This is a fascinating new series. Under IDW’s careful management, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has thrived and grown strong. With so many good guys, bad guys and ancillary characters, it was necessary to create another title.
TMNT Universe started with a simple premise: Baxter Stockman was targeted, and the Turtles rescued him. It turns out the shadows force behind the plot is Bishop and the Earth Protection Force. Stockman, the Turtles, April, and a new mutant Zodi, who is part scorpion and of unknown loyalty, are trapped inside. They are under siege by a numerically superior force of very-well armed enemies.
This is a very tense and atmospheric mixture of action and character study. It is reminiscent of John Carpenter’s classic Assault on Precinct 13. In both cases, a group of people is thrown together and trapped in an edifice that they need to defend against tremendous odds. They are not all on the same side at the beginning, but they are forced to work together and in the process of facing common danger, trust and respect could (?) grow.
This is a fascinating chance to look at two characters, one new and one old: Zodi the Scorpion Girl and Baxter Stockman.
The character of Zodi is fascinating both from an artistic standpoint and from character development. Visually striking due to her arthropoid nature, Zodi is unique, with defined segments to the tail and some type of carapace on her head. Her arms and legs are more human. Black, and somewhat shiny, with red clothing covered with pockets/pouches, Zodi is simultaneously a creature of fantasy and reality.
The character of the scorpion-mutant is also unique. Zodi is reminiscent of Raphael, but without the social and moral compass that the turtle got from his father, brothers and friends. Zodi is a survivor, with a survivor’s cynicism regarding interpersonal relationships.
If Zodi is a question mark, Baxter Stockman is a period. He does not like the Turtles, regarding them as nothing more than experimental accidents. After all of these years, he still refuses to address the turtles by their names, stating that he knows their test subject numbers. Even when they are on the same side, fighting for their lives, he still coldly declares that he wants to get them back in his lab, where they belong.
The strength of this writing team is its versatility. They break in the action to explore the characters in brief vignettes and tiny dialogues/discussions. This writing team is expertly mixing character study and action/thriller.
The artwork is strong, particularly in the action scenes. They capture the dark and claustrophobic nature of their situation well, particularly in a combat scene in an elevator shaft. The external night scenes are strongly reminiscent of Carpenter’s work on rooftops, from They Live to Escape from New York.
For those with a basic knowledge of the franchise, little background is needed to simply start with this issue. The pace of the story is very fast, and things are pretty much self-explanatory. On the other hand, for those unfamiliar with Stockman, Bishop, and the Earth Protection Force, it might be a difficult jump-in. If you’re a fan of the Turtles, or if you just like a really good siege story, this is fine reading.
Written by: Paul Allor, Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Illustrated by: Damian Couceiro, Kevin Eastman, Bill Sienkiewicz