Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #22



Originally published: April, 2006

Cover: Scott Cohn & Sean Parsons
Plot: Ross May & Peter Laird
Script: Ross May
Pencils: Scott Cohn
Inks: Sean Parsons & Mike Manley
Tones: Bonaia Rosada & Scott Cohn
Frontispiece: Eric Talbot
Letters: Eric Talbot

“Change of Power”

Summary:

Frontispiece: On a rooftop, Raph and Splinter (maybe? He’s a mutant rat but he looks off and Raph refers to him as a “good friend”) are doing battle with a horde of Foot Soldiers. Raph proclaims his love for moments such as this and recalls the time Hattori came back into their lives…

At the farm in Northampton, Casey is pissing and moaning that the Turtles won’t help him fix the roof because they “can’t be seen in broad daylight”. As he works, though, he spots a stranger approaching his house. Casey being Casey, he grabs his mask and stick and attacks the stranger. The stranger attempts to explain that he knows the people who live there and doesn’t want to fight. Casey won’t hear it, leaving the stranger no recourse but to lay him out with a single punch.


Sometime later, Raph wakes Casey up, explaining that the guy who knocked him out was their old friend, Hattori. Casey never met the guy, so Raph gives him his life story. Hattori is the descendant of a great samurai clan who could magically pass on their skill and knowledge in a process called the “Gosei Spirit”. Hattori’s grandfather could not pass it onto his son, because he had become a criminal. So when Raph and the Turtles were still kids, they helped the grandfather pass it on to his grandson, Hattori. It was a wacky process: the grandfather switched bodies with Splinter and channeled the Gosei Spirit into Hattori’s body through him.

They then enter the kitchen and Hattori apologizes for hurting Casey. Casey grumbles. Hattori then explains to him and April that last time he visited the Turtles at the farmhouse, the two of them were away, hence why they’ve never met. Hattori says that he has a spiritual bond with Splinter because he helped channel the Gosei Spirit, so he could find him anywhere on the planet. He then tells them that he’s ditched his father’s corrupt company, Goseico, and has been traveling the world, using the knowledge and skill from the Gosei Spirit to get by. He’s also been learning everything he can, from flying planes to new kinds of martial arts, so that he can add his wisdom to the Gosei Spirit.

Hattori then asks Splinter if he and the Turtles can help him once more. He’s finally ready to stop running and face the evil his father had created and the shame it had brought to his family. Splinter is happy to help and permits the Turtles to aid Hattori in his mission. Hattori tells that Turtles that he wants to infiltrate his late father’s headquarters, the Goseico building, and hack into their computers. Then, he will deplete the funds in their bank accounts and distribute it all to charity. Their second objective will be to destroy the weapons stockpiles in the basement, then escape through a secret exit into the sewers. Hattori has one last, personal objective: To kill his father’s right hand men, Takahashi and Iwata, who he believes ordered the assassination of himself and his father when he was young.


Hattori and the Turtles then infiltrate the Goseico building from the roof. Unfortunately, they scare a pair of employees making out, who run to get help. Hattori and Don head for the computers to complete objective #1, while the others guard them. As Don gets to work, a unit of Foot Soldiers burst in and attack. They take them out and finish up, though they can’t figure why the Foot would be at Goseico.

Elsewhere, a Foot Soldier enters a room where a female ninja is drinking tea. He informs her of the intruders and she orders every Foot Soldier and Goseico employee on site to ready for battle. She then leaves to don her armor.

As they head downstairs, Hattori spots a ninja guarding a room. They decide to make a detour and see what’s so important. Inside, they find Iwata. Iwata begs for his life, blaming the assassination orders on Takahashi. Hattori offers to spare his life if he explains what the Foot are doing at Goseico. He tells them that they first hired the Foot the night Hattori’s father died. They continued using their services afterward, but over time their organizations became intertwined. Soon, Oroku Saki was giving them orders. Takahashi attempted to regain control, but was murdered. Saki then sent his lady ninja to oversee control of the company and she has been keeping Iwata a prisoner in the building for years.


As they continue downstairs, the Foot Soldiers discover that Iwata has been freed and give chase. The Turtles and Hattori reach the weapons stockpile in the basement in set the explosives. The Foot suddenly arrive and attack while Don struggles to open the door for their escape. As the Turtles and Hattori defend themselves, a hooded lady ninja wearing a Shredder-like gauntlet bursts onto the scene. She has been aware of the Turtles’ existence for years and wishes to kill them herself.

Iwata and Hattori encourage the Goseico employees who were once loyal to Hattori’s father to fight against the Foot. A three-way brawl begins, with Iwata getting killed by shuriken in the process. The lady ninja pummels the Turtles with little effort as a fire breaks out by some fuel drums. As the Foot Soldiers and Goseico employees flee, the lady ninja swears vengeance. Vengeance for the death of her master, the Shredder, but also vengeance for the crimes committed against her family by Hamato Yoshi. The Turtles are confused, but have little time to dwell on it. They escape just as the weapons stockpiles blow.


Outside, Hattori wrangles up the Goseico employees who don’t know what to do now that Iwata’s dead. Hattori tells them that he will take back control of his family’s company and that from now on, Goseico will be an upstanding business that battles injustice. From the shadows, the Turtles watch Hattori’s speech and are happy for him. They wonder, though, if they will ever be rid of the Foot Clan. Even worse, they wonder what crime Hamato Yoshi could have committed against a family other than the Orokus.


Turtle Tips:

*Hattori first appeared in TMNT (Vol. 1) #9. He last encountered the Turtles in TMNT (Vol. 1) #47.

*According to Ross May, this story takes place just before the events of "City at War" get underway. The unpublished follow-up to this issue would have ended with the Shredder Loyalists within the New York branch of the Foot Clan taking their dedication up a notch.

*The follow-up to this story was originally intended to be published in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #34. However, a shift in the book’s editorial staff resulted in a new direction and the cancellation of this storyline. Pencils for the cover and the first nine pages were completed by artist Scott Cohn, but the work was never finished. To date, this story arc remains unresolved.

*Via his blog, writer Ross May revealed that the identity of the lady ninja (apparently meant to be known as "The Mistress") was to be Tang Amaya, the sister of Tang Shen who appeared in TMNT (Vol. 1) #1. She would have catastrophically misinterpreted the love triangle between Oroku Nagi, Tang Shen and Hamato Yoshi, blaming Hamato Yoshi (and by extension, all who were associated with him) for Shen’s death. Since the follow-up story revealing this was never published, the canonicity of this fact within the TMNT Universe is debatable. But since the story’s probably never going to be resolved, eh, let’s just roll with it.

*Despite what I just said, the plot thread would eventually see fruition in 2011, in TMNT (Vol. 3) #24, though as a pseudo-canonical conclusion to the Image series.


Review:

I both love this issue and hate it so, so much. In a way, it’s come to summarize perhaps my biggest grievance with this volume of Tales of the TMNT.

Not because the story’s bad; not by a longshot. It’s a very exciting, ninja-fueled Turtles adventure that reaches back to multiple TMNT storylines from the past. Hattori’s always been a criminally underused supporting character within the Mirage Universe, so seeing him dredged up to further his own story arc was a real treat. Casey’s behavior at the farm was a tad over-the-top, even by Casey standards, but that’s perhaps my only issue with the tale from a story-telling standpoint.

No, my problem is that this storyline was never resolved. In fact, it was never even referenced again. Over forty issues later and the guys at Mirage never found the opportunity to revisit this story and complete it, even when half the work was already done on a creative level (full script completed, nine pages of interior pencils and a cover done). It reeks of bad editorial decisions that detract greatly from the reader’s experience.

The lady ninja’s introduction in this issue was a pretty big deal, with her being touted as a major new nemesis with ties going all the way back to the Turtles’ origin. So much hype, only to have her plotline thrown out the window in favor of a “new direction”. And for the life of me, I can’t fathom what that “new direction” was supposed to be. This is an anthology book and the stories that came after issue #22 are pretty much the same on a creative level as the one’s that came before them. The fact that the plot for this story arc was co-developed by Peter Laird seemed to lend even more credence toward its importance to the overall world of the Ninja Turtles.

And this isn’t the only storyline to be dropped in Tales of the TMNT without proper resolution. The threat of the Foot Mystics who menaced Splinter and the Turtles in Tales of the TMNT #2 and #11 also never got a proper resolution. I hear tell that Tristan Jones' "Gang Wars" arc won't be properly completed, either. Tales of the TMNT will be ending with issue #70 next year and you’d think that after seventy issues and six years, they’d have found time to tie up all their loose ends.

The fact that the story we could’ve gotten looked so cool is perhaps the worst crime. The lady ninja being Tang Amaya, Tang Shen’s misguided and manipulated sister, had some excellent potential. And Ross May's description of how the events would have led into "City at War" would have filled in a much-needed gap in the Foot Clan's chronology, too. After "Return to New York", the Foot were constantly shown as sloppy, disorganized and pathetic, repeatedly being handed humiliated defeats often by a single Turtle ("Digital Webbing Presents", "Kung Fu Theater", "Challenges: Raphael", etc). Knowing what events would have encouraged the Shredder Loyalists to whip their ninja into shape would've made the Foot's arc run a lot smoother.

Scott Cohn’s artwork was nothing short of dynamic and fantastic, both in this issue and the pencils he’s released on his blog. Though I can’t say I really liked the way he drew the Turtles’ heads, his action was very fluid and exciting and I really would have liked to have seen more of his work on the series.

Overall, “Change of Power” is a very good story, but a frustrating one, too. Knowing that all its dangling plot threads will never be resolved is annoying, especially considering how major they are to the overall Mirage Universe (anything involving leadership of the Foot Clan is kind of important).

Grade: B+ (as in, “But none of this matters now, I suppose, since Viacom owns the TMNT and the future of the comic series is in limbo”.)


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