The EPF has invaded Burnow Island in an effort to eradicate the Triceratons and the Utroms once and for all. So far, the attack has been devastating, so the Utroms made a desperate move by releasing Ch’Rell, the Utrom warrior. Meanwhile, the Ninja Turtles have teamed up with the Mutanimals to help out and to save their friend Slash from the clutches of Agent Bishop.
There’s a lot going on in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #87, so let’s start with the Utrom side. They’re at war so they needed a general, so this makes some sense, however this action, should they survive this battle, will have some major ramifications. A treaty was just signed between the Utroms and their former servants, the Triceratons. That could be crushed by Ch’Rell if he rises to power.
Remember the silly yellow robot suit that Krang wore in the original Ninja Turtles cartoon? Well, Ch’Rell’s suit ate that one for breakfast. This is something that would make Iron Man blush. It’s gigantic and armed to the teeth. Artist Dave Wachter made this a menacing monster of a suit and Ch’Rell is at its center. While his physical form is tiny and practically defenseless, he’s surrounded himself in this bulky and powerful suit that matches up to his war-like tendencies.
There’s a chilling close-up of Ch’Rell that reveals the monster he really is. You can see why he was locked away as a frightening smirk spreads across his face as he talks about what he’s going to do, both on and off the battlefield. A long scar runs down one side of his face, appearing like war paint. His dark eyes stare forward filled with hate. He’s making a list of his enemies and he’s going to make sure every one of them is crossed off.
Now let’s bounce over to Agent Bishop. We’ve long known that there’s something more to the man. He’s part robot and maybe even something else. TMNT #87 gives us another flashback to the first Utrom encounter in Roswell, New Mexico, circa 1968. We see an aging Bishop pushing scientists to reverse engineer the Utrom technology when tragedy strikes at home. His wife gave birth to their son prematurely and it doesn’t look like the child is going to make it through the night. I have a feeling that this infant will be the present-day Bishop, raised to hate all aliens after his life was saved by their technology. We’ll see how this plays out in the rest of the story arc.
While this look into Bishop’s past is tragic, it doesn’t quite make him a sympathetic figure yet. It will be very interesting if writer Tom Waltz can flip this monster into someone we care about. The story does give us a look into his background and what could have made him this way. He was always driven, but this could give him a much more personal stake in this.
Finally, there’s the Turtles and the Mutanimals, rushing onto the battlefield to save their buddy Slash. This leads to a harrowing encounter with Bishop, who has been controlling the massive mutant for some time. Bishop is basically the Terminator in this scene, taking everything that’s thrown at him without backing down.
You really get a sense for how cold and calculating Bishop is, not just in this scene, but in the entire issue. There’s a beautiful image of the EPF forces lined up, preparing for their next attack where Bishop utters a single small sentence. Letterer Shawn Lee places this perfectly, showing the power of the character.
Colorist Ronda Pattison creates my favorite sequence of this issue. It’s a series of five panels, each one showing an EPF agent being attacked by a different Turtle. Each one is color-coded to that Turtle. I love the look of this as it quickly explains what’s going on, even if you’re only seeing a mutant fist or foot in the frame.
While this storyline might have started out as the second Triceraton War, it’s quickly expanded into much more than that. It’s got political intrigue, heated battles, and deep personal stakes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is exploring incredible relevant themes like refugees and immigration and handling them with care through the lens of these characters that we know and love. The messages aren’t beaten into the ground. Instead, they’re put into valuable context.