This comic continues to impress with its daring choice of stories and topics. It is set in the TMNT universe, but it does not always focus on traditional TMNT themes. TMNT stories, even on their darker arcs, tend to emphasize the team/family and a lot of action, and generally end positively.
This issue opens with a story by Nick Pitarra and John Lees, featuring art by Pitarra. Pitarra is best known as an artist, and has done a lot of TMNT covers, but not a lot of interior work. His interior credits include Manhattan Projects, SHIELD: Infinity, and The Red Wing. John Lees is known for The Standard and Oxymoron (another of the greatest comics you’ve never heard of).
Their story is a Michelangelo solo story. He follows Michelle Lin, a lone police officer, into the sewers as she looks for a missing relative. The pair encounters Wyrm, a sentient colony creature composed of mutated flatworms. Although Wyrm is theoretically a villain, Pitarra and Lees succeed in making it an interesting character—one deserving of compassion.
This is the first appearance of Wyrm. It is interesting that in a very few pages, Pitarra and Lees have given the character depth and dimension. Wyrm is not a stereotypical villain bent on world domination. Likewise, it is not a pitiful creature, striking out in blind pain. It is a creature unlike us, and its motives are different, even difficult to understand at first.
Pitarra’s use of details and nuance—the significance of a simple red balloon, demonstrate his understanding of the unique differences between graphic storytelling and standard media. The item is neither described in text nor called out in dialogue, yet it is an important part of the story. Its use lends poignancy to the story that transcends the standard “punch-em-out” action of many comics.
Brahm Revel does the art and writing on the backup story. A Foot Ninja follows Raphael on his nightly rounds—not interfering—just watching the turtle’s actions. During his reconnaissance, he contemplated the history of Ninjas and his own personal history, too.
It is a story with no dialogue. It is simple, yet content-dense. Again, the storyteller uses imagery without dialogue/text to tell a part of the story.
TMNT Universe has established itself as a different take on the Universe of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Instead of placing itself as part of the ongoing story line, it is an opportunity for talented artists and writers to stretch and explore not only major characters and relationships, but minor characters as well. It is a place for them to “play in someone’s sandbox,” to explore the Turtle’s universe without worry of disrupting continuity. This issue is well worth the read.
Written by: John Lees, Nick Pitarra & Brahm Revel
Illustrated by: Nick Pitarra & Brahm Revel