Thursday, February 5, 2015

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #9 - May 1997


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

Pizza-Free Summary:  Leonardo arrives in Midway City, home of the Knight Watchman.  A mutated bat suddenly appears and tries to bite him.  Leo knocks him to the ground with a throwing star.  The bat ambushes him in an alley after Leo lands to search for him.  Leo grabs a piece of wood and prepares to stab the bat in the heart, but he’s stopped by the Knight Watchman.  Knight Watchman explains that the mutated bats are also infected by rabies, and that he’s developed an antidote.  They travel to his hideout, where Leo attempts to contact Splinter on the Astral Plane.  A swarm of bats breaks through the windows and attacks.  Knight Watchman tags one with a tracer and the heroes follow it to Splinter’s lair.  With his new, improved antigen, Knight Watchman cures the remaining humanoid bats, but Splinter flies away.

Continuity Notes:  
  • A gang strips the Turtles’ Aircar for parts while Leonardo pursues the first mutated bat he encounters in Midway City.  Knight Watchman stops the thugs off-panel.
  • Leonardo theorizes that Splinter is infecting others his mutagen because he’s been driven mad with rabies.
  • In a story told in Big Bang Comics #10, a younger Leonardo first met Knight Watchman in his previous identity, Galahad.

What the Shell?:  Leo tries to understand how Splinter mutated into a bat.  He’s puzzled because “Technically, he (Splinter) should've become more human, since that was the last thing he'd been in contact with!”  Again, isn’t this the cartoon’s continuity?  It’s my understanding that in the original comics, mutagen caused animals to grow larger -- not to take on the characteristics of other animals.  Going back to the origin story, what people were Splinter and the Turtles ever in contact with, living in the sewers?

I Love the '90s:  Leonardo’s response to the mutated bat that wants to “kiss” him -- “I mean, I know that I’m no Mel Gibson, but can you imagine how ugly a combination of a turtle and a bat would be?”

We Get Letters:  The 1997 TV series Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, featuring female Turtle Venus de Milo, has been announced.  Fans want to know why a female Turtle can’t also exist in the comics, but Erik Larsen maintains that Peter Laird is adamant that female Turtles will not appear in this series.

Review in a Half-Shell:  Leonardo stars in the first solo story in the Image series, an issue that rather conveniently serves as a commercial for Gary Carlson’s ongoing Big Bang Comics title.  Ultimately, this issue barely advances only one of the ongoing storylines, but it’s clear Carlson is having fun with this material and it’s hard not to join in.  The Knight Watchman is an obvious homage/parody of one of DC’s most famous characters, specifically the Frank Miller version.  It’s only fitting that he would cross paths with one of the Turtles, who were also created as an homage/parody of Frank Miller’s work.  Frank Fosco goes full-on Miller this issue, replicating perfectly the beefy anatomy and scraggly linework of Miller’s modern output.  It ain’t pretty, but there’s a certain charm to it.  (Years before Miller returned to Batman, Fosco very accurately predicted Batman’s look in DKR2.)  Fosco also excels at drawing the gigantic, mutated bat creatures that Splinter’s creating, so at the very least the villains of the piece look cool.  I would say this is one of Fosco’s best issues, but it seems as if every issue he’s taking the Turtles further away from the Larsen version seen in issue #1 and moving them closer to Jim Lawson territory.  I realize that Lawson has his fans, but I personally favor Larsen’s Turtles interpretation and don’t really care for the flatter, square-er versions.

The story, as mentioned earlier, is largely an excuse for a team-up and does almost nothing to advance the book’s continuity.  We learn that Splinter has rabies, which explains his recent behavior, and that’s pretty much it.  He escapes at the end and Leo is left to return home with a dismantled Aircar.  It’s entertaining while it lasts, and Carlson does a credible job of selling Knight Watchman as one of the better Batman pastiches (KW hates bats, by the way), but there’s not a lot going on.  I’m not personally bothered by this too much, since a break from the book’s regular unrelenting pace isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I’m willing to see if Carlson is going somewhere with Splinter’s storyline.  It’s one of the changes I couldn’t accept as a permanent alteration to the character, but it is a creative variation on the “Turtles adjust to life without Splinter” trope.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's almost abit of a Larry Stroman look to Fosco's work at this point. I remember him from the back-ups he did leading into into DC's Zero Hour even from 1994, and he's evolved quite a bit since then.