Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #18 - October 1998

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

Pizza-Free Summary:  Leonardo learns that Leatherhead’s captor is Lord Komodo’s “half-brother,” King Komodo.  He kills Komodo’s monitor lizards, but is too weak to prevent King Komodo from biting off his hand.  Komodo uses his ability to control reptile minds to convince Leatherhead to attack the injured Leonardo.  Meanwhile, Casey Jones feels guilty for not following Leonardo and convinces Michelangelo to join him in the sewers.  They eventually discover Leonardo and knock King Komodo into the water.  The current drags him away, which allows Leatherhead to return to normal.  Casey Jones picks up the bodies of the dead monitor lizards and declares that he’s going to collect the reward for the "sewer monster."  Elsewhere, the original Shredder’s elite guards spy on Raphael, and Donatello is confronted by men in black after he returns to the mausoleum.

Continuity Notes:  King Komodo is a monitor lizard that was mutated by the Dragonlord back in issue #5.  It survived the destruction of Dragonlord’s base and was discovered by Pimiko.  She “tutored” King Komodo and sent him to New York to draw out the Turtles.  King Komodo captured Leatherhead after he discovered Komodo’s plan and attempted to contact the Turtles.

I Love the '90s:  Michelangelo and Raphael have beepers that contact them whenever the alarms at the mausoleum are tripped.  Also, the letter column is filled with fans giving out the addresses of their Geocities pages and ICQ numbers.  And one fan remarks that this series is just “TOOOO SWEEET!!!!!”

Production Note:  Even though the cover date says October, the letter column gives a “Happy Holidays greeting” to the fans.  Using my keen detective skills, I’m assuming the cover dates are now two months behind the actual ship dates.

Review in a Half-Shell:  Okay, did we really need a second gigantic Komodo dragon character?  Or, more importantly, another physical alteration to one of the Turtles?  This is actually a solid action issue, continually raising the stakes and putting Leonardo through increasingly thorny challenges, but why are the lead characters constantly getting mutilated/dismembered/scarred for life?  The shock value wore off after the first issue, and it seems unlikely that removing Leo’s right hand is going to lead to stories that couldn’t be told with the already maimed Raph and Donnie.  It’s a basic conceit of the Image run that the Turtles have to constantly change, granted, but why does this always have to be a physical alteration?  I don’t think the creators understand that the original interpretation of the Turtles is just as iconic in its own way as the classic interpretation of the Fantastic Four.  You might play around with the visual for a few issues, but ultimately, the toys need to be returned in their original condition.  

I suspect that the environment of the times, with the Turtles already being dismissed by many as a fad, lead to the belief that the Turtles were due for a reinvention, with nothing sacred and everything on the table.  This does add some drama to the stories, true, but as the years have shown, there is something special about the original interpretation of the characters.  When three-fourths of the Turtles are now missing body parts, scarred, and/or a cyborg, the book’s moving further and further into What If…? territory.  And as entertaining as What If…? could occasionally be, everyone knew those stories weren’t properly “real” -- when too many of the traditional rules are broken, the stories take on a surreal quality that prevents the readers from making a full investment.  The continued carnage is also a curious choice, given Carlson’s instincts as a writer.  Carlson doesn’t write dark, brooding heroes, so the gruesome changes made to the Turtles during his stories seem that much more capricious.  

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