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Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #79

by Dan Gehen

As “Invasion of the Triceratons” marches on, the invading forces take a back seat to the family squabbles of Clan Hamato and the Foot Clan.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #79

(w) Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, and Bobby Curnow (a) Brahm Revel (c) Ronda Pattison

With each issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the series rebuilds its cache since its well-known slump post-Vengeance. From a storytelling perspective, TMNT #79 is arguably one of the strongest issues in recent memory thanks mostly to its focus on the long-running strife between the Turtles and Splinter. The issue also takes its time to place emphasis on the the fallibility of heroes and the redemptive qualities of villains, both of which have been trending in higher-profile comics.

Throughout “Invasion of the Triceratons,” the TMNT’s interactions with the actual Triceratons has been limited. As a result, their perception of events is skewed by past interactions, as well as their black-or-white worldview. Tom Waltz and his writing collaborators have done a great job in setting this up over the course of previous story arcs, and the benefits are paying off now. Throughout the issue, the Turtles are insistent that the Triceratons are innocent victims of circumstance that don’t really want to fight. However, readers are aware that is categorically untrue, as the Triceratons reveal (to the reader) that their desire is to become the dominant species on Earth as they set up multiple colonies in space. Seeing how this will play out in the arc’s finale will be interesting, but the work put into the setup by Waltz has been impressive.

Readers of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are keenly aware of Baxter Stockman’s status as uneasy ally of the titular heroes. Seeing Stockman work side by side with the TMNT may be awkward for those aware of his more mainstream portrayal as strict adversary, but this is a fitting evolution for a character who should have always occupied that grey area between heroes and villains. Perhaps seeing this approach work wonderfully at DC Comics with Lex Luthor made the folks at IDW go all-in on good guy Stockman, but whatever the reason for it, it works. Yes, Baxter can still be a sleazy, selfish businessman, and his “good” acts are done out of self-preservation than benevolence, but he now gets to more frequently interact with the good guys, which makes for a more rewarding reading experience.

If this issue has as serious flaw, it’s the artwork. While TMNT Universe and other spin-offs may have had questionable art choices, the core title has always delivered a good-to-great showcase. Unfortunately, that streak comes to an end under the pen of Brahm Revel, who has previously worked in back-up features for TMNT Universe. To be fair, his art is not bad. It suffers from inconsistencies that speak to a larger issue – it is very unrefined, so much so that even Ronda Pattison’s normally great colors cannot make a noticeable improvement. It’s a shame, because it is really the only element of this book that is holding it back from being among the best of the series.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #79 has one of the strongest scripts the series has seen in recent memory, setting the Turtles and their father on a collision course from which they may never recover. Despite its less than stellar artwork, the series appears to be hitting its stride, making the wait between issues almost unbearable. This issue sets the standard of quality going forward as the series marches towards issue #100.

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