Writer: Sophie Campbell
Penciller / Inker: Sophie Campbell
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Release Date: Apr 21, 2021
IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #116 continues the saga of the Splinter Clan, their friends and the community of former humans attempting to cope with their new lives in Mutant Town. The City at War arc ended at issue #100. Longtime TMNT artist Sophie Campbell has been writing the comic ever since. Having drifted apart after their father’s death, Splinter’s sons have reconnected. There is still a lot of emotional and humanitarian fallout after Splinter’s sacrifice and Old Hob’s mutagen bomb which resulted in the transformation of thousands of NYC residents into mutants.
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THE STORY SO FAR
Current crises that the Turtles and their friends are dealing with include Old Hob’s poor leadership and the Mutanimals mismanagement of supplies. Food is running low in the walled-off Mutant Town. The indifference of Mayor Baxter Stockman has allowed Mutant Town to fall into decrepitude and left the victims of the mutagen bomb to fend for themselves.
Karai, Bludgeon and Koya are still healing in Splinter Dojo after the Turtles rescued them from the helicopter crash caused by a bungled attempt to transport Tokka and Rahzar. Members of Splinter Clan are on edge in the presence of the recuperating Foot Clan leader and her henchmen. The Foot has wrought too much pain and destruction upon the Turtle’s family for there not to be tension.
Jennika struggles perhaps the most. After being nearly stabbed to death by Karai, Jennika fantasizes about vengefully murdering Karai ad nauseam. Jennika’s torment is exacerbated by future Lita’s warnings about the future. While it is Splinter Clan’s focus on conflict over community that destroys the clan and turns NYC into a war zone, Jennika’s future criminality and eventual assassination of Karai is pivotal in the path towards Lita’s dark future.
Jennika bristles at being confronted with her dark thoughts and a future in which she relapses into crime. And Now future Lita tells Jennika that she must follow through on her dreams of forming a metal band. In issue #115, to stop a three way street brawl between Clan Splinter, Rocksteady and Bebop and Tokka and Rahzar, little Lita challenges Rocksteady and Bebop to a battle of the bands on Jennikas behalf. Now Jennika feels oppressed by what seems like a lack of choice regarding her own future.
In issue #116 of TMNT Jennika and the rest of the family take on the task of recruiting members for her band. Splinter Clan crosses many faction lines, settling old grudges and burying hatchets to enlist longtime foes. A Foot Clan member and motorcycle gang member become unlikely bandmates. A few victims of Hob’s mutagen bomb are likewise drafted into Jennika’s metal band. Having not played guitar since her transformation, Jennika at first struggles to play guitar with her new turtle fingers.
With the formation of Jennika’s band, future Lita feels confident that she’s set her family on the right path. In the bleak future she’s from Lita has been alone for a long time. She’s saddened by the prospect of returning to the future, leaving behind people she’s missed for so long.
Jennika confronts Karai one last time. Jennika affirms that she’s no longer the merciless killer she used to be. She’ll never forgive Karai but Jennika is moving on. After that Jennika and her bandmates go to the Kennel Klub for the Battle of the Bands against Rocksteady and Bebop.
There are few artists that do TMNT more justice than Sophie Campbell. There’s not a lot of action in TMNT #116. While that makes for a lack of dynamic fight sequences, the decrepit structures of Mutant Town and the run-down living spaces of the mutants are wonderfully organic and detailed. Quiet moments in the issue are rendered with an exquisite melancholy that conveys the hardship that the Turtles and their friends deal with in their day to day lives.
I appreciate colorist Ronda Pattison’s decision to use a relatively flat, untextured rendering style. Sophie Campbell’s lineart is already so textured that adding more texture to the colors could have made the pages muddy and claustrophobic.
The status quo continues to evolve for the Turtle’s family and the inhabitants of Mutant Town in TMNT #116. The IDW series has been blurring the lines between good guys and bad guys for a long time. A Battle of the Bands might not seem like the obvious choice for a family of elite ninja warriors. But turning old foes and disenfranchised former humans into bandmates is exactly the sort of community building Splinter Clan must do to evade the dark future foretold by future Lita.
If you are new to the IDW continuity of TMNT I would not recommend starting with #116. Despite the lack of action, this issue is a satisfying enough read but only in context of the larger story. I would at least go back and read issues #101-#115. The trade paperback TMNT: Reborn, Vol. 1 and Vol.2 would get you caught up on issues #101-#111. TMNT: Reborn, Vol. 3 is scheduled for release September 21st and that would cover #112-#117 of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.