Building A Better Clan: Reviewing ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ #132
by Scott Redmond
Month after month, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is a delightful title that truly brings out the best of the characters and continues to showcase why they have been beloved for decades. Gorgeous, emotional, powerful, character-driven, and full of so much love on every page as the creative team just give it their all over and over again.
Comic books of the superhero sort of variety are rife with big action pieces, as we the audience want to see them thwarting evil and saving the day often. At the same time, what has endeared many of the long-lasting characters that populate many of these books to the audience are not the action moments, but the powerful emotional character-focused moments. This is something that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series remembers every single issue.
Here in the 132nd issue of this series, we continue to witness the Splinter clan Turtles working with Oroku Saki/Shredder to prepare themselves for the oncoming threat of the Rat King in the big event series TMNT: The Armageddon Game. There are just so many wonderful low and high-key moments here that Sophie Campbell brings to life, showing like always just what an excellent grip she has on these characters. All of the training moments and the emotions they tapped into and how each of the Turtle’s personalities came out in the moments were a delight.
Often prologue issues to an event can feel off because they have to spend a lot of time building up the actual event to come and can’t focus on the smaller or lighter moments. Not the case here, because there are other tie-ins that are doing that foundation building for the event, leaving this series to be able to build for the event but in a highly character-heavy way.
As expected, Pablo Tunica and Ronda Pattison just knocked it out of the park once more artistically in this issue. Tunica’s artwork has a great weight to it, feeling heavy but also light at the same time, with a sharp roughness that doesn’t take away from the beauty and expressiveness on display. In fact, it enhances everything in many ways. I completely am in love with the wild almost chaotic but ordered style of the paneling in this issue as it just goes all in from page to page with perfect white space borders and panels that shift size and quantity depending on the need of the page.
As noted above, there is a ton of personal and emotional moments here and Tunica brings the emotion through facial expression/body language which is wonderful. We get close-ups and other shots that just nail the given emotions in very detailed ways, allowing each of the Turtles to have little idiosyncrasies befitting of who they are and what we know of them.
Pattison is part of the glue that holds this series together with coloring work that shifts and slides to match whoever is doing the artwork, here presenting colors that are heavy but also smooth at the same time. In many of the backgrounds, the colors take on an almost watercolor sort of feeling that is really neat, while the foreground colors are firmer and denser. With the environments and realms that the characters find themselves in, as well as the heavy use of magical elements, there are a lot of very vivid colors that are muted at the same time because of well-placed shadows and darker hues.
I say this time and time again, but Pattison is a tremendous colorist that creates some truly beautiful work month after month. Colorists and letterers deserve far more attention than they often get when it comes to reviews and from the industry itself.
Speaking of letterers, this series has a great one in Shawn Lee who is the throughline that connects so much of the Turtle-verse together because his work can be found in most of the TMNT-related books. Personality and emotion are mentioned heavily in this review and while the facial work helps with that a lot, the other area that helps express this is within the lettering. Little flares given to dialogue from various characters help to let us hear their voices and bits of their personality as we read through it all. Much as the characters are learning about flow and togetherness, the lettering/dialogue just flows, almost dances, through issues when Lee is behind them allowing both the lettering and other art to share space in the best ways possible.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #132 is now available from IDW Publishing.