Leo's once again leading the Ninja Turtles and the group has returned to New York. To celebrate their return, writer Tom Waltz begins this latest storyline with a scene that is pure fan service. Without blatantly giving a play-by-play of the incident, I will say it's a nice reminder of why the team has the word "ninja" in its name. Sure, we've watched them engage in some great melees over the course of this run, but here we get to see them utilize stealth. Watching the team strike from the shadows and vanish before being spotted at all is sure to be pure bliss for any fan of the franchise.
After that cheer-worthy encounter, Waltz wastes no time establishing what this new arc will cover. We quickly address a few different plot points with the heroes in a half shell, but, much to my surprise, the mutants don't receive too much focus. This is because a good chunk of this issue is dedicated to Casey Jones' incredibly complicated relationship with his father, Hun. If you've been following the series, then you likely know how their conversation will pan out, but despite having a somewhat predictable outcome, Waltz is able to place a heavy amount of emotion into their conversation. Overall, it's a creatively executed conflict and that final page is particularly heartbreaking. I wouldn't be too surprised if someone decides to make a more heroic decision down the road, but only time will tell, right?
Not only does this issue mark the team's return to New York, but it's also the return of artist Mateus Santolouco! Don't get me wrong: Ross Campbell's work was a brilliant fit for the last story arc, but Santolouco's swiftly become my favorite TMNT artist. The amount of personality he instills into every character is seriously impressive (particularly love how creepy Hun can appear at times) and his dedication to detail isn't limited to just the characters, either. In quite a few of the pages, the effort is given to make us feel immersed in this concrete and unkind city. There's even some delightfully clever panel layouts when he tackles Hun's conflict. The decision to "dive into" Hun's head really adds more weight to his dilemma. Also, the Turtles leaping in front of the moon is guaranteed to be something everyone loves. Take out the dialogue box and it could serve as a superb banner. Backgrounds are removed pretty often, but colorist Ronda Pattison fills the panels with strong tones that work as a nice compliment to the conversation or action that's occurring. All in all, I had high expectations for this visual team and they did not disappoint one bit.
I won't lie, it's a bit of a bummer the Turtles don't receive a lot of attention in this one. The dynamic between Casey and Hun continues to grow my emotional connection to this book -- I'm absolutely interested in seeing how it plays out -- and the opening action scene is awesome, but given all that the Turtles have been through over the past two stories, a little more follow-up with them would have been greatly appreciated.
I'll be blunt: this is an issue every Ninja Turtles fan should pick up. Yes, it would be preferred if you could read the last two arcs first, but not everyone can afford that luxury and enough is done here to make this pretty new reader friendly. The team's back together and this issue delivers a whole lot of build-up. You can feel the tension rising and just enough is delivered to give you little teasers of what's to come. Plus, the shift to focusing on Casey gives the book a nice amount of heart and hopefully this is something that'll become a big factor as the story moves forward. To top it all off, artist Mateus Santolouco is back on the book, and the first scene should help you understand why I and so many others adore his work. This isn't a book that simply moves from one story to the next one without any repercussions. Everything this team has endured is adding up and it certainly shows in this issue. Seriously, don't miss out on this, TMNT fans.