Wednesday, November 12, 2014

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #4 - October 1996

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

Pizza-Free Summary:  The Turtles realize that the skeleton in Donatello’s broken shell belongs to the cyborg.  Still believing Donatello to be dead, they take his shell and hold a brief memorial service.  Meanwhile, Splinter and Lord Komodo’s “brother” komodo dragons fight Mako to a standstill.  When Lord Komodo begins to morph into a gigantic komodo dragon, Mako decides to retreat.  Pimiko, who’s recently returned, declares that Splinter must die after learning Komodo’s secret.  Mako runs into the Turtles outside, but is thwarted from stealing their Airship.  Later, Donatello regains consciousness.  When he encounters Mako, he thinks the cyborg has blasted Mako.  He then realizes that he’s now the cyborg and can’t control his body.

We Get Letters:  Erik Larsen dismisses requests to print the book in gray tone, saying that it often appears too muddy.  Also, around half of the letter writers feel the need to apologize for following the Archie TMNT Adventures series.  I wonder today…why?  Adventures was clearly intended as an “all ages” series, but it was far from a kiddie book by anyone’s definition.  

What the Shell?: The human within the cyborg that fell to earth with Donatello has had his bones picked totally clean in the few hours that have passed since issue #2.

Not Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  Raphael refers to Pimiko as “that ninja bitch” after discovering Donatello’s broken shell.

Review in a Half-Shell:  Yes, Donatello is a cyborg now.  I wouldn’t be shocked if Playmates actually released cyborg variations of the Turtles at some point during the toyline's lengthy run, but it’s amazing that anyone thought it was a good idea to do this as a permanent change to the status quo.  Perhaps you could make the argument that cyborgs weren’t quite so clich√© in 1996, and I can understand the desire to alter one of the Turtles in some way just to keep things interesting…but, geez, just look at that cover.  What diehard Turtles fan really wants to see any of the brothers remade like this?  Aside from the fact that a cybernetic Ninja Turtle just sounds ridiculous (and not the good kind of ridiculous that’s been a hallmark of the franchise), this specific design is a nightmare.  It’s the bog-standard “cyborg” design you’d expect to find in any adolescent’s notebook sketches; a lame visual that doesn’t help to sell the concept at all.

The issue isn’t a total loss, thankfully.  Far from it, in fact.  Splinter’s fight scene with Mako is pretty fun, and a welcome break from the way the audience is accustomed to seeing Splinter.  Carlson also seems to have found a better way to dramatize the Turtles’ reaction to the chaos that’s surrounding them.  I know that some fans thought the Turtles were too callous after discovering Donatello’s “death,” but I think Carlson strikes a nice balance between giving the Turtles a moment to grieve while emphasizing their desire to rescue Splinter.  Michelangelo wants to stop everything and have a funeral, while Raphael and Leonardo (both on edge) argue over how to confront Splinter’s kidnappers.  Ultimately, they put their differences aside and give Donatello a memorial service (not realizing that he couldn’t be too far away, since Mako runs into him not long after he meets the Turtles).  Michelangelo is the most emotional, which suits his character, but I don’t think Raphael and Leonardo come across as totally heartless.  Besides, this is a “fake death” anyway, so if Carlson did dedicate numerous pages to a mourning scene, it would be a massive waste of space.  The pacing of this book is intentionally fast, and finding the right balance between plot and character work has been a problem at times, but I think this issue actually walks the line pretty well.  

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