Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game – Opening Moves (#1 – 2) – Tom Waltz

2 out of 5

As stated multiple times: I recognize it is not fair of me to drop in and out of Turtles continuity randomly and criticize, but then again… there are things one can note from any random issue of a series, in terms of general readability. Maybe the story doesn’t interest, but you can have a take on the art, or on the storytelling in general. That’s right – you! I give you permission! I… I give myself permission!

In a little editorial blurb from writer Tom Waltz in the back of this prelude-to-an-event – the blurb is titled, in part, ‘So… At last!’ – Tom mentions that this story has been percolating since 2020, with the issue we’re reading having been published in 2022. That’s not so long in comic terms, but apparently it was planned to arrive earlier than that, and, y’know, some things may have happened between now and then, like a pandemic.

That said, it feels like… even longer. Because of one of my main complaints about the IDW TMNT series: that for as many characters and apparent story points that they jam in here, it also oddly feels like nothing happens; that we’ve been recycling the same world-ending themes again and again. Some of that I think is legit – ‘The Armageddon Game’s concept of The Rat King gathering evils together to play some reality-crumbling “game” with the world has had some variations before – but I’m realizing, also, that it’s kind of baked in to Tom’s writing style, which has gotten technically much better over the years, but still plucks from the very generic hero / villain one-liner schmaltz, and templated pacing, which tends to boil out any sense of stakes. Combined with the overall unchanging nature of the setup (Shredder will forever be around in some form, for example), and the high-level vibe of repetition, even when I drop in and drop out, I feel like I’m reading a summary of a story happening elsewhere.

Double down by having the first few pages of these issues actually be a summary, exposited via Shredder, Kitsune, and Rat King / Kitsune sibling, Aka.

The back half of issue one and most of issue two use up a funny idea / visual of Shred and Kitsune doing a spiritual Inner Space adventure into Krang’s / Baxter’s / Null’s memories – aka the new compatriots of Rat King, and part of his opening moves, y’all – to suss out some kind of secrets that can be used against Ratso, but… crumbs, the memories they dive in to, which feature more IDW revamped TMNT stuff than you can shake a million sticks at (the Neutrinos; the Turnstore…), are Waltz’s writing style on overdrive, where it’s all just people talking at each other, and none of the sequences mattering much until a few final sentences explain the “point.” In general: scenes are not immersive; they are justified after the fact; and I’d also say that these “secrets” feel like surface level personality reads (oh, Baxter doesn’t like being threatened, hm hm…), which is part of the whole talkative m.o. of this era of Turtles, in which, much like these sentences, we take 90 issues (or two) of preamble which just repeats everything we’ve already done / see before, except with one or two new bonus words.

Artist Fero Pe doesn’t enhance the writing much, unfortunately, either overreaching with some page layouts that just look cluttered (e.g. the opening summary pages), and a conspicuous lack of backgrounds elsewhere that leaves most scenes looking fairly bland. I do think Pe’s slightly cartoonish style is a nice match – it kind of has a 2003 animated series vibe, which I dig – and Ronda Pattison’s colors add a good bit of pop along the way, it’s just not a very notable art style otherwise.

A competent prelude in terms of structure, but for something that’s been apparently baking for a while, also quite underwhelming.