Wednesday, April 22, 2015

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #19 - January 1999

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

Pizza-Free Summary:  Government agent Mr. Black calls in the S.O.S. to verify that Donatello is not an alien.  With Dragon presumed dead, only Horridus is left to recognize Donatello.  He’s soon released from custody.  In New York, Casey Jones appears on the news to accept his reward for bringing in the “killer” monitor lizards.  April gets a phone call from Casey’s boss, who fires Casey for skipping work to chase the “sewer monster.”  Meanwhile, Raphael and Splinter debate Raphael’s role as the new Shredder.  Elsewhere, Michelangelo and Leonardo spend time with Leatherhead and his friend, the Utrom Dr. X.  They agree to repair Leatherhead’s transmat device.  Dr. X deviously uses Leonardo as a test subject and teleports him away.  When Leonardo returns, he’s followed by several Triceraton Commandos.  Leonardo damages the transmat device and retreats with Michelangelo and the others.  The Triceratons pick up a homing signal from Zog’s old aircar.  A Tricerarton sneaks up on Donatello as he travels in the aircar with Horridus.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Dragon is believed dead following the events of Savage Dragon #50.  The S.O.S. is the government-sponsored superhero team he leads.
  • Donatello claims that Dragon tried to recruit him for the S.O.S months earlier but he declined.
  • One of the Triceratons is killed during their battle with the Turtles.
  • Horridus is unusually flirty with Don, even though Michelangelo is supposed to be her man.

What the Shell?:  Casey Jones is identified on the news as “Arnold Jones” for some reason.

Total N00B:  Raphael claims Splinter is a better grandparent (to Shadow) than he was a parent.  Does Raphael have daddy issues with Splinter in the original Mirage continuity?

We Get Letters:  Gary Carlson, on the possibility of incorporating the Archie continuity:  “Seriously, we're ignoring the Archie series for a number of reasons, including copyrights.  The continuity simply doesn't apply here.  I've only read a few of the Archie issues, and deliberately don't so as not to be influenced by them.”

Review in a Half-Shell:  The lowercase “men in black” storyline closes, without much of a climax.  I like the way Carlson incorporates the existing Larsenverse logically into the story, with Donatello using his brain and calling his civil servant pal for help, but ultimately I’m not sure what the point of the exercise has been.  Surely there was an easier way for Horridus to make a return appearance.  I suppose the story could have larger ramifications later on, now that it’s been firmly established that the government is aware of the Turtles.

As the issue barrels along, Carlson seems to make a point to touch upon every single ongoing plot thread.  Casey has claimed the reward but lost his job, Splinter and Raph bicker over his association with the Foot Clan, and Leo and Mikey are left to deal with Leatherhead.  At least one of my concerns as a reader is addressed, when Splinter points out that Raphael’s decision to replace Shredder is utterly ridiculous.  I’m not sure of the specifics of the Splinter/Raphael relationship in this continuity, so I don’t know if Carlson is overplaying the existing hostility, but it’s about time someone in this series points out that Raph’s actions are kind of insane.

Carlson deserves some credit for picking up on the Leatherhead/ Dr. X thread from the Mirage continuity and trying to go somewhere with it, and I have to admit that any time the Triceratons appear, I’m happy.  I have no real justification for this, but the Triceratons are one of my favorite elements of TMNT canon.  I loved their first appearance in the Mirage series (which I initially read in the color First graphic novel reprint), thought the Triceraton action figure was cool, and…don’t remember them doing much in the cartoon.  Regardless, the Triceratons just seem to sum up the weird world of TMNT.  Just think, within a few issues of fighting street gangs, the Turtles were in outer space confronting alien dinosaurs, and that’s okay.  Many of the later additions to the canon, especially the animorphs created for the toy line, just seemed silly to me…but I never viewed the Triceratons as cutesy playthings for dumb kids.

Finally, I should mention one line of dialogue in the issue that intrigues me.  Donatello casually tosses it out there that Dragon invited him to join the S.O.S. during its early days.  It’s a decent example of Gary Carlson playing shared universe continuity, but it also raises an important question -- why weren’t the Turtles in the S.O.S.?  Since Larsen was overseeing their Image title anyway, I doubt he would’ve ran into any legal issues.  Would it really hurt to have one or more of the Turtles join the team, if only for the sake of one Savage Dragon story arc?  It would’ve been a nice advertisement for their ongoing series, and an excuse for Larsen to draw the Turtles again.  I wouldn’t want to endure the CyberDonnie design in yet another book, but having a character like Leonardo join could’ve been a lot of fun.

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