TMNT Universe #4 Review: The Bishop Makes His Move


The siege at Baxtor Stockman’s new lab goes critical as Agent Bishop plans his big play. Can the Ninja Turtles and their unlikely allies survive a full on tactical assault?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #4

Writers: Paul Allor (main story); Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman & Bobby Curnow (back-up)

Artists: Damian Coucerio (main story); Bill Sienkiewicz & Kevin Eastman (back-up)

Colorists: Ronda Pattison (main story); Tomi Varga (back-up)

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IDW Publishing’s major spin off to its core TMNT series wraps up its first arc. Paul Allor proves he’s every bit as good as the “trinity” of writers who handle the main series. Led by editor Bobby Curnow, the series continues the efficient practice of combining all elements of TMNT lore into one original universe. Elements from the original comics and cartoons of the 1980s to Archie Comics of the 1990s and even 2003’s animated series all merge into one spectacle.

Image by IDW Publishing

What began as a risky meeting with their old enemy Baxtor Stockman to solicit his aid against the “Pantheon” of immortals got even deadlier. Corporate espionage expert (and mutant scorpion) Zodi burst onto the scene. Dealing with both her and Raphael’s emotions got even rougher with the arrival of the Earth Protection Force. Led by the militant Agent Bishop, they’re a tactical squad dedicated to the capture and/or elimination of all mutants. They begin a final assault in this issue!

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Seems Like Agent Bishop Doesn’t Mess Around!

The circumstances have forced natural enemies to become allies. The Turtles are willing to tolerate Zodi’s murderous nature (and sassy mouth), much as Baxtor Stockman does the same for them, to survive. Michelangelo, ever the sensitive and kindhearted one, tries to appeal to and befriend Zodi. It’s no use, as she remains staunchly in her role as cynical survivalist. Baxtor toys with the idea of betraying the Turtles before realizing that Bishop is a far larger threat to him.

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The mutants’ combat skills as well as Baxtor’s security systems and armor let them overcome an initial wave of assault. Bishop decides to go “all in” and smother them with all of his available units at once to overwhelm them. His plan may have worked if not for a double-cross he didn’t anticipate. April O’Neil risked her life to escape and warn Zodi’s employer of the danger. The demonic Madame Null doesn’t take well to interference, and unleashes distinct robots as cavalry.

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The finale of the story has a foreboding tone. The Turtles haven’t seen the last of Zodi, and their deal with Madame Null may have consequences. Baxtor Stockman at least proves willing to reunite with his former intern April against Bishop. And Bishop himself proves to be a commander with a long vision. Although he failed to defeat the mutants in his first major mission, the things Bishop’s learned will help him make the next assault even deadlier for them.

It’s Most Noteworthy That the Rogues Stole the Show!

As much as Raphael’s buried emotions or even Michelangelo’s banter were presences within this tale, the real focus was on the antagonists. My previous reviews have lavished praise on Zodi, and for good reason. Considering the franchise has occasionally been criticized for a lack of major female characters, Allor continues IDW’s push to correct that with a more diverse cast. Zodi represents that as a distinctive and totally unique creation. She steals every panel she’s in.

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Allor introduced Madame Null in his previous Mutanimals miniseries, and she gets more to say here. Her reaction to Zodi’s inaccurate introduction of the Turtles is priceless. She also represents IDW’s aforementioned philosophy, as a “gender bent” re-creation of a villain from Archie Comics’ licensed comics from the 1990s. It’s unknown whether she’s a mutant, a member of the Pantheon, or even an alien or literal demon. That mystery is part of her mystique. Less is more.

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Agent Bishop was arguably one of the best creations of the 2003 animated series, and his transition to IDW’s TMNT has been near flawless. His zeal and tactical ambition is measured with intelligence and patience. Bishop’s screed against the mutants may seem harsh, but his estimate is not entirely wrong. In this series, mutants were literally created as biological weapons for an alien tyrant. Baxtor’s experiments on behalf of Krang birthed the Turtles, and plenty of threats.

The Ninja Turtles Aren’t Exactly Harmless, Either!

Zodi herself in this issue arguably represents how deadly and vicious mutants can be. But the rest of the TMNT universe displays that as well. Old Hob has been running gangs for years and has mobilized a squad of mutants into his own tactical team. The Foot Clan have utilized mutants as living weapons and assassins. Bebop and Rocksteady are rampaging international mercenaries who can survive buildings dropped on them. Some federal counter-force was inevitable.

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Finally, we come to the latest installment of the “Inside Out” strip. Leonardo continues his psychedelic journey due to the actions of the Rat King. This time he stumbles upon a darker version of Harold Lilja’s lab and fights a hellish version of Metalhead. Once again, Leonardo survives only to face a new challenge next month. The appeal of this strip remains the artistic team-up between Eastman and Sienkiewicz, as the story itself is fairly simplistic in comparison.

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Damian Couceiro, who has drawn for other TMNT series such as Bebop And Rocksteady Destroy Everything, does spectacular work here. From hectic action sequences between mutants and Bishop’s soldiers to Raphael and Michelangelo’s emotional beats—it’s all kinetic, yet detailed. Baxtor Stockman’s armor looks very cool, and having Null’s robots look like some infamous drones from the 1987 cartoon’s opening season (and an arcade game based on it) was a nice touch.

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Next: In Addition, Check Out how Rad Zodi was in issue #3!

In Conclusion, This Really Is a Terrific Spin-Off!

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Bobby Curnow confirmed that the purpose of TMNT Universe was to condense IDW’s miniseries into one ongoing series. With the first arc of this series in the books, that decision has proven resoundingly wise. Paul Allor continues his fantastic work in expanding an already incredible Ninja Turtle universe as well as embellishing upon characters old and new. I hope we see more of Bishop, and even see him fight! Thanks to IDW, now has never been a better time to be a Turtle!