Friday, February 6, 2015

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #11 - October 1997

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

Pizza-Free Summary:  Michelangelo and Horridus share a kiss, but Rapture enters and kicks Michelangelo out of the apartment.  While Raphael continues his bar brawl, Donatello and Leonardo team with the Dragon to stop Deathwatch.  The commotion draws Michelangelo’s attention.  Deathwatch uses his powers to enter Donatello’s mind and force him to relive his near-death experience from weeks ago.  The artificial intelligence of Donatello’s armor takes over and kills Deathwatch.  Vanguard and his sidekick Wally arrive, and after a brief misunderstanding, Dragon forces everyone to make peace.  Donatello’s cyber-armor informs his brothers that Donatello’s mind is dead.  Dragon is given the Aircar for safekeeping (and to give to Raphael whenever he reemerges), before Wally teleports the Turtles away.  Meanwhile, two mobsters spying on Casey and April are mysteriously killed.

Continuity Note:  Deathwatch claims that he should’ve died in space, but was somehow resurrected and transformed from Johnny Raeburn into his new form.

Production Note:  Notice that the cover dates have skipped from July to October.  I’m not sure if this issue actually shipped two months late or if a correction was made to catch up the cover date after previous late issues.  Either way, these delays seem kind of ridiculous.

Review in a Half-Shell:  Wow, I don’t like to play the “Worst Issue Ever” card, but this is a remarkable drop in quality.  Nah, that’s too polite.  This thing is awful.  Deathwatch is a dreadful villain, fulfilling almost every ‘90s stereotype (pretty much the only one missing is a ponytail), and enduring an entire issue of the loser is borderline torture.  He’s not even bad enough to enjoy on a camp level, nor is he truly ridiculous enough to mock…he’s just lame.  A deranged serial killer with cybernetic armor, psychic abilities, energy-draining powers, and Omega Red tendrils.  It’s literally a checklist of every overused clich√© of the ‘90s in one forgettable character.

Ordinarily, Gary Carlson is able to balance his issues out with character moments and subplots, but there’s barely anything to save this mess.  The opening with Mikey and Horridus is amusing, and Donatello’s flashback to his previous “death” is a decent play on the “villain invades the hero’s mind” trope, but those are only brief distractions.  Most of the ongoing storylines are either ignored or barely touched upon, while the “CyberDonnie” subplot takes a leap into the ridiculous.  It was inevitable that Donnie’s artificial intelligence would take over his body, but the execution this issue feels too chaotic and hurried to have any real impact.  Even after Donatello’s A.I. declares Donnie dead, his brothers just shrug their shoulders and say, “Aw, it’s happened before.”  If the characters in the story don’t even seem to care that much, why should the reader?  Also, what was the point of the Vanguard appearance?  Apparently, just to throw in a tired misunderstanding fight that the story absolutely did not need.  I could forgive a mindless action issue if it at least looked nice, but Frank Fosco’s art is getting increasingly rough in this series.  I loved his Turtles in the first issue, but lately they’re just too square, flat, and ugly for my tastes.  I can only hope that the writing and art can return to their usual level, because enduring another dozen issues like this doesn’t sound like fun.

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