If you've been reading TMNT, then you likely know General Krang as a powerful and evil alien who likes to say things along the lines of "IMBECILE!" His goals have been laid out in the primary ongoing series, however, it has never truly been explained why he's like this. What drives his motivation to conquer? Why is he so determined to save what remains of his people despite seeming like such a cold character? Well, writer Paul Allor is offering answers to these questions and this second chapter of UTROM EMPIRE continues to show us more and more of Krang's history while also balancing his current objective.
This insight into the classic villain gives him so much more depth. We see where his mentality came from, how he's changed over the years and how it has all molded him into the
man utrom he is today. While we often view him as power hungry, Allor brilliantly shows us how the extraterrestrial isn't nearly as one-dimensional as you may think and hits us with what he's willing to do to reach his primary objective.
As Allor jumps into Krang's past, he wisely chooses to focus these scenes on the dynamic between Krang and his father instead of the political scene which is unfolding in that era. He's even able to humorously cast aside that discussion about the society's structure by having Krang completely dismiss the conversation. Just enough is laid out to help us see what the species is going through without ever hitting us with unnecessary exposition. Additionally, these scenes continue to buildup Krang's ongoing conflict with the Triceratons. Nothing too significant happens with that plot thread in this issue, but a key step is taken to help further build the tension between the utroms and the brawny aliens.
Baxter Stockman and Fugitoid's involvement takes a surprisingly action-packed turn, however, the real crux here is the focus on their raw intellect. Allor further establishes Baxter as a devious and self-serving fiend as a clever twist is revealed and it all ends on a note which definitely makes it unclear what'll happen next with Fugitoid. The stage has absolutely been set and it'll be very interesting to see where Allor makes the two characters go from here. Meanwhile, Allor very briefly chimes in on the Ninja Turtles to follow-up on Donatello's research. It's unclear how long it'll take the team to play a more prominent role in this limited-series, but Donny's blunt rebuttal does offer a good laugh.
Artist Andy Kuhn and colorist Bill Crabtree present pages that are oozing with sci-fi goodness yet also strike a much darker and more ominous tone when the scene calls for it. Kuhn's work with the utorms is hugely amusing to gaze at. Everything from conveying the texture of their unique form to the strong expressions they produce is wonderful unique. The scene in the hurricane produces an absorbing and powerful atmosphere and the character work with Baxter and Fugitoid remains delightfully animated. Attention to detail tends to fluctuate in larger establishing shots (creating a much more cartoonish appearance), but overall, the visuals are solid and match the narrative well.
A couple of the scenes have an organic transition and the significance of the previous scene carries over in some form, but there were a few instances where the constant back-and-forth became a bit jarring, especially if it broke away on a compelling part or left one scene to chime in on another for just for a very short moment (e.g. Krang following through on the repair).
There were a couple of panels where coloring took me out of the moment. During the parade -- a display of the Krang's power -- the swarm of aliens in the seats are all the exact same shade as the road, so a large portion of the panel is just that one color spilling from the crowd into the road and there's no dividing lines. I can only imagine how difficult deadlines must be for an artist, but this along with the lack of detail takes away from selling the moment. I get a panel like that could never hope to present every single character in the scene, but a couple of little extra details here and there would have really helped bring the parade to life.
The conflict between Baxter's "flybot" and Fugitoid doesn't feel very fluid. It seems as though the villain's 'bot has Fugitoid outclassed and in its grips, then a moment later, Fugitoid is fleeing. After having Baxter's creation obliterate Krang's troops in his Villians Micro, it's just a tad difficult to believe Fugitoid could elude him like that. It's a very minor critique and I'm sure a vast majority of readers won't mind and view it as Fugitoid simply getting lucky, but seeing as I'm a sucker for character stats and how they perform in combat, stuff like that stands out to me.
Minor gripe: Krang uses the idiom "fighting tooth and nail." Seeing as they don't have nails, it seems a little odd for them to use the expression.
TMNT: UTROM EMPIRE #2 accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: create a stronger emotional connection to General Krang, continue to construct a new mythos for his alien race, and progress Baxter Stockman and Fugitoid's tale. For the most part, writer Paul Allor is able to juggle these storylines and create more than enough entertainment and intrigue with all of them -- he's left me legitimately guessing what the next issue will have in store for us.
It's simple: if you like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, you should absolutely be reading this. Yes, the heroes in a half shell are taking a backseat (at least so far), but this limited-series is playing a critical role in expanding their universe and shows us how the franchise's roster is rich with potential.