Monday, April 20, 2015

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #17 - September 1998


Credits: Gary Carlson (writer), Frank Fosco (penciler), Mark Heike (inks), Pat Brosseau (letters)

Pizza-Free Summary:  The Turtles investigate a security breach at their mausoleum base, but discover only rabbits.  Unbeknownst to them, someone has spotted the Turtles and called men in black suits.  Leonardo offers to go with Raphael and help train the Foot Clan, but Raphael refuses, declaring that the Foot can only have one leader.  Later, Donatello flies to Pittsburg to get supplies while Leonardo visits Michelangelo at his apartment.  On his way there, Leonardo is grazed by hunters who have heard stories of a giant alligator in the sewers.  Leonardo soon reconnects with April, Casey, Michelangelo, and Splinter, who is recuperating at the apartment.  Irritated that the others have reasons for not investigating the alligator, Leonardo goes off on his own.  He passes the bodies of several dead hunters while searching for Leatherhead.  Inside the Turtles’ old lair, he discovers Leatherhead is being held captive by a giant Komodo dragon.

Continuity Note:  The shadowy figure spying on the Turtles back in issue #12 is revealed as a portly, nerdy man named Porter.  The “men in black” he’s brought to the mausoleum are presumably Men in Black, but without the Marvel copyright, of course.

Total N00B:  I wasn’t aware of Leatherhead’s origin from the original continuity.  A baby alligator transformed by mutagen and raised by the Utroms -- all this time, I thought he was a Cajun magically transformed by a swamp witch!

I Love the '90s:  Leonardo jokes that one of the hunters that shot him was Charlton Heston.

Review in a Half-Shell:  It turns out Bat-Splinter was “illusion of change” after all, which is a welcome relief.  It’s not as if any grand point was made by mutating the character, although the change did add some drama to the series and lead to a nice sequence in the previous issue.  The story seems to have run its natural course, and Frank Fosco usually does a fantastic interpretation of “classic” Splinter, so I’m glad to see him back.  Gary Carlson has fun teasing the reader with Splinter’s fate for the majority of the issue; opening with the Turtles overlooking a graveyard, and later having them discuss what to do with Splinter’s things…it makes the revelation that Splinter’s living with Michelangelo now that much more of a relief.  Playing little games with the reader, and playing them fairly, is something I can appreciate.  Erik Larsen used to do bits like this regularly in Savage Dragon, and if this is one way Larsen can influence the book, that’s great.

While Carlson takes care to touch base with every member of the cast, the issue is truly a Leonardo character piece.  Leo might initially seem to be the least interesting member of the team, as the stoic leader he rarely receives the spotlight, but Carlson has a decent take on his character.  Leo is used to giving orders, and doesn’t really know how to respond when his brothers don’t seem to be listening anymore.  Raphael is (bizarrely) leading the Foot Clan now and doesn’t want his help, Donatello isn’t his old self, and Michelangelo is busy writing his book.  To make things worse, Casey Jones has to work the night shift at the supermarket.  No one’s available to go mutant alligator hunting!  Leonardo’s not necessarily arrogant, he’s just used to getting his way and has a hard time adjusting to change.  Carlson could’ve easily played Leo as petulant or unlikable, but he does a credible job of keeping Leo in-character and not entirely unreasonable throughout the story.  

Unfortunately, there’s another random dialogue exchange in the issue that drives me nuts.  What’s Ralph's exit line before going back to the Foot Clan?  “Enough reminiscing about the old days!  I've got to organize some crime!”  So…Raph is going to allow the Foot Clan to remain a criminal organization?  They’re still arranging assassinations?  And he’s telling this to Leonardo?!  I realize that the original B&W Turtles aren’t as a clean-cut as the other interpretations, but surely they’re not rapists, murderers, and thieves, right?  The mind boggles.  Looking over the scene again, it’s possible that this line of dialogue is a joke, but there’s no real context to identify this.  (Actually seeing the Turtles choose to fight crime during this run instead of getting drawn into fights also would’ve provided some needed context.)  Plus, the question of what exactly Raphael plans to do with the Foot hasn’t been addressed yet, which is a rather glaring omission in retrospect.  Yeah, this could’ve been a joke, but one line of dialogue shouldn’t take the reader out of the story so severely.

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