Sunday, February 17, 2013

TMNT (Vol. 1) #61

 Publication date: July, 1993

Story: Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
Script: Jim Lawson and Peter Laird
Pencils: Jim Lawson
Inks: Jason Temujin Minor
Letters: Mary Kelleher
Tones: Eric Talbot
Cover: A.C. Farley

“City at War, Part 12 of 13”


In the ruins of the Second Time Around shop, the Elite Guard is about to slit the helpless Karai’s throat.  Don realizes he can’t make it to her in time and, seeing a discarded machinegun by a dead Foot Soldier, understands that he has no choice.  Don shoots the Elite Guard and saves Karai, then throws the gun away in disgust.  Karai tries to help him up, but Don’s leg is broken.

Elsewhere in New York, April enters the apartment building she was looking at buying with her inherited fortune.  The owner, Mrs. Jones, greets April and gives her a tour.  She says she’d been looking to sell the place since her husband, Herb, died five years ago.  Mrs. Jones takes April down to the basement to introduce her to the handyman; her son, Arnold.  “Arnold”, of course, turns out to be Casey Jones.  Reunited at last, April and Casey embrace.  Mrs. Jones decides to get the paperwork ready.

Back in the Second Time Around shop, Leo and the final Elite Guard are having a one-on-one duel on an upper floor.  Leo slashes the Guard across his gut and the Guard, in return, disarms Leo and kicks him in the face.  Leo tackles the Guard through a hole in the floor and they both tumble down a story.  They fight hand-to-hand for a while until Leo finally takes the Guard from behind and slowly breaks his neck.  Having watched the battle from the floor above, Raph and Mike comment that it’s all over.

In the hospital, a nurse tells Mr. Buscheyev that the doctor will be discharging him soon.  Mr. Buscheyev packs his things and sits sullenly on his bed.

At the antique shop, Leo forms a splint for Don’s leg while Mike makes a travois to carry him out of the building.  Karai promises to fulfill her end of the bargain now that the Foot civil war is over; the Turtles will never be bothered by the Foot Clan again.  Mikey asks what Karai plans to do next.  She says that she’ll return to Japan to spread her daughter’s ashes in Asana Bay then she’ll get back to managing the Japanese branch of the Foot and restoring proper order to the organization.  Karai says that although she grieves for her daughter, her loyalty to the Foot doesn’t allot her much freedom.  She tells the Turtles that now that they are free from the shadow of the Shredder, they should use the opportunity well.  Leo assures her that they will.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (Vol. 1) #60.  The story continues in TMNT (Vol. 1) #62.

*How Casey’s dad died will be revealed in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #56.  In that story, his father’s death will be retconned to have happened more than 5 years ago.

*Though Karai holds to her truce, the Turtles will continue to encounter rogue factions of the Foot from time to time.  They’ll meet a faction commanded by the Shark Shredder in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #33, Foot separatists will continue to make trouble in the “Gang Wars” arc beginning in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #36, a rogue Foot Soldier will seek revenge in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #5, the Oroku Family will seek to circumvent the truce in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2)#65 and, in the Image series, turmoil amongst dissenting members of the Foot hierarchy will momentarily break the truce in TMNT (Vol. 3) #22.

*Chronologically, Karai will appear next in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #43.

*In the branching Image continuity, surviving members of the Foot Elite Guard will return in TMNT (Vol. 3) #16.

*In the distant future, Karai-herself will finally break the truce in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #40.


“City at War” set the bar pretty high.  It took all the characters to their lowest point, explored them inside and out, then set them free to rise above their shortcomings and grow before our eyes.  Where the heck do you go from here?  That’s a problem the Mirage series never really succeeded in getting over (and a fact Karai and the Turtles discuss in the last pages of this issue).

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  That discussion is best saved for the next and last issue.  Here, we finally conclude the action and, even though it’s only 20 pages, the fight is pretty great.  I mentioned last review that these Foot Elite Guards seem like more of a handful than the Shredder and, indeed, Leo seems to have more trouble taking down the last Elite Guard than he did Oroku Saki.  Chalk it up to the nature of one-upsmanship; Lawson was obliged to draw a more epic battle than before and, as a result, a nameless Elite Guard comes off as a fiercer opponent than the Shredder ever was.

The brutality of the showdown is especially striking, as it devolves from a sword duel, to hand-to-hand, to straight-up dirty fighting.  While there’s grace and fluidity in Lawson’s layouts, the same can’t be said for the battle itself.  Leo loses his cool and in one panel looks like he’s trying to gouge the Elite Guard’s eyes out.  Then they tumble over a ledge, punch and kick each other and Leo finally triumphs not with some flashy ninja move, but by sloppily breaking the Guard’s neck from behind.  It really shows how the Turtles, even cool-as-a-cucumber Leo, have reached the end of their rope and are just unleashing themselves like beasts.

That’s also evident in Don’s takedown of the Elite Guard threatening Karai.  He breaks out a machinegun to save the day and feels disgust over what he’s been forced to do.  Don having an objection to firearms, admittedly, is something that’s never come up before now, and might have done better with some foreshadowing, but the reaction in the scene gets the idea across just fine.  Splinter didn’t raise them to use guns and he views them as the weapon of the enemy.

In my review for “Temps” I came down a little hard on the message of “City at War”, and I suppose I should elaborate here.  The story in itself is about consequences and how the cycle of violence inevitably leads to more violence; a never-ending circle.  And that's a great message which, when the arc begins, is very well illustrated.  My problem is that this penultimate issue essentially uses violence to end all violence, contradicting that message.  By slaughtering all their enemies, the Turtles are now free from the consequences of their past actions (save for a few isolated incidents here and there).  The moral ends up becoming, “violence only leads to more violence until you massacre all who stand in your way, and then you’re invincible”.

From the standpoint of delivering a message to the audience, the truce with Karai does more damage than good.  But, from the standpoint of telling an ongoing narrative about the Turtles, the truce offers a breath of fresh air.  We’ve reached an end to the Turtles vs. Foot Clan arc, at least for now, and that lets the Turtles set their baggage down and have all sorts of crazy new Foot-free adventures.  Of course, robbing TMNT of the Foot also ends up robbing the series of any discernible direction, but at least the potential was there.

Grade: A (as in, “And really, Mrs. Jones?  $850 a month for the cheapest rent?  In 1993 dollars?  That’d be $1,350 bucks a month, today!  And your max rent is $1,200 a month?  That’s $1,900 a month, now.  Your apartment building ain’t the Ritz, lady”.)


E. Wilson said...

Two bits of thematic pondering:

-Don & Guns: I have a similar problem with Batman whenever this comes up with him, but it's even worse in this instance, because at least Bats uses specifically non-violent weapons: the Turtles already use lethal weaponry. The difference between a gun and a katana is splitting hairs.

(I'm also not sure if, "the weapon of the enemy" is the right term to use, considering 2/3s of the Turtles' rogues gallery would prefer hand-to-hand weapons as opposed to firearms, particularly the Foot.)

-Regarding violence in general: you could argue that it wasn't violence itself that ended the conflict; it was diplomacy, a stipulation of which was violence towards an agreed-upon goal. In their original feud with the Shredder, the Turtles used violence as an ends, and are frustrated in this arc because it doesn't provide a long-term solution.

Here, though, the Turtles reach an agreement with Karai, without which they had no victory. If they'd killed the Elite Guard without her, more Foot would have come, and they're back where they started. The lesson isn't so much, "violence only begets more violence" as much as it's "violence by itself begets more violence." Violence within an agreed-upon system, either law enforcement or diplomatic negotiations, historically CAN stop a cycle of violence.

It's not as prosaic a message as the original, but it's a bit more honest, and probably the best you can expect to be thematically consistent in a series revolving around stabbing people with sharp Asian artifacts.

Anonymous said...

But Don uses a non-violent weapon, a bo staff.

Anonymous said...

You can easilly kill someone with a bo staff. Casey killed a kid with a hockey stick blow to the head.

Anonymous said...

I know Gabrielle came and left fast in this series. But Casey seemed to quickly forget about her when April made the scene