This is the fourth Return to the Sewers comparison piece following IDW’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles timeline and how it differs from the original Mirage timeline. These reviews will reference IDW’s TPBs as well as original issues that are being re-released by IDW in TPB format. IDW’s Infestation 2 Vol 3 TPB was released in August 2012 which contains the two TMNT Infestation issues. IDW also released The Ultimate Collection Vol 3 in August 2012 which contains issues 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, and 21 from the original series. These reviews will also contain spoilers to the plot lines so ***SPOILER ALERT*** to everyone who wanted to read these issues first.

I thought with the release of the Infestation 2 Vol 3 trade that I would compare Tristan Jones’ most recent Turtles work to some of his best remembered work, the Gang Wars. Unfortunately, IDW has not re-released those issues yet. If you have a chance to pick up issues 36, 56, 59, 61, and 64 of Tales of the TMNT Vol 2, do it! Otherwise, we can only hope to see IDW give them the respect they deserve.

TMNT Infestation 2’s story starts out with Channel 6’s Lateline reporting the mysterious events happening in New York lately. Right away we get a subtle tie-in with the Gang Wars as Channel 6’s reporter is Lauren Stanton, who played a large role in Tales of the TMNT Vol 2 #59 Exposé. In that issue, her editor was Charles Pennington, April O’Neil’s boss from the first TMNT live action movie. These are some really nice nods to the Turtles history. The Infestation issue then shows Donatello researching local cults to try and explain the odd occurrences Lauren is reporting. It is typical for Donatello to want to explain things he does not understand. This is also in line with the on-going series as he is skeptical about Master Splinter explaining reincarnation.

As the Turtles investigate deep into the sewers, Leonardo takes the lead. They find an abandoned mine which is not on any map Donatello has seen. They find skeletons and fresh TNT as well as a map showing the area they’re in. They continue on their investigation. Being in front of the other Turtles, Leonardo gets captured by a large creature they encounter. Michelangelo, using some TNT they found earlier, decides that a kamikaze mission to save Leonardo is the only way to go. Mikey being Mikey ends up blowing up the tunnel and causing a cave in. The three of them get freed and have to go after their missing brother. Following clues left behind by Leonardo, they find him and rescue him. The Turtles battle Bloch and Shub Niggurath. They cause the temple to cave in and are victorious, for now.

The story ends with Donatello returning from the library with more books to help him understand what they just went through. My favorite turtle is Donatello and Tristan is true to him in these two issues. He gets so engrossed in the history and meaning of everything that they’re experiencing and I’m the same way. While I appreciate the fact that Donatello had to dig up really old books to piece together all these events, I would have loved to see him endlessly searching the Internet, jumping from message board threads to an old Geocities site from 1995 to some police site that was accidentally made public years ago and was cached by archive.org’s Wayback Machine; but I guess that is just the geek in me. On the last page, we see a rat in the shadows. We see rats throughout these issues in the corner of panels. I know they are probably there because most of the story is told in the sewers, but I would like to think that it foreshadows the possible reintroduction of the Rat King.

Even though I do not know how you could come back to the Infestation story, I like how the story is left open ended. Tristan has a tendency to do this, which is really smart on his part. He did the same thing with his Gang Wars issues.

What Tristan’s Infestation issues do for HP Lovecraft, his Gang Wars issues do for the seedy underbelly of New York City. It would have been interesting to have the Turtles work with the NYPD during the Infestation events instead of working it on their own. They are probably not ready to make that connection in the IDW storyline which is probably why it was not done. It worked well when they started to share valuable information in Tales Vol 2 #36. This issue led us to a story told from the point of view of the police. Issue #56 gives us some of Casey Jones’ backstory as Hun is introduced into the Mirage Universe. With the Casey Jones Micro-Series issue released in July, it would have been interesting if Hun would have been brought into IDW. With the introduction of The Purple Dragons, there is still hope. Lauren Stanton, investigating Hun, discovers corrupt cops in issue #59. The Turtles continued association with Detective Whitmire in issue #61 led them to another battle with the Mousers, originally from Mirage Vol 1 #2. We end issue #64 at a conference room table with a group that is deciding how to bring NYC to its knees. Unfortunately, Tales of the TMNT Vol 2 was cancelled before Tristan could finish his story.

What I love about Tristan’s work is that he ties his tales very tightly into the Turtles universe in such a way that they become pivotal to the TMNT canon. There are major events in the Mirage comics that stand out when looking over the timeline, and Tristan’s books fit in really nicely as a way to round out those stories.

These are great issues and show that a lot can be done with the Turtles. You get to see the Turtles in real danger and are not sure how they will make it out of there alive. While I am not a fan of supernatural fantasy, Tristan did a great job bringing in the Lovecraft lore in such a way that I was hooked. The Gang Wars cover the Turtles in more of a “real life” scenario, or at least as “real” as you can get with four walking, talking turtles who know ninjutsu. The writing is great and Tristan always gets paired up with great artists. It would be really interesting to see him write and draw a Turtles book all by himself as he is also a great artist. I guess only time will tell on that one…

Stay tuned for my next review, IDW’s Shadows of the Past will be released in September 2012 collecting issues 9 to 12.