Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #7 Review: Metalhead In The Machine


Donatello has always “done machines,” and he even used to be one! Is Metalhead his dark reflection?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #7

Writer: Ryan Ferrier

Artist: Adam Gorham

Colorist: Ronda Pattison

Back-Up Strip: Brahm Revel

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As the latest arc of the core TMNT comic series from IDW proves, this secondary title counts. The first arc of TMNT Universe tied directly to the most recent issue as a prelude. This arc, “Metalhead 2.0,” seeks to continue this trend of spring-boarding off of dangling plot points. The franchise’s famous robot Turtle is back once again, and this time it stirs up all sorts of questions about identity. Donatello in particular gets a first hand look at what might have been, and it isn’t pretty.

Image by IDW Publishing

If any issue needed a recap, it’s this one. Metalhead originally appeared in the 3rd season of the original 1987 cartoon. He earned himself an action figure and appearances in some TMNT video games. Robot doubles of franchise heroes are fairly common tropes, and Metalhead is no exception. He plays a larger role in the 2012 Nickelodeon cartoon, and historically fluctuates between an enemy, an ally, or an annoyance. IDW’s comic book series had their own take on him.

Image by IDW Publishing

A Robotic Recap!

Within this series, the Turtles’ former ally Harold Lilja created Metalhead after being inspired by his new friends. Strictly used for security, the robot’s role becomes larger in #44. Donatello was mortally wounded by Bebop and Rocksteady, and his consciousness was transferred into the machine. His genuine body was regenerated with mutagen ooze, and Donnie returned to form by #50. Donnie used Metalhead as a bomb to beat Bebop and Rocksteady in a final Foot battle.

Image by IDW Publishing

Consequently, Harold severed his alliance with the Turtles. Without him, much of their technological advances would stagnate. Determined to make up the gap, Donatello decided to rebuild Metalhead from the bits that were left. Working around a damaged processing chip, Metalhead finally awakens! Due to Donnie’s tinkering, Metalhead is a mixture of Harold’s security protocols and his own personality program. His consciousness was copied and maintained within.

Image by IDW Publishing

As a result, Metalhead thinks he is Donatello still trapped within the machine. It’s only when facing the rest of the Turtles does “he” learn the truth. While Raphael and Leonardo are wary of the machine, Michelangelo tries to befriend it (which he does with everything). Donatello is intent on studying Metalhead to see how alike they are, as well as for general scientific curiosity. Yet this cold approach only furthers Metalhead’s screwed up processing and lack of identity.

Puts the Term “Green Machine” in Perspective!

It leads to a very interesting dynamic between the pair. Donatello vividly recalls his time within the robot, along with the advantages and disadvantages. Considering how Donnie was always into technology, Metalhead represents a period when he literally was into it. Metalhead also represents what could have happened if Donatello’s body wasn’t healed. As a result, Metalhead goes stir-crazy between the isolation of being a machine and the memories of his maiming.

Image by IDW Publishing

Ferrier used this subplot to focus on Donatello’s character through Metalhead. Previous issues focused on Michelangelo and Leonardo. Donnie’s love of science and machines is explored with a walking metaphor. Issues of identity are also developed, with Donnie relating to Metalhead, then seeing it as its own entity. Metalhead, unfortunately, sees itself as a copy, at worst, or as the genuine Donatello, at best. Its betrayal is tragic, albeit predictable.

Image by IDW Publishing

The art by Adam Gorham and regular series colorist Ronda Pattison is great. It is similar to the “house style” as established by previous TMNT artists for IDW, while also remaining unique. Metalhead’s design has always had a lot of details, and Gorham manages to keep him from looking too clunky. He does a great job on the Turtles as well, covering all of their emotional reactions and body language well. Using the eyes to show Metalhead’s emotion is a nice touch.

Image by IDW Publishing

A Great Backup and an Even Better Editor!

Braham Revel continues his backup strip about Jennika from the previous issue. It dovetails the main story by also featuring Donatello imperiled by machines. Furthermore, it continues to use the history of ninja as a backdrop for Jennika’s origin. Before finding the Foot Clan, she fell in with a nasty boyfriend who drug her into robberies. Jennika in the present day seems to brood, but it is all about mood. Revel’s artwork still reminds me of Chris Samnee, and is a highlight of the strip.

Image by IDW Publishing

An extra shout out should go to Bobby Curnow, the TMNT editor and regular series co-plotter. This issue further cements the incredible job he is doing with IDW’s TMNT line. He is willing and able to allow a variety of different writers and artists to develop their own stories and establish their own takes on the Turtles. Yet there is always a consistent voice which keeps the continuity straight and makes sure all of the stories flow from and within each other. This has become a rare skill.

Image by IDW Publishing

TMNT Universe Is the Best Spin off on the Stands!

In the world of most Marvel and DC Comics, many stories can’t keep critical characters or plot details straight for very long. There is often a haphazard assumption within the senior editorial offices of the “big two” that their readership will condone virtually any loose continuity or fad. Opposite to that is Curnow’s approach to TMNT here, which labors intently to keep all of the dishes spinning. There is a love and respect for the franchise and its fans which oozes forth.

Image by IDW Publishing

Next: Michelangelo takes on the Wyrm in #6!

TMNT Universe is proving to be an amazing counterpart to the classic Tales of the TMNT. In addition to consolidating a series of minis into one book, it covers endless subplots from the main book. It allows different creators a chance to work on a beloved franchise while also furthering IDW’s excellent incarnation of it. Few franchise remakes have been as good for as long as TMNT has been under IDW. The stakes for this arc are high, with Metalhead 2.0 as a tragic antagonist.