Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles saw an end of an era on multiple fronts from its 100th issue under IDW. On the creative side Tom Waltz has ended his run as the main writer for IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Now he will move over to more of a similar role Kevin Eastman has served this series by helping with the story. Taking over for Waltz is Sophie Campbell, who has experience with the franchise working on various issues as an artist. There is no doubt that Campbell was chosen because she can handle what comes next for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise following the events of “City At War.”
Speaking of which, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100 ended with a lot of major shake-ups for the franchise. The most important one is the death of Master Splinter. Without father now gone the question is how will the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles deal with his death? Along with that there are a lot of status quo changes across the franchise. How will all these major changes affect the future of this series? Let’s find out with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101
Story Consultant: Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz
Script Writer & Artist: Sophie Campbell
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: After Master Splinter’s death Leonardo, Donatello, Michalangelo and Raphael hold a funeral for their father with Casey Jones, April O’Neil, Jennika, Angel Bridge, Pepperoni and Alopex in attendance to help the brothers grieve.
Some time later Mayor Baxtor Stockman announces the area where the Mutagen Bomb exploded and is still airborne is now under quarantine with a wall erected around the area that is now known as “Mutant Town.” He goes on to talk about how any mutants found outside the wall will be arrested and humans in the area will be contained until it is determined they will not mutate. Mayor Stockman ends his speech on the note he is working on creating legislation to provide further assistance to residence in Mutant Town.
Six months after this announcement Donatello is at the O’Neil Farm. He writes in a journal about how things have been during these six months, including Raphael being MIA this entire time.
It is shown that Raphael, with Pepperoni by his side, is working as a vigilante in order to protect those in Mutant Town who can defend themselves and aid them with finding food.
Back at the farm, Donatello writes about Leonardo, who has stepped back from being Clan Hamato’s leader and spends his time raising plants at the farm’s greenhouse.
Donatello then writes about how Michelangelo has put all his energy in watching over and protecting his new cat, Klunk.
Back in New York City April is shown to be in her messy apartment as she is spending all her time working with Mayor Stockman. Donatello mentions that April always looks stressed and that she rarely visits them anymore, which he feels makes them miss the rock of their group.
Donatello then writes about Jennika and how she is still getting used to being a mutant. Donatello mentions how hard Master Splinter’s death and the Foot being gone have been on her as she seems to not have a clear direction. He then wonders if they are keeping her back from moving on.
Donatello finishes his journal entry by writing about Alopex, who has created a shelter to help those in Mutant Town in need.
Over in Mutant Town, Raphael shows up angrily asking for food at Alopex’s shelter with Pepperoni. Alopex mentions to Raphael how hard food is starting to get tough to scrap together.
Jennika suddenly shows up. Raphael puts his mask back on and leaves with Pepperoni without saying a word to Jennika.
After some small talk Jennika talks about how she feels she needs some sort of structure. She mentions that she is no place to demand the other Turtles to start Clan Hamato back up but she needs something so she doesn’t fall back into bad habits. Alopex understands that Jennika cares for the other Turtles. She then suggests Jennika stay in the city for a bit and work at the shelter.
Jennika notices a young mutant turtle kid outside and invites them into the shelter but the kid ends up running away. Alopex mentions seeing a lot of mutant kids who have been orphaned either because their human parents were forced to evacuate Mutant Town or straight up abandoned. Alopex says she’s tried her best to help keep the kids safe at the shelter but Hob’s Mutanimal goons have been getting to the point of scary that its been getting tougher.
Jennika says the least she can do is help the kid that just ran away.
Jennika searches for the kid outside and runs into some Mutanimals harassing a lizard woman. Jennika notices the turtle kid hiding and signals for them to stay quiet.
Jennika then jumps in and takes out the platypus mutant quickly. As that happens the lizard woman uses her tail to take out the raccoon goon. The two Mutanimals run away while stating that Jennika just put a bounty on her head.
The lizard woman introduces herself to Jennika as Mona Lisa. At first Mona Lisa thinks Jennika is Raphael, who she has heard about protecting Mutant Town, but Jennika corrects her by saying that is her brother.
Mona Lisa mentions that the food she has in her bag is for Alopex shelter since there hasn’t been a supply drop in weeks. They then bond over their shared difficulties after being turned into mutants, with Mona Lisa mentioning that she is unable to talk to or see her parents in Maryland.
Jennika then wonders why Hob’s Mutanimals were after Mona Lisa to begin with. Mona Lisa reveals she actually did steal the food from Hob’s warehouse.
Suddenly Jennika is hit with several spikes in the arm. As more spikes are fired at them Jennika uses her body to shield Mona Lisa from being struck.
From the shadows the platypus and raccoon goons appear with a porcupine goon from Hob’s Mutanimals. Jennika quickly recovers and gets ready to fight. End of issue.
The Good: Sophie Campbell walks a very fine line of having Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101 be a fresh start for the series and continuing the plot points following the end of “City At War.” To Campbell’s credit she is able to walk that line in a stable way that never shows to lose its balance of what comes next for the franchise. Everything comes across as being the next step for every character following “City At War.” At the same time, that next step is able to capture the feeling of a new start for everyone.
Starting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101 with everyone mourning the death of Master Splinter was a good tone setter. It quickly established how much has happened to everyone and that things won’t simply return back to normal after “City At War.” That storyline literally shook up the entire world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Everyone was affected in some way.
Having that sort of impact makes a storyline like “City At War” come across as a true big event. There is no sense of the Ninja Turtles or their supporting cast simply sliding back into their normal status quo. Everyone is now in a place where they must figure out how they fit into the new world order. Figuring that out isn’t simply defined as their personal status quo but also how they deal with where they are emotionally.
Having Mayor Baxter Stockman erect a wall around the area most affected by the Mutagen Bomb is not a surprising move. We saw a similar response in the Batman: Arkham Knight video game when Scarecrow released his fear gas on a part of Gotham City. The people who have become mutants being left to defend themselves immediately gets you invested in what is going on within the walls of this community. Even if we don’t know these characters like we do the Ninja Turtles and others, Campbell has you sympathize with everyone.
This response also taps into everything we are seeing going on in real life immigration detention centers. In particular, Alopex and Mona Lisa work extremely well in putting over how every person who has become a mutant has been abandoned in some way because of what Mayor Stockman has implemented. Whether it was by force or being left behind you understand that this situation is not easy on anyone.
Having Hob’s Mutanimals acting as antagonist now as they have gained control of the Mutant Town also works to further the impact of this decision. Being left to fend for themselves create a power vacuum that was going to be filled by someone. Even if Hob’s had his best intention in place when he created his policing force it was only a matter of time before he abused that power. Which is what we see with how terrified everyone is and how there is a food shortage in Mutant Town.
Choosing Donatello to be the one to communicate to the reader where everyone is at was the right choice. Over the course of this series we’ve seen how Donatello has been the most pragmatic of the Ninja Turtle brothers. From all the drama with the Foot Clan to having his mind transferred into Metalhead, he has been able to stay as level headed as one can be in these as so many other events.
During the recap from Donatello’s journal entry Campbell is still able to put over where Donnie’s emotional state is at. He, like his brothers and friends, is taking things hard. He realizes how everyone being in the state they are in isn’t easy for anyone. Which gives reasons why he is the one to realize all this and worry more about the others than realize he also doesn’t know what to do next.
And where each of the Ninja Turtles are at speaks to who each of them are. Leonardo, for example, was possibly the most involved in everything that Master Splinter was doing. Whether that was as leader of the Ninja Turtles, Master Splinter’s right hand while leading the Foot Clan and then leading the Clan Hamato. That leadership role makes Leonardo be the one that possibly feel he could’ve done more to save Master Splinter, his brothers and the city.
Leonardo retreating to taking care of plants in a greenhouse at O’Neil Farms speaks to how he now is just looking for a new purpose. What drove him to be a leader isn’t there anymore. Now he is just lost in what his role in the world is. Raising plants clearly gives him something to focus on that calms his mind, as we see with how Campbell drew Leonardo’s scene.
Leonardo’s status quo is enhanced by how Raphael is doing the exact opposite, and vice versa. Going back down the vigilante route works for who Raphael is and how he has handled events like Master Splinter’s death in the past. Putting things on his shoulders to protect those in Mutant Town fits with where the character is. Him actively protecting others shows the desire to still be a hero. At the same time he is still lost himself as he has closed himself off with others, as we see with his rough interaction with Alopex and the cold shoulder he gives Jennika.
What makes Raphael’s status quo stand out more is how he is still watching over Pepperoni. His care for Pepperoni shows that Raphael hasn’t completely closed himself off to interacting with others. It may be more of Raphael not knowing how to express himself right now when it comes to meaningful conversations.
Speaking of being shut off, seeing Michalangelo being completely silent as he deals with his depression might be the most saddening. Seeing him just lying in bed doing nothing or showing any sort of expression just goes against how we know Michalangelo to be. Adding his new cat, Klunk, as the only thing that he now cares about adds to how bad you feel when reading what Donatello writes Michalangelo.
Which all puts Jennika in an even more interesting spot as she is the new fifth member of the Ninja Turtles. Campbell does a good job affirming Jennika as not only the fifth Ninja Turtle but also someone that has become Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michalangelo’s sister. There is a family bond that exists between the five of them. Unfortunately because of the events of “City At War” there hasn’t been an opportunity to make things official in the way it was expected when Jennika was first turned into a mutant turtle.
With her four brothers not in a position to train or interact with her on a daily basis Jennika is on her own at the moment. Which makes the six month time jump work when it comes to Jennika’s character. Having that long of a time-jump puts the idea of Jennika already being accustomed to being a Ninja Turtle over. There is no battling against whether she should be a mutant anymore. Jennika has fully embraced being a Ninja Turtle over this six month time period.
In embracing that Jennika is able to act in the role that is more traditional for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Given the state of Mutant Town it won’t be surprising if we see Jennika become a protector like Raphael has become. It is clear Jennika’s eyes became more open through what she learns from Alopex. The question will be is if Jennika will go it alone like Raphael or will she recruit others to help in this situation.
On the other side of things, it is interesting to learn that April O’Neil is working with Mayor Stockman. Seeing April in such an exhausted state as she has become obsessed with her work to solve the Mutagen crisis tells you the full story of how she is dealing with things. Like the other Ninja Turtles, using her work with Mayor Stockman to not give herself a moment to think of all the terrible things that happened. At the same time, that has caused her to be less connected with the world and not take care of herself as well as she once did.
Through this development for April it was good to see Campbell recognize her as the rock of this series. April was the person who helped ground the Ninja Turtles and the others. But since she is not in a place to be that rock anymore everyone has lost their center. Given April’s work with Mayor Stockman now it’ll be interesting to see what direction Campbell chooses to go with April moving forward.
With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101 being such a character focused issue Campbell did a great job in having her artwork elevate her writing. A lot of the story for each Ninja Turtle, April O’Neil and others emotional states was put over by how Campbell drew each of them. Each character was drawn distinctly to match where they are right now. Even in the action sequences Campbell is able to put over the state of things around everyone.
The Bad: The one noticeable omission in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101 was the absence of Casey Jones. Save for the silent funeral scene at the beginning of the issue Casey was nowhere to be found or heard from. Given all that happened it is just odd that no one would mention Casey. Especially Raphael and Jennika not even mention Casey’s name considering their respective close relationship with him. Maybe this was done on purpose for a future story but it just seemed off that he wasn’t mentioned. This in no way takes away from the impact of the story in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101. It is just a noticeable omission after reading the issue a few times.
Overall: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101 is a fantastic follow-up to the events in “City At War” that gives this series a fresh start. How everyone in this series from Donatello to Jennika to April O’Neil deal with the fallout of recent events immediately gets you invested in the future of this series. Sophie Campbell hits on all the right story beats to get her run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started on a strong note.
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