The fifth volume of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection opens with Issue #56, Part 7 of the “City at War” storyline, which started in Issue #50, and concludes with #62, Part 13. By the war’s and this book’s end, there will be dramatic changes in the lives of the main characters.
At this point in the story, our heroes are split across the country. In California, April is working on a new life while living with her sister Robyn. In Colorado, Casey gets married to Gabe, a waitress who was pregnant before they met. Back in New York City, Splinter is trapped in a factory silo with a broken leg and is taunted by the Rat King. The turtles are hiding out in an abandoned water tower after a big battle.
Karai, the head of the Foot in Japan, offers the turtles a deal. She wants to restore order to their New York organization. After the death of Shredder a year ago, his Elite forces have gone rogue. If the turtles join forces and they defeat the Elite, she promises no more trouble from the Foot. This leads to a number of fights throughout the city.
The comics collected offer an intriguing blend of genres for readers. The Turtles’ story is straightforward, superhero stuff. Splinter has a spiritual battle to overcome in order to survive. Meanwhile, April, Casey, and even Nate, an innocent man caught up in the war, are featured in stories about life, death, relationships, and aging. Credit to the writers because this more serious fare doesn’t clash when cutting back and forth with heroes and villains fighting. This is due in large part to how well the individual stories play out.
Many of issue credits are the same. The story is by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird with the script by Jim Lawson and Peter Laird. The pencils are by Jim Lawson, the tones are by Eric Talbot, and the letters are by Mary Kelleher. The inks are by Keith Aiken except for issues #58 and #61 by Jason Temujin Minor.
Throughout this volume, the choices of angles, of panel sizes, and of what to show contribute to the artwork standing out in the comics medium. Many of the fight scenes are unaccompanied by words, rendered unnecessary by the detailing and framing of the action. The same amount of care went into creating the non-fight panels.
The separate annotations by Eastman and Laird not only comment on the pages before readers but the entire TMNT business. For those who may not remember back in ’93, “the third TMNT film [was] on the release horizon” and Issue #62 “conclude[d] the original run of the black-and-white ‘Volume One’ Mirage TMNT comics.” Their commentary adds value to The Ultimate Collection for longtime fans and new readers.
Yet as enjoyable as Volume 5 is, I recommend starting with Volume 4 where the “City at War” storyline begins.