Time travel and band battles are the fun set pieces surrounding a heartfelt character-driven story about dealing with one’s emotions, losses, and tragedies and finding ways to cope and move on. Every single panel is a delight to look upon as they each provide an important piece that belongs to the overall tremendous story puzzle the TMNT creative teams are building for these iconic characters and their world.
Through the history of time travel stories, there are a great many ways that heroic characters have been tasked with preventing a dire future. It can range from making sure a relationship happens, bringing extinct animals from the past to the future, and sometimes they just have to become a better person. In order to stop the dark future that young Lita has detailed, there is only one thing Jennika can do: be “@&$%ing metal.”
No, not the literal substance of metal, but the musical type. The fate of all things in the Turtles’ world rests upon the formation of a band that truly rocks in order to win a battle of the bands. No real pressure there.
While the overall plotline is about the formation of this band and Jennika’s role in shaping the future, at its core the story Sophie Campbell, Ronda Pattison, and Shawn Lee are telling is one about coming to grips with one’s emotions, in this case, rage, and finding an outlet to help you cope. This was something touched upon at the end of the previous issue and is put on display here. This is depicted beautifully by the colorful, matching each Turtles’ color, manifestations of the memories, and things that have harmed them in the past that they are doing their best to work beyond.
Across this main series and the arcs of the recently concluded Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Jennika II mini-series, which was written & colored by Pattison with Lee on letters, the creative teams of the Turtles line of books have been telling an engaging and powerful story of Jennika’s journey towards redemption and acceptance of herself and her past. What makes it stand out more than most fictional journeys like this is that they are not rushing it. Instead, they’re taking the time to accurately depict just how hard a struggle it is to reach those levels of acceptance for most people.
There are a great many things to really appreciate about this series, but some of the small things stand out often. One of those is how while there are arcs, the issues tend to flow in an ongoing way where the story keeps going even after the ‘arc’ is over. It allows for characters to naturally flow in and out of the stories, but never actually be too far or have to fully catch up with them later. This issue checks back in with other Mutant Town characters and Turtle allies after the battle that took over the last few issues.
Speaking of the battle, one other small thing that stands out on the art side comes from that. The damage that the Turtles have taken from a number of fairly recent in succession battles is still showing. They have scrapes and cuts and bandages on still. There is not a magic wand waved at the end of each story arc to have the characters suddenly healed come the next issue like sometimes happens in most forms of entertainment.
Jennika is not the only thing getting metal in the issue as the always amazing art and lettering turns the dial up even further. The aforementioned visual manifestations of emotional states were just part of the whole thing. Band practices have some flares added to the atmosphere around them to depict the music and Lee gets to drop in some different lettering for singing dialogue and a pretty metal final word of dialogue from Jennika to cap it all off.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #116 is now on sale from IDW Publishing in print and digitally.