Sunday, April 7, 2013

TMNT (Vol. 1) #32


Publication date: August, 1990


Written and penciled by: Mark Bode’
Inked by: Kevin Eastman and Eric Talbot
Letters by: Mary Kelleher
Special thanks to: Butch Lee and the Ashwan Dancers of San Francisco
Dedicated to: Molly & April

“Egyptian Adventure” (title taken from official TMNT website)

Summary:

In Egypt, an archaeologist and part-time belly-dancer named Molly has been hired by the Tech II corporation to oversee their latest construction process and make sure their workers don’t trample on any historical artifacts.  Molly sends a letter to her news reporter friend April O’Neil, inviting her to Egypt for an exclusive on the project.


In Northampton, April packs her things and piles into the limo waiting to take her to the airport.  She invites the Turtles to join her, but they decline.

In Egypt, the foreman of the Tech II project is up in arms, as all the local workers have begun behaving like zombies.  Worse yet, they’ve uncovered several artifacts and he fears that the company’s time table will be thrown off by the excavation.  Molly tries to introduce April to the foreman, but he blows her off in a stressed out rage.  Molly shrugs and then invites April back to camp to watch her belly dance.  The dance is interrupted by a worker, who shows Molly a crest he found.  April faxes a photo of the crest back to the sewer lair, asking if the Turtles can dig anything up on it.

Don does some research and learns that it is the crest of Aunkamen.  Aunkamen was a magician who tried to usurp the throne of Pharaoh by mentally enslaving the masses and turning inanimate objects to life with his sorcery.  He was defeated and entombed, but left a prophecy declaring that once his body is discovered, he shall rise from the grave and take over the world.  Realizing the danger, the Turtles prepare to go to Egypt.


Back in Egypt, the zombified workers uncover a mysterious tomb.  Molly and April go inside and are met by a hulking, dog-headed brute calling himself the Jackal.  As the right hand man of Aunkamen, the Jackal relates their scheme to enslave all humanity.  As for Molly and April, the Jackal says that they shall be the first additions to Aunkamen’s harem.  Molly and April attempt to flee, but the Jackal uses his staff, Karnak, to bring statues of Thoth and Ramses to life.  They capture Molly and April and force them to wear revealing outfits.

Back in Northampton, the Turtles place a fake delivery order from “the Tundra Museum of Fine Art”, requesting that four statues by famed Renaissance artists Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael be overnighted to a museum in Egypt.  After a lengthy plane ride, the Turtles arrive in Egypt.  They steal some disguises and camels and trek toward the camp site.  Some zombified workers attack them, but they make short work of the slaves.  At the entrance to the tomb, they’re met by sword-wielding mummies, but they explode into dust with just a couple hits.


Inside the tomb, the Jackal addresses the casket of Aunkamen, who is slowly reviving.  The Jackal smells the presence of intruders and decides to use Karnak to bring more statues and mummies to life to attack them.  The Turtles are attacked by the army and after a quick brawl emerge victorious.  The Jackal attacks them in person, but proves to be mostly bluster.  Leonardo gets Karnak away from him and destroys it, turning the Jackal back into an inanimate statue.

The Turtles rush to the main chamber and find Molly and April.  Before they can leave, however, Aunkamen rises from his casket and attacks.  He unleashes a cyclone of knives that threatens to shred the Turtles.  Leo decides to use Aunkamen’s powers against him and tells Don to stand by a load-bearing pillar and mock Aunkamen until he starts throwing heavier objects.  Aunkamen hurls a statue of Ramses at Don, who dodges it and allows the statue to shatter the pillar.  The entire tomb caves in, burying Aunkamen, but the Turtles escape just in time.


Back in Northampton, the Turtles watch April’s news broadcast from the ruins in Egypt.  Molly says that while the tomb has caved in, they retrieved enough artifacts that they needn’t bother with another excavation.  Molly then personally thanks her four friends who saved her from the cave-in.  The Turtles celebrate the acknowledgment.


Turtle Tips:

*This issue marks the only Mirage TMNT comic to ever give April the occupation of news reporter.

*This issue was published as part of the guest era and is thus not in continuity with the Mirage TMNT “proper”.

*This issue received a second printing in April, 1992 with a new cover by Bode’ and all new colors by Bill Fitts.  Incidentally, in the color version by Fitts, April is inexplicably black.  For the 2013 IDW trade paperback collection Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 4, a new coloring job by Digikore Design Limited was done, restoring April’s Caucasian skin tone.


Review:

So far as the goofy comedy installments of the TMNT Vol. 1 “guest era” are concerned, Mark Bode’s were probably the least offensive.  I think it helps that his stories were each contained to a single issue, told developed plots instead of relying on insipid “ran-dumb” bullshit and did I mention that they’re only an issue long and don’t overstay their fucking welcome for three miserable months?  Yeah, that’s really a key factor, there.

As with Mark Bode’s last guest issue, TMNT (Vol. 1) #18, he strikes a balance between silliness and action, never letting the goofy camp completely overtake the storyline.  Yeah, the Turtles walk around on the streets in broad daylight and nobody cares and the villains are all silly cartoon characters and April’s a news reporter like in the cartoon for some reason, but there’s an actual story and linear plot that gets played out.  Other comedy installments in the guest era, mainly those by Mark Martin and Hedden & McWeeney, preferred to just play things out in an unfocused “stream of consciousness” manner as the characters bounce from one nonsense set piece to another with no rhyme or reason until the page count runs out.  Mark Bode’s silly offerings are a welcomed breath of fresh air when compared to those piping hot buckets of molten refuse.

TMNT #32 is a whopping 46 pages, yet it still feels unfortunately hurried.  Characters like Molly aren’t very fleshed out (Bode’ makes a big ado about her belly dancing prowess at the beginning, but it doesn’t come into play at all later on) and there are some meaningless diversions, such as the foreman (who is introduced like he’ll be a villain or something, but disappears altogether).  The characters are all in a race to get the story over with rather than use the impressive length to focus on what matters and let the plot sink in.  There’s also some weirdness, like the sewer lair being in Northampton instead of New York City and the entirety of Egypt being the pyramids (seriously, the Turtles mail themselves to “Egypt” and wind up at almost the exact location they need to be).

But Bode’ has an art style that’s really attractive and, much like his writing, fuses silly cartoonishness with gritty action.  What I like most are his layouts; he breaks everything up into large panels, but leaves a considerable amount of empty space between them.  Bode’ then proceeds to place all dialogue and sound effects in those margins so as not to obscure his artwork.  It’s very unique and allows the reader to fully appreciate Bode’s penciling (and Eastman’s inking and Talbot’s toning).

Bode’ strangely repeats the same hieroglyphics decoder on page 1 and page 13, giving the impression that decoding the glyphs would be of some crucial importance or at least a neat diversion.  Unfortunately, Bode’ puts next to no hieroglyphics in the backgrounds of any of his art, so the effect is mostly unrealized.  Unless “Batman is god” and a reference to Vaughn Bode’s “Cheech Wizard” is vital.

I guess my only real problem, and the problem I have with nearly every “comedy” issue in the TMNT Vol. 1 guest era is that, well, it’s not funny.  I snickered a bit at the Jackal’s childish pyramid blueprints, but beyond that all the jokes and asides fell flat (Bode' resorts to the mommy/mummy gag TWICE).  This issue is more entertaining for the unobstructed visuals that Bode’ provides and it’s a pleasant diversion from the other “hilarious” guest issues that were leagues worse than this one.

Grade: C (as in, “Could the world finally be ready for a black April?  Not yet, but perhaps soon…”)



7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wasn't black April one of Kevin Eastman's things? I seem to recall from some time-shrouded interview he decided she was black or half black and that's what led to the curlyperm.

Mark Pellegrini said...

@Anon

Eastman has claimed that April was intended to be black (as he says she was based off a black girl he was dating at the time), while Laird says she was always meant to be part Irish and Caucasian.

Still, she'd already been portrayed as white in the color covers for Mirage well before 1990, so the decision to make her black in the reprint of #32 was a pretty late in the game decision on Eastman's part (if he did in fact tell Fitts to color her that way).

Rowerowe Fightthepower said...

When I read through Volume 1 of TMNT, I often found myself trying to fit the guest issues into canon, or at least more of them than Laird allows -- with some of them like "The River" and Veitch's stories this was easy, while others just had to be non-canon like the Hedden/McWeeney awfulness.

I liked Bode's first guest issue, so I was excited for this one, but I just (being the OCD fanboy I am) could NOT get over April being a reporter in a Mirage comic. How and why would they let that through?

Though, to be fair, a lot of the guest issues that veered more to comedy seem to take more inspiration from the cartoon than Eastman/Laird (constant sewer lair pizza stuff)

John Pannozzi said...

Molly was named after Bode's wife who worked for Mirage.

Anonymous said...

As for April being a reporter, maybe she was just trying a short-lived gig as a journalist? Its not like Mirage April had any real major occupation either. She always seemed to be working crap jobs as a waiter or something like in TMNT #14.

I like to consider Mark Bode's stories in with Mirage continuity as canon, as they don't feel that silly to me. Its not like an Egyptian Jackal coming to life is any different than the usual creatures we see show up in Mirage, especially in the second volume of Tales.

Adam Winters said...

Mark, do you own the color reprint of this one? I can probably pick you up a copy at my local comic shop if you want it; I think I saw it there the other week.

Austin Reed said...

I could work the Heeden/McWeeny stuff as either fever dreams/nightmares, stupid in-universe merch from the volume 4 era, or fit it into other canons (maybe this could fill out the Fleetway-verse?)