Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vol. 14: Order From Chaos

After picking up all of those volumes of “TMNT” digitally (and vol. 13 while I was reading through them), this marks the first volume of their ongoing series from IDW that I’ve actually had to wait for.  This managed to happen at the most dramatic point in the story so far as the most recent volume ended with some shocking developments regarding the title’s status quo.  So I’ve been quite eager to see where writer/co-plotter Tom Waltz and fellow co-plotters Kevin Eastman and Bobby Curnow are going to take things.  That winds up being into some interesting and emotional places, but the overall effect is diminished by how busy this volume feels.

In case you haven’t found out what happened in vol. 13, you’re going to want to sit down right now (and maybe skip the next couple of sentences because *spoiliers*).  That’s because after a giant battle royale between both of their factions, Splinter defeated Shredder in battle, then acted as his old nemesis’ second in ritual suicide and beheaded Shredder.  Not only is the main villain of the series dead, but Splinter has now assumed control of the Foot Clan with the intentions of leading it back to the honorable ways it maintained back when he was originally human.  While Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael were shocked by this development they chose to stand by their father and support him in his endeavor.  Michelangelo, on the other hand, couldn’t accept this turn of events and struck out on his own.

When vol. 14 kicks off, we see that Splinter’s efforts are already working out.  The Foot Clan is now working against organized crime in New York City in a non-lethal manner.  That’s not to say that there aren’t problems as a new group of thugs with some high tech gear that allows them to be invisible and intangible are hassling our protagonists.  There are also some members of the Foot who aren’t too happy with the new direction Splinter is taking things in, which doesn’t include Kitsune, the group’s supernatural power broker, because she’s advancing her own schemes with Alopex as a mind-controlled pawn.

As for Mikey, he winds up falling in with Old Hob’s group of Mutanimals.  That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, as Slash, Mondo, Seymour Gutz, and the rest of the gang are good guys.  The problem here is that Hob will always be Hob and he has his own plans for the future.

A lot of what plays out with Splinter’s takeover of the Foot is about what you’d expect.  That there’s dissent in the ranks and a new group of enemies to contend with are standard issue as far as these things go.  What keeps them from being tired repetitions on old plots is seeing how Splinter reacts to them.  We see that Michelangelo’s departure has wounded him deeply, but his other sons are there to offer their support even if they still regard their father’s decision with a measure of disbelief.  As for the power struggles within his clan, Splinter surprised me by showing that while the Foot is going non-lethal for now, he’s not averse to the idea of using deadly force to take down threats in the future.  I also liked seeing that he knows to keep a close watch on Kitsune and that her schemes are not as secret as she thinks they are.  This was particularly reassuring after two ham-fisted scenes had April, and then Splinter walk right up to the supernatural being and effectively tell her that they knew she was up to no good and weren’t going to let her get away with what she was planning.  I mean, really?

With regards to Michelangelo, I still think it was a smart move on the part of the storytellers to have the most upbeat of the Turtles break ranks with them after Splinter assumed control of the Foot.  After fighting against them for most of his life, he’s suddenly told that the bad guys are now the good guys and his dad is in charge of them.  It makes perfect sense that the character would have issues with this.  Also, it lets Raphael be the go-between for his brothers which is a nice fit for him as well.

That Mikey would eventually fall in with the Mutanimals also works because of his history with most of them.  While it feels so right at first, with the party they throw for him, there’s still that tension he has with Old Hob.  History has told this turtle that the mutant cat is always up to no good, and those instincts turn out to be right on the money here.  Especially since they involve another mutagen-enhanced villain he’s crossed paths with before.

Yet it’s not the fighting that hurts here, it’s the fracturing of the Mutanimal family and all because they invited Michelangelo in.  It’s not that the turtle wanted to break up the family his new friends had created, but his instincts wound up causing that to happen in the end.  It’s a little bit tragic even though I can’t really imagine things turning out any differently than they do here.

While these are the main stories in vol. 14, there’s a ton of other stuff going on alongside them to set up future plotlines.  You’ve got Casey and April dealing with the fallout from the road trip they took in their miniseries.  A mysterious mercenary keeping tabs on the Mutanimals for a group that has connections to Burnow Island.  The aforementioned plans of Kitsune and her immortal brethren also factor in significantly here.  There’s more, but while cramming in all this plot does make for a denser read it also leads to several scenes where it feels like the writers are simply burning through plot instead of telling an actual story.  Casey and April’s scenes fare the worst here as the drama that started between them in their miniseries continues to fester in sadly predictable ways.

The art in this volume features two issues from Ken Garing and three from Michael Dianlyas.  Though Mateus Santolouco is still the definitive artist for this series in my eyes, both turn in solid work.  Garing’s work is spare but efficient, while Dianlyas brings some lively detail to his issues.  There has been a lot of artistic turnover over the course of these fourteen volumes.  While it’d be nice to see this series land a talented artist who can hack the pace of a monthly title, I can live with the current state of affairs as long as we keep getting guys like Garing and Dianlyas.

Overall, vol. 14 did a good job managing the storytelling momentum it picked up from the events of the previous volume.  We got a good look at how the changes in the status quo affected the main cast as well as the shape of the overall story from here.  “Order From Chaos” did have one big problem and that was how much plot it tried to cram into the five issues collected here.  The good news in that regard is that the crew at IDW seems to realize this too.  A new ongoing title, “TMNT Universe” will be kicking off later this summer with a focus on the Mutanimals and other supporting characters from this title.  Splitting the large cast between two books sounds like a smart move and it may even make following the series easier in the future since there will likely be less miniseries to keep track of (after “Bebop and Rocksteady Destroy Everything” that is).  It’s nice to see that my issues with this volume may be a thing of the past by the time the next one comes around.


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