Monday, February 2, 2015

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #6 - January 1997

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

Pizza-Free Summary:  The Turtles goad Donatello into a training session in order to test his new abilities.  Casey Jones walks in on their sparring session and mistakes Donatello for one of the Dragonlord’s cyborgs.  When Casey injures Donatello, the computer within his living armor takes control.  The Turtles talk the computer into going dormant, Casey then apologizes.  Later, Casey Jones and April O’Neil go out for the evening, leaving Michelangelo to babysit their adopted daughter Shadow.  Shadow sneaks out of bed and notices the front door is open.  She’s soon kidnapped.

Continuity Notes:
  • The Turtles don’t know where Splinter, now a bat, has gone following his escape from the Dragonlord.
  • Donatello’s living armor can heal any wound, replacing his flesh with more cybernetics.
  • A few tiny details are mentioned this issue, which may or may not be important later.  Splinter gave the Turtles four baby turtles as birthday gifts in issue #1, and one of them is accidentally crushed by Donatello this issue.  Casey Jones is promoted to “assistant produce manager” at the supermarket where he works.  April has sent Michelangelo’s writing samples to numerous publishers.  Most reject him, but a poetry journal buys two poems from Mikey.

Total N00B:  This is the first TMNT story I’ve read that features Casey Jones and April O’Neil as a couple; one with an adopted toddler, no less.  Also, I know Casey Jones’ patriotic mask previously appeared in the Bodycount miniseries, but I don’t know the origin of it.

We Get Letters:  Erik Larsen responds to a fan request for female Turtles by revealing that Eastman and Laird “said no female Turtles” and that he thinks one would look silly anyway.

Review in a Half-Shell:  Around half of this issue is dedicated to selling the concept of Cyborg Donnie, so it’s not hard to guess how I feel about it.  To be fair, Carlson has some fun in the early pages when the Turtles are picking on each other and acting like real brothers, plus the opening makes clear that Donatello wasn’t in control during his shooting spree at the end of the last issue, which is a relief for anyone who remembers the Turtles’ established personalities.  But, still, this cyborg nonsense…Not only do the attempts to show off the cybernetic armor feel desperate, but the premise for the fight scene is shockingly thin.  Several pages are dedicated to Donatello casually spanking the Turtles while rarely taking a hit, yet when Casey Jones appears, Donnie’s too “distracted” to do anything.  This leads to the very convenient plot development that has Donnie’s new computer mind taking over his body, which is treated as a dramatic new development, even though it ultimately amounts to nothing.  Casey, for his part, simply “forgot” that Donatello’s a cyborg now, which is why Casey mistook him for an enemy.  Is there any word for this fight scene other than “cheap”?

The issue redeems itself a bit in the closing pages, as Carlson begins to reintroduce elements from the Mirage continuity.  I’m not personally familiar with where the Turtles left off before the Image series began, but Carlson does an admirable job working in the exposition and making it feel like a natural part of the story.  It’s also commendable that the series is acknowledging the past, instead of throwing out everything that’s come before -- it’s hard to imagine anyone today taking on a licensed property and keeping the old continuity.  I like the dynamic between Michelangelo and Casey’s new family, and the domestic scenes are a welcome break after five and a half issues of almost non-stop action.  

I should also mention that the art, while not as strong without Larsen’s inks, is working on that “too open for B&W" problem.  The only real confusion caused by the art now lies in Donatello’s new cybernetic body.  It’s occasionally hard to discern what exactly he’s supposed to look like now; it doesn’t seem to me that his new cybernetic look had B&W in mind at all when designed.  Yet another reason why this is a terrible idea…

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