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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #36

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By Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Mateus Santolouco, Mark Torres, Ronda Pattison & Cory Smith

Another notable TMNT foe makes his ominous debut…the Rat King. The story is very focused on Leonardo and Splinter’s motivations/fears and how the Rat King tries to test their limits. As this takes place, quite a bit of foreshadowing is done, leading to a fateful meeting that no doubt all Turtles fans have been dying to see!

This comic seems heavily influenced by Bill Willingham’s Fables, which was a pleasant surprise! The layout design on the first page absolutely calls to mind the lush, detailed framing and borders of the pages found within the Vertigo series. Also, the new character design for the Rat King is suspiciously similar to the appearance of Mister Dark, a major antagonist in Fables. His new origin only seems give credence to this theory as well. This issue felt like a departure from how the TMNT story has been presented; changing up the format and story focus, reestablishing the reader’s attention and connection with the material.

The plot in the comic  is all character development. Leonardo is still trying to find himself after being brainwashed and Splinter feels like he has failed to protect his family again. Both are lost trying to find their way and decide which foe to take on first, Krang or Shredder. The Rat King forces them to confront themselves and also shows how powerful he truly is. That’s one of the elements loved about IDW’s run, they have taken several classic villains and made them real, viable threats just like they have done with Bebop and Rocksteady. What is also of note, is how strong the writing in this issue is; not only are the writers delving deeper into the ethos of two major characters, but the overall plot of the story is progressed…well executed.

Mateus Santolouco continues his signature art on this title, but what caught my attention was Mark Torres’ work. He did the pages that had elaborate layouts focusing on the Rat King. He also has a Mike Mignola vibe that is a welcome contrast to artwork in the rest of the book. If this was a tryout for him, he looks to have delivered. Hopefully, we’ll see him contribute more in the future. Considering the setting was in the sewer, there were many shadows and silhouetted images. This only served to enhance the foreboding nature of the new foe. Sanotlouco really sold the  menace of the Rat King by drawing him in several close-up panels; his eyes are freakish and with Ronda Pattison’s use of red and black on the character melded perfectly with the design.

This feels like a landmark issue in the TMNT run. It’s well written; a new character is introduced; a new alliance is forged; with tone-perfect artwork – one can’t ask for much more in a single comic! Pick up issue #36, it affirms why people dig what IDW is doing.

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