Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #63 ComicWow! Review

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In the current TMNT story arc, Shredder is gone, and Splinter has become the head of the Foot Clan.  He is determined to use the former bad guys as a force for good.  The seismic change disturbs many of the Turtles and causes a rift between the Turtles and their mentor.  This issue is a turning point in the arc.

Splinter is preparing the Foot Clan to go to war against a rival faction, the Street Phantoms.  He is moving his troops and other people around the city like a chess master moving pieces on a board.  His moves are secretive, almost Machiavellian, and this causes suspicion in the Turtles.  This is particularly true of Leonardo, first among the brothers. 

Earlier, Leonardo’s doubts and discomfort about Splinter’s actions as new leader of the Foot Clan caused him to leave the family for a while.  He took time to sort out his feelings.  The needs of his brothers and father brought him back into the clan, but his doubts remain. 

In this issue, Splinter and Leonardo have the talk.   Splinter allowed a friend of the Turtles, Harold – a scientist who designs gadgets and weapons for the Turtles – to be kidnapped by the Street Phantoms.  This was a move designed to distract the Street Phantoms and allow the Foot Clan to prepare to deliver a decisive (and unprovoked) attack.

Splinter reminds Leonardo that oftentimes people act in secret with the best and noblest intentions.  When Leo and the Turtles went behind Splinters back once, it was done out of best motives and consideration.  Now, the old rat/ninja master asks his son for the same trust and consideration.

For now, Leonardo accepts this, and the Turtles move into action.

Eastman, co-creator of the venerable franchise literally wrote the book on the Turtles.  Nobody knows and understands these characters as well as he does.  Curnow and Waltz (who also scripted the issue) are gifted writers as well.  Curnow’s other credits include a lot of TMNT, MLP, Godzilla, Drones, Fallen Angels, Battle Beasts, and More)  Waltz (TMNT, Ghostbusters, the Last Fall, Galaxy Quest, Deadworld, Kill Shakespeare, and more) is also a veteran IDW writer.

This issue is remarkable not for its action, but for its dialogue and character development.  These characters are in conflict, unsure of what to do, but sticking together.  They are trying to find a way to balance their own instincts and observations against their trust and faith in their father.  Relationships and their growth has often been the center of classic literature.  This lesson is clearly not lost on the writing team.   

Dave Wachter (Godzilla, True Blood, Breath of Bones, Night of 1000 Wolves) brings a different style to the turtles. It is quietly understated, and this helps to bring the focus to the dialogue and the subtle interactions between the characters. His style works to humanize the Turtles.

This issue is an example of a very capable team struggling with the limitations of the short format. This issue is a difficult place to jump into a complex and involved story; it is extremely well written, but it needs to be longer. There are places where single-panel scenes could easily be expanded for multiple panels, or even pages. 

Despite the limitations imposed on these storytellers by the format, this issue is still a masterclass on dialogue and character development.

Written by: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow & Tom Waltz

Illustrated by: Dave Wachter

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