spectrum, while also exposing them to differing points of view.

Unfortunately, the issue opens and spends a lengthy amount of time with Bishop negotiating to get more weapons to take out the Triceratons. To be frank, it’s pointless and only serves to pad out the issue’s length. If the planet – specifically New York City – was under attack from an alien force, an agent from a clandestine government organization would not have to negotiate with military officials to get weapons and manpower. In an issue full of dinosaur warriors and anthropomorphic creatures, this was by far the least believable part of the issue.

Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #78 is a solid continuation of the “Invasion of the Triceratons” arc. Despite a few hiccups, it is a well-crafted issue that sees the series effectively branch out into uncharted territory. Furthermore, the unpredictable character motivations keeps readers on edge through the final page turn.

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