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When a comic book series runs for a hundred issues — plus a lot of accompanying miniseries, side-series and specials — you can expect there to be a number of plot threads that need to be tied up.
And some of those plot threads are wrapped up — or at least twisted in a new direction — in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Macro-Series,” which provides individual adventures for each of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And like the Turtles themselves, the stories provide plenty of variety — the artwork ranges from rough-hewn to exquisitely atmospheric, and the tales dip into everything from family drama to bloody angsty action.
In Donatello’s tale, the genius Turtle reconnects with his ex-friend Harold Lilja, over a new project. Donnie wants to create a device that can effectively predict the future, allowing him to keep his brothers and friends from suffering. But his work attracts the attention of someone far more dangerous than Harold: Metalhead, his robotic doppelgänger, who has his own reasons for seeing the project come to fruition. But can Donatello trust him?
In Michelangelo’s story, the Turtles have brought a number of orphaned children to the Foot Clan, hoping that Splinter will take them in. He agrees — on the condition that they are trained as the next generation of Foot ninja. While his brothers reluctantly agree, a horrified Michelangelo can’t accept this situation, and openly rebels against his father in order to save the children.
In Leonardo’s tale, the Turtles are spending some quiet time in the countryside at April’s family farm, trying to manage astral travel. A troubled Leo goes on a walk in the woods to be alone with his thoughts, only to run into an old enemy — Koya the hawk mutant, who still wants to kill him for crippling her wings. But his fight with Koya takes an unexpected turn, and the Turtle brothers encounter an old enemy who might become a valuable ally.
And finally, Raphael takes a solitary walk after some roughhousing with Casey, only to be captured by Agent Bishop and the Earth Protection Force. For any mutant unlucky enough to be caught, that’s a death sentence. In danger of being murdered and dissected, Raphael must harness all the rage and pain of two lifetimes to escape his enemies — as well as the grief he still feels over the loss of his very first friend.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Macro-Series” takes the opportunity to further some subplots in the series (Harold Lillja, Metalhead, Koya, Mikey’s strained relationship with the increasingly cruel Splinter) while also laying out groundwork for future storylines (Raphael’s torment at Bishop’s hands, forming a tenuous alliance with a former foe). Basically, anyone who follows the IDW comic books — and why wouldn’t you? — will see its many intertwined subplots leaping forward.
It also is a very emotionally charged collection. The Donatello issue is perhaps the weakest simply because it has less of that raw emotion that suffuses the others, though Donatello’s loneliness without normal friends is palpable. Raphael’s story is a raw ball of pain, blood and sorrow, including the wrenching sight of his hysterical, confused panic when he first mutated. Mikey’s story is taut with simmering anger and a fierce protectiveness. And Leo’s is more subdued, but it reflects both his troubled spirit and his deep love for his brothers.
It also has some very good art here. Brahm Revel’s rough-hewn, sketchy artwork takes some getting used to, but he does do a good job conveying emotions and Metalhead’s form. Michael Dialynas’s art has a lot of splashes of color and expressive faces, and Ben Bishop’s style is grounded, stocky and splattered with blood and broken glass. And Sophie Campbell’s art is absolutely divine — I particularly loved the montage of the Turtles spending time with one another at the farm, at peace and happy.
For those who are lucky enough to read the IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Macro Series” is a must read, both for the stories and for the chance to catch up with our favorite anthropomorphic turtles.