The Rat King Tells His Story in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2021
Dustin Holland
As tensions between the titular turtles and the mutanimals appear to be on the verge of boiling over in Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Sophie Campbell, Nelson Daniel, Ronda Pattison, Bobby Curnow and Shawn Lee's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #119, another threat emerges in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2021. Written by Tom Waltz with art by Casey Maloney and Maria Keane and colors by Luis Antonio Delgado, the annual reintroduces Rat King, a longtime enemy of the turtles, in a story that sets the stage for an intriguing saga.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2021 is narrated by Rat King as he tells an unseen audience the story of his immortal family, the Pantheon, and the game they have been playing for control over humanity and the world. After his sister Kitsune failed to resurrect their father, Rat King went on a journey to visit his other siblings Jagwar, Toad Baron, Manmoth, and Gothano only to discover that they had all lost interest in the family competition. He describes his encounters, his disappointment, and teases his plans for a new game.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles thwart their enemies' plans
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles thwart their enemies' plans
Waltz, who has been writing for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for years, does an excellent job of reintroducing Rat King and the Pantheon in an engaging way. New readers will be grateful for the context and exposition, and long-time fans will be grateful for the recap of a concept that was first introduced in 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #46.
Unfortunately, the expository nature of Rat King's story and the story's setup of already established characters causes some unnecessary scenes. Luckily, Waltz's use of alliteration and wordplay makes for an enjoyable reading experience even in redundant moments. The writing also gives Rat King a playful, lilting way of speaking that adds to his unlikely charm.
a small dog pours the Toad Barron a drink
a small dog pours the Toad Barron a drink
Casey Maloney's pencils are complimented by Maria Keane's bold inks and Luis Antonio Delgado's playful colors make the Rat King's story a joy to read. The villain finds each sibling inhabiting a different world, each with its own visual language. The artists brilliantly depict Jagwar's brutal jungle and Manmoth's harsh arctic environment, but their skills truly shine through in the ridiculous world of the Toad Baron. The toad and his subjects inhabit a technicolor world full of bizarre creatures and unrecognizable plants reminiscent of the playful and bizarre aesthetic that makes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as fun as they are.
TMNT Annual 2021 ends by revealing the Rat King's audience and teasing a threat of nightmarish proportions. While the turtles themselves are notably absent from the issue, the franchise's inventive spirit is found on every page. Long-time readers of the heroes and their foes may find their attention drifting as the story takes them to familiar places, but the quality of the writing and art will pull them back in no time.