I've been wondering about Old Hob for quite some time now because I'm a sucker for good villains. The very first TMNT story by IDW introduced his rivalry with Splinter and we've seen glimpses of what went down, but I've been pretty curious to see more from the character (you know, aside from him acting like a goon). Writer Jason Ciaramella is tasked with fleshing out the character's history and he succeeds for the most part, but it's the art by Dave Wachter which really makes this book stand out.
Whether it's a crying child, a callous and lumbering Slash, an older thug or a hungry and bloodlusted cat, Wachter does a brilliant job bringing every character to life and making the scenes believable. Honestly, he nails it with every character and every emotion -- it's really impressive work. The image of a sad and confused pre-mutated Old Hob standing in the snow is immensely powerful and sure to pull an "awww" from you (unless you're sporting a heart of ice). While the book does have a mostly gray tone to it (not saying that's a bad thing since it certainly fits the atmosphere), every now and then it has the opportunity to make the pages feel energetic by providing some vivid coloring with the splashes of blood or ooze. Overall, it's a stellar looking book.
Old Hob's origin story does cover a decent amount of territory we've already seen in the series and the villain's tactic is certainly something very familiar (thus far, at least), but Ciaramella still does a good job adding enough to make the issue feel fresh. The emotional opener is fantastic (did anyone else think of the Futurama episode 'Jurassic Bark?') and while I don't really care much about seeing his forces leave him post-Turtles fight, the minor twist involving Splinter is a good one.
I did enjoy Old Hob's origin, but it does have a decent, "been there, seen that" feeling to it (until the very end, that is). Perhaps we'll see more as he chats with the Turtles in 'City Fall,' but as of right now, my impression of the character is basically still the same: he's a fairly standard lackey who thinks he's a leader and yet again, I imagine he's in over his head (despite thinking otherwise). Additionally, I wish Slash played a bigger role in this issue. I understand he had his origin fleshed out in the ongoing, but it would be nice to see a little more of what the dynamic is like between them. Here's hoping we get that in 'City Fall!'
While this issue doesn't make me feel like Old Hob is anything more than a goon incapable of becoming a big bad, it's still quite an entertaining read and the artwork is remarkable. Plus, the ending is sure to make any TMNT fan anxious. All I'll say is once the origin story wraps up, we're brought back to the present and this cliffhanger will lead right into TMNT #23 aka part 2 of 'City Fall!' I'm sure it's not mandatory reading for the big story in next week's new issue, but it'll definitely help and give you a stronger connection to Old Hob -- a character who will clearly play some kind of role in the events to come.