(w) Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow (a) Dave Wachter (c) Ronda Pattison
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
More often than not, milestone issues are used to celebrate the past rather than drive the story forward. Look no further than this year’s Spawn #300, which brought back (very) lapsed readers with a story designed to catch people up on over 25 years of story. But everyone once in a while, a series comes along which opts to buck established trends and use a milestone issue to push the narrative forward. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100 is one such issue. As impressive as it is for a comic series to reach the 100-issue mark in today’s comic market, it’s perhaps even more impressive that the writing trio of Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, and Bobby Curnow have managed to keep this series at such a consistently high quality throughout this run, and that streak continues here.
The “City at War” storyline has ravaged New York, with the Foot Clan, Mutanimals, Earth Protection Force, and Hamato Clan (that last one being the Turtles), battling for different ends. But an uneasy truce is established when Kitsune, a member of this world’s Pantheon (basically a bunch of gods), begins a ceremony that will resurrect her love, Oroku Saki… the Shredder. If it sounds like there’s a lot going on, that’s because there is. However, the writing trio have become adept in navigating the multiple plot threads, giving each one room to breathe so that they together coalesce into a cohesive narrative.
Despite its big action, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100 ultimately is a story of family, honor, and rebirth. With the exception of the Earth Protection Force, their are familial bonds between each of the aforementioned groups at war. While it may be simplistic to say “City at War” is a heightened family squabble, it is demonstrative of how misunderstandings and disagreements can have devastating results in relationships. This issue is about repairing those bonds, and how the price to repair them can be far greater than anticipated. In the end, Splinter sacrifices his life in order to stop the war and save his son’s lives. While real-life disagreements among family members – especially long-estranged ones – do not rise to the level of requiring someone to give their life, it is symbolic of the heightened price that is sometimes required.
With the core characters of the series – the Turtles, Splinter, and Shredder – having been reborn or reincarnated, it is unsurprising that this would also play a crucial element in this issue. Splinter’s aforementioned sacrifice is a catalyst for the Shredder’s return. Oroku Saki, who has endured his own afterlife journey in the pages of the Shredder in Hell miniseries, returns to the land of the living a changed man. Having learned from his past experiences, this version of the character is no longer the cruel, power-hungry villain most know him as, but rather a repentant man looking to change his legacy. While it remains to be seen how this plays out in the future, the series has shown the ability to significantly change its characters in a manner that is organic and earned.
Dave Wachter has been the primary artist for a quarter of the series, giving superb attention and care to each one. With Issue #100, Wachter delivers arguably his finest work in this series to date. For the Turtles, he is unafraid to give them a less cartoonish appearance and make them look like actual turtles. But unlike the 2014 and 2016, Wachter’s turtles aren’t monstrosities. This approach extends to the other characters, mutant and human alike. Furthermore, this issue demonstrates Wachter’s impressive range as an artist. There are introspective character moments, big action sequences featuring a giant dragon, gritty street battles, and surreal dreamscapes. Each one is convincing and immersive for readers. Of course, I’d be remiss if I did not mention Ronda Pattison’s varied colors, which are critical to this issue’s dynamic visuals.
TMNT #100 is by all accounts a success. Though imperfect from a craftsmanship perspective, it is a perfect capstone to 100 issues of storytelling while springboarding the series into the future. IDW Publishing deserves a lot of credit for putting together this creative team, as their efforts have resulted in the definitive version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.