Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe: Service Animals (#19 – 20) – Ian Flynn

3 out of 5

If the IDW Turtles could at least maintain the kind of chummy dumbness of some of the TMNTU arcs – like Ian Flynn’s Raph / Ninjara adventure – I might’ve been able to hang on.  Alas, the main title is convinced it’s legitimate drama, which loses sight of the sort of innocence that’s worked for the Turts across most of their previous iterations.

In ‘Service Animals,’ Ian Flynn crafts something that – swear words aside – sort of calls to mind the latter day Archie stuff, with the relationship-no-one-asked-for duo of Raphael and Ninjara teaming up and pseudo flirting to kick the Null storyline down the road a bit more, rescuing some kidnapped pet shop animals and fighting that scorpion chick in the process.  Flynn ends up running out of stuff to do in the second half of his slim tale, and so repeats the same “you don’t have to serve your masters just because you’re a mutant” morality ‘conundrum’ three or four times, almost verbatim, in the dialogue, but at least the dramaturgy feels internalized and he doesn’t try to extend it to, like, REAL WORLD DILEMMAS.  There’s also some humorously dumb non-plotting that goes on, but it’s very comic booky, so whatever.  Null: still not interesting at this point.  Ninjara: same.  Scorpion Chick Whose Name I Can’t Remember: meh.  But again, I’d read this, because it was light and actiony and not a billion pounds of exposition per page.

And Dave Wachter!  The dude’s figures are a little inconsistent, but he’s still the best thing to happen to this title, finding a slick medium between the looseness of the ongoing’s early artists and the (in my opinion, obviously) too detailed work of guys like Santolouco.  His characters have weight, which gives the action a satisfying oomph, and his balance of shadows and decisive use of backgrounds / focus works really well with colorist Ronda Pattinson’s pop colors.

The backups in these two issues: one Rat King preview (referencing the upcoming storyline in the main title) that marinates in some fun rat-swarmed imagery but is pretty pointless otherwise, and a Matthew Manning-scripted bit about how the different brothers (sans Leo) may find peace after recent shenanigans, mostly from Raph’s perspective.  Not bad, but feels out of character for Raph.  Not required reading.