Friday, November 7, 2014

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #2 - July 1996

Credits:  Gary Carlson (writer), Frank Fosco (penciler), Chance Wolf and Andrew Pepoy (inks), Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

Pizza-Free Summary:  The cyborg falling to the ground with Donatello accidentally kills himself with his own gun.  Donatello lands and is seriously injured.  Meanwhile, Splinter is brought to Dragonlord’s headquarters.  After he’s placed in a cell, Pimiko has another captive, Mako, kill a disrespectful cyborg.  Inside Lord Komodo’s lab, the mutant Weasel is killed after it’s discovered he doesn’t have animal DNA.  Elsewhere, Pimiko’s Kunoichi track the Turtles to their new lair, an abandoned mausoleum.  Raphael contacts the Foot Clan for information on Pimiko, while Michelangelo searches the internet and Leonardo meditates.  Raphael returns shortly before Leonardo connects with Donatello on the Astral Plane.  They prepare to leave to rescue him, but are ambushed by the Kunoichi.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Mako is a shark-man from Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon series.  He also guest-starred in an issue of The Maxx, but was replaced by a different shark-man on the MTV cartoon for legal reasons.
  • The Kunoichi are a group of female ninjas that apparently serve Pimiko.  They also dress like strippers.
  • Presumably, Lord Komodo and the Dragonlord are the same character.
  • Before Raphael leaves on his mission, Leonardo gives him one of Casey Jones’ old hockey masks to cover his wounded face.

Total N00B:  My knowledge of the original Mirage continuity stops around the time of the “Return to New York” storyline, so I’m not quite sure how Raphael has sources within the Foot Clan.

I Was Not Aware of That:  According to Wikipedia, “Kunoichi (くノ一 is the term for a female ninja or practitioner of ninjutsu (ninpo).”  It was also the name of a female-centric Japanese game show, apparently.

Not Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  The mouthy cyborg calls Pimiko a “bitch” shortly before he’s graphically devoured by Mako.  We also see the Weasel’s nude backside after he’s brutally decapitated by Lord Komodo.

I Love the '90s:  Leonardo’s dialogue makes it clear that you access the internet through a computer.  Later, Michelangelo boasts that he’s found “lots of new cheesecake pix of Terri Hatcher!”

Review in a Half-Shell:  The introductory arc barrels along, raising the stakes and moving the Turtles even closer to their inevitable confrontation with the mysterious Dragonlord.  None of the Turtles is involved in any actual fight scene this issue, but that doesn’t mean Pimiko and Dragonlord can’t find other characters to mutilate.  (If IDW ever tries to reprint these issues in color, I can just imagine what Nickelodeon’s reaction is going to be.)  The graphic violence isn’t much of a shock considering that the original promotion for the title loudly distanced itself from the cuddly Turtles of television, but it often seems as if these scenes exist for shock value and aren’t adding much to the story.  The death of Weasel this issue is a good example.  Calling him a Wolverine parody is a bit generous since he’s, well, just Wolverine with a different name.  His death is superfluous and doesn’t lead to any real humor, but it is an excuse for yet another bloody decapitation scene.  I’m not opposed to Marvel parodies, the Turtles of course owe their existence to one, but the entire scene comes across as juvenile and needlessly crass.

Carlson’s stories work much better when they focus on the dynamics between the Turtles.  He finds a nice balance this issue between the Turtles’ serious and goofy sides, having them joke and play pranks on each other while not losing sight of how Donatello’s disappearance is affecting the team.  He’s also making sure that each Turtle contributes to the plot in some way, which means Raphael uses the Foot to investigate Pimiko, Michelangelo discovers the location of the villains’ base on-line, and Leonardo contacts Donatello on the Astral Plane.  That last one might sound kind of ridiculous, but Carlson makes Leonardo’s growth as a spiritualist a plot point, and even the basis of a few clever jokes.  

So, yes, this feels like the Turtles.  It also feels like a Turtles book that’s trying too hard not to be the animated series.  In retrospect, why did they care so much?  Anyone who assumed the Turtles are just kids stuff probably wouldn’t be buying this book anyway, so who is the gore supposed to appeal to?  I like the Turtles, and I don’t even mind blood and guts, but my interest in getting both in the same comic is kind of limited.


wwk5d said...

"The Kunoichi are a group of female ninjas that...dress like strippers."

Not that shocking. But are their proportions in the issue super-deformed a la most Larson women?

Matt said...

I distinctly recall an interview with Erik Larsen in WIZARD where they asked him about the endowments of his female characters. His simple answer was, "I just like to draw big knockers." I appreciated his candor.

Anonymous said...

During the City at War storyline, the Turtles got involved with a Foot Clan civil war, helped the new Foot leader Karai to end it, and she in turn made a truce with them (which the Turtles were okay with, since they realized that the circle of revenge only led to bad things for everyone). So while they're not best pals at this point, neither side sees the other as enemies.

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