Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Darkest Hour

 Publication date: Summer, 1993

Originally published in: TMNT Adventures Special #5

Script: John Gentile
Pencils: Michael Gaydos
Inks: Dan Berger
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy)
D.J.: V. Gorelick

“The Darkest Hour”


Down in the forgotten depths of the sewer, the Turtles and April are getting antsy. Apparently, Splinter gave them questionable directions to a place of absolute silence where they can all practice their yoga meditation techniques. Suddenly, an anthropomorphic radio breaks the absolute silence by blasting “Wild Thing” by the Troggs. The Turtles chase the little pest down a hole in the side of the tunnel.

The hole leads the five of them into a cavern where lava flows in rivers below. They chase the radio even further down until they happen upon a very strange world; a forgotten (and seemingly abandoned) city of huge black towers. The unsettling beauty of the place is ruined, however, by mountains of human garbage from the surface world.

Not far away, in a laboratory, a sorceress named Mistia sees the Turtles and uses her magic to forge various electronics in the garbage into the Telebeast; a lumbering monster. The Turtles begin battling the Telebeast when April interjects, trying to calm the situation. Mistia explains that the Lower Regions have become infested with surface dweller trash that has fallen from a massive landfill up above. Enraged, she plans to eliminate the pollution at the source; by using her magic to turn ALL the garbage into man-eating monsters which she’ll unleash upon New York.

Knowing that she can’t reason with Mistia and that the Turtles wouldn’t stand a chance against an army of garbage monsters, April asks that Mistia give them a more sporting opportunity to defeat her. Mistia complies, locking April in a glass cage with only an hour of air. She then challenges the Turtles with this riddle, necessary to free their friend:

If you stress a ‘T’,
And your words compress,
And you think instead of cower,
You’ll find the key,
To April’s redress,
In the Darkest Hour.”

Mistia vanishes in a cloud of smoke, leaving the Turtles to ponder the solution.

Turtle Tips:

*This story continues in “The Darkest Hour II”.

*Chronologically, I would slot this story between TMNT Adventures #22 and TMNT Adventures #23. I choose this mainly due to the absence of Ninjara, meaning it can’t take place in a later narrative gap of the ongoing, as well as the fact that April is still being trained by Splinter (as she stated in TMNT Adventures #23).

*This story was part of a contest where readers were invited to submit their answers to the cliffhanging riddle. The winner would receive three pages of original TMNT Adventures artwork.


I really do dig Michael Gaydos’s artwork, though I think he has a better hand for drawing the Turtles and other mutants than he does people. April has always looked sort of… off, when he draws her. Not Bob Fingerman-ugly by any stretch, but not very attractive. His layouts are still great, though.

This 10-page story probably isn’t one of the more memorable ones to come out of TMNT Adventures Special, even with its contest gimmick at the end, but I like how it expands on the weirdness of the universe this comic dwells in. We’ve had quite a few “lost civilizations” unearthed throughout the course of this comic and its many spinoffs, so one more couldn’t hurt. And I’ll admit, the big sea of black towers made for a great set piece, even if nothing else in the story lived up to that level of eerie foreboding.

There’s also the fact that it quickly devolves into a diatribe about pollution and landfills, but at this point I think we’ve all developed a callous regarding the eco-preaching in TMNT Adventures, right? I know that I’m pretty tired of bitching about it, at least.

Being broken up into two 10-page shorts, the story moves almost hilariously fast in this thing. The Turtles find a lost civilization, they meet an evil Sorceress on the next page who is planning her world domination at that very moment, they talk, they fight and then we’re left to consider the cliffhanger for a season. Though the cage is just made out of glass, you know. The Turtles could probably just smash it.

Grade: C- (as in, “Could have almost mistaken the black towers for asparagus”.)


Adam said...

Ya know... is turning all the garbage into man-eating monsters and unleashing upon New York really a bad thing?

Maybe we're rooting for the wrong heroes in this story!


Chet said...

I think the plot of garbage monsters was lifted from either a Fred Wolf cartoon of TMNT or a Ghostbusters episode. I'm sure I never read it in an Archie's comic, as this story didn't appear in European editions (that I know of).

By the way, are you aware of the very obviously non-canon (and I think non-US) back-up stories published in Europe and possible some other parts of the world? They usually featured the basic bad guys (Shredder, Krang, Rocksteady, Bebop) in short action-packed adventures, although they were as 'clever' as any Fred Wolf cartoon. Only better drawn (I think in Latin America, if I remember correct).

Europe also had some Usagi Yojimbo back-up stories as a treat (circa 1994), even though Usagi was mostly known as a supporting character from the cartoon here, with a small cult following for the orginal Stan Sakai books. Too bad he never made an actual cameo in the Archie's universe. I wouldn't loved to see Chris Allan's or Ken Mitchroney's take on him.

guille said...

chet, mark posted about a guide demon-alukard made of the mexican and british comics here:

PS1: mark, a little constructive criticism (i hope), the only way to find some of your posts is to go through the "older posts" button again and again. which is a bit of a pain in the ass, but more important, people miss this great posts! unless i 'm really stupid and there's a way to go through the posts i am not aware of... which is possible haha
PS2: sorry for leaving so many comments tonight, i was bored :P

Mark Pellegrini said...


If you check out the menu on the right side, I've got all my reviews organized by publisher, with special features organized in their own index pages.

From there it should just be a matter of searching and browsing. Hopefully it's organized well-enough to be intuitive!

And thanks for reading!

guille said...

haha yes i know the menu on the right, i was talking about those little posts (like these one of demon alukard's guide) that went lost without labels. but looking through the blog i see this is the only case... so no biggie, i overexagerated, sorry! :P