5 out of 5
Literal 100s of issues into the IDW TMNT run, and I’m not sure if there’s been a single issue which I’d consider as overall successful as a good majority of the volume 2 Tales run. I pair those up as comparatively long-running series, and I’m picking on IDW in general – which has had some good issues and runs, but almost always with exception – but also because it’s been so long since I’ve revisited the after-the-fact Mirage stuff (volume 4; Tales vol. 2) that I forget how much I enjoyed it, and also how accessibly enjoyable it often was. That is: I don’t have to qualify any praise. Some issues are just good.
Take this issue, which is an oddball tale of Splinter having a spiritual battle with a sunflower. Like, firstly, you wouldn’t have anything that strange given full consideration in IDW, and secondly, it’s the characters, who read like the lived-in-for-decades characters they were at that point, instead of kinda sorta faceless comic book characters who say Dude! and like pizza. But I suppose that’s again my internal bias for preferring the older reader skew of the Mirage stuff, with IDW definitely aiming toward a younger crowd. Damn. Also – peak Jim Lawson art, and those Peter Laird frontispieces? I mean, come on. Again, fantastic art from some of the IDW crew, but the weight of Lawson’s and Laird’s stuff – when they’re working with this kinda of passion and focus – is hard to beat.
Anyway: Splinter goes into a trance, and Murphy employs a flashback shtick to fill us in on why, which should annoy me – I generally hate the tired “2 hours ago” countdown style that brings us back to the present, as it’s often wielded without much purpose – but because the story keeps bending over in fascinatingly weird ways, it works. Some challenger has sent out his aura as a little ball o’ spiritual goop, and so Splinter does the same, with Lawson employing the black and white art’s dual color scheme to help us keep straight which goop is goop. After some surreal travails, things get more surreal with Splinter-goop ending up in a field of daisies, and then he’s dodging machine gun seeds. And then the fighters both take on more normal forms and sprout batwings and karate kick one another. Sprinkle in a bit of a cliffhanger as to who this challenger was and why he was a’challenging, and we have a grand, classic issue.