Originally written for Flickering Myth
“Baxter’s gambit reaches its endgame, but Fugitoid has some tricks up his sleeve! With the fate of the Utrom race in his hands, whom will the robot scientist end up saving? The dramatic past of the Utroms will have dire consequences in the present day!”
Misleading could be the best way to describe the Utrom Empire mini-series. Yep, misleading. But as it turns out not in a bad way.
The covers are the main reason, with the Triceratons and their rebellion front and centre. In actual fact, this story has focused on Krang and Fugitoid, two characters that I always thought you were just ‘OK’.
Well now I don’t, as writer Paul Allor has made both so rounded; with conflicting thoughts and realistic and a moral grey scale. This isn’t a simple case of good and bad. Characters make choices that not only fit their character, but progress the story in natural ways and make complete sense in the this world.
Making an evil character sympathetic is usually the signal of a down turn, as what made them strong in the first place is replaced with ‘awwwww’. Not here. Krang is still a cruel and evil Utrom, but you at least understand how he came to this point. It also raises the question of how far would go to save those you cherish? His loyalty to his race is unquestionable, even it leads him down a questionable path.
Krang’s more noble brand of evil is further back up when you realise just how much a evil little what-not Baxter Stockman is. A purer evil (well put Allor). Oh how fun it is to see him get put in his place! I pointed at the image and yelled ‘yeah stuff you Stockman!’. It may have been more colourful than that….
Then we have the bad ass Fugitioid! Not two words I thought I’d be putting together at the start of this. He has some tough choices to make, but proves himself a true hero, and one not to be messed with. Honeycutt was a bit wet at first; a bit of a pushover I felt. But now he’s taking names and it’s very enjoyable.
Allor has strong handle on these characters and what makes them tick. The only thing I’d change is the number of issues! A few more, with more of the actual rebellion and its effect on the planet, would have been good to see. The folly of Krang’s Father was plain to see admittedly, but I only want more because I liked it so much.
On the art front it was a slightly more mixed bag for me. Andy Kuhn’s work on the Utrom parts of the story is fantastic. I love his Utroms and the different appearances and characters he has created from a basic design. He’s made them interesting, and that has formed a big part of the engagement I felt. I wasn’t so sure about his TMNT parts though, with to my eye a jarringly long faced Splinter and an April that looked older. These are small issues though, as overall I felt his work has suited the story particularly well and been a really strong aspect.
Utrom Empire was not the series I was expecting. But I got far more than I was expecting too, and with a very interesting ending, I’m left hoping that we see more of this team in the future. IDW continue to surprise and delight and further prove themselves to be trusty custodians of this license.