Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Utrom Empire Review
Paul Allor’s first limited series from IDW Publishing is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Utrom Empire and it’s a graphic novel that collects the cosmos spanning mini-series that takes us to the site of the Technodrome, where Krang is ramping up his plans to destroy the Earth. However, Baxter Stockman is also planning on harnessing that power for himself. As the two villains scheme, Fugitoid, an imprisoned robot, holds the keys to their success. Fugitoid is not willing to go along with their plans; will he be able to get word to the Turtles in time to save the day? The graphic novel also explores the back story of Krang and his mission to preserve the alien race of the Utroms.
TMNT holds a special place in my heart; it was the first motion picture I saw in theatres as a child, my first NES game growing up and one of my favourite cartoons. So how does this graphic novel stack up to 25 years of following our Turtles in a half shell? Well, it really does bring back a lot of memories of watching the old cartoon on Saturdays. Right away this series takes the focus almost entirely off the Turtles themselves and places it on Krang and his history with his people and their war that they waged on their home planet. In the present, Fugitoid and Baxter Stockman fill out the main characters that make up the main story throughout the three part mini-series. We are given more background information on one of the Turtles long time antagonists, and the writers make Fugitoid and Baxter Stockman more than just one dimensional characters for this series.
That being said, there are a lot of characters that I would have liked to have seen explored more than they were. The Triceratons came across as these really awesome characters that were at war with the Utroms, but at the same time they were created by the Utroms by using the Ooze that created the Turtles and Triceratops DNA from prehistoric Earth. This seems like a bit of a misstep in not giving those characters more of a backstory as to why they have rebelled and turned on the Utroms.
Fugitoid comes in as the main character to root for in this series as he working against Krang and Baxter Stockman to stop the progress of building the Technodrome. Fugitoid possesses the key information stored that Krang needs to finish his work and make Earth his for the future of his dying race who are stored in tubes of ooze. It shows a lot of selflessness on Fugitoid’s part that he attempts to destroy himself right off the bat to stop Krang, and becomes an interesting character with his moral leanings as the story goes on.
The Utroms themselves really seem a lot like the Kryptonians from Man of Steel as they are mining their galaxy dry, using up all the resources and wiping out or enslaving other races. The Kryptonians were not convinced that the planet was dying and that they had not gone past the line in the sand, where they needed to make drastic changes or else they would doom their entire race and the same goes for the Utroms. Krang is almost like General Zod where he sees a possibility to save their race, however it would be a great upheaval for their people and they would ultimately be required to abandon their planet in the end. He’s also at odds with his father, Quanin, who is their leader and believes that the only thing that the Utroms should be focused on is war and not their long term preservation. Finding out about what drives Krang to do what he does rather than just seeing him as a mindless conqueror is well done, even showing sides of him that we have never seen before in the past comics or the cartoons.
The clear focus here is on the Utroms and one of the main issues I had with TMNT: Utrom Empire was that the Turtles were almost non-existent in the series. When they were around, we got a tiny bit of Donatello and Michelangelo. Leonardo and Raphael were hardly seen at all and the same goes for Master Splinter, Casey Jones, and April O’Neill, which is almost the entire cast that we all know and love.
However, even though some key favorites were barely in it, the payoff at the end of the series and what it’s setting up is coming between the Turtles, Krang and the unlikely ally the Turtles are forced to potentially ask for help from to fight Krang and his forces, due to the cliffhanger that we are left on when the series closes out. In the issues to follow, this series will likely see one of the heaviest battles for the rebooted series.
Qualms aside, the story is well written and the art is fantastic — it would need to be in order to live up to the high standards that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird laid way back when they created the Turtles. Andy Kuhn’s style that is prevalent throughout the series as he puts emphasis on bold lines, and this style works particularly well when it comes to Fugitoid, especially the way he looks right at the onset of the series when he attempts to destroy himself. The illustrations are definitely a highlight of the miniseries and Kuhn handles these classic characters well.
So should you purchase the new graphic novel when it hits your local comic book store?
There is no easy answer; there is the lack of the Turtles throughout the series which is unfortunate, but what it looks like they are setting up to go forward from this point worth jumping on board. Setting up a great villain with an evil plan is much better than just throwing in villains for the sake of having them works out much better in the end, and especially forcing heroes to make hard choices to save the day (what ultimately looks like will happen) can only end in greatness to come. So if you haven’t already read the individual comics certainly check out this collection when it hit’s the shelves.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Utrom Empire will be released on July 29th, 2014 from IDW Publishing.