Friday, November 14, 2014

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #5 - December 1996

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

Pizza-Free Summary:  Donatello discovers the truth behind his cybernetic resurrection, while the Turtles invade Lord Komodo’s compound.  Splinter is held captive and injected with a new synthetic mutagen, created out of the samples found in his blood.  Pimiko discovers that Splinter has a connection to Hamato Yoshi, the man she blames for her father’s death.  She demands Komodo free him so that she can face Splinter in battle, but Komodo refuses.  Pimiko turns against Komodo, as the Turtles enter to rescue Splinter.  In the confusion, Donatello enters the fray while Splinter escapes.  Pimiko helps the Turtles get away before the compound’s self-destruct sequence detonates.  After escaping, the Turtles briefly encounter a large bat they later realize is Splinter.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Lord Komodo tells Splinter that his armies are “preparing for the war that will restore the Dragon Bushido to Japan’s imperial throne for the first time in 400 years!”  Allegedly, this is his birthright, but his “tragic secret” is that his Bushido spirit is accursed, which means he transforms into a giant lizard instead of a “mythical wyrm.”  Somehow, the mutagen in Splinter’s blood will solve this problem.
  • This issue reveals that Pimiko is Shredder’s daughter…I’m not sure if she predates the Karai character, or if she’s actually supposed to be the same character.
  • Donatello’s flashback reveals that the cyborg’s living armor abandoned the dead human who fell out of the helicopter and took on Donatello as its new host.  It healed Donatello’s wounds, enabling him to walk again.

Total N00B:  Pimiko says that Hamato Yoshi was her master and she carries on his work, which made no sense to me.  I then recalled that Yoshi was at one point a member (perhaps even the leader?) of the Foot Clan in the original Mirage issues.  If Pimiko trained under Yoshi, who died years before Splinter found the baby Turtles, I wonder how old that would make her, however.

I Was Not Aware of That: Another term for Komodo dragon is "Monitor lizard."

We Get Letters:  Erik Larsen’s response to reader criticisms of the changes the Turtles have gone through: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were handed over to us because Kevin and Pete didn’t want to produce the book anymore. If they wanted to keep everything as it was they shouldn’t have handed the reins over to me. Yes, we could do stories that forever maintained the status quo as established at Mirage but that doesn’t interest me. The team and their supporting characters will be going through (and have gone through) some major changes. All of us have to face change in our lives and that’s what makes life interesting. The Turtles are going to change. Live with it."  (Peter Laird actually did approve every issue, even if he ultimately decided to ignore this series, according to an interview with Gary Carlson.)

Review in a Half-Shell:  The first arc concludes, leaving us with hockey mask Raph, cyborg Donnie, and Splinter as a bat.  On paper, this sounds kind of terrible, but in practice…it still doesn’t work.  Okay, I could live with Raphael wearing Casey Jones’ mask, but the other changes feel annoyingly arbitrary.  Like I’ve said before, as temporary changes to the status quo, it’s hard to get too upset about these ideas; unfortunately, the series is seemingly adamant about sticking to these transformations.  It’s possible that I’m biased against these alterations simply because as an adult I want a traditional take on the Turtles; plus, I’m reading this series almost twenty years after its publication.  Perhaps the creators at the time felt that the audience was burned out on the original Turtles and ready to see something new.  That’s understandable, I suppose, but the old adage about fandom is that they want change until change actually happens.  If you did want to see the next evolution of the Turtles, I don’t think seemingly arbitrary mutilations and mutations were really what you were after anyway.  

I have to confess that even if I don’t like the overall direction the series is going, the book is pretty entertaining.  Carlson understands the dynamics between the characters, so he makes sure to create some kind of personality conflict or brotherly rivalry in each issue.  This time it’s a debate between Leo and Raphael over whether or not to kill Komodo’s guards, which is the type of material I’d expect a more “mature” TMNT book to explore.  Carlson also manages to add some depth to the villains, even in issues that might initially seem to be 90% action scenes.  Komodo honestly likes Splinter, but views him as a necessary sacrifice in order to get what he wants, so he has to die.  Pimiko is still loyal to the Kunoichi, even after Komodo orders them to kill her.  She refuses to hurt her fellow ninja, and even stays behind to rescue them before the compound explodes.  I’m not going to pretend that Carlson is doing a J. M. DeMatteis-level examination of the villains’ psychological angst, but he does manage to give them some personality in the midst of the chaos.  Even if Lord Komodo’s motivation comes across as gibberish, he’s still an engaging character.  Hopefully, the book can continue to create interesting villains and conflicts, even as I suffer through personal fanboy annoyances like Bat-Splinter.

1 comment:

Mattkind said...

Hamto Yoshi is the Guy who owned Splinter

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