Tensions and storylines building for months and even years begin to come to a head as the team behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to deliver one of the most solid character-driven books on the shelves. Every aspect of the book from the writing to the art to the lettering has such energy and power and love behind it. We’re truly in a golden era for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans.
Tensions have been brewing between the mutant cat Old Hob and the Turtle clan as well as a ton of other individuals for a long time, but especially since the moment that Hob unleashed the bomb that created Mutant Town. With the Mutanimals having pushed too hard with their controlling influence over the people, the battle for Mutant Town’s present and future has begun.
Ever since the end of the first arc of this new run on the book, Sophie Campbell has been building up the various characters and groups that are within Mutant Town, as well as some forces outside that have an interest in the area. Much of that pays off here as the citizens of Mutant Town that came under the tutelage of the Splinter Clan test their mettle against the Mutanimals in a chaotic yet organized and energetic fight that is the focus of much of this issue.
While there is a ton of fighting and the overall plot takes some huge steps forward here, the character moments remain one of the strengths of this series. All the little interactions between the Turtles and their allies, and even the moments where we see Old Hob coming to grips with the grip he’s losing on his group and the future he envisioned for mutants that didn’t involve power for himself. There isn’t a character, no matter how small a role they play in the overall narrative, that doesn’t feel fleshed out enough to have weight and agency within the world being built here.
Jodi Nishijima and Rhonda Pattison don’t miss a beat, per usual, as the art flows and every single one of the mutants, both in the forefront and background, are so detailed and distinct. And there are a ton of varied types of mutated individuals here, some of the beings they are mutated from are likely more complicated to render in a humanistic style form than others. We’ve lions, tigers, and bears, oh my. (I’m not sorry, not one bit).
Not only are each of their physical looks different, even when there are mutants that are close to overlapping in their animal heritage, but they all are also colored and brought to vivid life in different ways. Pattison switching between brighter palettes for some of the more colorful mutants and then dulling it down some for those that are like elephants or rhinos that aren’t naturally as vivid or eye-catching.
This whole run has featured a ton of mutants of various types and the work has been stellar throughout, but I’m pretty certain this is the biggest concentration of mutated individuals that we’ve seen so far. That’s what makes it stand out, even more, is there are so many and because the art teams on this book are truly some of the best around they do not skimp on the details. Not an ounce of energy is lost as the book starts off with a bang and just keeps going as the mutants descended upon Old Hob and his fractured and diminished army of sorts.
Oh, and the way that the panels are laid out within this issue, as with many others, remains just chef’s kiss. Truly, the utilization of white space and the shifting of shape and size of the panels to add different focus and effect and just difference is what you love to see. It just elevates what is already pretty high and fantastic to even higher levels.
Shawn Lee truly is part of the glue that holds this wonderful TMNT universe together because the man’s stamp is felt across so many of the books and it’s consistent and great. All the SFX are just as varied and colorful as the mutants they surround in the action scenes and even with all the movement and action the dialogue remains easy to follow. It’s very clear who is saying what and where and in response to who, and there is attention as always placed upon emphasis and reality of how sound works.
An example of that is when the mutants are surging through Hob’s base, and there are bits of dialogue from the Mutanimals in the distance yelling about the breach and attack. Often some of that dialogue would look similar to other closer dialogue on-page, but Lee shrinks it and makes it stand out as being from far away. It’s a small but perfect touch that makes it work even better.
As I’ve noted before the rotation of the artists for this book works so well because between Campbell, Nishijima, and Nelson Daniel they have it locked down solidly and there is nothing that ever pulls you out of the story even with the shifts. Honestly, because it’s so smooth and they all work this book so well, despite there being differences in the style of Nishijima and Daniel it took a few pages for my brain to register that Nishijima was back on the book and had picked up the baton from Daniel who did the last issue.
Truly I see that as speaking highly of just how well all those involved in these books have done to really build a style, consistency, and a solid working relationship that every issue just feels like the product of all of them no matter who is or isn’t actually involved at the moment.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #120 is now on sale in print and digitally from IDW Publications.