TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES' latest story has a lot going on. Mikey and Raph are chatting with Old Hob and Slash about a big plan, Casey is stuck in a brutal conflict with his father, Angel is working with Donnie's buddy, and now, April's family is moving back into the city. See, told you there's a lot! Everyone and anyone on the good side of the narrative is getting some focus, but two characters have been noticeably left behind: Leonardo and Master Splinter. Well, this latest chapter finally brings the two into the forefront and attempts to delve into their relationship while also expanding the stage.
The team behind the story (Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow) realize there's a lot of tension and unsaid concerns between the two leads, so they introduce the Rat King to bring all of these emotions front and center. There's some blatant changes to the villain's abilities and it seems like they've done this so he apparently become a major player in the story's future. It's not really creating a new thread -- just greatly expanding upon a pre-existing one. It's likely a connection you won't see coming. Since he can get inside a character's mind and attempt to play with it, this brings about a visually creative way of having Leonardo and Splinter address their big issues. It's great to see these two finally receive the spotlight in the story and the ending is sure to have any TMNT fan thrilled.
Mateus Santolouco's redesign of the Rat King is delightfully creepy. The way he and colorist Ronda Pattison make the fiend slowly emerge from the shadows with his glowing eyes is haunting and they have him appear every bit as twisted and dirty as he should in each and every panel. You can tell they had fun presenting and laying out the mind games the villain played with Leonardo and Splinter, too. And, as usual, the characters are lively and the scenery feels like you're trapped in the sewers with them. Mark Torres and Corey Smith also generate a few pages. While their style may be noticeably different, it's not jarring since it's used to present totally different scenes (one's in the past and the other takes place in a completely different location) and both feel like a good fit.
It's clear the creative team has big plans for the Rat King, but his inclusion in this story feels a little abrupt. There's so many interesting developments going on with so many characters, so to add this big development feels like it's piling on a little too much right now. As I said above, I get why he was selected and it does a terrific job bringing the dynamic between Leonardo and Master Splinter forward, but part of me wishes we could have spent more time watching them discuss their issues on their own terms. A passionate conversation between them could turn into a really gripping and emotional exchange, after all. And, it's not that big of a deal, but the Rat King loves the sound of his own voice and this begins to take away from the focus Leonardo and his father have earned.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES' current story arc keeps getting bigger and bigger. Just when you thought the stage was set and we're ready to move forward, the team introduces totally new plot points and leaves us hanging on a cliffhanger that's pure fan service. Thankfully, the fast-paced narrative isn't leaving its characters in the dust. The team behind the story continues to focus on humanizing these individuals and this conversation between Leo and his father has been building for a little while and the experience was well worth the wait. Plus -- and it should really come as no surprise by now -- Santolouco and Pattison once again do a praiseworthy job with all of the panels. Now that the majority of the cast has received some proper attention, it's time to see what'll happen when the team finally decides to move forward with its plans. I've said it before and I'll say it again: this continues to be a series that every TMNT fan needs to follow.