Wednesday, August 23, 2017

TMNT: Dimension X #4


Publication date: August 23, 2017

Story: Ryan Ferrier
Art: Chris Johnson
Colors: Mark Englert
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

Summary:

The Turtles arrive on Palmadise, a world of gambling, drinking, crime and debauchery, in search of the next witness: Ace.  The alien duck is wanted by more than just the Turtles, as a crime boss named Papa Chum has put a bounty out on him for stealing and destroying a weapons cache of his.  As the Turtles search for Ace, Michelangelo buys a lotto ticket.


Meanwhile, Ace is on the run from a bounty hunter named Thurk.  Thurk corners him and is about to pull the trigger when the Turtles show up and take her down.  Thinking them to be incompetent rival bounty hunters, Ace spreads his wings and tries to fly away.  The Turtles manage to reel him back in by calling out that they need his help to stop Krang.


Ace takes the Turtles back to his hideout and tells his story.  As it turns out, Ace was once allied with the Neutrinos and flew in their air force on missions against Krang.  Unfortunately, he and the rest of Infantry X-5 were shot down and forced to surrender.  Krang executed all of X-5 while they were unarmed and only Ace made it out alive (by abandoning his comrades in the chaos).  Ace agrees to go with the Turtles to testify against Krang and find justice for his comrades.

They head to a subway, but as soon as the train starts, they're attacked by Hakk-R.  Ace flies the coop, leaving the Turtles behind, but they're inadvertently saved by a pair of bounty hunters who try to stop Hakk-R from collecting their reward.  The Turtles eventually catch up with Ace on the surface, realizing that he's just as cowardly now as he was in the past.  Suddenly, it is announced that Mikey won the Palmadise lottery with the ticket he bought earlier, and in all the commotion, Ace steals the Hot Rod and flies away.


Hakk-R then catches up and attacks the Turtles (causing Mikey to lose his winnings), but before he can take them down, Ace returns.  He shoots Hakk-R down with the Hot Rod's weapons and then collects the Turtles so they can escape.  In the safety of outer space, Raphael has a few choice words for Ace, but Mikey holds him back.  Leonardo tells him that there are no hard feelings, as Ace eventually made the right choice to not only come back for them, but to stand up against Krang.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT: Dimension X #3.  The miniseries concludes in TMNT: Dimension X #5.

*The planet Palmadise originates from Mighty Mutanimals #9, where it was revealed to be the homeworld of that universe's Slash.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Cover A by Nick Pitarra and Chris Chuckry, Cover B by Chris Johnson and Mark Englert, and Incentive Cover by Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga.


Review:

If you read my review from last week, then you know that I was genuinely concerned that Ace Duck wasn't going to be in this miniseries; that his cover appearance was just an Easter egg.  As you can imagine, I am beyond relieved and also elated.  But why?  WHY do I think Ace Duck is so cool?  He's ACE DUCK, for crying out loud.

You know what?  There's no better time to do this, so let's take a historical look back at Ace Duck and his many escapades.

This is going to be short.

Ace Duck originated as a concept by Peter Laird, pitched to Playmates in 1988.  It was a duck named "Duck" that was also a pilot.


Designer Errol McCarthy then reworked that idea of a pilot duck, but ditched the high altitude flight suit in favor of a bomber jacket and, apparently, a crippling nicotine addiction.





This is the version of Ace that Playmates ultimately went with (minus the cig), and in 1989, we got his well-remembered action figure:


His profile on the back of the card described him as being a pilot hired by the Turtles to fly the Turtle Blimp.  For purposes of media-product synergy, Ace made two more appearances in 1989.  Counter to media-product synergy, neither depicted him the way he was described by his toy packaging.

He made a 2-second cameo in the Fred Wolf cartoon, in the episode "Attack of the Big MACC", where he was depicted as a fictional TV show character and not "real".


But at least that version LOOKED like his toy.  Ace would proceed to make his most substantial fictional appearance in Archie's TMNT comic, beginning in TMNT Adventures #7.  In those stories, he was depicted as a grotesquely muscular alien pro wrestler.

Ace Duck by A.C. Farley.

Ace Duck by Chris Allan.

Ace Duck by Jim Lawson.
And then it was jack shit after that for, like, 20 years.  He finally made his grand comeback in the 2012 Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon as a brief gag in the episode "The Lonely Mutation of Baxter Stockman" as a proposed new mutant henchman.  Shredder was so outraged by this proposition that he mutated Baxter into a hideous fly-man on the spot.


And now you know the complete history of Ace Duck.  But you still don't know why I think he's so cool.

Because I had the toy when I was 5.  There.  Mystery solved.

Okay, to elaborate, since a lot of characters who got action figures in the old TMNT toyline never made any media appearances, it was up to US, the wee childrens, to use our imaginations to craft histories and personalities for these bizarre lumps of plastic.  It's why you will find people out there with off-puttingly strong attachments to the most insignificant of characters.  You ever met someone who likes Doctor El just a little too much?  It's probably because they only had two Ninja Turtles toys as a kid and that was one of them.

The toy characters were pretty much blank slates for our imaginations, and even with the bio on the back of the box, the work was up to us.  Our only REAL pointers were the design of the toy and the accessories that came with it.  We had a sneering duck in a leather jacket with a handgun and a bandoleer of grenades whom the Turtles had to pay to hang out with them.  The default personality projected onto Ace Duck was "this guy's pretty cool."

And low and behold, now we've got IDW Ace Duck.  And he's pretty cool.

Ferrier gives Ace the personality I always thought he had as an elementary schooler but was never substantiated in any media appearance.  This issue was strangely gratifying on that account.  I was right all along!  But there's also a selfish yellow streak to the character, giving him a roguish quality that makes him more than just the Fonz with a bill.  It leads to a bit of predictable storytelling (Ace cutting out during the climax only to man up, return, and save the day), but Ferrier peps the script up with some fun running gags, like Mikey getting into gambling.

In fact, there's sort of been an ongoing shtick throughout this miniseries between Raph and Mikey.  Mikey has been on something of a stimulation overload visiting all these alien planets and getting caught up in all the antics (be it wrestling or gambling).  Raph has been a sort of wet blanket throughout Dimension X, harrumphing through every encounter, and in this story he wants to give up on Ace as soon as he tries to fly off.  He is 110% DONE with this adventure and just wants to go home.

Leo and Don are also present, as they most frequently are in these matters.  They will certainly receive a Good Attendance Award at the end of the school year, yessir.

Johnson's art is very detailed and Palmadise looks crowded and bustling throughout the issue.  He rarely phones in the crowd shots and you can spend some extra time on each panel, singling out all the weird aliens.  While they are a bit generic (couldn't find any Easter eggs among them), it's still an appreciated effort on his part and he does make Palmadise look vibrant and alive.

Englert's colors have a nice glow effect that fits the neon "Vegas strip" setting.  My only grievance, and it might just be on my copy, is that Raph's bandana looks more purple than red throughout the issue.  It's likely a natural effect of the mainly blue "lighting" combining with the red bandana to make it look purple, but I think Englert would have been best to fudge reality a bit and kept it red so as not to give us two Turtles with purple bandanas.

While I still think issue #3 is the issue to beat, this one was right up my alley.  Your enjoyment will depend entirely on if you give a shit about Ace Duck or not, but I think even if you don't you'll find some fun.  Hakk-R is really turning into a stooge at this point in the mini and I'm curious how he will be treated when the ongoing series resumes with the Trial of Krang arc.  Will he be built back up to nigh-unbeatable or will his decay in ability be remembered?  I guess we'll have to wait and see.


11 comments:

Dermot Mac Flannchaidh said...

Ace Duck was good, sure. Best version of the character I've seen. But I'm becoming increasingly concerned with Mikey's characterization in IDW. It seems that the 2012 TV series version's "too dumb to live" traits are increasingly rubbing off on the IDW version. I did like some aspects of the 2012 series Mikey—his compassion, his earthy wisdom, and his zest for life shared by virtually all other versions of the character—but all that was eventually painfully overshadowed by a sheer overwhelming stupidity that became his defining personality trait in that series, to the point that even Nick's own promotional materials eagerly compared him to Patrick Star. Characters can make mistakes, and sometimes those misjudgments can be very costly, but some mistakes characters are written into are so amazingly dumb that they serve to derail characters rather than build them. I mean, I never necessarily expect any version of Mikey to be super-sharp, but I hate when he's written as a dim-witted liability in mission after mission after mission, as IDW Mikey seems to have become in this story arc. I really hope this doesn't become part of Mikey's personality template in every licensed version of TMNT from now on.

Morris Beauregard said...

Hakk-R was doomed ever since he was made villain of a miniseries. The other villains have the advantage of an ongoing series to spread out their defeats and win every now and then, but Hakk-R has to be defeated every issue, which reduces his menace every time. I think it would have been better if he had succeeded in offing at least one of the witnesses, so that he didn't seem completely incompetent. Or if he gave more of a chase instead of always retreating.

Adam Winters said...

Oh, yeah, Raph's bandana colors were bugging me too through the whole issue.

"My only grievance, and it might just be on my copy, is that Raph's bandana looks more red than purple throughout the issue."
Do the colors need to be swapped in this sentence.

Great retrospective of ol' Ace Duck. Such a great action figure, such an underused character!

Anonymous said...

It is kinda weird given the IDW series is aimed at adults, that they don't have to make Michelangelo a goofball or have him shouting catch phrases like the cartoons. IDW's Mikey does also have his moments of being dumb or naive with the other Turtles (mainly Raph) picking on him. I mean he's nowhere as dumb as Nick's Mikey is at times, but he's not much better than the 4kids Michelangelo either. Plus he also still has his pizza obsession in IDW.

I don't know. I guess this version of Michelangelo is too heavily influenced by how he's been portrayed in the 3 cartoons rather than Mirage...or even Archie.

Then again IDW introduces characters who look like they're made for action figures like Hakk-R, even though he will likely never be a toy. IDW I guess strays that line from being a comic or a Saturday morning cartoon.

Mark Pellegrini said...

@Adam

Yeah, I got those colors reversed somehow. Fixed!

JackalsIII said...

Ace Duck was the only action figure my parents let me take on a trip; because on said trip, I left him behind at the hotel. Even to this day, I triple check my hotel rooms to make sure I don't have another Ace Duck situation. That's my personal Ace Duck history, he lives on!

Anonymous said...

Might be seeing things that aren't there, but page 2, panel 1 has a fly alien that looks kinda like Fred Wolf Baxter.

Mike B. said...

It's beginning to feel like a pattern: IDW trots out obscure characters as a form of fan service during their August events. Savanti got his moment with BRDE, now Ace Duck, Antrax, and Cryin Hound with Dimension X.

We can all hope for Chrome Done and Simon Bonesteel next year!

BulletTooth504 said...

One problem I had with this issue was why did they bother to call this world "Palmadise"? I've never read very much of the Archie series, but I recall that Palmadise was supposed to be a tropical paradise. In this it's a bustling metropolis. Also made me wish that we could get the old Archie incarnation of Slash.

Mark Pellegrini said...

@BulletTooth

In the Archie comic, Palmadise's history was that it was once a lush, tropical world until it got clearcut and polluted (which is part of what drove Slash insane and palm tree obsessed). So it's appearance in the IDW series as an overdeveloped planet-wide metropolis sort fits in with that old history.

Anonymous said...

With a name like Palmadise how could it NOT end up as a resort?