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Is It Good? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #45 Review

Last month’s somewhat lackluster climatic battle ended with a massive cliffhanger. For those of you who don’t regularly read franchise genre fiction (or don’t understand anything about its corporate aspect), the issue’s final page was probably quite a shock.

For the rest of us, however, it was more a question of how Eastman/Curnow/Waltz were going to get out of this in a way that made for a good story. This month, that’s exactly what they series’ architects set about doing. Is it good?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #45 (IDW Publishing)

The issue opens with Donatello waking up (HA!) in what is clearly an afterlife/purgatory state. Waltz’s script makes the setting clear enough, but the etheral artwork by Paul Wilson III and gorgeous colors by Ronda Pattison establish it beautifully.

I see dead eBay listings for last issue…everywhere…

Meanwhile, the Turtles are freaking out like a bunch of eBay comic book speculators over their brother’s apparent demise. Luckily, Fugitoid has a very Ted Williams-esque plan to keep Donatello’s body alive before he permanently expires.

Back in the dream world (which I must state again, is gorgeously rendered), Splinter has meditated himself inside it so he can convince Donatello not to run toward the light. While all this is going on, the Turtles begin fighting among themselves over what has just happened, leading to one of Michelangelo’s most powerful scenes in the series.

A number of other subplots sprout up around the main narrative, all revolving around theme of horribly uncomfortable reunions:

  • Casey and Hun/Dad
  • Karai and her failed mutant lieutenants
  • Baxter Stockman and his old boss, Shredder.

They all provide solid action along with outstanding character moments. Each one of these scenes could also have been spun out into a great issue by themselves. Instead, Waltz packs heaping helping drama and tension into just a few pages. None of them, however, are as powerful as the titanic main narrative, which leads us towards Donatello’s horrifying reintroduction to the waking world.

My previous comment about ‘franchise’ genre fiction wasn’t meant to be snobby, by the way. I love both big superhero books and indie fare, which each come with their own storytelling advantages and limitations. With this issue, Waltz takes one of the ‘corporate’ hurdles (core characters can’t die) and spins it into a gripping story that still manages to hold a large amount of consequence and after-effect for the main cast. Yes, he uses a common science fiction trope, but it’s done exceptionally well and has some great potential for future stories.

This issue is yet another reason why IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise continues to be one of the best superhero books being published right now. The creative minds behind it are giving us compelling stories while evolving the characters through substantial (and well executive) narrative risks.

“Make sure to keep his head froze in case we want to play some stickball!”

Is it Good?

Okay…seriously…who are you people that actually thought Donatello was dead? Have you read any major franchise comics in the last two decades? Did you actually think they were going to kill off one of the core characters, especially in such an issue whose number doesn’t end in a ‘0’ or ‘5’?

Whoever you folks are, I’ve got a bunch of comics from the 90’s I’d love to sell you at a reasonably substantial price. I know they’re valuable because the words ‘COLLECTOR’S ITEM ISSUE’ is stamped right on the cover!

For the rest of us that didn’t go running to eBay at the mere hint of a character death, issue 45 is about as masterful a job as can be done with the bait and switch of a major character death. Like I said before, no one actually expected Donatello to die, but Waltz’s script gives his seeming death from last issue a huge amount of weight.

The turtles all react very realistically for a group of brothers freaking out over one of their siblings being on death’s door. Donatello’s scenes in purgatory/the afterlife are also very well done (although the part with Shredder entering that world is a bit disjointed). Paul Wilson III and Ronda Pattison deserve a HUGE amount of credit for making those scenes look so beautifully unreal. Contrasted against Manteus Santalouco’s usual pencils in the present/real world, the issue is a visual feast.

But this issue isn’t just some weird, David Lynchian exploration of the space between life and death. Waltz digs deep into the fall out the previous battle, which I found to be infinitely more engaging.


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