Friday, September 11, 2015

BODYCOUNT #4 – July 1996


Credits:  Kevin Eastman (story & layouts), Simon Bisley (pencils & inks), Steve Lavigne (letters & colors), Altered Earth Arts (computer colors)

Pizza-Free Summary:  Raphael so enthusiastically joins the fight, Casey worries about his mental state.  As Casey is struck by a bullet, Martin convinces Midnight and Johnny Woo Woo to face each other one-on-one in Sanctuary.  After Martin reveals that Sanctuary was created as an arena where two competitors could resolve disputes, Midnight divulges Lord Dong’s motive for wanting her dead.  Dong knew of Midnight’s support of Sanctuary, and disapproved of her secret relationship with fellow employee Lee.  Dong also wanted Johnny dead, fearing him to be too powerful.  Johnny initially doubts that Dong wanted them all dead, but realizes that Midnight, his sister, is telling the truth.  He grabs her blade and commits suicide.  Nearby, Casey regains consciousness and reveals that the bullet struck a commemorative hockey puck he keeps near his heart.  Raphael lets go of his bloodlust and encourages Martin to end the violence.  He leads Raphael and the others out of his church, which he promptly firebombs.  Later in Hong Kong, Lord Dong receives one of Johnny’s metal hands, sent by his secret agent, Detective Choy.

Continuity Notes:  This miniseries seems to be ignoring Casey Jones’ relationship with April O’Neil, since he asks Midnight at the end of the story if she’s interested in him.  (In just a few months, we see Casey and April raising a kid together in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles volume 3.)  Also, in case you care, FBI agent Bode is accidentally killed by Choy’s assistant while they stand outside of Martin’s church.

Not Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  In addition to a couple of almost f-bombs, and of course more blood and guts, Midnight spontaneously changes outfits into a one-piece reminiscent of Vamperilla’s.  The outfit doesn’t seem to cover all of her areola, and not surprisingly, she’s still “poking” out.  (Im posting a blurred version partially as a joke, but also because it is possible that a kid  Googling TMNT might find these posts.)

I Love the ‘90s:  Martin pulls out the Forest Gump “Life is like a box of chocolates” line during the final pages.

Review in a Half-Shell:  Well, that unpleasantness is behind us now.  I remember Larsen ran a letter from a mother outraged by this comic, essentially to mock her and tell her that he isn’t responsible for raising her kids.  That attitude still perplexes me -- was it so outrageous that a mother assume a comic with a Ninja Turtle on the cover be suitable for her kid?  I’m sure the letter did make the woman come across as a little screwy, but taking this dismissive stance after TMNT has generated millions of dollars for its creators as a kid-friendly property is ridiculous.  If you take the money, you accept certain responsibilities as well.  Assuming this book was sold on the newsstand (I’m almost positive I saw the third issue at a Walmart), it would be safe to expect children were going to see it.  A parent who truly looked at the covers could’ve guessed this isn’t for kids, but I can understand why many parents would just assume anything Ninja Turtles was okay for little Timmy.  Of course, TMNT was dying out as a kids’ property in 1996, so no real controversy was generated, but to be so flippant towards the complaints seems needlessly arrogant.

After three consecutive issues of non-plot, the finale takes the route of the info-dump and clumsily explains the rationale behind all of the violence we’ve seen so far.  So, “Sanctuary” turned out to be Mortal Kombat all along, with a deranged lunatic running a fight ring inside an old church that’s supposedly going to lessen internal mob violence.  (The previous issues hinted that a mystical or supernatural revelation was coming, but whatever.)  Midnight was a target because of an unrevealed relationship with a character that hasn’t been mentioned so far, and oh yeah, she’s also Johnny Woo Woo’s sister.  Johnny Woo Woo is also a target of Lord Dong due to, as the internet likes to say “reasons,” and that’s supposed to explain everything that’s been going on for the past three issues.  All of this information is revealed in giant blocks of text that are awkwardly shoved into, surprise, another fight scene.  Speaking of those giant blocks of text, I don’t want to pick on the creative team for every misspelled word in this series, but I can’t let “theres” being written as “theyres” go without comment.  Unless you speak English as a second language, “theyres” no excuse for that one.

As for the nominal stars of the miniseries, Raphael has a brief psychotic break, followed by a quickie realization that maybe violence isn’t always great after Casey Jones is apparently killed.  Casey is just fine, of course, and free to hit on the demure Midnight by the story’s end.  She tells him that she’s no good for him, the heroes go home, and there’s a tossed off comedy bit involving Detective Choy and his assistant (whose name I haven’t caught, if in fact it’s ever been given) selling roadside hot dogs as a part of their plan to move to Mexico.  This was all mindless violence, yet the final issue tries to feed us a story rationalization and an insincere moral lesson at the end anyway.  With the exception of the brother/sister revelation, none of the information saved for the final issue needed to be withheld for so long, and I can’t imagine anyone bought Raphael’s conversion from vicious lunatic to pacifist.  If you’re going to be publishing four issues of relentless violence, it’s better to present it in an imaginative way, or at least make it funny.  Outside of shock value, and a few pieces of nice art, there’s nothing memorable here.  

1 comment:

Mattkind said...

this story is set long before Vol 3 and long before Casey and April got together