First blood has been drawn as Karai attempts to retake control of the Foot Clan. Jennika is bleeding out and the hospital has been overrun by enemy forces, so Donatello brings her to Harold’s lab. We don’t know what he’s thinking yet, but I have to wonder if he’s going to give her a robot body since he went through a similar situation way back when. In any case, this is just one aspect of the powder keg that New York City has become. The Mutanimals are about to enter the fray, taking the fight to the mysterious and very evil organization, Null, while Agent Bishop and Metalhead prepare an attack on the Turtles. Remember what I said about a powder keg?
You can feel the tension in every page of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #94. Every single panel works to steadily raise it as all the players start to move. This is going to get much bloodier before it’s over. Writer Tom Waltz keeps all of these plates spinning such that almost every character gets some development. There are a ton of plot threads at work here and they all feel serviced.
It’s also interesting to see how events on one side influence those on the other. For example, Jennika’s injury leads Raphael to the Mutanimals, which puts him in the mix when they attack Null. Suddenly the Turtles are completely spread out, fighting this war on multiple fronts. This is particularly intriguing as Raphael is the voice of reason with this group. That’s not a position he’s used to. The Mutanimals are very much a terrorist organization, regardless of how noble their intentions are. Raphael is always on that edge, ready to go too far at a moment’s notice and here we see him come closer than he’s ever been.
Artist Dave Wachter captures this inner turmoil perfectly. You can see the rage boiling within Raphael. His anger distorts his face. Wachter’s design for the Turtles adds a realistic look to them, or at least as realistic as talking anthropomorphic turtles can be. They’re not cartoonish. They feel more like live action.
The attack on Null feels chaotic and frightening. Wachter breaks up the layout with uniquely shaped panels and varied angles. It adds to the frenetic energy of the scene. My eyes were darting all over the page to take it all in.
This scene takes place at night, but the explosions and gunfire make it come alive like it’s in the middle of the day. Colorist Ronda Pattison amplifies the battle with bursts of yellows and oranges. She’s always in control of the tone. When Old Hob and Raph stop for a moment to speak, the colors get more subdued again, allowing you a moment to catch your breath.
All of this is just part of the action. Remember, Agent Bishop and Metalhead are out there planning their next move. From the looks of things, it’s going to take the Turtles by surprise. This is the last thing they need. In many ways, they represent an ever larger threat than Karai. I’ll never get tired of the soulless font used for Metalhead’s speech. Letterer Shawn Lee makes this character look so menacing. It’s a far cry from the fun-loving robot we saw in the 1980’s cartoon.
“City at War” is definitely heating up. If this is how tense and exciting the second chapter is, I can’t imagine what’s in store as this series marches towards issue #100. We’re so invested in the lives of all of these characters that I’m reading this book with gritted teeth and clenched shoulders. This is like Game of Thrones but with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I am loving every minute of it.