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Review by Atlee Greene

Some big news took place in the world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series by IDW, as one of our heroes in a half shell has fallen. It was a move that wasn’t promoted or leaked weeks before the 44th issue was released this past Wednesday.

The culmination of this latest story arc was in many ways, what the series has built towards as Krang’s plan of using the Technodrome to terraform the Earth reaches a critical junction for everyone involved.

Even though Attack on Technodrome officially takes place in issues #41-44, issue #40 established a key ingredient that sets a particular act in motion, and you don’t even realize its true intent until later in the arc.

Franchise co-creator Kevin Eastman helms a creative team that has done an exceptional job of giving this series an entertaining and distinctive voice. Tom Waltz and Bobby Curnow bring their expertise to the writing duties, Ronda Pattison’s coloring effortlessly complements the imagery on every page, and Corry Smith’s illustrations on three of the four issues hits every emotional note.

If you frequent comic book news sites, you already know which Turtle met their demise. For the sake of those who don’t know, I’m not going to spoil it until almost the very end of the review.

That way, you have a chance to get a feel for the arc without having the big climax spoiled.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #40

We are treated here to a street fight of epic proportions as Splinter and the Turtles team up with Old Hob and his gang to clash with Bebop and Rocksteady. Now, I started thinking to myself, this is an awful big call to arms for just two mutants.

The thing is, this ain’t the warthog and rhino that you used to know. These are not the bumbling buffoons from the original animated series. In this street level incarnation that resembles the original comic series, Bebop and Rocksteady are ruthless killers with super strength and nearly unstoppable.

When a particular issue is one big slugfest, the artwork needs to say more than any word balloon can convey. The detail in Mateus Santolouco’s imagery from character work, to landscapes, to body language strikes the perfect cord. The page layouts provide a nice brisk pace and makes the reader feel as if they have been sucked in to an action movie where big fight occurs.

Bebop has been kicking ass for several pages until he gets thrown by his nose ring. His face upon lift off is priceless. However, instead of feeling a sense of relief for the heroes, there was a sense of dread because that I knew that wasn’t going to keep him down or long……and it didn’t.

While the Turtles are the star attractions, this brawl was used to highlight Old Hob and his mutant army. Hob is a cutthroat that always has a trick up his sleeve, but it was nice to see what Pigeon Pete, Slash, Mondo Gecko, and Herman the Hermit Crab can do in a firefight.

The objective was to illustrate how tough Bebop and Rocksteady are as the combined might of eleven mutants couldn’t keep them down. Mateus Santolouco deserves a lot of credit for visually telling a story with real stakes.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #41

The first chapter of Attack on the Technodrome moves all of the pieces into position for what will hopefully be the ultimate checkmate.

Everything we’ve seen in the last twelve months from TMNT has been leading to this showdown. Krang is using his hell on wheels to terraform the Earth into a version of his home planet, Utrominon.

There are four subplots that intersect to the main storyline, and each character brings something different and useful to the forefront. Donatello makes a deal with the devil while Splinter and Old Hob coordinate the offensive with the Turtles and mutants.

The key figures all have a different opinion on what needs to be done in order to stop Krang which ensures there will be some stumbling blocks along the way with a side of betrayal to boot.

I don’t know what it is about the way Eastman and Waltz write Baxter Stockman, but his bitter arrogance makes me salivate at the thought of someone kicking his rear end from pillar to post. As for Shredder, well, he has proved that his backup plans have backup plans and it appears he will stay the course in that endeavor.

Corry Smith takes over the art duties for the rest of the arch and its spot on as usual and the only thing that makes it better is the vibrant and delicate coloring of Ronda Pattison. There was a majestic quality about Krang’s “I’m the king of the world” moment that presented a misleading splendor because it represents a perilous future.

Setup issues can be kind of boring at times, but this one hit all of the right notes with precision and style that sets up the pending battle.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #42

Everyone seems to have a plan until someone betrays them. Donatello has made a deal with Shredder as he has a way to get into the Technodrome while the rest of the turtles, Splinter, Old Hob and his gang plan an assault on the Footclan’s HQ.

This was fascinating because this meant that Donatello might potentially and inadvertently screw up his family’s plan at the sake of his own. Shredder isn’t taking any chances and sends Bebop and Rocksteady to watch Donatello in case he tries something tricky.

Speaking of family, that element is brought to the forefront as Splinter refers to the turtles as his sons and converses with them as such. The title of the book is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but we rarely think of them as teenagers and this was a reminder of their adolescences.

Again, in Splinter’s case, we think of him as more of a sensei than a father. Seeing the familial aspect raises the emotional stakes because this isn’t just another crime fighting group brought together by chance or a common goal.

Corry Smith’s character work on the Turtles is not my cup of tea, but it’s perfect for this setting because they are made to look like teenagers which ties into the narrative.

Smith’s work shines in the final moments when Krang’s army and The Foot Clan finally come face to face on Burnow Island where the Technodrome is stationed. The illustrations did so much with just thirteen panels and three pages. Right before Krang stated his order to attack, there is a close up his eyes that are just filled with arrogance as he believes Shredder is no match for him.

It’s too early to tell who will gain the upper hand in this battle, but Kevin Eastman and company did a great job of putting the final touches on everyone’s plans which leads to the first shots fired in what will be a fierce battle for survival.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #43

We pick up right where we left off on Burnow Island as Foot Soldiers and Rock Soldiers provide background mayhem as Krang and Shredder trade fisticuffs. Corry Smith did a great job of visually conveying the enormity of the moment as the two evil kingpins point at each other with both having the utmost confidence that they will best the other. The action is captivating because Krang in his mechanical suit is twice the size and twice as strong of Shredder.

Evasive maneuvers keep Oroku Saki in the game as Krang barely misses with every blow that breaks ground in its wake.

There is one moment during their fight when Krang used his blade to break Shredder’s sword and there was this holy crap look on his face that indicated a turning of the tide This was a pivotal moment because when they fought back in issue #37, their encounter was more of a battle of wits. Krang was smart, but Shredder smarter and was one step ahead.

This time, neither one gains the advantage until the sword break, then it seems as if Shredder lost his confidence and realized he just might be facing death.

Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo call an audible and decide they are not going to help Splinter and Old Hob’s gang (The Mutanimals), with the assault on Foot HQ and instead are going to Burnow Island to stop the Technodrome. Splinter is naturally upset until the secret master plan is revealed with previous conversations and details that we weren’t privy to originally.

The writers made this moment unfold as if it were a movie and the emotional payoff is executed so well here. Splinter is impressed to the level where it hits him that his sons are no longer kids and gives them his blessing.

Baxter Stockman just keeps stabbing folks in the back so he can save his own hide and implement his own plan. It’s this never ending cycle that never gets old because there are moments where you think he’s finally learned his lesson, but nope. The image of Stockman ordering a massive horde of his Flyborgs to attack the turtles was very well done and oozing with evil intentions.

Back at Foot HQ, Splinter and The Mutanimals are taking out Foot Clan scraps. It lacks some excitement since the big battle is going down at Burnow Island, but it manages to squeeze out some fun action as Karai, Shredder’s granddaughter, and Splinter duke it out.

Karai has shown signs that she has the capacity for good and this moment teases her possible redemption.

This issue served as an important part of the story as sometimes, the second to last issue in an arc is usually one you can skip. Things at this stage of the game are usually in a holding pattern and the book tends to serve as a reminder of what’s transpired without actually telling you it’s a refresher.

Well, that is not the case this time around.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #44 

This is the end in more ways than one as this is the must read issue of the arc. Fugitoid has been the turtle’s secret weapon inside the Technodrome and gets a chance to shine here at the end thus highlighting his importance.

Of course, Krang is defeated and the moment is presented with a sense of finality in a sense that you felt a relief when it was all over.

***Spoiler Time***

Now, here comes the part that has everyone talking. Remember issue #40 where eleven mutants barely defeated Bebop and Rocksteady? Unbeknownst to the reader, the grim part they play here was brilliantly set up. The moment Shredder gave them the order to kill Donatello was almost chilling because there is no way he can take them alone.

The tension rises with each blow landed as Donatello is thrown from pillar to post. The beating is violent and unforgiving, with some hope thrown in to tease the possibility that he can somehow win by out smarting them.

The moment comes when Donatello is held down and trying to squirm away as the instrument of his doom approaches. When what ends up being the murder weapon appears, my first thought was “No, not like this.”

Sure enough, BAM!

Donatello is no longer among the living.

Splinter and the Turtles are feeling good about their victory over Krang and Shredder until they get back to the lab and discover the body of their fallen brother.

The sadness on the final page was pronounced to the nth degree not only because of the emotions exhibited but because we were reminded earlier on that this isn’t just a crime fighting unit, but a family.

Final Thoughts

Attack On Technodrome is a well realized story arch that did a great job of utilizing most of the characters in the series. Some characters bring more to the table than others and it was evident the creators gave everyone a role whether it was big or small.

Casey Jones and April O’Neil were given some screen time with their own little story which mainly saw Casey helping April’s father repair the store while April does some investigating into other matters. It might be something that factors in down the line, but it felt like a waste of time because it was never auxiliary to the plot.

So, why kill Donatello?

While the series is consistently one of the best reads on the shelf, it was the right time for something drastic to occur. Team members die and return to life in comic books all the time which often cheapens eerie hold that death is supposed to hold over someone.

This is a little different because it’s not a world renowned superhero who has passed. Unlike Captain America or Superman who had millions of people mourn their deaths, three teenagers have lost their brother and a father has lost his son.

The team dynamic will be different going forward because Donatello was the smart one and his intelligence was often the key in getting the team out of sticky situations. That is gone now, and adjustments will have to be made which should provide for some interesting stories down the line.

Now, the big question is will Donatello return.

Yes, the good guys always come back, however, I’m not sure how it’s going to happen.

Maybe the answer is a simple as mutagen, which a rather big bread crumbs laid out in issue #43 if that’s the plotted course.

I’m curious to see how the next issue unfolds because it will most likely be the mourning issue.

It sounds weird that I’m excited to see the emotional grief over the loss of a loved one, but in a comic book/super hero context, those issues are usually a great example of how comic book storytelling can convey a variety of emotions in an intricate manner. Those books in themselves are a work or art and it will be interesting to see how Kevin Eastman tackles that particular narrative with Tom Waltz penning the script.

As for the future, until Donatello returns, the series is headed into uncharted waters. Luckily, the creative team of Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, and Ronda Pattison have consistently worked their magic for over three and a half years in a clever, well produced and engaging fashion. I have no doubt this will continue to be the norm going forward.

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