Spoilers for basically anything involving a Ninja Turtle.
Seriously, y’all should’ve read this stuff by now.
So with the bombshell reveal that was issue #95, the ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book from IDW Publishing seems to be pulling no punches on it’s road to what may be a landmark one hundredth issue. Just in case you didn’t know, the latest issue of the TMNT ongoing book left readers with the stunning realization that Jennika, a former assassin and human ally of the Turtles, was mutated into a Turtle after receiving an emergency blood transfusion from Leonardo.
Taking all of this into account, you would think that this sounds like a pretty bulletproof origin story for a character that we’ve gotten to know for a while now. Well, maybe not an origin story, so much as a literal evolution of a character. So what follows is basically my opinion on why this is great and why this is more business as usual for the IDW Turtles book than we might realize.
Jennika has been around for a while
Way back in 2015, we saw the Shredder finally fall in battle with the Turtles and their master, Splinter, in the double-sized fiftieth issue. A month later we got our first glimpse at Jennika as she conspires with crime boss Darius Dunn to remove Splinter from the equation. Long story short, Jennika’s plan to assassinate Splinter is thrown for a loop and Splinter gets the upper hand on her. But instead of killing Jennika, Splinter gives her the chance to redeem herself and earn her honor back within the Foot Clan. Over the next four years, we get to see a character pull a complete one-eighty and go from bad to good.
It shouldn’t surprise me that no one has mentioned this about Jennika, but I was really taken aback when I saw the usual suspects online commenting how Jennika’s mutation and apparent placement on the team is just a way to cash-in on the whole “woke” movement that is tragically sweeping across comics. But, the fact that Jennika’s character was established years ago and has been allowed to grow and change shows that there is a lot more substance going on here than a lot of people realize.
She’s not the 5th Turtle
You know what’s hilarious, the image above of the four Turtles and Jennika has been wildly blown out of proportion online. A bunch of quick-tempered blowhards are incorrectly assuming that Jennika is now the de-facto leader of the Turtles, if not an as of yet official fifth turtle. Considering Jennika has only been a Turtle for about one page of a comic book, I think it’s safe to say that these promotional images are little more than promotional images. Sure, Jennika will be involved with the Turtles, but that hardly means she’ll become their new leader or that she’s a replacement for someone.
If you want proof of this, consider Slash…
Slash was a massive threat to the Turtles who came very close to taking all of them out in one fell swoop. Eventually, Slash learns the error of his ways and oh my God I think this is the same arc Jennika had…Anyway, Slash was another mutated turtle that found himself on the same side as our favorite heroes in a half-shell, and he never took over the team, and the creators behind the IDW book never tried making the ongoing series a Slash ongoing series. So why would they start now?
She’s also not Venus
Okay, so this one kind of kills me just a little bit, but it does have to be mentioned that the inevitable comparison to Venus de Milo is very, very unnecessary. First of all, Venus’ inclusion in this comic is probably an impossibility from a legal standpoint. Considering that Venus was a character found within the live action television show Ninja Turtles: the Next Mutation, a show created and still owned by Saban Brands.
With all of that being said, and taking my own fandom out of the equation, Jennika probably shouldn’t be a parallel for Venus anyway as it’s an unfair comparison of two completely unrelated characters from different eras with different backstories. It saddens me to say this, considering how much of a fan I am of Venus, but her return just isn’t in the cards.
There’s more to come
This goes beyond the Jennika character, but her introduction fifty issues ago, and her evolution a few days ago, leads to the potential for more original characters to come to this franchise. Listen, I love the Shredder, Krang, Baxter and the rest of the old stand-by villains (and heroes as well). But I feel that some of those classic characters, both good and bad, get used and depended on a little too much lately. One of the things that I have loved about the Rise of the TMNT animated series, has been their commitment to including more and more original characters.
While it’s always expected for creators working on a popular franchise to draw from the wealth of characters that have been proven to be a hit, I have to wonder how long people expect a series to last if you aren’t allowed to venture further than Bebop and Rocksteady. By moving beyond what is safe and comfortable, like this series has been doing for years, you’re helping to create a stronger brand and you’re letting fans know that you’re willing tread uncharted waters in terms of story and character.