With the Triceratons returning to Earth, it’s about time we get some background on the race of dinosaur warriors. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe aims to do just that with a two-part storyline called “Freedom” beginning with this issue. We already knew the Triceratons were recruited and experimented on by the Utrom Empire, but not to what extent. Here we get the full story.
This is a welcome sight because up until now, the Triceratons have felt like they were just kind of thrown into the TMNT series. Yes, they look really cool and they’re formidable foes, but there’s not much there to make us relate to them as characters. In the scheme of things, it might have been better to have this arc come out before TMNT #76 where they’re featured prominently. It would add more to that story.
TMNT Universe #16 takes us back to the beginning for General Zog, showing his transformation from a bright-eyed young cadet into a hardened war hero. This is shown literally by artist Giannis Milonogiannis on a page where Zog is marching towards the reader. With each step he ages more and more, his features turning more grim.
Despite his gruff appearance, there are some (for lack of a better word) human qualities within Zog. He’s been through Hell, but he still has love in his heart for another. He struggles with these feelings, as they seem almost foreign. His loyalty has always been to the Herd first so it’s like he’s having a hard time taking a moment for his own happiness.
Milonogiannis’ artwork is a nice fit for this story as it works well with the rough edges of space warfare. There are no soft corners here. It’s like the worlds are made of sandpaper. The designs for the more alien set pieces are pretty cool, particularly some of the Utrom ships, both interior and exterior. This is some absolute sci-fi design.
A conspiracy behind the Triceratons’ origin is discovered in this issue that looks to be the catalyst for the Herd breaking off from the Utrom Empire. It’s a big deal and it serves to further ground the dinosaur creatures and also make them much more interesting than the brief introduction we’ve had to date. Writer Chris Mowry does a great job pulling the plot together. I came into this issue with little to no interest in the Triceratons, but I left completely plugged in and ready for more.
The backup story “Triceratots!” by writer Erika Anderson and artist Michael Dialynas helps to reinforce that feeling and helps to further round out Zog and the Triceratons. We see how they’re programmed for warfare at an early age. They’re not given much in the way of a childhood.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe breathes life into the hardened warrior race of the Triceratons. As mentioned earlier, I wish this had come out prior to some of the events in the main TMNT book, but I’m happy it’s included somewhere as it helps to provide some much needed background on characters that look to become a major part of this world.