We continue exploring the Triceratons’ lives under the tyrannical tentacles of General Krang in this latest issue of TMNT Universe. Maybe they aren’t such bad guys after all, right?
Comic Review: TMNT Universe #17
(W) Chris Mowry and Erika Anderson, (A) Giannis Milonogiannis and Michael Dialynas, (C) Lovern Kindzierski and Michael Dialynas
Having put in over a dozen or so issues, it is clear that TMNT Universe works best when it is focused on side adventures or introducing story elements that will come into play down the line. Unfortunately, when it tries to complement the story in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, things go awry. That is the state in which we dive into TMNT Universe #17, a story meant to flesh out the history of the the currently invading Triceratons and make them a more sympathetic collective of antagonists. And while the story does make the reader at least understand their past, it does not reconcile with no-holds barred approach seen by the anthropomorphic dinos in TMNT #76-77.
Two things work against this issue’s success. First, the reader is only acquainted with two of the Triceratons, who’s similar names (Zog and Zom) are an often source of confusion early in the issue. While this is a callback to the original Triceratons that appeared in the Mirage comics (both Volume 1 and Volume 2), this is one instance of fan-service that could have been dropped in favor of a contemporary update. Yes, perhaps it is nitpicking to call out the names of the characters, but it speaks to the second problem: lack of diversification. Other than their vestments, there is no way to reasonably tell them apart. It is vaguely alluded to that there might be some cloning going on, which would explain this, but it is immediately disregarded. As a cherry on top, there is a lettering snafu that deflates one of the issue’s few emotional moments.
If it sounds like I’m being hard on this issue, it’s because there is potential for this to be a really strong, world-building story. The idea of the oppressed revolting against their oppressors is a crowdpleaser, especially when the “bad guys” are firmly established and reviled. Unfortunately, the Triceratons themselves are too physically imposing to come across as legitimately oppressed. It doesn’t help when they are shown to dispatch hordes of Ultoms with ease. And then there’s General Krang. In this incarnation, he has been portrayed as both cunning and perceptive, always one step ahead of his enemies. Yet here, he seems aloof to the treachery taking place right under his nose.
There’s no easy way to put this: TMNT Universe #17 squanders a potentially epic story. While the creative team deserves part of the blame, this falls mostly on the shoulders of IDW’s editorial group who forced this story to be condensed into two issues. If this is your first exposure to TMNT Universe, it might come across as a competent, if unspectacular story. However, anyone with an extended exposure to the TMNT will find this issue to be nothing but lost opportunities. But at least the cover by Freddie E. Williams II (Batman/TMNT) is awesome!