The Review: I’m starting to realize why I don’t read as many IDW titles as I might; I just never know when their comics are coming out. If you’ve ever visited their website, you’ll notice how difficult it is to browse through their catalogue. I don’t think they even have a proper release calendar, in fact. Even my comic book shop, which provides impeccable service in so many other ways, is helpless to tell me with any accuracy which IDW series will be in, and when.
All that is just a roundabout, defensive way for me to explain why I didn’t cover Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #20 last month. It’s a disappointing break in my record for keeping up with the reviews, but such is life. Even I can’t be perfect all the time. Anyway, my sincerest apologies, especially since last issue concluded our heroes’ time on Neutrino, with all sorts of fun and exciting twists, I’m sure. Moving on to the issue at hand, the Turtles have returned safely home, none the worse for wear despite getting dragged into an alien war. These sci-fi escapades finished with, it’s just about time for them to re-engage the Foot Clan once more. The question is how they will go about that. Formidable as they are, it’s uncertain if they have what it takes to make a direct attack on the Clan or to survive should Shredder decide to make the first strike.
Still, from the opening page, it seems as if despite the increasing tension across the city (whether related to the Clan or not), the Turtles are content to wait for their enemy to move first. Before they can get too complacent, a mystery opponent enters, foiling all of their skills with a variety of martial arts styles, some traditional (Wing Chun), some obscure (the Filipino Kali), and some only lately in the public eye (Parkour and Savate). Not only does he reveal weaknesses in their individual fighting skills, he also exposes cracks in their battle mentalities. Both Leonardo’s leadership and Raphael’s aggression fail against this foe, and the group’s usually tight coordination almost completely falls apart.
While they do summon the extra spirit to face down their attacker until the very end, it’s now been proven that alone won’t suffice to take down Shredder or the Clan. To avoid the same fate that ended their previous lives, they’ll have to radically rethink their whole way of fighting, which sounds like a pretty excellent mission statement from Eastman-Waltz to me. At this stage of the series, there’s no better way to head up monotony than to change things up a bit. The Turtles will need it, now that Shredder has found yet another old weapon for his advantage.
While Eastman may have as strong a grasp on telling the Turtles’ story in a credibly way as he did when he first showed them to the world, his art hasn’t fared quite as well. I won’t say that it has aged badly; its simple, blocky vision of the world, especially with Pattison’s always supportive colors, looks fairly tolerable. But it’s also stiff and heavy, making every movement look like an effort, to the point that the action almost creaks to a halt in small panels. Compared to the lively work brought by Mateus Santolouco or Ben Bates, Eastman’s art looks rudimentary and perhaps too basic.
Conclusion: A good set-up for a new direction for the Turtles, though the art isn’t so impressive in this issue.