Sunday, March 4, 2018

TMNT (IDW) #79

Publication date: February 28, 2018

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, and Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Brahm Revel
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Greg Goldstein

"Invasion of the Triceratons, Part 4"


In the streets of Manhattan, the EPF and the Triceratons are engaging in all-out war, with Bishop continuing to lead the charge (using the mind-controlled Slash as his puppet).  Mr. and Mrs. O'Neil have been picked up by one of Baxter Stockman's robot-controlled evacuation vehicles, but rather than being ushered out of the city like the rest of the citizens, they are being taken to TCRI.  Mrs. O'Neil makes sure to get plenty of footage of the battle as they drive through it.

At Foot Clan HQ, Raphael and his brothers object to being put under house arrest, as they are no longer members of the Foot Clan and Splinter has no jurisdiction over Clan Hamato.  Splinter reminds them that he is still their father and what he says goes, ordering the Foot Soldiers to keep a strict watch over his sons.  Once he leaves, the Turtles sense a conflict in Jennika and try to reason with her.  Michelangelo tells her what a psychiatrist friend of his gave him some advice about Splinter; that even though he's their father and her master, he is still a human being and capable of making mistakes.  Leonardo tells her that to be the best Chunin possible, she needs to recognize when her master is in error and make the choices that best suit him, whether he realizes it or not.  Jennika agrees to help them slip out of Foot Clan HQ and hopefully get to Commander Zom before Splinter has her assassinated.

At TCRI, Mr. O'Neil catches up with Baxter Stockman, who seems pleased that he's recovered from his paralysis.  The O'Neils chide Baxter for making his evacuation of the city a for-profit endeavor, but they aren't surprised by it.  Mr. O'Neil suggests that Baxter should be using his resources to get the Triceratons out of New York, not the residents, and that gives April an idea.

On the rooftops, the Turtles are caught in the crossfire between the EPF and the Triceratons.  They try to take down an EPF sniper, but that only draws attention to them.  Donatello gets a message from April, who relays a plan to him.  He and his brothers then fight their way through a unit of EPF soldiers.

At a church which is now the Triceraton base of operations, Commander Zom coordinates her soldiers and feels that soon she will triumph over the EPF.  And after taking Manhattan, the Triceratons will prosper and eventually reclaim all of Earth.  Splinter and his Foot Elite Guard arrive and tell Zom that she will not survive long enough to bring her plans to fruition.  Before they can attack, the Turtles show up and initiate a standoff.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #78.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #80.

*Mikey's "psychiatrist friend" (Dr. Peter Venkman) helped him work out his parental issues in TMNT/Ghostbusters 2 #2.

*Mr. O'Neil's history at Stockgen and the cause of his paralyzing stroke were detailed in TMNT (IDW) #30.  Mrs. O'Neil used ooze to cure Mr. O'Neil's paralysis in TMNT (IDW) #32.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Cover A by Damian Couceiro, Cover B by Kevin Eastman and Tomi Varga, and Retailer Incentive Cover by Dave Wachter.


It's good to see the Turtles finally start taking a major role in their book again.  "Invasion of the Triceratons" hasn't been a bad arc or anything, but the Turtles have been sitting in the backseat for most of it.  This book IS called "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" after all.

The focus on the Turtles also sees us with a bit of reward on the "Splinter leading the Foot Clan" thing that's been going on for thirty issues.  I think we all knew that a point of contention, a SERIOUS point of contention, was going to come between the Turtles and Splinter; it was just a matter of counting the pages until it happened.  They've been estranged, sure, over things like Splinter even considering taking over the Foot (which drove Mikey away) to Splinter killing Darius Dun (which drove the rest of his sons off), but this is the first time they've had to butt heads.  It's a case where I HAVE appreciated the slow-burn build-up for this arc.  The pressure has been mounting, little by little, and they've been TRYING to stay out of each other's way as much as possible, but this was going to go down eventually.

I'm hoping the showdown next issue doesn't end in a copout.  I don't want Splinter to realize the error of his ways too soon, but rather to have this confrontation estrange them further and build additional tension over the next twenty issues or so.  Solutions should never be easy, and really, this is a new dynamic I've been enjoying and I don't want to see it go so soon.

The war with the Triceratons has been "big" but it's also been sort of happening in the margins while the more intimate storylines have been developing around it.  I don't feel shortchanged on it, not in the way I did with the almost completely unseen gang war back during "City Fall", as we've gotten to see enough warfare in the streets so far (especially in this issue).  That said, I can't make heads or tails of who is supposed to be "winning" this thing.  Bishop/Slash is trouncing Triceratons left and right and even the EPF snipers are taking them down with ease.  But then at the end of the issue, Zom is gloating that her forces will soon be victorious when all we've seen so far is them getting wrecked.

For whatever reason, Damien Courceiro had to check out on the art duties for "Invasion of the Triceratons", leaving Brahm Revel to finish up the arc.  Revel had previously done the Jennika-centric back-up story "What is Ninja?" from TMNT Universe #6 thru TMNT Universe #9.  Revel's style isn't a duplicate of Courceiro's by any means, but it isn't so offbeat as to derail the seamlessness of the storyline.  They blend well-enough and I'm sure Pattison's colors can be thanked for providing much of the visual unity.  Revel's aesthetic is perhaps a bit "sketchier" in appearance, particularly in the hands and feet, where it looks like he just tried to clean-up a thumbnail rather than complete the pencils.  There's a stylistic consistency about it, so there isn't any one instance that stuck out to me, but once you begin to notice how the hands and feet all seem to terminate in these weird jagged blocks whilst the rest of the bodies are nicely detailed, it might become bothersome.

What Revel does really well, though, are layouts.  "What is Ninja?" wasn't a favorite of mine in terms of the script, but the layouts for the art were its real high-point.  Revel brings that strength to his work on "Invasion" and even minor action sequences, such as the alley fight between the Turtles and the EPF (a throwaway skirmish), have a lot of panache and energy.  And there was excellent tension in the argument between Raph and Splinter; he draws a very menacing-looking Splinter that somehow manages to keep from crossing the line into appearing villainous.

"Invasion of the Triceratons", I suppose I can say even before it's conclusion, isn't going to go down as one of my favorite storylines in the series.  While I'm glad to get the Turtles back into the plot on a significant level, I really don't think that should ever have been an issue to begin with.


Dermot Mac Flannchaidh said...

This is the darkest I've ever seen Splinter. Raphael is right—Splinter's argument is utterly cakeist. But it's also so unlike Splinter for him to make such an argument at all. Not that I think this is out of character, but it may instead imply that some deeper malaise is going on within him.

When Splinter killed the Shredder, he knew it might fray his soul (and I think it really did), but he fought to protect much more from a threat with no shortage of vindictiveness.

When Splinter took over the Foot Clan, I could see how he was taking control of a dangerous volatile beast he thought it best for himself to harness, again in part to protect his family, but also because a Foot Ninja is essentially who and what he's always been anyway.

When Splinter killed the defenseless Darius Dun, it seemed uncharacteristically cold—disturbing enough for his sons to quit. We later learnt that Dun was indeed genuinely dangerous and there may ultimately have been no other fate for him, but what was especially disturbing about Splinter's action was how swiftly and automatically he carried it out without apparent feeling or mercy.

Splinter is now in a situation where he keeps making ethically questionable decisions whose repercussions keep interacting and multiplying out of control. You can't help but wonder why he's so driven to keep making and standing by decisions that are not only immoral, but increasingly not even particularly wise. It's like he's acting out of raw desperation to maintain a house of cards rather than out of any genuine courage of his convictions.

But I may have to disagree (or maybe just partially sorta kinda disagree) with the OP—while it may be engaging for characters to be faced with genuine moral event horizons without the plot providing a convenient moral escape hatch, I'm not sure I'd want to see Splinter slide further than he already has, at least not without a very good lens into his deeper soul. IDW's Splinter is reminding me increasingly of Mutant Ninja Turtles Gaiden's Leonardo. MNTG is brutal in its deconstruction of Leo's descent into tragic hero with his morally-justified mass-murder of innocents, all for what he's convinced is the greater good of his family and the world at large—it's damn chilling, but it's actually pretty believable in context, how "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" and all that. I don't just want to see Splinter's story told in scenes of him acting openly as j┼Źnin or in his chat with Bishop or in the way he evades his sons' very good criticism. The problem I see here is that it's like the story has kept Splinter's psyche opaque to the reader since Chasing Phantoms, after which has been a veritable Splinter drought compared to how deeply the story used to delve into his deepest motivations, moral struggles and inner narrative—things that now might actually help the reader better understand whatever fraught decision he makes.

I also think it's no accident that Tang Shen had such an important presence in TMNT/GB 2. In reminding her sons of their father's love for them, it now almost seems like she was trying to prepare her sons for the family conflict they were just about to come home to. I mean, in this series, a character doesn't just have a chat with Shen's spirit—it's a rare and character-shaping event—and it had to have been pretty damn significant for her to bring all four of her sons to meet with her at once just before a situation that puts them into direct conflict with their father. It is possible this story arc could render her recent intervention completely irrelevant to Splinter and the turtles' actions, but I think to do so would be a disservice to her importance as a wife and mother whose long-enduring positive influence the story has made such a big deal out of.

Anonymous said...

So after reading Dermot's note one thing started screaming in my head and I felt the need to share it (if nothing else it might inspire Mark to put together a new multi franchise article about....)

Through out the franchise we're told of Tang Shen's importance, but I can't tell you anything about her as a person. She's a looming presence and driving force for many turtle origins, but she rarely exists as a character. I'd call her the turtle equivalent to Uncle Ben, but at least I can think of flashback stories about him.

So why bring this up here, well after reading Dermot's thoughts I wonder if she might not be coming back via reincarnation. Crazy I know but it might work here. Reincarnation is a major element of the IDW books, but we know very little about it, why did it happen, are the turtles and splinter alone or do Hob, Alopex and the other animal mutants also harbor past lives they don't recall. If Splinter really is going off the rails, what would be a harder slap in the face than Tang Shen coming back to oppose him along side their sons. Would this series dare to bring her back to life and make her an actual person, flaws and all, instead of a sainted ideal. How would the turtles respond to their mother as a day to day player in their lives in I think the first iteration ever.

Anonymous said...

With the possible exception of April, this IS the first TMNT continuity in which there is a mother figure in the Turtles' lives (albeit as a ghost). Splinter explicitly said (back in his Microseries) that Tang Shen was a calming influence on him, as were their sons. Now that both have been out of his life for a significant period of time (I'd assume about a year), he has reverted back to his old (less noble) self.