Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual (2021) – Tom Waltz

3 out of 5

I’d stopped actively reading IDW’s TMNT somewheres in the 80-numbered issues, but I’ve been trying to circle back around and catch up again. In the meantime, I’ve appreciated how they’ve employed their annuals, which have tended to be summaries of preceding events and then lead-ins to forthcoming ones; it’s a good way to drop-in for a one-shot and get a feel for how things are going.

So how are things going in 2021? Well, much of the same! There are a ton more characters now (maybe one of my gripes with the series, its need to recycle every snippet of fandom as fast as possible, fleshing out the roster of side characters unnecessarily), but it’s just another villain with another grudge. This time it’s Rat King, and he’s re-forming the Pantheon (i.e. the IDW TMNT super-villain league) with some less supernatural folks for the “Armageddon War.”

Calling this much of the same and summarizing it dismissively isn’t meant to be a swipe, necessarily: if I accept that Turtles has morphed in to a very typical good guys vs. bad guys comic – that is, that it doesn’t really have what I’d consider a TMNT identity, and is instead just a comic book that happens to star mutant turtles – then Rat King and crew are just as good of a source of conflict as any other, and the title does what it should for its returning readers, by building on past events (the Pantheon) and gathering up all those side-characters for the next round of fights. And the Annual is good at moving us through all of this in a well-structured way, with Ratty talking to his former mates one by one – that’s our summary bit – before concluding that he’s going to start the battle anew with his new mates, who get the final page reveal. Waltz is very talky here, and uses the same over-eloquent, alliterative narrative style for several of his characters, but the pacing and structure (moving us from one location and conversation to another, page by page) do a lot to move this along, as does Casey Maloney’s animated art style. Maloney is new to me, but their work is interesting – eschewing over fancy paneling for relatively traditional page structures and camera angles, but generating a lot of energy within those panels. It’s kind of refreshingly classic, but I’d be interested to see the artist freed up by a less text-heavy script.

Join me a couple years from now when I reread this annual in context and likely complain about it more.