Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 11: Attack on Technodrome
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, and Tom Waltz
Artist: Cory Smith
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Spoiler Warning! This review talks about the plot of the graphic novel being reviewed. I try to avoid mentioning anything I see as a major twist or reveal, but I don’t guarantee it. Read at your own risk!
Your mileage may vary more than usual on this one – I’m a pretty big TMNT fan, and if you haven’t read the rest of the IDW series leading up to this story arc, it’s not something you should pick up on its own. That said, as a continuation of the story being told in the monthly TMNT title, Attack on Technodrome is superlative. Extra warning: this review will be spoiler-heavy for both Attack on Technodrome, in which a major event occurs, and prior IDW TMNT storylines.
I’ll start by pointing out how I love this series’ interpretations of the Turtles mythos. It takes elements not only from everything that came before, but also from the current Nickelodeon cartoon, while introducing new elements. For example, as in a few previous continuities, Master Splinter is Hamato Yoshi, rather than Yoshi’s pet rat, as he was in the original. But the IDW twist is that Splinter is the reincarnation of a samurai from feudal Japan, and the turtles are literally his sons, the reincarnations of Yoshi’s children. Bebop and Rocksteady, previously only appearing in the original cartoon, are now big players in the IDW comic and the Nicktoon. Hun, leader of the Purple Dragons gang, first appeared in the 2003 cartoon; here, he’s the abusive father of Casey Jones. As far as I can tell, Volume 11 doesn’t introduce any more new interpretations of previously-existing characters, but almost all of the characters interact with each other here.
Splinter and the Turtles have teamed up with the Mighty Mutanimals, another group of mutated animals, to attack Shredder and his Foot Clan. However, Donatello has been increasingly exasperated by his family’s focus on Shredder while the alien General Krang is constructing his Technodrome, a superweapon which he’s completed by the start of Volume 11. Krang intends to use the Technodrome to terraform Earth to match his lost homeworld, Utrominon. After a skirmish that took place in New Mutant Order, Krang and Shredder have bad blood, so the Turtles plan to use this to their advantage: Donnie will maneuver Shredder into attacking Krang’s island fortress, and while Krang is distracted by Shredder, the Turtles will neutralize the Technodrome. Hopefully, Krang and Shredder will destroy each other. Meanwhile, Splinter and the Mutanimals will attack the weakened Foot base.
Two things especially struck me about this set-up. The first is the wheels-within-wheels plotting and scheming. At the end of New Mutant Order, Donnie secretly met with Shredder to propose an alliance, supposedly without the knowledge of his family. But Shredder, of course, is well aware of potential treachery – he leaves Bebop and Rocksteady with orders to kill Donnie at the first sign of betrayal. Within Krang’s faction, the Fugitoid, an android scientist, makes a deal with human scientist Baxter Stockman to sabotage the Technodrome, but Stockman has more than a few contingency plans, first reneging and informing Krang, then following through with independent plans of escape. And Donnie did, in fact, inform his brothers of his “alliance” with Shredder, only keeping it from Splinter until later.
The second thing that struck me is the stakes and drama of it all. The storytellers sell the idea that this is an all-out war. Everyone is anxious. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. April O’Neil and Casey Jones feel slightly impotent at the periphery of something big that the Turtles haven’t told them about. And finally, no plan survives contact with the enemy. Things go from bad to worse to downright terrible for just about everybody: the Turtles, Fugitoid, Stockman, even Krang and Shredder. Shredder in particular gets his head handed to him in battle with Krang, even if he gives almost as good as he gets. I want to emphasize that. The Shredder, one of the Turtles’ most formidable enemies, comes out of this rather worse for wear. The drama culminates in a horrific scene in which Bebop and Rocksteady brutalize Donatello and leave him for dead once Shredder, realizing he was manipulated, gives the command. We only see the shadow of Rocksteady maiming Donnie, but the presentation actually made me nauseous, and I needed to take a moment before I could continue.
This is a testament to the strength of the art team. Cory Smith is an excellent draftsman with great energy. Even the panel layouts and borders have motion and distortion. Movement blurs. Heavy characters feel heavy. Krang’s armor is huge compared to everyone around him. Bebop and Rocksteady are hulking, and Smith nails that with some very well-composed panels that contrast their size to Donatello’s. His lines are clean, with a slight rough edge that really adds to the image. Clothing has wrinkles, skin and fur aren’t 100% smooth, fights have grit. Ronda Pattison’s colors are as stunning as ever, contrasting the bright with the dull with a wide-ranging palette. And I need to show some appreciation for Shawn Lee’s lettering, because I sat up and noticed it. Whether it’s a raging background of “BRAKKA BRAKKA”s for machine gun fire or the uneven purple letters with which General Krang yells, Lee’s letters demand to be seen.
Now, as is typical for IDW’s licensed work, there were points where I got momentarily distracted by a reference to a spin-off story I hadn’t read, but there’s always enough context to prevent bogging down the story and leaving a reader totally lost. Which brings me to the pacing. I always have a hard time looking away from IDW’s TMNT when I’m reading it. The stories always flow, and they’re always interesting.
I’m always terribly impatient for the next trade, and Attack on Technodrome has left me desperate for Volume 12. If you’ve only had a passing interest in the Turtles before, I recommend going back to the beginning of this excellent, excellent series, as IDW has begun releasing their IDW Collection hardcovers for TMNT. By that same token, if you love comics and the Ninja Turtles, you are doing yourself a great disservice if you aren’t reading this book.