Wednesday, June 26, 2013

TMNT (IDW) #23

Publication date: June 26, 2013

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Mateus Santolouco, Dan Duncan (pgs 8-9), Ross Campbell (pgs 10-11), Andy Kuhn (pages 14-15), Ben Bates(pgs 16-17) and Kevin Eastman (pgs 20-21)
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee and Tom B. Long
Editor: Bobby Curnow

“City Fall, Part Two”


Racing through the streets, April, Angel, Splinter and Raph are anxious to get the grievously injured Casey to a hospital before he bleeds out.  They get him to the ER and he’s seen to by a number of doctors.  April checks to see if the coast is clear and then tells Splinter and Raph they can make their getaway.  Splinter and Raph have to rendezvous with Don and Mike at the lair to see if they found any trace of Leo.  Later, one of the doctors asks Angel how Casey got his apparent sword injury, but Angel blows the doctor off and just says “he was stabbed”.  The doctor is suspicious. 

Meanwhile, the unconscious Leo is taken to Foot HQ.  Handing him off to Kitsune, Shredder dismisses Karai and Alopex.  Kitsune swears to Shredder that his ultimate destiny is within reach, then privately tends to Leo in her chambers.

Back at the church lair, Splinter and the Turtles reconvene.  All Mike and Don were able to find were Leo’s discarded swords.  To their surprise, a message has been painted on the wall of the church.  It’s from Hob, who says he can help them and that they should meet him at the East River at midnight.  The Turtles are incredulous at Hob’s claim, but Splinter informs them that he’s their only lead.

Inside Kitsune’s chambers, she removes Leo’s bandana and begins working a spell.  Leo flashes back to his mutation, where a monstrous Splinter vows to keep him safe and offers him a blue bandana.  Suddenly, Leo is besieged by monstrous Mousers with Splinter not only refusing to help, but telling Leo he is a disappointment.  The Shredder suddenly appears and saves Leo.  He then tells him that a true sensei knows when to take action.  Shredder then tells Leo to continue on his journey.  Leo is next besieged by a horde of Foot Soldiers who unmask to become monster rats.  He’s cornered on a rooftop and thrown to his doom by a furious Splinter.  Leo is caught by the Shredder (dressed as a Foot Soldier), who tells him he needs to leave his weakness behind to find his true potential.  Leo moves onward.

At the hospital, April asks Angel how she knows Casey.  Angel exposits that their dads used to be friends, but when both their mothers died (from different circumstances), things changed.  Angel began running with the Purple Dragons and started down a dangerous path, but Casey managed to knock some sense into her and convinced her to go legit before she made a huge mistake.  The doctor interrupts and shows April and Angel into Casey’s room.  He says that he’s stabilized, but his injuries are so serious he’ll likely never play hockey again.  April wonders if Casey’s dad even knows.  Angel says that her father passed the news along to him, but she doubts the drunk even cares.  As it happens, Casey’s dad is standing right outside the door.  However, after hearing Angel’s words, he sullenly leaves without revealing himself.

Back in Leo’s mind-trip, he encounters Slash.  Leo desperately wants to defend himself, but Splinter reminds him that he killing is wrong and he must sheath his sword.  Leo dismisses Splinter’s teachings and strikes Slash down.  The Shredder tells Leo he was right to use all force necessary to defend himself and gives him Slash’s black bandana as a token of approval.  Leo continues on and relives his battle against Krang on Neutrino.  In the fight, Leo kills Krang, but it isn’t enough.  Krang is reborn as Splinter, who kills Leo’s brothers.  The Shredder tells Leo that Splinter has failed him at every turn and offers him the chance to join his true clan.

On a rooftop near the East River, the Turtles and Splinter meet up with Old Hob and Slash (hence how Hob knew of the church lair).  Hob says that a war between the humans is about to erupt across the city and that he wants to be aligned on the winning side.  Moreover, he wants the victors to be the mutants, not the cruel humans.  He offers the Turtles the chance to side with him.  As a token of sincerity, he even promises to lead them to Leonardo, whose whereabouts he learned through the grapevine.  Raph isn’t falling for it, but Splinter reminds him again that Hob is their only lead.  Splinter says that if Hob is being truthful, he’ll at least consider the alliance.

Leo enters the last leg of his mental quest, encountering Splinter in his harlequin disguise.  Leo finally confronts him and tells Splinter that he betrayed his sons, promising to protect them but only ever putting them in harm’s way.  Splinter says that he never considered any of them to be his sons, as his real sons are dead.  Don, Mike and Raph then rise from the grave and attack Leo, who snaps and chops them all to pieces.  Shredder then kills Splinter, calling Hamato Yoshi a failure.  Shredder asks Leo if he now sees the truth about Splinter.  Leo says that he does and joins Shredder’s side, calling him Master.

In the chamber at Foot HQ, Leo awakens as Kitsune holds the black bandana over him in triumph.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #22.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #24.

*The events of TMNT Villains Microseries #3: Old Hob take place during this issue, just before page 18.

*Flashback 1: Leo’s mutation was shown in TMNT (IDW)#3.  Splinter gave him his blue bandana in TMNT (IDW) #5.  The fight with the Mousers occurred in TMNT (IDW) #7 and TMNT (IDW) #8.  Leo’s battle with the Shredder to rescue Splinter occurred in TMNT (IDW) #12.

*Flashback 2: Leo’s battle against the Foot and encounter with the incognito Shredder occurred in TMNT Microseries #4: Leonardo.

*Flashback 3: Leo stabbed Slash (and thought he killed him) in TMNT (IDW) #16.  Splinter gave his lecture about non-fatal alternatives in TMNT (IDW) #14.

*Flashback 4: Leo fought General Krang on the planet Neutrino in TMNT (IDW) #20.

*Flashback 5: Leo fought an incognito Splinter in TMNT(IDW) #21.

*This issue was originally published with a gallery of inked pages by Duncan, Campbell, Kuhn and Bates.

*This issue was originally published with 5 variant covers: Cover A by Santolouco, Cover B by Eastman and Pattison, Cover RI by Dave Wachter, Cover RE Jetpack exclusive by Eastman, and Cover RE Jetpack exclusive black with red bandana.


Well, that was a heck of a lot of story for 22 pages, wasn’t it?  And everyone says comics are too short, these days.

This issue effectively sells an idea that on the surface sounds pretty weak.  “Shredder brainwashes Leo into joining the Foot”.  The ole brain-washing scheme; what a reliable cliché.  And yet, it all comes down to the execution.  A talented creative team can MAKE a tired old Conflict 101 gimmick work if they can muster up an inventive or amusing means to deliver it.  And I think the IDW team accomplished just that.

A number of “neat” storytelling tools are employed to make this as exciting a read as possible.  The story opens up with a superb example of juxtaposition (I feel so smart whenever I use that word), as Casey’s and Leo’s predicaments are mirrored in content, conversation and layout.  Santolouco composes it wonderfully, but Waltz’s script deftly provides dialogue unique to each storyline, but wind up merging at the very end of the sequence into a line that tactfully applies to both starkly different scenarios.  It’s a 5-page sequence that sets the hectic mood of the story in a very inventive way that instantly draws you into the drama.

Then there are the warped flashbacks that make up Leo’s brainwashing.  This series of 5 two-page montages/spreads have to carry the burden of making Leo’s turn to the dark side believable.  As I said before, this is a pretty textbook cliché of a plot twist, so the deck is stacked against them.  In a lavish move on IDW’s part, each montage is drawn by the artist who drew the original issues Leo is seen flashing back to.  So not only do we get to see these familiar scenes rendered in a corrupted and twisted light, but we get to see them drawn by the artists who originally penciled them in the first place!

Like I said at the start of this review, making a cliché work all comes down to execution and I don’t think the guys at IDW could have pulled it off in a more visually exciting and satisfying way.  It was a treat to see all these guys come back for an acid-tripping jam session and they all put their backs into some dynamite two-page spreads. Sure, we’re all incredulous and cynical about Leo’s turn to the dark side and we all know it won’t be a permanent change for the character (though how long the transformation will last is a mystery).  But I’m willing to buy the drama of the conflict now, thanks entirely to how well the team pulled off such a stale old run of the mill plot contrivance.

As for the rest of the issue, that’s where things might get a bit weaker.  Angel’s info-dumping exposition was pretty painful, but I suppose there’s no other way to get around a back story summary like that.  At least it’s out of the way, now.  Hob’s storyline has me pumped, as hopefully it’ll mean we’re about to see a bunch of familiar mutants (he’s got a stash of mutagen and he wants to see mutants usurp humanity; you do the math).  Also, I’ve got to say I like how Santolouco draws him.  But then, I like how Santolouco draws just about everything.

Incidentally, I would like to point out something about the colors I couldn’t quite put my finger on before but just realized.  When reading “Secret History of the Foot Clan”, I really liked how “Irish” Santolouco made April look, with pasty white skin and freckles.  When Santolouco took over for the ongoing, I noticed April no longer had those stereotypical “Irish” features and in the back of my head something felt “off”.  Of course, it meant that I was wrong to credit Santolouco with April’s skin tone and freckles in “Secret History”, as that was all the work of the colorist: Joao Vieira.  The ongoing uses a different colorist, Ronda Pattison, hence the sudden change in April’s complexion.  Pattison does great work and I understand that every colorist needs to be free to put their own spin on the characters, but I DO wish April’s computer monitor tan and freckles would make a comeback.  They gave her look a bit of extra personality and made her stand out a bit more, but in a subtle way.

That’s just sort of a tangent, though.  Sorry.

Anyway, even if the idea of Leo “switching sides” had you groaning when it was announced, and even if my summary doesn’t convince you, I’d highly recommend grabbing the book and seeing how they pulled it off for yourself.  It’s nothing too terribly original, but the cavalcade of familiar artists was awesome and the visual pizzazz made it work, in my opinion.

Grade: A (as in, “Although the ‘our destiny’, ‘you mean MY destiny’ dialogue exchange was a bit of a Saturday Morning Cartoon groaner”.)


Ioannes Paulus said...

Clichés aside, I am very pleased with this issue. The execution was indeed flawless and seeing all these fine artists come together for a single issue is a treat.
Great observation about April's coloring, and I also liked Vieira's April colors better - even though they distance her even more from Mirage April's appearance.

Till yesterday I've only seen that one image of Hob and Slash drawn by Santolouco from the cover of the next issue, but those weren't really enough for me to determine whether I liked them or not. Well, we get close-ups of Hob in this issue and I'm happy to say that Santolouco's Hob is my favorite to date. He finally has the facial features of a cat.

And I'm really eager to see new-old mutants. I've never had anything against the mutant of the week concept. In fact one of the original reasons I got into TMNT as a kid was my obsession with the process of one species transforming into another. I always loved the detailed depiction of an organism morphing into a different one. This even ties into B horror movies somewhat (from warewolves to Brundlefly). My fave in the Fred Wolf show was undoubtedly Bugman's transformation but I also really liked the Baxter's - and this has nothing to do with the fact that they were both insects. I like the image of the mutating turtles by Michael Dooney in the very first Archie mini. Which brings me back to Santolouco: Shredder's reanimation in Secret History just is perfect. I'm counting on him to give us some cool mutation scenes too. Who knows.

By the way, I think the Foot only left one of Leo's swords behind last time, so Mike and Donnie probably only found that one. I didn't see Slash's bandana on the other sword though, so he was probably keeping it in his shell. :D

Fox Zerro said...

There was one moment in your review that reminded me of how I interpreted a scene:

When Splinter said to Leo that his sons were dead and then Raph, Don, and Mikey rose from their graves. For a second it splashed in my mind that perhaps Leonardo is not Hamato Yoshi's Biological son.

We all know that Oroku Saki was a ruthless man and in the original movie it clearly looked as if the character had raped Tang Shen. Not only that but it would have been a great way to explain why Shredder would want him as his second in command and it would lend some really interesting conflict to the whole story. Best of all it probably would mean avoiding the whole Karai/Leo relationship in this universe.

Of course in the universe I doubt such a storyline would exist, as its not very kid-friendly to portray Leonardo as the bastrad child of a rape performed by Oroku Saki. It would also probably upset fans more that reincarnation or coloured bandanas.

Still the idea did appear in the corner of my mind and reading your interpretation as it being Splinter referring to his original sons in Japan and not the turtles allowed me to look at it from a different angle.

End of the day I will believe that their is something more behind the biological origins of Leonardo, until I am told otherwise...

Adam said...

In my experience with reading multi-artist collaboration issues, the overall effect is usually uninspiring at best to down-right ugly at worst. The big publishers have tried to do that sort of stunt for some of their characters' "anniversary" or "milestone" issues. But it usually only amounts to being an excuse to attach a bunch of famous names to a piece without any benefit to the story.

This issues, on the other hand, is unlike anything I've ever seen before in a comic. I've never seen this strategy pulled off so well in both style and substance. Each of the guest-artist spreads looks great in its own right, but it absolutely improves the narrative effect of the story.

"It was a treat to see all these guys come back for an acid-tripping jam session"

That says it well enough. A+, IDW.

Rowerowe Fightthepower said...

Yeah, I preferred pale freckled April too, mainly because she's, y'know, April O'Neil, but also because I like when a variety of female appearances and beauty appear in comic books as opposed to the standard boilerplate -- and also probably because I have a thing for pale freckled redheads ;).

What a great issue overall, though!

Chet said...

Leo a bastard child as a result of a date rape with Shredder? That's sick, Fox Zerro! ;-)

Ioannes Paulus said...

I agree with Chet, sounds a bit George R.R. Martin to me. After that the story could add a pinch of nudity and some "Image"-style status quo resetting. ;)

Guille said...

But Fox Zerro has a really good point there, why would shredder want Leo as a second in command? Although, why did he kill him in the first place? maybe he didn't know it was his at that time? It would make the shredder chacacter more vicious and the yoshi one more caring. Who knows? Is twisted, but i dig it.

Fox Zerro said...

Thanks Guille. That was one of the counterpoints in my mind when I had the idea, "Then why kill him?"

Of course you easily explain that away with the logic you used and the fact that he also killed Tang Shen the woman that he loved rather than just murder her family and keep her as his trophy.

It just has more punch to it if this is the reasoning why he is searching him out.

In the past, at the time, he was looking for revenge and that blinded him. Then afterwards sitting in his chamber speaking with Kitsune she says in passing "Yoshi's oldest was born 6 months after their union" and then that is when Saki realized hsi mistake.

Hell that could be the entire reason why Hamato and his sons were resurrected, as a by product of Saki attempting to reincarnate his dead son to rule alongside him over the city of lights.

As it lies in the issue it is just a way for Saki to say to them that only Yoshi was resurrected and he has taken these four turtles and fed them lies. It could act as a way to show Leo's loss of faith. However, if they were going to go there, then it is a bit to late once Michelangelo starts reading Japanese and giving some tngible proof to the reincarnation.

Guille said...

Fox Zerro you got it very well thought! I can't elaborate with much facts 'cause i don't have the issues. i'm from Argentina and, as far as i know, those comics aren't getting here; and if they do, they must be pretty expensive. Will just have to wait and see... but i say, prepare your "i told you" face hahaha

Anonymous said...

At first this issue was OCD heaven the way the panels were set and everything was happening. The whole fake origin had an insanely awesome shot of Splinter with scorpion-like stinger tail. then OCD bliss is ruined in the panel with April accepting a cup of sludge in the hospital. Her boobs are all messed up. I can see the angle that was trying to be implemented but it just doesn't work the way those lines are drawn.

Anonymous said...

...those boobs still irk my soul.