(w/a) Mateus Santolouco
For nearly 3 years, the most well-known of the Ninja Turtles’ foes has been dead, the result of an unfortunate case of decapitation. Now, he’s back… sort of. Courtesy of fan-favorite artist Mateus Santolouco, the Shredder has returned. But if he’s to get back to the land of the living, he must first go through a personal crucible. That is the premise of the much anticipated TMNT: Shredder in Hell #1. By and large, it delivers everything readers could hope for.
The first thing about this issue that shines is the artwork. His manga-inspired aesthetics infuse each panel with energy. Because of the nature of the story – with Shredder traveling through different realms of the afterlife – Santolouco is able to flex his creative muscles by crafting a multitude of scenery. Whether Shredder is in a forest, a cave, drowning, or fighting for his spiritual life in a literal hellscape, readers will marvel at the detail Santolouco packs into each page. There are tributes to pop culture staples present, most notably The Empire Strikes Back, but they are done so in a manner which works in service of the story. Furthermore, his layouts ensure that the story is expertly paced, a benefit of his taking on both art and writing duties.
As much as Santolouco excels as an artist, his writing is perhaps the issue’s greatest strength. The TMNT franchise – in particular the comics – has thrived for decades not just for the oddly satisfying concept of mutated reptiles that have mastered martial arts, but also because the characters had fascinating developments over the years. Whether it’s the current series from IDW Publishing or the (technically still running) fourth volume from Mirage Studios, the Turtles and their supporting cast have received fascinating characterizations that are discounted by those only familiar with the 1987 animated series. The Shredder is no different.
Though unsympathetic for most of the IDW series, Shredder has remained an interesting character. Santolouco takes what readers know of the character and builds upon the foundation of TMNT #1-50 to give Shredder (or Oroku Saki) and understandable motivation for his actions. Yes, his origin story shows him driven by jealousy, but in Shredder in Hell, his motivation is similar to those great historical figures – the desire to control one’s destiny. His guide through the afterlife is his longtime frenemy, Hamato Yoshi (better known as the humanoid rat, Splinter). This choice is a peculiar one, as it suggests that Shredder was (and perhaps still is) a good man that has been consumed by attempting to control that which controls him. As stated, Shredder is rarely if ever depicted as sympathetic, in seeing him fight side-by-side with Splinter and rejecting an even more twisted version of himself, Santolouco defies reader expectations.
It should come as no surprise that Shredder in Hell #1 is as good as it is. As the creative force behind The Secret History of the Foot Clan, Mateus Santolouco proved that he can stand alongside the best of the industry’s cartoonists. Shredder in Hell #1 reaffirms that notion, delivering an experience that engrosses readers from start to finish. If there is a TMNT book to read, this is it.
- Fantastic artwork
- Great pacing
- Interesting concept well executed