Infestation 2: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2
With the introductory issue of this mini-series I was an uninitiated reader, I knew nothing about what the book would contain or what to expect from the titular Turtles themselves; this time though I had a foundation to launch from and so I thought I now knew what I was in for. I was wrong. Tristan Jones drastically raises the stakes for the climax of his story, taking the initial horror tone and tension and scrapping it early on in favor of a full-blown battle with the baddies, though that’s not to say that it is a betrayal or bust-up of what came before, if anything it’s the opposite. The most unexpected thing about this issue is just how much it is exactly what I initially expected from a Turtles tale: sword fights, smart-arsed banter and big, unmistakably evil villains. Here Tristan is being true to the turtles; for both better and worse (which is always better than making them extra-terrestrials!).
While it was the numerous ties and connections made to the Cthullu mythos in the original issue that drew me in, here it is all the nice little nods to the world of the teenagers themselves that entertained. For one the Infestation of the title turns literal in this issue when the strange beast beneath the city is revealed to be a fungus; a beast such as this seems a better baddie to fight the turtles for a whole host of reasons, they’re simply more on the scale of a Yuggoth culture than they are the great old one himself and there is a nice irony to having them fight what is essentially a giant pizza topping. Speaking of pizza, when the action turns from spelunking caves it does so into scoffing food; the fungus it seems has been spreading through the sewers in order to feed, something that the gang are of course inherently familiar with and they put that knowledge to good use in the final showdown.
Jones, it seems, has stopped trying to use the turtles to tell a Lovecraft story and started using Lovecraft to tell a turtles one and while that may not make the ideal read for me, it is still an admirable act and probably a better overall one for the books actual audience. None of that though is to say that H.P. himself has been forgotten, no his presence still haunts the story, his spirit a part of every plot. There is a great little beat on the final page that might seem mundane to most, a simple epilogue establishing that the Turtles are again safe ( that’s not really a spoiler) but to those familiar with the original shorts the scene is actually much more sinister. In dedicating himself to his research Donatello is displaying early signs of that same obsession that plague’s all of Cthullu’s victims; physically the beast may be beaten but that does not mean that the threat is gone, the infestation is now one of the mind and that may actually make finding peace more difficult than ever. It’s a more ominous ending even than the action cliffhanger of the last issue.
In the penultimate panel of this page we see the literal stack of Lovecraftian literature that Donnatello is pouring over: The Dunwich Horror, The Mountains of Madness, etc. That there is a list of titles that this book belongs on; it is Lovecraft and it is TMNT. It shouldn’t be and how it works is beyond me, but Jones and Torres have taken two of the most disparate universes around and combined them cohesively and without compromise, merging high and low art in the process. It’s otherworldly I say. Check their rooms and i’m sure you’ll find runes and a similar stack of books, the ceremonies and summonings all dog-eared and highlighted, it’s the only way they could have done it.