Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Comics Commentary: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #110-111


Unscripted, unedited. Just a guy talking about comics.

Audio only.

Transcript below...

We're here today to talk about two issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the current ongoing series published by IDW. We're going to be talking about two issues, #110 and #111. They came out not too long ago. #110 came out in October 2020, #111 came out in November 2020. These are recent issues and an interesting comic. They've been publishing best-of collections, which include some older reprint stuff, as well. There was a TMNT: Best of Raphael, and TMNT: Best of Donatello's coming out this month.

This is the current ongoing series, with story consulting by Kevin Eastman, one of the original creators, and Tom Waltz, script by Sophie Campbell, and art by Jodi Nishijima. That is the same across both issues.  It’s currently owned as a property by Nickelodeon, so even though Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started off as a comic book, at this point I actually would consider it a licensed comic or a tie-in comic rather than an original comic, which is an interesting place to be.

Eastman continues to have a hand in it. He is drawing one of the variant covers. He's drawing Cover B for issue #110, and he's also contributed a variant cover that looks super cool for #111. But most interestingly, he has a hand in a new event that I actually don't know exactly when it's publishing. There's this new storyline, supposedly an oversized title called The Last Ronin, and we'll talk a little bit more about that as our commentary continues.

You're already in the thick of a storyline. There's been an increase or resurgence in mutanimals, or mutant animals. There's a part of the city now that's kind of sequestered and set aside for them. There's some kind of mutagen that might still affect people and turn them into mutanimals. There's not a lot of humans in the comic currently because they are outside of this part of the city that's affected by the mutagen. There seems to be a group of people led by a character named Hob who is aligned with the Foot Clan, and they seem to be in direct opposition to the Splinter Gang, which then would be Raphael, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo—the turtles and their friends.

This issue starts in the midst of all of that: not a lot of humans in the comic, and this isolated part of town with the warring factions figuring out what's going on. #110 opens with Raphael and Alopex, who's a mutanimal arctic fox, encountering the Road Hogs, which is a biker gang of mutanimals. The issue actually opens with another turtle fighting a Cthulhu-like or octopus-like mutanimal in what I would assume is Hobs’s headquarters for the mutanimals or in the dojo because there seems to be some back and forth about who's checking out whose headquarters and who is sneaking around where.

Later on in this issue, Leonardo infiltrates the mutanimal headquarters disguising himself to get an audience with Hob. His incursion into their domain is interrupted by several of the orphans or abandoned children that the Splinter clan has taken in revealing themselves, calling Hob their father and almost getting caught—including one of the children, Zanna. These children have been in previous issues. They've been taken in by the Splinter clan, are being taken care of, and seem to have been either neglected or let go of—or abandoned—by the mutanimals otherwise. That's where you're jumping in. There's a lot going on: mutanimals aligning with Hob, Hob aligning with the Foot Clan, and the Splinter gang taking care of the children and trying to take care of other citizens who've been affected by this mutagen.

But the neatest thing about the issue is the back story—not back story, but back of book story—which is a kind of preview to this Last Ronin storyline. This is Kevin Eastman art. A former owner and publisher of Heavy Metal magazine and one of the two people who created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in 1984 when it was a self-published comic, he still draws really well. His variant covers and this Last Ronin story in this—just a backup story; that's the term i was looking for—are absolutely wonderful, wonderful art and good coloring. None of the creative in the backup story is credited so I'm going to have to check GCD or something for that.

That’s #110, and #111 continues the story. The turtles are back in their dojo. They're actually preparing for Hob and some other people. Maybe that Cthulhu or octopus character whose name is Stone will return. He returns, actually, with a ring-tailed lemur kind of mutanimal. The turtles are getting ready for them to come and check out the dojo. Then they do so! Stone is taken out pretty handily. He's really cool with his tentacle face. Some of the art in issue #111 is wonderful stuff. The ring-tailed lemur or whatever that animal is, is a slightly more formidable opponent and actually encounters the orphans or the children: “Little kids,” she says. That will heighten the story, I'm sure, once Hob realizes that the turtles and the Splinter gang have them.

But the highlight of this issue is a little side story. There's a character named Mona who's been affected by the mutagen and has become a mutanimal. She describes herself as some kind of mutant salamander creature, and this side story is her reaching out to her parents. Her parents are still human. They're still in the human part of town, and she's reaching out to them for the first time, saying the following: “Yeah, it's all true. It's not a disease, no. It's not a mutation in the typical definition. It's more like total cellular reconfiguration, and... can we just do a video call?” 

The moment that she has with her parents is heartbreaking. They do not accept her. They reject her, and she is understandably upset about that. An interesting metaphor in parallel to people coming out as gay to their family, people being trans, any situation that you might find yourself in where you're seeking the acceptance of a family member or someone who you love and they reject you or don't accept what it is that you want them to accept. Kind of a neat heartstring moment in in the midst of a comic that is otherwise sneaky-fighty, a lot of action going on.

Then the issue ends, swinging back to the Foot Clan, now clearly aligned with Hob and his group—and the leader of the Foot Clan wanting to recruit these two big baddies, the wolf and the snapping turtle. I'm sure that will go well for all involved.

I also want to comment on another neat aspect of both of these issues: the letter column. Not all comic books have a letter column these days. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does. In issue #110, “Ninja Notes,” which is what it's called, takes up a full page. And in issue #111, the letter column, also called “Ninja Notes,” is actually given a full two pages. Right on, IDW. Right on, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for including a letter column and publishing letters of comment from your readers. We've got at least three readers writing into #111, and in #110, we've got another three readers—much smaller typeface. Right on for having a letter column, and right on to the people who are writing in to the comic book, including someone from Northampton, Mass. Neat, neat stuff. The letter column, interestingly enough, is just using the group email address for all of IDW,, and encourages correspondents to use the subject heading “TMNT” or “Ninja Notes.” It's not even like they have their own dedicated email address. It's just going straight to the publishing company that will then send it to the appropriate editor. 

Right on for having a letter column. Right on for the backup story with Kevin Eastman. Right on for the Eastman variant cover. An interesting comic, not really the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that I grew up with or that i'm interested in reading, but fun: totally gentle, totally a kid's property at this point—makes sense that Nickelodeon is owning them, makes sense that they're taking the approach they're taking, given that Nickelodeon owns them. But a pretty far cry from the original comic series from 1984.

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