With the creative team hurtling towards what is expected to be a blowout 50th issue of the series, the creative team -- comprised of Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow and Tom Waltz -- continues to stack and weave many different subplots on and around one another in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #46. The issue is a tightly paced affair, deftly moving from one narrative thread to the next and sitting just long enough with each to entice readers and pull them forward as needed. It's an impressive feat that a book with this much happening still manages to have impactful emotional beats and even pacing; this is soap operatic storytelling done well.
As his brothers hit the streets to chase down various adversaries, Donatello adjusts to life in his new metal shell after the fallout of General Krang's failed invasion. Waltz plumbs the idea for much more depth than would be expected here as Metaltello, Fugitoid and Harold discuss the finer points of biosynthesim, such as information processing and circadian rhythms. Perseverance is a recurring theme in each scene; this is clear for Donny, but -- for Raphael -- that means pushing forward through tough emotions to get the work at hand done. His heart-to-heart with Alopex shows the character's oft-repressed softer side, as guilt consumes him over his brother's tragedy. The extended family of this book, as it's grown over the years, has a great repartee and Waltz lets each character lean on another when needed.
On the flip side, perseverance for the Foot Clan means moving forward without their leader as Shredder is, unbeknownst to them, on a side quest with the calculating Baxter Stockman, for whom perseverance means invoking his contingency plan: more mass manufactured Mousers and Fly Monsters, an automated army of his own. Casey Jones, meanwhile, contends with his father who has decided to pull his gang back together to teach his son a lesson and he needs to feel some sort of control over his own life. What is so impressive is that Waltz bounds from scene to scene, with the speed and emotion of each building and leading into the next. As it crescendos at the end, the final sequence may not be the most deadly but it is certainly the most personal of all.
Mateus Santolouco continues to deliver detailed, expressive linework full of power and emotion. His design work is a satisfying blend of Eastern and Western comic art styles. The villains have a lot of anime influence to their acting and their layouts; Hun could be a playable character from a Capcom fighting game. He still manages to deliver texture to the panels, each one filled with detail and depth. During more dramatic moments, his layouts are reminiscent of Todd McFarlane, especially as Karai addresses the remains of the Foot. He even manages to squeeze in a one panel homage to one of Frank Miller's most famous panels from "The Dark Knight Returns." Ronda Patinson also delivers vibrant, precise colors that compliment Santolouco's work and letterer Shawn Lee gives the script a clean, readable font set that balances between human and robot throughout.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #46 continues the series' incredibly impressive run of action packed stories full of emotion, and it looks gorgeous to boot. It's surprising that a book this dense is still building to something even bigger and -- as Eastman, Curnow and Waltz continue to circle the wagons around the Turtles and their friends -- readers should continue to expect a white-knuckled thrill ride as they hurtle towards the anniversary issue.