What started as a covert reconnaissance mission for Raphael and Alopex to look into stolen animals has turned into an all-out brawl within Null Industries. The pair are squaring off against the scorpion mutant, Zodi and a new snake mutant named Krisa. Despite what Raphael thinks, they are way outmatched and in unfamiliar territory. They have to get creative if they’re going to get out of this place alive.
The fight breaks off into two separate matches with Raph going up against Zodi and Alopex battling Krisa. They could not be more different. The former is brutal as the two go at each other with everything they’ve got while trading verbal barbs back and forth. Meanwhile, Alopex tries to reason with the newly mutated Krisa, using her words instead of violence.
Raph vs. Zodi is a great match-up as they’re somewhat even when it come to fighting skills. Where Zodi has an edge is that she knows she can push her opponent’s buttons by making fun of him. Raph gets sloppy when he’s angry and that happens way too easily when he’s facing Zodi. She knows just what to say to piss him off. Writer Ian Flynn packed this scene with some great dialogue.
Artist Dave Wachter’s layouts for the fight scenes match the differences in tone. Raph’s battle is more varied in panel placement, shape, and size, representing the raw energy between the two. Alopex’s scenes are more structured as she works to get through to Krisa. She’s been in a similar position not that long ago.
Wachter brings out the personality in each character with his designs. Raph is arrogant and angry. Zodi is cocky. Krisa is innocent and a little sad. This is saying something, especially for Zodi and Krisa as they’re made from two animals that a large portion of the world fears. You wouldn’t necessarily look at a snake and think that it’s scared or naïve. It’s a predator. Krisa looks young and confused.
Raph and Alopex make a good team as they’re both working through emotions. They balance each other out. When one of them goes too far, the other is there to pull them back. This happens in both ways throughout Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #20. Despite their flaws, they have found each other and some semblance of peace. Otherwise, their lives might be like an exposed nerve, constantly on edge and causing them to lash out at anyone around them.
This story serves as a nice reminder that Null Industries is still a very real threat to the Ninja Turtles. Their forces are only getting bigger. Although the brothers are otherwise occupied with the Triceratons right now and soon with the return of the Rat King, they can’t afford to take their eyes off of Null for too long.
As solid as the main story is, the back-up might just top it. This could be because it focuses primarily on Raphael, my favorite Ninja Turtle. He arrives home exhausted from a night on patrol and all he wants is to get some sleep. That’s impossible because Michelangelo is playing video games and yelling super loud. It’s a fun short that has a beautiful character moment between the two brothers that ironically has Raph putting things in perspective for Mikey. Scenes like this are why these characters have stood the test of time and continue to be such a major part of pop culture. Writer Matthew K. Manning even has a nice bit at the end to close on a humorous note.
Artist Adam Gorham and colorist Brittany Peer bring this scene to life with a nice use of shadow. Raph looks mysterious when he first arrives and then collapses into his bed. There are cool blues coming from the television set that quickly turn red once Raph’s eyes shoot open in rage. We’ve all had moments like these when all you want is sleep and there’s something or someone preventing you from doing it. You’re not in your right mind and that translates perfectly to the page.