Friday, February 6, 2015

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #10 - July 1997

Credits: Gary Carlson (writer), Frank Fosco (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inks), Pat Brosseau (letters)

(Nearly) Pizza-Free Summary:  Donatello arrives in Midway City and uses his computer brain to repair the Aircar.  Meanwhile in Chicago, Michelangelo and Raphael investigate rumors of a vampire, curious that it might have a connection to Splinter.  Officer Dragon informs them that the police aren’t searching for a traditional vampire -- someone is draining the life out of innocent citizens.  The brothers explore Chicago while waiting for the Aircar.  While Ralph stops for pizza and beer at the Freak Outpost club, Michelangelo visits Horridus.  At the club, Ralph is attacked by members of the Vicious Circle.  Donatello and Leonardo arrive in Chicago just in time to help Dragon fight off Cyberface’s men.  Reporter Roxanne Wells arrives and informs Dragon that all of the murders have a connection to the trial of Johnny Raeburn, a death row inmate sent into space decades earlier.  Donatello and Leonardo travel with Dragon to the home of Judge Pulaski, who oversaw the trial.  They discover the villain Deathwatch choking the Judge.  Meanwhile, shady men case April O’Neil’s home.

Continuity Notes:
  • Donatello is able to sleep while his cybernetic body apparently walks all of the way from New York to Midway City.
  • “Freak” is the term often used in Savage Dragon to describe characters with superpowers.
  • The Turtles briefly met Horridus in Savage Dragon #22.
  • Roxanne Wells is the girlfriend of Gary Carlson’s creation (and future guest star) Vanguard.
  • The origin of Deathwatch has been an ongoing storyline in the various Vanguard series over the course of several years, apparently.

What the Shell?:  As explained by Roxanne, “You know he (Raeburn) volunteered for the Seeker manned space program in the 70’s!  He and other death row convicts were launched into space!”  Uh, sure, that makes sense.  It’s not costly, utterly ridiculous, inhumane, and simply bizarre to shoot convicted murderers into space…

Not Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  The Freak Outpost is a freak-themed strip club.  When Raph is accosted by the freak Powerhouse, he tells Powerhouse he’s “Colonel Sanders' wettest dream, peckerhead!” (Which is only amusing if you know that Powerhouse is a giant humanoid chicken.)

I Love the '90s:  Donatello to Leonardo, as he prepares to fix the Aircar, “Step aside, bro -- it's Tool Time!”  He later refers to the revamped Aircar as “the new and improved 1997 model.”

Review in a Half-Shell:  It’s the inevitable Savage Dragon guest appearance; I hesitate to call it a crossover since it doesn’t tie in to any of the plots in Savage Dragon, but the story goes out of its way to feature as much of Erik Larsen’s Chicago as possible.  If you’re a fan of Savage Dragon of this era it’s entertaining to see the Turtles run into the various freaks that make up Dragon’s rogues gallery, and if you’re not into Savage Dragon…who knows what you’ll think of this.  There’s a line of dialogue to establish that Chicago is so heavily populated with freaks that the Turtles don’t even stand out, and that’s the extent of the backstory you’re given.  I personally get a kick out of seeing Raphael in a bar fight with the Vicious Circle, but if you don’t already know who these characters are, then your mileage will probably vary.  

While the story might seem like an excuse for a gratuitous guest star, Carlson manages to cram a lot in.  The plot has several moments of brotherly bonding, such as Donatello pranking Leonardo, and many of the ongoing threads are touched upon over the course of the issue.  Donatello’s computer mind gives him an uncanny affinity for machines, which might seem like an easy plot convenience but it also opens the door for future problems.  (That redesign is still hideous, however.)  The Turtles are still actively searching for Splinter, following a weak lead admittedly, but the thread certainly isn’t forgotten.  And the mobster storyline involving April and Casey’s adopted daughter continues to have ramifications, as well.  There is a sense of ongoing continuity that works to the title’s advantage, even when the series diverges into guest stars and silly villains, like this convict-from-space stuff.

Now, if Erik Larsen were to ink any issue of this book, I wish it could’ve been this one.  Savage Dragon characters always look wrong when other creators handle them, and this issue is no exception.  The cast members are still recognizable, but they’re just off-model enough to take an established fan out of the story (Dragon should not look short and boxy).  I also think that Larsen could’ve added more character to the issue, since Fosco’s art isn’t looking as polished as it has in the past.  I know the title had deadline problems, as evidenced by the cover dates, which I’m assuming is the reason for the less-than-spectacular art.  Larsen could’ve helped a lot with this, and while I’m making unrealistic wishes, it also would’ve been nice to see this story printed as a double-sized color annual.  The story needs the extra pages and I’d love to see the Savage Dragon color team do more work with the Turtles.  

I should also mention that this is the first issue without Larsen's favorite letterer, Chris Eliopoulos.  I don't have a real problem with replacement Pat Brosseau's work, but I wish Larsen had hired one of the established Mirage Studios letterers as Eliopoulos's replacement.  If Larsen wants to evoke the feel of the classic B&W TMNT issues, then Steve Lavigne or Gary Fields would've been the perfect replacements.   The lettering style of the Mirage TMNT issues is truly unique, and it always stood out to me whenever I saw a glimpse of the "real" Turtles as a kid. (One of my favorite moments from the Nickelodeon series was the homage to the original series that included a tight close-up of Lavigne-style letters.)  Without the gray-tone and distinctive lettering, there's an automatic distance between this series and the title it's supposed to be continuing.


Anonymous said...

Actually, Savage Dragon SHOULD look sort of short and boxy. Dragon is 5'10"
with a huge boxy upper body and skinny legs.

G. Kendall said...

I thought about that, but it seems like Dragon should be *much* taller than the Turtles than we see here. Also, Fosco doesn't make Dragon as wide as I associate him from Larsen's art.

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