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TMNT: Jennika #1 [Review]

tmnt_jennika_0001The Cure for You
Story, Art, Cover, Letters: Brahm Revel
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover Date: February 2020
Cover Price: $4.99

I was barely aware of Jennika as a character a year ago. In retrospect after she came to prominence about 10 months ago, I REMEMBERED the character…but in her first appearance, she was "just another character," a random face for some exposition or plot or whatever. At that time–TMNT #51–I was taking in the whole new status quo and marveling at a series firstly actually making it to #50 and secondly NOT being renumbered back to #1 to reflect the status quo shakeup and such. The "hype" and "speculation" around the issue where Jenny mutated (TMNT #95 or so) has been a frustration to me, having bought every issue of TMNT that IDW has published within the month it was released (single-issue-wise). Suddenly having "competition" just to get a "regular" issue is annoying and rather off-putting to me and detracts a fair bit from the characters and story; the "meta" imposing on the continuity and such.

That said…

This mini-series looks to be a solo focus on Jennika herself as she is adjusting to her mutant-turtle form. Though the issue carries the TMNT logo foremost and prominently, that seems basically for branding purposes, as the ONLY mutant turtle in this issue is Jennika herself–and as a mini-series and all, I’m absolutely ok with that!

We have two stories in the issue. The first/primary sees the eponymous Jennika going about her usual day in "mutant-town" when she sees someone make a break for it, leaving the area. She gives chase, concerned about a mutant putting themselves in harm’s way outside the safe zone. They soon run into the Purple Dragons and Casey Jones, giving Jennika an awkward pause, reuniting with her former would-be partner. Leaving with Vincent (the mutant rabbit she was pursuing) she’s invited to his gig, where she enjoys some nostalgia and return of the past in the indy/live music club scene. When a couple other mutants start some trouble, her ninja side kicks into gear, getting the attention of yet another mutant who she quickly recognizes as someone out of her past. History crashing into her, she is also blindsided when this mutant suggests that with her help, there might be a cure for mutants to be had. (To Be Continued…)

If you’re just checking stuff out in the TMNT books with this issue or the last several of the main title, you’ll notice that much of the action centers on this "mutant-town" full of mutants, despite much of TMNT being about four mutant turtles, their sensei/mutant rat Splinter, and a handful of other mutant allies and enemies. In the run-up to and major events of TMNT #100, events led to a mass-mutation of the populace of part of the city, and they’ve been separated off into "mutant-town," at least for present and the Mutanimals have been serving as "enforcers" keeping mutants IN, while the WORLD PROTECTION FORCE THINGY GROUP keeps mutants in from the outside. Dynamics there are unfolding as it’s a recent (end of 2019 comics) development and part of the new status quo.

The story is pretty good, and I appreciate its slice-of-life nature. It’s not specifically tied to current issues of the main title so stands alone quite well. It’s obviously rooted in the "present" of the earliest post-#100 TMNT issues time-frame of continuity, but other than basic context (above about "mutant-town") it doesn’t seem like TMNT is required reading for this, nor does this seem likely to be intrinsic to the TMNT story. This builds onto the Jennika character and likely will leave the character better fleshed-out and add depth that will be appreciable in reading the main TMNT title, while hopefully this mini will be its own whole as a story/arc.

I’m not overly keen on the art here…Revel‘s style is rather stylistic, and though I recognize the manga influence and visual shorthand for stuff (and some of it certainly comparable to the 2012 TMNT animated series) it’s not my ideal. In particular there’s a panel where Jenny is angered, and we see a comically open mouth with pointed shark’s-teeth essentially, despite the main appearance of the character being clean, even, normal-sized teeth. It works for the story, it’s not unheard of, but it’s also just not to my personal liking.

Time and Again
Story, Colors: Ronda Pattison
Art: Jodi Nishijima
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow

This second story is a small vignette that gives us another glimpse into Jennika’s past. We see her in prison, encountering and befriending a rat. When she and another prisoner escape, the rat flees from her. We also see her in an early moment with Splinter juxtaposed with a moment with another mutant in "mutant-town" as she Splinter reminded her of an old friend, and this new mutant reminded her of Splinter.

At only 4 pages, this story is nothing drawn-out or deep, but it conveys a lot, and is definitely a "slice of life" moment…and a good one at that.

I much prefer the art in this story to the main…probably because it’s a lot closer to the main art I’ve been used to for awhile, and without a side by side/immediate comparison, my mind says it’s reminiscent of Santolouco‘s art, which I love.

All in all, this is a relatively strong first issue. As something to draw in newer readers, it definitely could have used some notes to contextualize the setting ("mutant-town") and such. At the same time, as a $4.99 issue with most of a year’s hype around the character, one probably already has some of that context if one is choosing to buy this (with speculation stuff being centered on the TMNT issues).

If this was any other property than TMNT, the art in the main part of the issue (and the cover) would have seriously put me off. I bought this as I buy/read every single-issue TMNT-and-directly-related thing published by IDW, and read it for the same…and though the art is largely off-putting to me, I enjoyed the story and vignette, so it’s not a waste of my time or money, particularly as a mini-series.

I would encourage anyone interested in the character to at least consider the issue–flip through and glance at the art to see how it fits your personal tastes. As mentioned above, this does not seem essential to the main TMNT book nor vice-versa. If you’re an all-in reader of the ongoing TMNT saga, though, you’ll definitely want to get this.

I do look forward to the next issue–despite pricing. I continue to feel that I’d be rather content with 4-5 TMNT books if they were kept on a weekly cycle and didn’t "cluster" or double-up one week while leaving another week empty. There’s a LOT to dig into in the TMNT universe, as IDW has developed, expanded on, and generally incorporated aspects from a number of previous iterations of the TMNT property, creating the richest and deepest TMNT continuity yet. This continues that developing/expanding/building.

tmnt_jennika_0001_blogtrailer

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