The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are grappling with a number of issues in the present, but where might these take them in the future? IDW Publishing kicks off their year-long celebration of their 20th anniversary with a glimpse twenty years ahead for the Heroes in a Half Shell. They’re no longer teenagers, but they’re still fighting the good fight as the Utrom Civil War ravages the planet.
Their journey takes them to Vatican City where Donatello has been taken captive after he tried to initiate peace talks. It’s rumored that there’s a back-up Technodrome hidden somewhere nearby so they have a multi-faceted mission. Oddly enough, it’s not Leonardo leading them into battle, but Michelangelo, who has fallen into the role of the de facto head of the group.
What’s most interesting about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 20/20 issue is how the characters see themselves. Writer Paul Allor gives us a first hand look at this as they’re documenting this through a confession-style video. They’ve matured, but they’re also more subdued. It’s like the fun has been beat out of them over the years. Is this what growing up does to us?
While the Turtles have traditionally been on the forefront of these world-ending battles, somewhere along the way they lost that spotlight. They went from star players to backup performers as other mutants picked up the reins and led the charge. This is partly attributable to the way the dynamic has shifted within the group.
Leonardo has retreated into himself, exploring the astral plane. He’s along for the ride, but he’s not really with his brothers in the same way he is in the present. This is a bit heartbreaking as there’s a lot of love and a true family bond right now, so to learn that they could grow apart like this cuts deep. Again, this is part of growing up, but it doesn’t change how hard it hits.
Artist Nelson Daniel updates the Turtles a bit, but keeps their basic design. The biggest change is with Leo who now sports a long, brown cloak, giving him a mystic vibe. I like how Daniel shows Leo’s astral projection. He’s there one moment and the next he’s a light blue blur, almost like a ghost. This serves a metaphorical purpose too, showing how Leo has grown apart from the others as he’s not really there with them.
There’s a great sequence where Leo is projecting through the city to search for Donnie. Daniel keeps Leo in the same spot across multiple panels, with the background changing. This gives you an idea of how quickly he’s moving and popping in and out of each spot to perform reconnaissance.
The Turtles’ narration is shown in these small, inset panels that provide this running commentary for the action. Daniel shows some excellent art direction here, that add a perspective of hindsight to the mix. It adds to the hopeless feeling as you know that everything is going to go very wrong sooner or later.
Letterer Shawn Lee color-codes this narration which helps us distinguish who is speaking once it pops out of the small panels. These little touches help round out the book as a whole and make for a solid reading experience.
I’m a sucker for alternate versions and possible futures and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 20/20 fits right in that sweet spot. It’s a sobering tale that shows what happens when a group of eternal teenagers grows into adults. I never really thought about what these characters would be like as they grew older and this issue gives us a glimpse as to what that might be like, as heartbreaking as that might be.