Friday, May 13, 2011
TMNT (Vol. 3) #24
Published by: Independently by Andrew Modeen (unofficial publication)
Publication date: May, 2011
Writer: Andrew Modeen
Penciller/Inker: Arseniy Dubakov
Penciller (page 3)/Cover art: Frank Fosco
Tones: David Seltzer
Notes: Gary Carlson
Letters: Adam O. Pruett
Additional plot/Edits: Ross May
Back cover art: A. C. Farley
Front & Back Cover Colors: Courtland Brugger
Flying the Triceraton aircar through the skies above New York, Don’s cyborg body suddenly goes on the fritz. Apologizing to Zog, Don crashes the aircar in the streets.
At the current HQ of the New York branch of the Foot, Cheng addresses the Lady Shredder. He informs her that his spiritual tether to Splinter via the Astral Plane has proven most beneficial and that the two “surprises” she ordered for the Turtles have been prepared. An Elite Guard orders Cheng to leave so that the Lady Shredder can psychologically prepare herself for the coming battle with the Turtles.
The Lady Shredder, actually Tang Amaya, remembers back thirty years, to her youth in Japan’s Chihaya village. There, she met a young Oroku Saki, who was training in the art of ninjutsu to slay the killer of his brother: Hamato Yoshi. Saki told Amaya that after killing his brother, Yoshi kidnapped her sister, Tang Shen, and fled to America. This shared tragedy bonded the two and together they gained entrance into the Foot Clan. They spent many years training together, and at age 18, Saki was elected to lead the New York branch of the Foot Clan while Amaya was selected to join him as a member of his Elite Guard.
Nineteen years ago. After learning the location of Hamato Yoshi and Tang Shen, Saki (now going by the alias “the Shredder”) left to gain his vengeance, forbidding Amaya from accompanying him. Saki returned, having slain Yoshi, though he arrived too late to save Shen from a deadly beating at the hands of Yoshi. As a token, Saki gave Amaya the gauntlet he used to slay Yoshi.
For a time after that, Amaya took on the identity of “the Headhunter”, a mercenary taking contracts out on other underworld figures. This was all a ruse to help her weed out traitors within the Foot as well as enemies attempting to assassinate Saki. Impressed even more with her skill, Saki selected her to lead Goseico (a profitable business front for the Foot) following the death of Gosei Kenji.
Years later, Saki was killed by a freakish ninja clan trained by Hamato Yoshi. Swearing vengeance, Amaya donned the gauntlet Saki had given her and prepared herself to hunt down the “turtles”. However, her vengeance would be postponed once the Foot Mystic Mashima resurrected the Shredder as a blasphemous creature stitched together by worms. Amaya rejected the Worm-Shredder as merely an imposter of Saki even if he retained all of the original Saki’s memories. The Worm-Shredder then revealed that he knew that Amaya had secretly bore Saki’s child and had given the girl up years ago. Amaya refused to divulge any further information, not that it mattered, as shortly afterward, the Worm-Shredder was decapitated by Yoshi’s clan.
More years passed and Amaya (now going by "the Mistress") eventually had her first reckoning with the Turtles at the Goseico building. Though she lost Goseico in the battle, a sleeper agent within the company informed her that one of the Turtles was parading around in Saki’s armor. Enraged and ready to take her rightful place as leader of the New York Foot, Amaya used her contacts with the Oroku clan still among the Japanese branch of the Foot to solidify her leadership (though she feared such tactics might dishonor her in a manner similar to Karai). She then arranged for the duel between Raphael and Pimiko, two others claiming leadership of the New York Foot, as a means to draw her enemies out.
Back to the present. Now going by the name Lady Shredder, Amaya dons her armor and prepares for her final assault on Yoshi’s clan.
At the mausoleum HQ in Westwood Cemetery, the Turtles and Pimiko spar and prepare themselves for their impending battle with the Foot as Splinter and Dr. X look on. All are unaware that the Foot gather just outside; Cheng’s spiritual bond to Splinter having led the ninja to the cemetery.
Down in the sewers, a badly malfunctioning Don has reached his secret lab and reactivates the imprisoned cyborg remains of Dr. Baxter Stockman. Don implores Stockman to help him, though Stockman has a price: he wants Don’s living nanite-infused metal. Don refuses, knowing Stockman will use it to resurrect himself, but the Turtle is running out of time.
On the Utrom Homeworld, Security Officer Yat escorts Leatherhead to the presence of Ambassadors Klag and Korobon. The Triceraton that had been teleported alongside Leatherhead has been dealt with and Leatherhead rescued. The Ambassadors thank Leatherhead for his previous service to the Utroms, defeating the Illuminated Utrom Alliance. Leatherhead, still suffering his mental conditions, remembers nothing of that adventure. The Utroms disregard his mental troubles and offer him a new challenge: to bring his friend, Dr. X, back to the Utrom Homeworld.
Back at the mausoleum, Mike tries over and over again to call Sara “Horridus” Hill, but there’s no answer. Suddenly, Splinter senses the presence of enemies. Outside, Lady Shredder orders the strike to begin and several rocket launcher-toting Foot Soldiers proceed to obliterate the mausoleum.
Down in the lab, Donatello finally concedes defeat and willfully gives up his living metal to Stockman. As Stockman begins to reform himself, he lets the helpless Don know that they’re about to have “a little bit of fun”.
*This story is continued from TMNT (Vol. 3) #23. The story concludes in TMNT (Vol. 3) #25.
*Andrew Modeen has made digital versions of the issue available for download Here.
*Donatello rid his cyborg body of the symbiotic computer in TMNT (Vol. 3) #14.
*Don crashes Zog’s aircar on the corner of “Eastman & Laird”. Hey, those names sound familiar.
*The deaths of Oroku Nagi, Tang Shen and Hamato Yoshi occurred in TMNT (Vol. 1) #1, though not the way Oroku Saki told it to Tang Amaya.
*Tang Amaya’s time spent as Headhunter can be seen in Big Bang Comics #10.
*Gosei Kenji, head of Goseico, died in TMNT (Vol. 1) #9.
*Oroku Saki, the Shredder, was killed by the Turtles in TMNT (Vol. 1) #1.
*The worm-Shredder would return in Leonardo (microseries) #1 only to be beheaded in TMNT (Vol. 1) #21. Mashima the Foot Mystic first appeared in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #3.
*Among those attending the creation of the Worm-Shredder are the Foot Mystics who appeared in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #2 and Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #11.
*Tang Amaya, in the guise of The Mistress, encountered the Turtles at Goseico in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #22.
*Tang Amaya mentions the remaining members of the Oroku family within the Japanese branch of the Foot. One, the Elder Oroku, would appear in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #65.
*Donatello left Baxter Stockman locked up in a secret room in the sewer in Donatello: The Brain Thief #4.
*Security Officer Yat of the Utroms last appeared in “Terror by Transmat”.
*Leatherhead was teleported to outer space in TMNT (Vol. 3) #21. Well before that, Leatherhead and the Turtles fought the Illuminated Utrom Alliance in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #8 and Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #23.
*This issue also contained three bonus stories: “Practical Jokes” by Will Tupper and Donna G. Omo, “Conflict Resolution” by Will Tupper and Dennis Kennedy and “TMNT vs. Spawn" by Frank Fosco and Courtland Brugger.
*This issue also contained three bonus pin-ups: “Cyborg Donatello” by Jim Lawson, a pin-up by Erik Larsen & and the Sharp Brothers and a back cover pin-up by A. C. Farley.
*The “Shell Shocked” letter column in this issue features a retrospective by Gary Carlson, author of TMNT (Vol. 3) and contributor to this issue’s story.
*This issue received an initial print run of only 100 copies. A second print run was released in 2012, consisting of only 35 additional copies.
If you haven’t heard of Andrew Modeen then that’s probably because you never read any of the “Shell Shocked” letters columns in Image’s TMNT (Vol. 3) series. That guy had his name published in almost as many issues of TMNT (Vol. 3) as Gary Carlson or Frank Fosco. Fitting, then, that twelve years after the untimely cancellation of Image’s TMNT book, it would be Andrew Modeen who would get the necessary bodies together to produce a two-issue conclusion to the frustratingly cliff-hanging title.
The project began in November of 2009, when Modeen posted this thread at The Technodrome Forums, gauging interest in the project and enlisting support from the fans. About a year and half of nail-biting anxiety later, the fans have finally gotten the first 31-page installment in the long-awaited Volume 3 conclusion.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “But isn’t this just a glorified fanfic?”
No. It’s much more legitimate than that.
Every effort was made over the course of a year and a half to get the story published officially by Image Comics. Support came from Volume 3’s editor, Erik Larsen, writer, Gary Carlson and artist, Frank Fosco, who all made a year-long bid to get the project sanctioned by Viacom (the current corporate owners of the TMNT franchise). The entire ordeal can be witnessed in the thread linked above.
Alas, Viacom would not play ball.
But, the show must go on, and though professional obligations kept Carlson and Fosco from writing and drawing the conclusion, they entrusted their notes and instructions to Andrew Modeen, who has already proven his writing prowess on titles such as “Highlander”. With additional plot points from Tales of the TMNT author Ross May (whose story “Change of Power” was heavily utilized in this issue), Modeen managed to craft the first half (so far) of a conclusion to the 23-issue series, which had left behind its fair share of unresolved cliffhangers.
No, the comic is not officially licensed by the Viacom Corporation, but this point of debate brings to mind a subject I briefly touched upon in my review for Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck #1. Whose say should matter more: The creator’s or the lawyer’s?
TMNT (Vol. 3) #24 was made with the participation of the author, artist and editor of the original TMNT (Vol. 3), who did their level best to help complete a story left unfinished for over a decade due to low sales. Legally, this is an independent, unofficial publication (not for sale; done strictly as a non-profit gift) and thus does not contain Viacom’s corporate seal of approval. The creators say it counts. The lawyers say it doesn’t.
Which matters more to you?
I’ll let you decide that for yourselves.
Plotting the story with notes and plot contributions provided by Gary Carlson and Ross May, Andrew Modeen uses the Turtles’ catalogue of back issues as a tool to fuse it all together and make this hasty conclusion work. As you can see from the “Turtle Tips” section, quite a few callbacks to older stories (and stories written later but taking place chronologically beforehand) fill out the editor’s notes of this issue and to newcomers that may seem daunting or an example of “continuity porn”. But don’t be fooled by the abundance of “see issue #” captions; Modeen does not employ references strictly for reference’s sake but as a means to take several incomplete storylines and artfully sew them together to form a narrative which appears as though it had been building-up for some time, even though the pieces fitting so perfectly together is entirely a matter of coincidence.
The bulk of this issue focuses on Tang Amaya, previously the Mistress, previously the Headhunter and now going by the title of the Lady Shredder (girl’s got an identity crisis). While readers might see this as a sudden “info-dump”, the implementation of Amaya’s loaded back-story actually struck me as reminiscent of the “Rogue Profile” issues of Geoff Johns’ celebrated run on DC’s The Flash. The character of Tang Amaya has been around causing trouble for the Turtles for years (though we never realized all those crazy Asian women were the same person) and this issue gives us the opportunity to know more about the character, her origins and motivations. Incidentally, the Headhunter, the Mistress and the Lady Shredder were all actually conceived as three completely unique individuals, though their fusion into one actually works out marvelously.
Tang Amaya’s story also grants the readers that ever-coveted glimpse into the world of the Foot Clan from the perspective of a member. In that respect, it compliments Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #46 (which gave us a Foot Soldier’s POV) and Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #65 (which gave us a Foot Mystic’s POV) rather nicely, offering us the POV of a high-ranking Elite Guard. I enjoy the stories that give us an inside look at the faceless organization, giving the villainous foes some much needed depth, as we get to witness their reactions to major events such as Oroku Saki’s death and worm-resurrection; events previously only viewed from the side of the Turtles.
The TMNT’s subplots take something of a back-seat, despite each being of dire importance in their own way. There is a rushed feel to the story, as both long, drawn-out plot threads from the beginning of the volume and plot threads initiated only a few issues ago are suddenly racing to be concluded. It’s a necessary evil, given the circumstances, and a miracle that all of them can even be addressed at all. To Modeen’s credit, he once again uses past story elements to facilitate these conclusions and never feels like he’s pulling a resolution completely “out of his ass”.
The catalyst for Don’s malfunctioning isn’t really dwelt upon; he’s just going haywire and that’s all there is to it. Presumably, we’ll learn more about this in the final issue (which may be a year or so away). The appearance of Baxter Stockman was a great touch, finding gold in that manure pile that was “The Brain Thief” miniseries.
Leatherhead’s storyline probably comes off as the most truncated, as his horrible predicament of being teleported to outer space alongside a Triceraton Commando is resolved “off panel”. Again, a necessary evil. And just to identify my one major contribution to this project: I recommended Andrew include Security Officer Yat from “Terror by Transmat”. Go me.
Leo, Mike, Raph and Pimiko get something of the short end of the stick, though I have no doubts that they will shine brightly in the final installment. Pimiko’s questionable parentage gets a brief shred of legitimacy during Amaya’s origin story, subtly verifying her somewhat outrageous claims from earlier in the series. Modeen even foreshadows stormy seas for Mike’s and Sara’s romance, which if Sara’s years of bachelorette status in the Savage Dragon comics is any indication, met with a sudden end.
And now we get down to the art.
Russian cosmonaut Arseniy Dubakov both drew and inked the issue. He wisely elected not to ape Fosco’s distinctive style, opting instead for a style all his own. I’ll concede that his art may be a little rough around the edges to some and not something typically befitting a major corporate comic’s publisher, but it remains suitably “indie” and since when has “indie” art not suited the Turtles? I think his most impressive sequences involve Don’s malfunctioning, as the combination of crackling electricity and jagged, out of control liquid metal creates a painful and dynamic visual that definitely sells the crisis Don is going through.
From an emotional standpoint, I think Dubakov’s highlight comes in the entire sequence where Amaya repulsively remembers the birth of the Worm-Shredder. Saki’s gauntlet of emotions are executed masterfully, as he goes from enraged to horrified in an instant, with the narrative text by Modeen bringing the whole thing together. We rarely got to see Oroku Saki (either human, worm or shark) as anything more than a two-dimensional villain in the Mirage comics, so any glint of emotional dimensionality to the character is a treat.
Dubakov’s inking sets a dark tone for the issue, though I feel he might have benefitted from some lighter strokes, as all the lines are very thick. This leaves the characters looking a little flatter than they should, and despite a noticeable attention paid to line weight, somewhat drains the panels of their depth.
I had the privilege of viewing this issue before the decision was made to add David Seltzer’s tones, and while the original just-ink version had its own charm, Seltzer’s tones really add another layer to the atmosphere that is undeniably cool. I rather like how he approached Amaya’s origin sequence; it begins very light and white, as she and Saki are more youthful and innocent, but the pages grow darker as the story follows suit.
Fosco’s page, the aircar crash, was a nice treat, but at first glance I probably wouldn’t have recognized it as Fosco’s work. The inking and toning blends it in seamlessly with Dubakov’s pages, but at the expense of dimming the overall “Fosco-ness”. His cover is still thirty-one flavors of awesome, with Courtland Brugger’s colors really making it pop.
Adam O. Pruett’s letters are competent and un-intrusive and I never felt a skip in the narrative flow. He does a great job of recreating the classic Volume 3 sound effect text on page 3.
The pin-ups by Larsen, Lawson and Farley are all very cool bonuses (as are the back-up stories, which I’ll review individually) and this whole package almost felt as much like an issue of Turtle Soup as TMNT (Vol. 3).
Overall, this is only the first half of the story, but the fact that we got this at all is a treat beyond words. I’m thankful to everyone involved in making it happen and thankful to all the creators at Image and Mirage for showing the enthusiasm and generosity to throw the Turtle fandom a bone (or more like a whole ribcage). I’ll be waiting with baited breath for the final installment, which as I’ve already seen, sports a bitchin’ cover inked by none other than Kevin Eastman.
Grade: B (as in, “But hey, if you want to side with the lawyers over the creative staff, then that’s your prerogative. Meanwhile, Steve Gerber shakes his fist at you from all the way up in Heaven”.)