The Future’s Not Set: Reviewing ‘TMNT: The Armageddon Game – The Alliance’ #4
by Scott Redmond
Lines between the main ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ ongoing series and the tie-in series ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game – The Alliance’ intertwine for a fantastic character-focused interlude that moves forward a bunch of long percolating character beats. A perfect showcase of how to use tie-in stories to an event to service and deepen the overall stories being told.
Sometimes a glimpse of your future can have a lasting effect, especially a particularly bad future. Various characters have learned that over the decades in fiction, and lately, the members of the Splinter Clan and their allies have been faced with this prospect numerous times.
It’s been said so many times in the reviews I’ve crafted so far for all the various issues involved in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game event. Still, I’ll say it again: this is a perfectly crafted event. What I mean by that is everything from the main series ongoing TMNT series to the main event limited series to these tie-ins are so well crafted and interwoven yet are also independent enough to do their own thing. Where reading the others will enhance and fulfill the experience but is in no way required because you gain so much from any given issue to fill in the pieces.
Especially when talking about these TMNT: The Armageddon Game – Alliance issues that are character-focused while filling in moments or bits that the main event portions can’t or don’t cover. This one in particular though was such a smart move. In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles main series Donatello and Jennika have been working to save Mutant Town in the chaos and also protect the Triceraton Regenta Seri from Utrom assassins, and in the most recent issue (check out my review here) Donatello defeated them while tapping into energies that pulled him through time. Rather than spend an issue of the main series detailing what happened there, the writer of the main series Sophie Campbell shifts over to this space to do that exploration.
Campbell has just done such a wonderful job with the series these past few years, really giving us such character deep moments and playing with the future and where the Splinter Clan and others have been and are going. Bringing Bludgeon and Venus Di Milo in here, since Venus and Donatello are connected (thanks to her having his original broken carapace), thus tying the issue still to the overall theme of this series (Karai trying to bring various characters together for a new different alliance) gives the issue even more.
In all the various issues Campbell has written, she has been paired with a number of great artists and that includes herself which is what we get in this issue. I love all the various artistic styles that we’ve gotten in the various TMNT issues, but I do really like when Campbell has a chance to draw the stories as well. There is just such great energy to her work to bring the elements she envisioned in her head while writing to life on the page. It’s a style that is very dense and detailed with a great eye for how to frame and capture both character moments and action through the use of a varied style of paneling. At the same time, many panels pull back the detail to allow starker or emptier backgrounds to provide a platform to cause the characters or a particular moment to stand out even more.
We’re treated to a variety of colors that are somewhere in the middle between a more bright/vivid palate and the more toned-down/natural sort of tones from colorist Brittany Peer. From the barren outside landscape to the tower of Donatello, many of the setting elements are slick and have a warmth or coolness to them but are more of a toned-down almost Earthy quality to them to keep them feeling like real places that our eyes and brain find natural. It’s the more supernatural elements that take on brighter tones, such as the mutant characters and the magic elements or the time portal itself, yet they are also just bright enough to stand out from the rest but not overpower. Except on later pages when the vivid greens of future Donatello’s magic take over or everything radically changes and goes up a notch color-wise with reds, blues, and blacks for the arrival of the thing called Armaggon.
Lettering helps to tell us the reader what is being said or thought or even things like location, but letterers bring so much more to the table than this. Here Nate Widick brings a ton of emotional impact to the letters on the page, making sure to switch up their sizes or colors or looks in various ways to ensure that the tone, volume, or intent of the voices are clear to the reader. Like making the usually loud Koya’s angry bubble full of huge words with a huge red outline to the bubble, or the softer font and semi-transparent look for Venus/Donatello’s astral telepathic connection moments. Even the more wavey look to old Donatello’s word bubbles conveys how his voice is older, different, and potentially weaker than it once was.
These issues are setup so well that the main stories just segue into the backups so seamlessly. We get our fourth backup piece from Erik Burnham, Roi Mercado, and William Soares with TMNT go-to letterer Shawn Lee jumping on to this story.
In far fewer pages these backups have done a great job at delving into the characters and showing their relationships and feelings towards Karai and the Foot and themselves in some cases, and each has gone very differently. I have no idea what is being built here or where it will go beyond the current event story, but I’m very dialed in and ready to see where it all ends up. Burnham juggles all these voices and personalities so easily, matching the sort of flow and energy of the main story each time.
Roi and Mercado bring a solid smooth dynamic energy to this handful of pages, making mostly standing-around talking scenes feel even larger and more powerful than one might expect. There is a brief bit of action in the sense of a tussle between Koya and Venus, but mostly it’s really about establishing the setting and really homing in on the emotions and standing of these characters. Capturing the emotions and bringing a very natural sort of color tone to the proceedings, while keeping those pops of vividness that come with these larger-than-life characters. As Lee brings that veteran talent to the page to make sure the voices carry that same energy across the pages, giving firmness and context to the words we’re seeing as we can hear and feel the emotions that are coming from everyone any time they speak, or we look directly at them.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game – The Alliance #4 is now available from IDW Publishing.