Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2021 easily re-introduces and recaps/explains the Pantheon and how they fit into the TMNT universe while using that to tee up what seems to be one of the next big TMNT stories. Some really colorful and creative and beautiful art greatly supports and enhances the dialogue/explanation-heavy issue.
Annual issues are a long tradition when it comes to ongoing comic books across a variety of publishers.
At times they can be totally stand-alone stories (by the usual creative team or others) apart from the regular storyline. Other times they are just the next chapter of the regular series storyline with more pages to explore certain characters or moments. Then there are times where they are more of a way to sort of recap events of a run while also setting up some big future chapter.
It’s the last version that fully fits just what one gets when they read Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2021.
Former main series writer Tom Waltz teams up with artist Casey Maloney, inker Maria Keane, colorist Luis Antonio Delgado, and regular TMNT letterer Shawn Lee for this Pantheon-focused extra-sized issue. As someone who really started to read the title with the latest creative change and has only begun to read from the start, this issue was very helpful.
Previous issues had given enough to know who and what the Pantheon is, but this issue told through the narration of member Rat King really puts things into perspective. It’s an intriguing issue that explains the history of the Pantheon siblings as well as what has happened in recent times (deaths and failures of certain members). Then it dives into the Rat King’s visits to his siblings about trying to revive their ancient game against one another.
It doesn’t go as planned for him, but it brings a lot of perspective to the character and gives a lot of insight to the reader as well about where these characters and the TMNT world currently stand. The last page reveals about who he is partnering with were great as it starts to tie a lot of dangling villain threads from recent TMNT books together as well as introducing a likely upcoming big event story for the Turtle line.
It’s clear from the built-up mythology and understanding of the world why Waltz was writing the series for so long. He definitely has an eye for making things bigger and really getting to the nitty-gritty of how they and why they would interact.
Maloney, Keane, and Delgado do an amazing job at being able to really explore each of the characters, places, and worlds that this issue bounces through. Some of the realms where Rat King finds his siblings are vastly different, but they make it all work.
There are a great number of huge double-page spreads, some of them really truly playing with panel layout and style that just work. Especially the one that introduces the Pantheon siblings where they all have their own distinctly designed rectangle and they are all layered in a really intriguing way that embraces white space which is truly great to see.
Oh, and the double-page spread with all the mutants and human characters that are allies or antagonists is truly amazing. That is a page that needs to be framed and up on the wall right away. Same with the big villain reveal double spread at the end.
There is a great amount of detail to the art which is boosted by the inks that Kane provides and then expanded by the vast color palette and skills of Delgado. There are so many colors used, like all of the rainbow plus variations of all those colors, but they never once seem overwhelming or clash with one another. They are bright in most cases but when it works Delgado adds a nice darkness or dull nature to them that works.
Lee is just one of the MVPs of the TMNT line as he does the lettering for basically every Turtles book that comes out these days. This is a heavy narration and dialogue issue, like big time, and he just makes it all work. The dialogue and captions are perfectly placed around all the scenes in a way that never blocks or crowds or messes with things. It just flows around the page beautifully and changes in size or color or gets bold just as it needs to.
Not to mention the diverse and fitting SFX that pop up from time to time to fully flesh out some of the bigger and more action-packed panels. All around awesome work just as he always delivers.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2021 is now on sale in print and digitally from IDW Publishing.