TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #37 focused solely on the conflict between Shredder and General Krang. The Ninja Turtles were nowhere to be found, but that didn't stop the issue from being all kinds of awesome. This chapter focuses heavily on how the heroes in a half shell want to deal with this looming threat, but it also reminds us there's a whole other player in the narrative: Old Hob and his growing army of mutants. If you ever thought TMNT was just for kids or has silly plots, you seriously need to pick up #37 and #38 to see just how plot-driven this book is.
Sometimes a focus on a bigger narrative can lead to characters being left in the dust or glossed over, but this is also a book that's all about character. In this case, specifically Donatello and Michelangelo. Even though they aren't the focal point, Leonardo, Raphael, Splinter, Old Hob, Slash, Casey Jones and April O'Neil don't feel glossed over. Man, just typing all of the names makes me really appreciate just how well they're juggling this cast while still building an exciting plot; it really is impressive. In fact, the only scene that isn't focused on moving the plot forward in a big way or fleshing out characters is a bit with Nobody. That scene exists just to give us a bit of action, remind us how awesome the art team is with handling fast-paced fights, and tease the return of a mutant. So, even when it's not aiming for compelling material, it's still a scene that brings something to the table and does it well.
Without spoiling anything, I will say there's a surprisingly touching scene between Casey and April. The back and forth was fine, but then that final panel really hit me. It was a wonderful bit of emotion in a pretty tense chapter. And the cliffhanger? It's handled perfectly! As much as I'd love to elaborate about how it's executed, I don't want to risk spoiling it. Let's just say it's sure to please any TMNT, okay? Plus, there's a wee bit of fan service as a classic mutant is brought in and a new (and hilarious) one is added to the evergrowing cast of characters.
Aside from one complaint (see below!), I have nothing but love for Mateus Santolouco and Ronda Pattison's artwork. Their layouts and the work in the panels are every bit as impressive as the script. The characters are just so full of life. Pattison's coloring sells their depth and uniqueness and Santolouco's work on everything from their posture to their expressions make them feel alive. I know my eyes are in for a good time whenever they're on the book and they've yet to disappoint. When the action gets going, it's full of energy and craziness. And when it's focused on plot, the characters are just so expressionate and, when it's around, the background really sells the location and brings you into the scene so well.
As much as I enjoyed this chapter and love how the dialogue is handled, it really is 100% buildup. It almost feels like the calm before the storm. It's a great teaser for what's to come, though. I imagine this will be an especially satisfying read when it's put into a collection.
As much as I love the artwork, it was distracting how frequently the environments vanished and were replaced with solid color as a background. I understand there are crazy deadlines in this industry, but when the artwork is that good, it does stand out.
Minor gripe: does anyone else find it a little odd that Nobody was very casual about having a random person leap into the fray and then seemingly vanish?
TMNT's new arc is off to an excellent start. The team at IDW is doing a superb job delivering strong character moments and an interesting plot. To top it off, the artwork is wonderful and there's just enough fighting thrown in to feed the action junkies out there. And the ending? Any TMNT fan is going to have a huge smile on their face and an overwhelming desire to get their hands on the next issue as soon as possible. Seriously, if you have any interest in the franchise, you really need to read this book.