The Turtles come face to face with the Pantheon’s dangerous and secluded member, Manmoth! As they handle their hulking foe, the Rat King continues his nefarious plans and Baxter tries to find a new way to stroke his ego.
Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #83
(W) Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow (A) Dave Wachter (C) Ronda Pattison
This latest arc of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a classic feel to it. No, it does not evoke nostalgic visions of the 1987 cartoon, or the original stories from Mirage Studios. In this case, “classic” should be taken quite literally, as the creative team has placed these characters on their own version of a hero’s journey, similar to the legends of Heracles, Perseus, and Beowulf. Am I saying that this story will be revered for years to come as a piece of classic literature? Absolutely not. However, it is evident that these classic tales – and others like them – are acting as clear inspirations for this dimension-hopping tale.
Seeking a means to defeat the Rat King, the Turtles have left Toad Baron’s lavish realm to face Manmoth in his frigid, punishing world. Though we have met the character in previous issues, this is the first extended encounter with him, and he is a joy to behold. While loyal to his family, he is not at all like them. He is not motivated by a need to control or meddle in the affairs of “lesser” beings, but rather to enjoy life in solitude and the thrill of the hunt. So it comes as no surprise that he views the Turtles as new playthings when they first arrive in his realm. But the key to their encounter is the term “playthings,” as his desire to hunt the Turtles is quickly alleviated by being bested by Michelangelo.
From that point on, the Turtles and Manmoth have a friendly relationship. The latter takes on the role of an old sage imparting wisdom, though most of it does not appear helpful on the surface. However, the creative team opts to spend time on other plot elements (more on those later), which makes this sequence come across as rushed and even a little confusing, especially its ending. Leo acts like a brat when Manmoth says he won’t betray his family, but also claims to have figured out how to beat Rat King. It’s sudden, jarring, and ultimately takes the reader out of the book.
Meanwhile, the book interjects sequences involving the the Rat King, the Purple Dragons, and Baxter Stockman. With the Rat King himself, Waltz and Co. seem to be taking the approach of “less is more,” to great effect. He is less a character and more a force of nature, intent on performing acts of pure, anarchist evil. Furthermore, his motivation is completely unknown to this point. He may not even have one, and that makes his actions all the more terrifying. He is like the shark in Jaws or Michael Myers in the original Halloween (before the sequels through in all that sister/family crap). Certainly, his motivations will be revealed in the next issue when the Turtles confront him, but for now let’s enjoy the terror that is this version of the Rat King.
As for the aforementioned subplots involving the Purple Dragons and Baxter Stockman, they’re a bit of a mixed bag. The former, involving the Purple Dragons and Jenika taking on some mobsters, appears to be more setup for a future story rather than anything that will directly impact the current arc. While it may be effective months from now with the benefit of hindsight, during the course of this issue it comes across as distracting filler. The Baxter sequence, on the other hand, is a great addition to the issue. It is clear that Waltz enjoys writing the character, putting him in situations to end up as a hero despite his best efforts to be a greedy villain.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle #83 may not be the best issue in the series, but it certainly isn’t bad. It’s a very solid middle chapter of an interesting story arc. It’s high points are on par with the best elements of this series, and it’s low points are middling at worst. If nothing else, the art continues to be top notch thanks to the duo of Wachter and Pattison.