While the Ninja Turtles are listening to old Sarah McLachlan records and trying to reconnect with each other in North Hampton, writer Paul Allor takes us on a brutal journey detailing the rise and fall of Krang’s people. We are also brought up to speed with Baxter Stockman’s lifelong quest to become the most self-absorbed douchebag of a villain ever. Is it good?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Utrom Empire #1 (IDW Publishing)
This issue flashes back and forth between what is happening on Burnow Island now and the history of Krang’s race, the Utroms. In the present, our story begins with Fugitoid taking a suicidal swan dive off a cliff in an attempt to destroy himself. His reasoning is stated as being practical (to keep Krang from downloading the advanced knowledge he possesses), but the tone and delivery suggests a being who has truly reached his breaking point. Fortunately for Krang, Fugitoid is recovered and repaired.
“Oh c’mon…I can’t even do that correctly?!”
Unfortunately for Krang, Baxter Stockman is as traitorous as he is amoral. After rigging the base to lose backup power during a storm, Stockman finds Fugitoid and presents himself as someone who shares a mutual interest: Stopping Krang…
…Well, kind of. Fugitoid just wants prevent Krang from doing harm to Earth and its people. Stockman, on the other hand, wants to hurt Krang by killing his race’s last few survivors while also stealing the warlord’s technology (specially the Technodrome) for his own nefarious purposes. Fugitoid quickly realizes nothing about what Stockman is doing is right. He also sees an opportunity make things right on his own terms and decides to take it.
In the story’s flashbacks, we are treated to an expansive-yet-well-charted history of the Utroms, starting with their creation of the Triceratons by harvesting DNA from dinosaurs during prehistoric times. From there, we see how the Utroms helped bring about the downfall of their own thriving empire by heavy handed rule. It’s a poignant and fascinating tale, all rendered beautifully by Andy Kuhn’s pencils. The characterizations of Krang (and his reaction to being betrayed in particular) are some of the issue’s strongest moments. It’s almost enough to make the villain appear somewhat noble and even sympathetic.
You know that a writer is on their game when they make you feel concerned for an egotistical, disembodied brain.
We also have a brief look in on the Turtles, but their part of the story feels like a forced inclusion rather than an organic part of the story. The real meat of the issue is found in the genesis of Krang’s demeanor as a ruler along with Fugitoid’s quest to fix a problem that he feels partially responsible for.
Is It Good?
Confession Time: I do not care for the more cosmic elements of the TMNT mythos. I know that seems a bit contradictory to having any type of fandom for the franchise, but that stuff never seems to click with me. I do, however, greatly enjoy the cosmic aspects of it that are subtly intertwined with the more street level and supernatural stories. The prospect of an entire mini-series devoted to this corner for the Turtle’s universe, however, was not something that I was looking forward to reading. Luckily, the creative team behind the one made it very enjoyable.
The story and the artwork are both fantastic. The only part that wasn’t enjoyable was the brief interlude in North Hampton with the Turtles. Even the art on those few pages doesn’t come anywhere close to matching the striking kinetic energy that Allor achieves the rest of the issue.
Make no mistake, though; this isn’t a very “turtle-centric” Ninja Turtles tale. It is, however, a thorough and powerful exploration of a major part of the TMNT universe/mythology…and if this is how the rest of the series goes, it may just make me a fan of it, too.