Credits: Gary Carlson (writer), Frank Fosco (penciler), Mark Heike (inks), Pat Brosseau (letters)
Pizza-Free Summary: The Turtles spend time with Vanguard in his orbital space station. Brain scans confirm that Donatello is brain dead and that his armor’s artificial intelligence is now animating his body. An autopsy performed on Deathwatch reveals that Johnny Raeburn escaped his cybernetic body before its death. The Turtles travel with Vanguard, Wally, and Vanguard's girlfriend Roxanne to Raeburn’s hometown of Sheldon, Arkansas to search for him. They find numerous husks of bodies left in his wake. Meanwhile, Raphael returns to New York. Casey Jones mistakes Raphael for one of Big Tony’s men and hits him in the head. After Raphael recovers, he realizes that the Foot Clan has been protecting Casey’s family during the Turtles’ absence. He travels to the Foot’s headquarters to offer his gratitude. The Foot ruling council reveals that its members are divided between supporting the Turtles and Big Tony. Suddenly, Big Tony’s men invade the room and gun down the Foot ruling council.
- Vanguard is concerned that his morphling (a shapeshifting artificial being) Lurch has been acting unusual lately. He has to order Lurch to stop impersonating a female Turtle during the opening scene.
- According to Donatello’s computer mind, the mutagen in Donatello’s blood has mutated a “computerized central processing unit” into an actual artificial intelligence. Leonardo suspects that the computer allowed Donatello’s mind to die in order to take over his body.
- Raphael asserts that Shredder was the Turtles’ true enemy, and not the Foot Clan.
What the Shell?: Roxanne reports that Johnny Raeburn’s murders occurred in Little Rock, Arkansas back in the ‘70s. So…why was his trial held in Chicago? That’s certainly the impression I was under after the previous issues. And if it wasn’t held in Chicago, then why were so many people associated with the trial now living there?
Review in a Half-Shell: That female Turtle scene is great; exactly the kind of slightly immature, in-jokey thing I’d expect to find in a TMNT book edited by Erik Larsen. And it’s not just an in-joke, since it ties in with an ongoing Savage Dragon and Vanguard plot thread, but more importantly, gives the Turtles an opportunity to act like real brothers once again. Of course Leo’s going to bust Mikey’s chops for falling in love with a female Turtle that turns out to be a slightly sentient piece of space Play-Doh. Any time the Turtles feel like real brothers is a plus, and to give Carlson credit, most of his issues have small moments like these.
The rest of the issue…well, it isn’t a train wreck this time. Vanguard appears to have a more legitimate role to the play in the story now, and during the sequences on the space station, the Turtles actually seem like a natural fit with Vanguard’s tiny corner of the Image Universe. The Foot Clan material isn’t so bad, either, although I suppose the only real explanation we’re going to get for their erratic behavior in their previous appearance is that different factions have different loyalties. The real disappointment this issue is learning that the Johnny Raeburn storyline, much like Johnny, simply will not die. I suppose I should be grateful that he’s no longer in the guise of an Extreme Studios reject, but I’m mystified as to why I should care about this. Serial killers and Ninja Turtles don’t seem to be a natural fit, and even if Carlson could find the appropriate tone, it’s hard to believe that one lone human (even one with “vampire” powers) is going to be a real threat to the Turtles, especially now that one of them is a living arsenal. I also question what percentage of the readership has any real investment in this plot. How many issues are going to be dedicated to a dangling Vanguard storyline?