*This story is continued from TMNT Annual 2012. The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #15.
*The editorial note says that this issue takes place between TMNT (IDW) #12 and TMNT (IDW) #13. According to editor Bobby Curnow, that was a mistake and the issue takes place between TMNT (IDW) #14 and TMNT (IDW) #15.
*Stockman built the first Turtle Tracker in TMNT Micro-Series #3: Donatello.
*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Cover A by David Peterson, Cover B by Zarcone and Cover RI sketch variant by Peterson.
Slash! Hell yeah!
Well, the fact that I opened my review swooning over the long overdue return of one of the franchise’s fan-favorite villains might pose a potential problem. This was “Microseries: April”, not “Microseries: Slash”, after all.
Still, as an April O’Neil spotlight, this installment in the TMNT Microseries gets the basics of her character down pat. April’s a very tough character to keep interesting and most of the franchise spin-offs beyond the Mirage comics have had to make alterations to keep her from fading away (as she ultimately did in Mirage). The Fred Wolf cartoon had to make her a news reporter to keep her involved in the action, the Archie comic followed suit and then made her a ninja as well so she could actually participate in said action. The 4Kids cartoon first made her a techy so she could work behind the scenes, then made her a ninja so she could hold her own in battle. Heck, even Mirage, during TMNT Vol. 4, had to jump through hoops to make April interesting… though that book went the rather controversial route of making her a magic doodle brought to life. Points for imagination, I guess.
IDW’s April has yet to really strut her stuff. The entire first year of storytelling essentially covered a decompressed version of the origin, which is where April is at her most interesting/iconic (the rescue, the fainting, etc). Now that the origin is behind us, it remains to be seen how IDW will keep April from dissolving into the scenery.
They seem to be going in the direction of making her a fighter and a techy, ala the 4Kids series, with her already illustrating her intellect and Casey giving her self-defense lessons so she can keep up with the gang. If there’s one thing I like about the decompressed approach to storytelling, it’s that April hasn’t become a ninja on par with the TMNT overnight, which is how both TMNT Adventures and the 4Kids series handled it (one afternoon of training from Splinter and suddenly she could vertically leap eight feet in the air and outfight trained assassins). Her progress has been steady and believable; even her infiltration of Stockgen focuses less on the physical aspects of her training but the stealth and tactical qualities; qualities that come easier to her analytical mind.
Writer Barbara Randall Kesel illustrates a strong understanding of April’s character and I like the way she favors the more technically savvy aspects to her. Her talents as a computer programmer went mostly unutilized in the Mirage series, while the 4Kids cartoon made her into a generic “hacker” of vague skill level. Here, Kesel gives us a look inside her head and shows us how she sees the world, manipulating and adapting the lessons she’s learned to suit her strengths. I definitely prefer the approach of making April a resourceful infiltration expert (or getting there, anyway) over having her slam her fingers down on a keyboard for thirteen seconds and “oh hey, I hacked the interwebs!” This April actually displays that she’s genuinely intelligent, a quality that up until now we’ve always been told April possesses rather than convincingly shown.
Unfortunately, April’s still… kind of boring. It’s not really anybody’s fault; April is supposed to be the logical cornerstone of the universe; the straight-woman, so to speak. So when she has to play wet blanket to a host of strong, diverse, bizarre personalities, it’s small wonder that she seems a tad milquetoast by comparison. Sort of like how writers have a hard time making Winston in various Ghostbusters stories interesting, as he has to be played as the "down to earth everyman". And that sort of character just pales when placed next to an overly exuberant man-child, an emotionally barren super genious and a sarcastic career slacker. April is the Winston of the TMNT universe.
And that, essentially, is why Slash succeeds in stealing her own Microseries from her. Because a cool-under-pressure, scientifically-minded, resourceful redhead just can’t compete with a psychotic, palm tree-obsessed, spiky mutant turtle on the rampage.
On the subject of Slash: I am psyched. There have been many attempts to create Evil Turtles for the TMNT to fight (Tokka, the Dark Turtles) and yet Slash is the one people clamor for the most. Exactly why, I have my theories, but I want to save that for the subject of another article, so I won’t go into them now. I’ll just say that it’s great to have him back when he hasn’t been in a story since 1994.
Marley Zarcone’s art is solid. I liked the Mona Lisa homage to reptile-April during the opening nightmare (I called her a turtle in the summary, but she lacks a shell). While I wouldn’t call Zarcone’s style the most remarkable we’ve gotten in the book so far, it’s still pretty dynamic and really shines during the action sequences (April’s confrontation with the Stone Warrior was great). It’s more the “dull” sequences that Zarcone falters on; the characters sitting around chatting. Zarcone doesn’t really do much with the angles or layouts to try and make those lengthy “talking head” scenes pop. Heather Breckel’s coloring is pretty great, too; again, really looking wonderful during the scenes in the experiment lab.
Anyway: Slash. I can’t freakin’ wait.
Grade: B (as in, “But poor Chet can’t seem to catch a break in this series”.)