TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 8 – Northampton
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
PENCILLERS: Ross Campbell
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #29-32
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2014
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
When the Turtles need a break, they head out to the country. It’s kind of a tradition. It happened in the original Eastman & Laird comic, it happened in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, it happened in the 4Kids series, and now it’s happening in the IDW series in Northampton.
After the events of City Fall, Leonardo is still suffering from the effects of The Shredder’s brainwashing, and Splinter is injured. Thus, April takes the Turtles, Splinter, and Casey Jones to her parents’ home in Northampton, Massachusetts. But little do they know, they’ve been followed by Alopex. But where do her allegiances lie? And is she the only one that’s tracked them down…?
Ross Campbell is on the pencil for Northampton, in his first multi-issue story arc for the series. Campbell is a more-than-capable artist, and I especially enjoyed his work in the Leonardo one-shot from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries. He has a style that we’re not necessarily used to seeing on a TMNT story. He’s good at making his characters look vulnerable, which obviously comes in handy here, particularly in issue #30. Not only is Michelangelo is being sentimental as he writes home to Woody, but we also see more with Tang Shen (Splinter’s wife and the Turtles’ mother, long story), which is obviously a great source of deep-rooted emotion for our characters. We see Shen interact with Leo, and then Splinter. Both scenes offer great visuals, and Campbell is better suited for these kinds of interactions than Mateus Santoulouco was. Colorist Ronda Pattison is also able to really show off here, and give us some great colors to suit a number of moods and tones. Campbell’s rendering of what I’ll call “black and blue Leo” makes for a very satisfying reveal in issue #31. We also meet a new villain named Koya, who I wouldn’t mind seeing again.
But we run into problems when the intensity cranks up. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries: Leonardo #1, the fact that Leo was a bit more muscled, combined with the emotional subtext, and the story being set during a cloudy, rainy night, provided us with a mood that was very emotional, but also dreary and dangerous. Northampton is obviously an emotional story, but many of the other factors that made the Leonardo issue a success are gone. By and large the Turtles look very skinny, their arms looking downright flaccid at times. They don’t need to be hugely muscled. But remember these guys are ninjas, and should ideally have at least a little tone to them. The Turtles in Northampton don’t look like they can kick your butt. They often look like cutesy, friendly cartoon characters you’d see on Nick Jr. Considering the audience the creators are playing to, that’s not a good thing. Campbell is still capable of injecting plenty of intensity and anger into their faces, which obviously helps during fight sequences. But it’s not enough to shake the cutesy image.
The heart of this book deals with Leo struggling with his brainwashing by the Shredder. In that sense, this book is very much what I wanted to see when I closed City Fall, Part 2. The story is fairly predictable in that we know where Leo will be by the end. But the journey itself is interesting to watch, especially when we see Leo’s interactions with Splinter, and their respective interactions with Tang Shen.
Alopex is also along for the ride in this book, and she’s on a journey that loosely parallels Leo’s. We see her connection to Raphael grow, and they journey into that gray romantic area that Ninja Turtles stories occasionally venture into. It’s the same kind of relationship Leo tends to have with Karai in various different incarnations of the TMNT. Giving Alopex a redemption story is fine, but connecting him to Raphael in a flirty, romantic sense raises the same old questions about inter-species fornicating, and how one of the Turtles would go about having a relationship with someone, be they human or mutant. That’s both a little too complicated, and a little too gross for my personal tastes.
After a story like City Fall, we needed a book like Northampton to calm things down a bit, before they inevitably ramp up again. From a writing perspective it delivers, and also manages to raise an intriguing question about the “ooze.” Was Ross Campbell a good artistic choice? Given what he’d contributed to the series in the past, the answer is yes. But what he delivered was largely flawed. He’s a very talented artist, and I’m interested to see more from him. But live and learn, Mr. Campbell: The boys in green are not meant to be cute.
Front page image and image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from dadsbigplan.com.
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