Thursday, April 23, 2015

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (vol. 3) #20 - March 1999

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

Pizza-Free Summary:  Donatello manipulates the aircar into ejecting the Triceraton.  It lands inside the Museum of Natural History and is killed.  Horridus is upset, because the Triceraton told her they were both Saurans of “the Master Race.”  Later, more Triceratons teleport inside the museum.  Horridus mistakenly believes that they’ll welcome her as a sister, and is nearly killed by the Triceratons when she emerges.  Meanwhile, Splinter catches Pimiko sneaking into Casey’s home.  Casey returns to find Splinter tying Pimiko up.  Splinter tries to have a civil discussion with her, but Casey’s abrasive behavior causes Pimiko to flee.  Leonardo returns, looking for reinforcements to fight the Triceratons before more can teleport to Earth.  While Casey joins Michelangelo and Leatherhead in the sewers, Leonardo recruits the help of Raphael and the Foot Clan.

Continuity Notes:  
  • According to Savage Dragon continuity, Horridus is believed to be the child of a human mother who was abducted by aliens.  Horridus thinks the Triceratons can give her information on her past.
  • Raphael’s inner monologue makes clear that he wants the Foot Clan to go straight, but doesn’t have the funds to provide for the group.  Therefore, the Foot is taking jobs from their former clients.

Not Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  Casey thinks that Splinter tying up the leather-clad Pimiko is “pretty kinky.”

We Get Letters:  A fan quotes former TMNT writer/artist Michael Dooney’s thoughts on the Image series, “The characters are a cross between the movie and the cartoon Turtles.  But story development now seems to mean that a character gets dismembered every issue.”  (To be fair, the fan doesn’t cite his source, so it’s possible Dooney was misquoted.)

Review in a Half-Shell:  This may be a “middle” chapter, but it’s hardly boring.  Carlson has managed to take the existing Mirage continuity, the established Savage Dragon cast, and his own ideas and merge them into one of the series’ best issues.  Horridus and Leatherhead both make terrible sidekicks for the Turtles (since one is dumb as rocks and the other is insane), which is why it’s so much fun to see how the heroes endure them throughout the story.  Donatello is continually amazed at just how dense Horridus can be, while Michelangelo is nearly killed by his “ally” Leatherhead for saying the wrong thing near him.  Plus, Casey Jones is in on the action, and he’s always reliably nuts.  It’s entertaining just to watch the characters bounce off each other, while Carlson keeps upping the ante in the Triceraton storyline and throwing more threats at the heroes.  Setting half of the story at a museum is also a clever move, providing one of the best bits in the issue -- the Triceratons just assume that humans killed their ancestors, and that the museum is some kind of monument to their hunt.  

All that said, the series still has an issue with Raphael.  I was relieved this issue to have Raphael acknowledge that he’s trying to guide the Foot in a new direction and do the right thing…only to discover on the same page that the Foot is still involved with criminal activity in order to pay their bills.  "Robberies, murders, spying!  They're lining up to hire us!  Dear God, what have I done?"  Yes, Raphael, what have you done?  How does Raph go from the loudmouthed, loose cannon of the group to criminal mastermind?  Carlson’s premise is absurd -- if Raphael had a true objection to using the Foot for evil (and I think any interpretation of the character says that he would), then why is he compromising his ethics for the sake of a paycheck?  These elite ninja warriors can’t get day jobs?  The drama is so artificial, and the characterization so utterly off, it’s impossible for me to take this subplot seriously.

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