TMNT Utrom Empire
Allor, Kuhn, Crabtree
I will most certainly be SPOILING.
When most people think of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they think of the Shredder and his Foot Clan going head to head with our four green heroes in a half shell. We think martial arts, gimmicky villains, and maybe the scene from the first live action movie where the Shredder is crushed in a garbage truck. Or maybe you remember the animated series that focused on the science fiction of alternate realities, burrowing super weapons, and talking brains.
For those of you who remember the weird science that was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the spinoff of the Utrom Empire is for you.
Of the two main story arcs, only one is happening in the present. Fugitoid, sometime scientist and spy, opens the miniseries attempting to destroy himself. His suicide doesn’t take and he is being put together again on Krang’s island headquarters. Another familiar scientist, Baxter Stockman, uses the cover of a storm to cut the power to the living brain’s compound.
Enter Krang, the other protagonist in this story, who takes on an excellent dimension for the first time. The reader is treated with the backstory of the triceratons’ creation, which is Krang mutating them. Having raised them up, the Triceratons become one of the elite combat forces in the Utrom empire.
These humble beginnings weave an intricate and compelling story throughout the three issues of the arc.
Fugitoid ends up stopping Baxter Stockman from committing genocide with the remaining Utromites that are in stasis. Then he warns Krang that they have been compromised and offers his help. Despite Baxter’s repeated attempts to derail Fugitoid’s efforts to save the creatures (even trying to destroy the robot once and for all) Fugitoid intentionally offers him a way to save face.
The real gem of this series is the way Krang’s history changes him from a one-dimensional despotic conqueror to a loyalist survivor driven by honor. Krang, having distinguishing himself as a soldier, becomes a general. His father crowns himself emperor and begins expanding the empire, immediately on the heels of the previous conflict.
In between these incredibly interesting flashbacks, Krang startles the reader with acts of selfless heroism and level headed understanding. This is even more startling, as we find that Krang’s most trusted friend, Zog, a triceraton, betrays him and launches full scale rebellion on the empire he once served. Zog offers Krang redemption and leaves him alive.
Jump forward, and Krang returns to his home world after the capture of the rebel leader, aiming to see Zog executed. During his visit to his homeworld, Krang avoids all of the frivolities that his father has planned for his return and we get the first glimpse of a growing dissent in the family. Zog escapes, eventually taking Krang hostage and in the after math we hear one of the most altruistic statements ever to leave the Ultom’s mouth. In response to his father’s excuse to letting Zog escape, “He had a gun to your head. What was I supposed to do?”
“You were supposed to let me die! I would sacrifice anything for the Utrom race. What’s one puny life against the future of our race? The Utrom people must go on.”
Never before has Krang felt like a true believer, and this new aspect to his conqueror’s personality is both sympathetic and welcome.
The third act in Krang’s backstory begins at the end. The Utrom homeworld is under attack and losing. Even if they could rally and push back the Triceratons, Krang’s father has had the planet mined to the edge of collapse, and any victory would only be a temporary reprieve.
Krang reveals his plan to keep Utromites alive in stasis and conquer Earth as a new homeworld. He reveals this to his father and offers him a place in the stasis. In a flourish of confidence and a demand for Krang to continue to fight and save their homeworld, the emperor is left as a mad king, to die in his tower with the bombs falling closer and closer. Krang returns to the bunker and puts his plan into action, moving to Earth.
The final point of interest in this series is the Fugitoid’s plan to take down Krang once and for all. He has manipulated Stockman to work with him, and sent a message to the turtles with a plan to invade Krang’s island. That’s not all. He sent a second message asking for help.
The final image is of Shredder’s lieutenant bringing the serrated ninja leader a “most interesting message.”
Honestly, not being interested in the space or multidimensional parts of the ninja turtle’s lore, I did not come into this series with particularly high hopes. Those expectations that I did have were crushed and left in the rear-view mirror. The cloak and dagger antics of Fugitoid and Baxter Stockman were entertaining and surprising. Krang’s backstory was illuminating and referenced a surprisingly timeless story of a loyal soldier struggling against the faltering reign of a despot. Most compelling, perhaps, are Krang’s actions in the current day storyline, struggling to save the lives of his fellow Utromites, even at the potential cost of his own. This humanizing of an altogether inhuman antagonist has just made the world of the ninja turtle much more interesting.
My rating 5/5