TMNT Universe #18 Is One Of The Best Ninja Turtles Stories In Recent Memory

by James Ferguson

One thing I did wonder during the current “Invasion of the Triceratons” storyline in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is why did it take the Turtles so long to get into the action? TMNT Universe #18 may answer that question as it picks up with the Heroes in a Half Shell are holed up in a Midtown Evacuation Center. They’ve ducked in there to avoid being seen and now they’re stuck because the police brought in a bunch of people displaced from their homes. They have to figure out how to get out covertly, which is getting tougher by the minute as more and more people come in.

This is essentially a “bottle episode” Ninja Turtles story as all the characters are stuck in one area. You wouldn’t know it from Tyler Boss‘ artwork. He makes this small building look gigantic. Every page is unique and offers a new perspective. This shouldn’t be that surprising after seeing his work in 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank. Boss deftly explains the situation that the Turtles are in with fun and interesting visuals.

For example, there’s a page where the Turtles are trying to sneak down the stairs, only to find a group of people coming up, then they have the same problem on the stairs on the other side, so they duck into a closet. This is shown with the stairs literally on either side of the Turtles in the center, so they’re bobbing back and forth as they figure out where to go. It gets a little tense as the humans get higher up the stairs.

This continues as the Turtles try a variety of crazy plans to escape, including building a catapult and digging a tunnel. We see this passage of time in just a few panels, but it perfectly illustrates the situation and creates some great humor around it. The final plan is just too insane to spoil here. The Turtles get desperate and end up doing something that would only work with this group. You will not see the Justice League or the Avengers do anything like this. This is unique to the Ninja Turtles and it’s part of what makes them so great.

The humor is spot on in TMNT Universe #18. Writer Paul Allor creates some laugh-out-loud dialogue choices that are only made funnier by the artwork. Boss paces the story well and repeats some shots with small changes to stay on a joke for a beat longer. This adds more laughs and makes for a hilarious reading experience.

Allor’s script encapsulates the personality of each of the Turtles which works well with Boss’ design for them. Donatello stands out the most as he’s taller and lankier than the others. This is a nice touch that helps define them more than just four mutant turtles. Although the whole issue is great, the final three pages wrap up the story in a perfect little bow that will hit you right in the feels.

The backup story, “Mutagen Maitenance” by writer Caleb Goellner and artist Michael Dialynas checks in on one of my favorite Mutanimals, Mutagen Man. The ending of the main story hit all the right emotional beats and this one is no different. We see how each of the Mutanimals are talking to and trying to cheer up their bedridden comrade. Each one has a different style and most of them end up just talking about themselves, but it’s clear they care about Mutagen Man. They make sure to include him and ensure he knows that he’s not forgotten. It’s a perfect way to close out this issue.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe was created to tell the stories that wouldn’t fit into the main TMNT comic. Issue #18 does just that. It focuses on the Ninja Turtles instead of side characters, but it shows you a story that would appear in between issues. You wouldn’t have seen it otherwise, and that would be a shame because this is the most refreshing and fun Ninja Turtles story I’ve read in some time. Every fan of the franchise should read this. If you’ve been sleeping on this sister series, this is the issue to jump on board.

TMNT Universe #18 is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.