Monday, November 10, 2014

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

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

Pizza-Free Summary:  The Turtles eventually drive out Pimiko and the Kunoichi, who escape in a helicopter.  Raphael reveals that Donatello had recently finished building a Triceraton Aircar, which enables the Turtles to travel by air.  Leonardo leads them to Donatello’s location.  As Donatello waits for his brothers to arrive, he realizes that he’s now paralyzed from the neck down.  In upstate New York, Lord Komodo is impressed with Splinter’s sophistication.  He gives Splinter a tour of his facilities, but they’re soon ambushed by Mako, who’s escaped his cell.  Mako knocks Komodo unconscious and brags that he’s going to eat Splinter.  Meanwhile, the Turtles reach Donatello’s location and are stunned to discover what appears to be his skeleton.

Continuity Note:  Lord Komodo is studying anthropomorphs because he believes that splicing human and animal DNA is the key to unleashing “the power of the ancient dragons which slumbers inside of me!”

Total N00B:  According to Raphael, Donatello finished the Triceraton Aircar that “Our old pal Zog started building…during his stay on Earth!”  I didn’t know any of the Triceratons became recurring characters in the Mirage continuity.

Not Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  Lord Komodo and Splinter are bathed by two nude (but covered…barely) women in his spa.

I Love the '90s:  Donatello quips that he’s “fallen and I can't get up!”  Also, Michelangelo refers to their fight with the Kunoichi as “a beer commercial that combined Baywatch and Barb Wire!”

Review in a Half-Shell:  Despite what the cover shows us, the Turtles don’t confront Mako this issue, although I’m sure that’s coming soon.  Merging the Savage Dragon characters with the Turtles is pretty much a no-brainer, given that the Dragon and the Turtles have already crossed over a few times, and that many of Erik Larsen’s villains are anthropomorphs.  (Playmates apparently decided to merge the TMNT toyline with the new Savage Dragon figures in 1995, but not much came of it.  Larsen’s designs could’ve provided Playmates with dozens of cool toys, however.)  The Turtles interacting with the Dragon’s corner of the Image Universe feels right in a way that, say, the Wildstorm neighborhood doesn’t.  Ideally, a character like Grifter shouldn’t have anything to do with the Turtles, but they look right at home in Dragon’s Chicago.  And if you need convincing that Jim Lee’s style isn’t a match for the Turtles, take a look at his horribly misguided attempts to redesign the Turtles during the final days of their toyline.

Much of this issue is dedicated to the Turtles’ fight against the Kunoichi, which ultimately adds little to the overall plot, but does provide the kind of martial arts action readers expect in a TMNT story.  Thankfully, the pacing of this book is never sluggish, so there’s enough actual story content to justify the lengthy fight scene.  More of Lord Komodo’s plan is revealed, and he’s surprisingly fleshed out as a character (even though I’m assuming this is a feint).  His ruthless attitude from the previous issue is explained as a disdain for the primitive nature of the man/animal creatures he’s studying, but he’s pleasantly surprised to see that Splinter doesn’t fulfill his stereotypes.  Splinter still doesn’t have much to do in the story, but I like the way Carlson uses Splinter’s Zen personality to the character’s advantage.  The Turtles are also written pretty well, with particular attention being paid to Donatello this time.  I’m not overjoyed with what’s coming next, mainly because it comes across as even more shock value, but for this specific issue, Don’s struggle feels like a legitimate character crisis.  The blood and gore are also toned down this issue, and the unsanctioned Marvel Comics cameo doesn’t feel as cheap this time.  

My only real complaint would be the art, which is not only still too “open” for a B&W book, but also noticeably less polished this issue.  It seems as if the Erik Larsen style is being downplayed in favor of a Marc Silvestri/Dan Green “sketchy” look, and it doesn’t suit the book at all.  I realize that over-rending is considered a lame trend from the early ‘90s, but I much prefer it in a B&W comic to something that looks half-finished.  Larsen’s inking style from the earlier issues of Savage Dragon would’ve fit this book perfectly.


Matt said...

So Raphael is disfigured and Donatello is crippled... wow. I didn't know things were still this "extreme" by 1996. Marvel, at least, was starting to tone down the excesses of the early nineties at this point.

G. Kendall said...

Donatello becomes *very* '90s next issue. Only Michelangelo remains unscathed by the final issue.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing to back this up, but I thought the Turtles were being changed in part to tell them apart due to the fact it`s black and white.

wwk5d said...

The b&w was never a problem in the original series, was it?

G. Kendall said...

Anonymous is right; Larsen mentioned in interviews that he wanted the Turtles to be easily identifiable in B&W. I don't know if anyone really viewed that as problem before Larsen. He could've designed different masks, or given the Turtles the early "superhero" designs that later showed up as their wrestling uniforms in the Archie series. I guess those options were too tame for this hardcore, extreme Image book.

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