Making The Right Moves: Reviewing ‘TMNT: The Armageddon Game’ #2
by Scott Redmond
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game’ makes more moves to flesh out the story, the characters in play, and the stakes in a very character-focused set piece-oriented second issue, that just works all around. We’re reminded of the scope of this universe that the Turtles inhabit, and what an impact that they and others have had over the years. Even with the amount of referenced history, it never feels off-putting to someone that might not be as familiar with the previous stories.
The Rat King’s game to end all games has begun, leaving the Splinter Clan and their allies scrambling to find new and old allies needed to stop the game and save everything they know. That means journeys from Mutant Town to New York City all the way out to Dimension X and beyond.
Despite all that talk above about the dire nature of Rat King’s game and what consequences it could bring to Earth, outside of the opening bits surrounding the Turtle clones accosting Mayor Stockman, that direness is not directly seen at all this issue. Yet, the issue suffers nothing from this. We get to spend time with the Turtles off the planet and their allies as well as some of the happenings on Earth, putting more pieces together for the overall storyline, and it’s fun and intriguing, and really character-focused. Normally in events like this, I might bemoan such a slow build of things when issue real estate is slim, but Tom Waltz, naturally, knows exactly what he’s doing here.
It helps that the Sophie Campbell-led regular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series, as well as a soon-to-launch companion tie-in series, is taking up some of the slack here by covering the Earthbound turtle’s story. Leaving this main part of the event to explore a lot of the other pieces on the gameboard and bring everything closer together.
We’re given plenty of callbacks to stories that came over Waltz’s long tenure within the Turtleverse of titles, but none of those are done in a way that could be offputting or hard to follow with new readers or those not as familiar with the past. In fact, Waltz uses the past in a way that informs the present and enhances the stories rather than holding them back in any way. The Neutrino’s relationship with the Turtles is handled well and feels natural from a newer reader perspective, especially when stacked against some of the other long-formed connections that come into play in the issue from the detective to Old Hob and more.
I’ve never even seen or heard of Cudley the Trans-Dimensional Cowlick, despite my long relationship with TMNT-related media, but I want to know so much more now. Comic books are freaking awesome, and I love just how bizarre but also grounded the TMNT realms really are.
This is a story that has dark ominous things handing over it while also being colorful and fun, which is perfect for Vincenzo Federici and Matt Herms. Federici’s work is smooth and detailed and creates such an epic picture, moving with determination and some real dynamic energy, while being rough around the edges in just the right way to set the tone for the story and world. All the character work, especially facial expressions, is on point but also the attention to detail and work done to actually build this world (from buildings to space stations and more) is just next-level. It instantly feels like the characters are inhabiting their worlds, and that these worlds are bigger than them and just a piece of everything that is out there.
There is also a lot of inspired paneling choices on display, sliding from more standard ones to things taking on a variety of shapes to fit the moment and needed energy.
Roughness quality is brought by Federici, and a darker more shadowy tone is set by the colors that Herms brings out to play. We get a lot of great shadow/darkness work around the edges, next to a lot of bright colors, but it’s how Herms brings the brighter colors down closer to the ground that really works. Things are bright and vivid but are also toned down in a way that creates a darker more realistic sort of filter to them, keeping the tone focused even with all the bright amazing stuff that surrounds our characters.
Yet even with that sort of attention being paid to all the color work, no two areas feel exactly alike. City Hall stuff feels different than the island where Old Hob is hiding and feels very different from the space locales that we pop into before we’re back in Mutant Town for a whole other sort of look and feel. Herms balances them all and never misses a beat.
If one wants to set a tone, turning to Shawn Lee for the lettering is a wise move. All the emotion and feeling that the art displays and that is baked into the story can be felt and heard through the words that Lee adds to the pages, making sure they dance around in a perfect flow. We get a lot of normal volume/tone sorts of dialogue accompanied by larger and bolder words and even smaller almost faded bits of font that encompass the louder and softer volumes of speech. Those sorts of changes are perfect when added to comics work because it lets us hear the voices correctly in our heads since we can’t actually hear tone/volume in a medium like comics.
Even things like having bubbles that are different shapes or quality to showcase how something should sound, or dropping some well-placed coughs into a statement when a character is out of breath/too much gas in the air. Sure, they might seem like small things but all of them add up to something huge because it makes the world more tangible to us and lets us more into the reality on these pages. The more immersed we are, the better.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game #2 is now available from IDW Publishing.