A Truly Dynamic Duo: Reviewing ‘TMNT: The Armageddon Game – The Alliance’ #3
by Scott Redmond
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game – The Alliance’ #3 taps into some classic sort of energy while tackling the latest story to focus on the various allies and foes of the Splinter Clan as their worlds change greatly during the Rat King’s game. A painful but also beautiful story about found family and the lengths we sometimes have to go to in order to find that place or that person that we can call home.
Friend and foe have put much aside to answer the call in their quest to stop Rat King’s twisted game. Unfortunately for some, those lines are just too painful to ever be crossed. With the Splinter Clan teamed up with Shredder, Alopex must discover whom she wants to be and who is still left that she can trust as The Armageddon Game continues to move forward.
Back in early 2022, Juni Ba hopped into the writer and artist seat to bring life to an annual issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Less than a year later and he’s back handling both duties for the latest issue in The Armageddon Game: The Alliance event tie-in series, but things are different on a variety of levels. Not only are the protagonists different, focused on Alopex and Angel over the original four turtle brothers, but a giant change was also made in the artwork that harkens back to some truly classic feeling TMNT. What is that change you ask? Well, that would be the wonderful incorporation of black and white alongside splashes of color that are found here.
Ba was once again paired with regular TMNT colorist Ronda Pattison, and they have created something magnificent once more. It’s hard to accurately describe artwork styles like Ba’s because it’s the type that must be seen to be fully appreciated. There is inherently very kinetic energy to the artwork as things move so smoothly, feeling light but heavy simultaneously. Various elements in the background are deeply detailed and have a real sort of sense to them while the characters/people within the world have an exaggerated style to them going for impact over true realistic proportions. Out of the box is a good way to describe it because things have their own sense to them even if it goes against what some might think of as ‘standard,’ both in the aforementioned character proportions and also paneling.
Oh, the paneling. I’m one of those that respect the more classic boxed panels but if you give me the choice, I’m going to devour those books where the paneling style goes above that and creates something unique. Finding ways to bring the story to life and guiding the eyes through the pages in ways that make things pop far more and sometimes feel overwhelming without actually being overwhelming. Panels take on a variety of shapes stacked on top of one another, in other cases fully using white space to either create borders or enhance the elements within those panels. Everything about Ba’s style is just fun and feels like it could pop off the page and play out right in front of you.
I mean there is a whole bit during the fights where Angel has a video game-esque life bar hovering over her head, dropping as she takes blows, that is just inspired. Which also describes the uses of color as mentioned above. Pattison is one of the best colorists around, working with a variety of artists all the time (sometimes changing regularly between issues/arcs on the main TMNT series) keeping signature elements of her style while adjusting it to meld with any given art style. As I mentioned a lot of this issue is in black and white basically with either little elements giving a pop of color or sometimes a whole panel being filled with more color.
Those colors though are more toned down in their vibrancy, but because they are alongside so many white/black/gray elements they pop so much. In some of the panels, it might just be the mask of a character or SFX upon the page that has the color, telling us exactly where to focus our attention, right next to panels where the background is a bright color (often yellow) with plenty of other colors mixed in. Those are still very toned-down in quality with some pop, giving a different feeling and tone to the actions on the page. Those more color-filled panels tend to be the ones featuring Angel, whereas the ones with more B&W mixed in are the Alopex ones, which helps keep their elements separate since both are in very different emotional/status positions as we move through the story.
Right away my mind goes back to the old school classic black & white TMNT comics, creating a bit of warm nostalgic energy that is supported by still doing its own modern thing. It showcases the love that these folks have for these characters and their world, tapping into elements that mean something to the long history of this franchise but also is just a damn cool thing to see on the page.
Ba crafts a very intriguing story with the seemingly simple premise of Alopex and Angel fighting for their lives against different threats, which brings them together again. It’s a heavy action issue with the two fights going on, but it’s also a huge character issue as we can read Alopex’s inner thoughts as she tries to figure out where she belongs after the Splinter Clan has gone to lengths she just can’t stand with at this point. Two tales happening right next to one another end up intertwining, bringing the best friends together to survive and create a home together again.
We get another small backup from Erik Burnham, Roi Mercado, and William Soares following what was set up in the series’ first issue of Karai recruiting for something new. Of course, this one is about reaching out to Alopex and Angel, much like the backup of the last issue was about recruiting Casey after the first story was about him.
It’s so great how this team is able to bring so much story in just a handful of pages. In just four pages we witness Alopex/Angel discussing things, introducing Karai with Bebop and Rocksteady alongside her, have her make an offer, get a view of how Alopex feels about Karai (it’s pretty painful for Karai), and talk it out to end up on the same page. Folks are mostly standing around chatting but Mercado and Soares make it very dynamic and energetic with a lot of muted but still vibrant colors that play well with shadows/darkness. Mercado’s choices for how to set up the panels help to give plenty of space to fit so much into four pages, every panel carrying extra weight to keep every element for the story moving as it needs to towards the goal.
Letters are handled by Jake M. Wood across the board, who does a ton to create the right tone and energy we need on the pages. Giving the dialogue that bit of push it needs in order to allow the volume/tone of every spoken word to come through so that we know how to hear it. While adding little flairs to the bubbles or fonts in order to make them feel different for different characters, standing out from the lettering used for another character or element on the same page.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game – The Alliance #2 is now available from IDW Publishing.