Credits: Gary Carlson (writer), Frank Fosco (penciler), Mark Heike (inks), Pat Brosseau (letters)
Pizza-Free Summary: Raphael disarms a few of the mobsters, but decides that their stolen machine guns aren’t enough firepower to stop Big Tony’s men. He accidentally falls into a secret room that once served as Shredder's inner sanctum. He adopts Shredder’s armor and weapons and rejoins the fight. Meanwhile, the Turtles and Vanguard investigate Deathwatch’s killing spree in Sheldon, Arkansas. At the home of Johnny Raeburn’s mother, Donatello finds Deathwatch. Deathwatch nearly kills Donatello, until Vanguard distracts Deathwatch with his morphling Lurch. After Vanguard blasts Deathwatch with his neural disrupter, the villain disappears.
What the Shell?: Johnny Raeburn is somehow back in his Deathwatch form, even though a previous issue said he abandoned it after Donatello blasted it into pieces in Chicago. Also, Deathwatch apparently has the ability to change shape, create duplicates, and teleport -- information that hasn’t been revealed until now.
Review in a Half-Shell: A few issues ago, Erik Larsen teased that Gary Carlson had devised a clever means to reintroduce Shredder into the title. What we get is Raphael in Shredder’s armor, which I suppose is one way to appease the Mirage fans who were adamant about Shredder staying dead. There’s a basic question of how exactly Raphael, who’s probably a foot shorter and much wider than Shredder can fit into the armor, but I suppose we shouldn’t dwell on that. I don’t have a real problem with the move, although I think it’s dubious that Shredder’s armor and weapons are really going to help Raphael any more than the machine guns he picked up earlier in the issue. I’m also unsure about how TMNT fans feel about Raphael picking up two old school tommy guns and mowing down a sea of enemies…I can’t argue that it’s something the original interpretation of Raph wouldn’t do, I just feel weird watching it. I will say, to be fair, that the level of blood and guts in the book has been toned down considerably over the months. The distracting shock value of the early issues is gone, and the story presents Raph’s fairly violent fight scene about as tastefully as can be imagined.
The rest of the issue is dedicated to this endless Deathwatch arc. Counting his use as a mystery villain in the Savage Dragon issue, this is the fourth issue in a row the audience is expected to care about the dud of a villain. It’s a shame that Carlson seems so stuck on this loser when the majority of his other creations fit into the Turtles’ world quite well. Not only is Deathwatch a collection of tired ‘90s clichés with no discernible motive or personality, but now he’s apparently able to develop new powers whenever the plot requires him to. I can only guess that Deathwatch can change his shape (into an old lady) and create duplicates of himself -- the storytelling isn’t clear, but there’s no other way to explain what’s happening. And at the end of the issue, Vanguard speculates that he can teleport as well…because heaven forbid this guy actually die and the storyline receive some sort of closure. Don’t you feel better knowing that the door’s wide open for this dork’s return?