The ills of society, sins of the past, and the hopes for the future all collide in two extremely solid stories that make up this collection focused on the powerful and popular fifth member of the Turtle clan. Two dynamic creative forces bring their absolute A-game to these stories with stunningly gorgeous and even haunting pages filled with powerful and emotive character work and moments. This series is a must-read and must-have for anyone that is a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
There is not an ounce of doubt that Jennika, the new fifth turtle member of the Splinter/Hamato can, has cemented herself as one of the cornerstones of the IDW Publishing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles world. Not only has she had major roles to play in the Sophie Campbell penned main series, but she’s had two self-titled solo series in the span of a year with the second one now available in a collected format.
The question of what makes something fit within the definition of a monster is one that has popped up not only in our stories but throughout real-life situations as well. It is a question that very much seems to be guiding the story when it comes to the first story in this collection which is aptly titled ‘Monsters.’ After handling most of the work with the first mini-series, this first story features Brahm Revel returning to handle everything (writing, drawing, coloring, and lettering) all on his own.
As a bunch of so-called ‘monsters’ mysterious appear and rampage through Mutant Town, Jennika and a familiar face from her past must begin to really dig through some dark mysteries plaguing the section of New York. The series also heavily questions society’s (no matter the shape or form it takes) propensity to try and label that which they do not understand as monsters.
There is also a big dive into the realms of capitalism and how sinister it can be, especially at causing divisions.
It can often be momentarily cathartic in the escapist sense to witness these heroes potentially triumph over the bigots or capitalistic corporate fat cats when we often cannot in our lives. This is on full display within the issue itself when Revel makes sure to dip once more into the real world to showcase that even when things are at their darkest, there are others that will stand beside those that are put upon. Even if that standing together is done digitally, which always takes the message further.
Revel’s artwork exudes strong kinetic energy, especially showcased during some scenes reminiscent of any Godzilla or giant monster battle-style movie that we have all seen before. Everything from the focus on the foreground action to the bright colors and bombastic lettering at times fits the very frantic pace of the parts of the story that take place in the town and then really works for the more constrained and claustrophobic tense moments that descend into the very depths of New York City.
Revel pulls from his bag of tricks in order to create a really colorful and energetic world that has a lot of depth when it’s needed but can also rely heavily on a sparseness that brings a very different type of focus to the moment.
While the first story and half of this collection was a one-man show situation, the second brings in a whole crew that is no strangers to fans of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Regular colorist Ronda Pattison takes up the writer and colorist reigns for the second story, titled ‘Redemption,’ alongside TMNT letterer extraordinaire Shawn Lee and artist Jodi Nishijima who has tapped in to draw quite a few TMNT stories in recent times.
Pattison shows strong writer chops, having scripted issues #106-108 of the regular series, not only in the overall scope and direction of this story but in just how comfortable she was with the word and the title character. The Jennika that she writes is 100% the same as the one that we saw in Revel’s previous story and the one that we see Campbell writing in the main series. That familiarity goes even further because this creative team alongside Campbell and others are the core of what makes the TMNT series one of the best books on the shelves and they are able to take that same feeling and power to any of the stories/books that they tackle like this one.
While Revel’s story has a to say about society and capitalism and the nature of fear/mistrust, Pattison’s story is something smaller but just as important in scale: dealing with one’s own demons. Jennika has a very checkered past and a lot of unresolved issues and moments from the tough life she led before Splinter and the Turtles, which leaves a lot for writers to mine.
Confronting one of the lingering mistakes of her past allows us to see a Jennika who ends up happy and feels good about the choices she’s making now, forging a special bond with a young man. The happier she gets and the more it seems she has been able to bond with young Antoni Rosetti Jr., whose father she murdered in the past, the more painful it made the expected eventual fall when the story’s villain made their move.
On the art side, Nishijima and Pattison are a dynamic duo as they present a truly gorgeous and dynamic art style that brings every single moment to life like ready to leap off the pages. This world not only feels lived in, but each character is their own thing and you learn so much just by looking at them, not only from what they say or do. They kick the whole story off with a hauntingly beautiful nightmare sequence and follow it up later in the story with a stunning, colorful dream montage that gives us a peek into Jennika’s mind and her worst fears at the moment.
The rest of the pages are just spectacular as well. Especially the way that the panels are set up during later action/fight scenes. The use of colors in place of background detail to draw the eye just to the desired action is always a positive in my book.
Then in comes Lee doing what he does best with the letters just elevating even the small moments like a pebble being skipped across a roof as a distraction. His work across so many of the Turtle books helps to bring every moment to life so that you feel and hear things even more. Far too many truly underestimate just what a great letterer brings to a book, and Lee is definitely one of the best at what he does.
A full Jennika ongoing with smaller arcs like the ones in this book from one of these creative teams or a rotation of creative teams would be more than welcome. Jennika might still be newer as a Turtle compared to the others, but thanks to books like this she has fully cemented her place as part of the family and the franchise going forward.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Jennika II is now on sale in a collected form in print and digitally from IDW Publishing.