Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #67

Originally published: February 28, 2010

Script: Dan Berger
Pencils and tones: Dario Brizuela
Inks: Andres Ponce
Letters: Eric Talbot
Cover: Dario Brizuela and Steve Lavigne
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney



Frontispiece: A young and pouty-looking Shadow sits on a stool in the corner of her elementary school classroom. She whines that keeping so many secrets is way too hard and wishes she could tell them to somebody. Deciding that the audience looks trustworthy, she gets ready to tell her tale…

At their apartment, April and Casey are wondering how they’re going to pay for Shadow’s tuition at the most exclusive (and expensive) private kindergarten in New York. They decide that giving Shadow such an opportunity would be worth blowing their savings and go for it.

Elsewhere, Raph and Leo are prowling the streets; Raph feeling annoyed that life has been so dull lately, robbing him of purpose. They spot a woman getting into a fight with her drunken husband and, against Leo’s advice, Raph decides to intervene. Raph breaks the husband’s wrist, only to get kicked upside the head by the wife, who chases them away and then goes to console her drunken, injured spouse.

The next morning, at the office of Mr. Wentworth (Principal of the private kindergarten), April and Casey find out that Shadow has been accepted into the school and that there are plenty of financial aid plans to help accommodate them. Casey dances a jig around the office, ripping his suit in the process.

That evening, Mike and Don decide to go see a showing of the newest Studio Ghibli flick. Unfortunately, they’re broke. On the street, Mike notices a yuppie unknowingly drop his wallet while on the phone with his pal Ernie (coincidentally, the guy Raph beat the night before). Mike rushes down to grab the wallet, surprised at the amount of cash within. Don insists he return the money and Mike reluctantly obeys. However, when he attempts to give it back, the yuppie freaks out, drops his phone and runs away screaming. Mike endeavors to simply mail him back his wallet while Don scoops up the phone, an expensive new model iBerry, and begins making plans to dismantle its circuitry. Mike reminds Don of his own advice and Don relinquishes the phone. Both Turtles sigh that they can’t afford the things they want.

A few days later, in Shadow’s room, the Turtles help get her ready for her first day of school. Mikey babies his “princess”, Don tells her to always ask for extra credit assignments if she gets bored, Leo tells her to respect her elders and all authority and Raph tells her to get in a fight as soon as possible to prove her dominance. Raph is cast out of the bedroom. Storming down the hall, Raph tries to hide his tears and sniffles. He’s met by Casey and both tough guys share a horribly anime-inspired weeping scene, moved by the fact that little Shadow is growing up. April chides them.

On the drive to school, Casey tells Shadow to make sure not to tell anyone about her Uncles under any circumstances. Shadow agrees and gets to class. To begin the year, her teacher, Mrs. O’Brien, asks everyone in class to stand up and talk about themselves and their family. The usual flock of spoiled rich kids talk about their parents, who are lawyers, judges, novelists and other kinds of wealthy so-and-sos. Shadow proceeds to tell the class that her dad is a handyman and his girlfriend owns the apartment building her works in. All the kids start to laugh, making Shadow angry. She then proceeds to tell them the “truth”; that her daddy is a superhero and her Uncles are giant ninja animals and that they’ve fought sorcerers and rock monsters and all sorts of bad guys and that their daddies are all wimps compared to hers. One of the kids calls Shadow a liar, prompting her to punch his lights out.

Shadow is quickly expelled and Casey is called in to pick her up (with no refund for their tuition fee, too). On the drive home, Casey lectures Shadow on how this is going to set them back financially all for nothing, that she’s wasted a great opportunity and that April is going to be heartbroken. Shadow starts to cry and asks Casey if he hates her, now. Casey is moved and tells her that he could never, ever hate her. He realizes that a private school may not have been the right place for her and that he should have been thinking about what she wanted, not what he wanted. Matter resolved, they go for ice cream. Over ice cream, Casey asks Shadow not to let Splinter know she refers to him as "Grampy Splinter", since he's so sensitive about his age. Shadow "promises" not to.

Later, at a pier facing the East River, Raph stands alone. A familiar woman approaches him. She apologizes for kicking him in the head and realizes that he was just trying to help. She thanks him for helping her to understand that she is worth something and has decided to leave her abusive husband and make something of herself. Raph tells her that if she thinks she’s worth something, then she is worth something and disappears into the night. The woman walks home, ignoring the cat calls of various street urchins as Raph watches to ensure she gets there safely.

Turtle Tips:

*According to Berger’s letter at the beginning of the issue, this story takes place three years after the end of TMNT (Vol. 2).

*Shadow says that April is still Casey’s girlfriend. Casey proposed to April in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #43, which takes place 3 years before this issue. Apparently, they still haven’t tied the knot.

*The drawings on pages 20-21, as well as Shadow’s speech, cover several events from the comics and even the 4Kids cartoon. The drawings from left to right include Casey fighting Dragonface (a villain exclusive to the 4Kids cartoon), Leo fighting the Shredder (in his 4Kids armor), Splinter and some mousers (TMNT Vol. 1 #3), Mikey fighting a Triceraton (TMNT Vol. 1 #6), Raph fighting Savanti Romero (TMNT Vol. 1 #8) and Don fighting Complete Carnage (Tales of the TMNT Vol. 1 #5).

*This issue also included a bonus pin-up, “TMNT” by Andie Tong, artist of "Digital Webbing Presents the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". Sweet.


You want to know the honest, embarrassing truth? When the last five issues of Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) were solicited, this was the one I was most eagerly anticipating. Why? Because it just looked really, really cute.

I love Dario Brizuela’s style (at least when he isn’t going overboard on the anime sight gags, like on page 15) and I was sold just by his cover art for this issue alone. His six year-old Shadow is adorable. Sorry. I just couldn’t help it.

Storywise, this is a “day in the life” kind of story and not much of an action issue. It isn’t quite as “interestingly dull” as Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #55, which I also liked, but it serves as a great look inside the mundane-yet-fun life of the Jones family, and I can always do with more of those. As a character, I liked Shadow better when she was a little kid, right around this age, mostly because she was cute. Once she grew up and got all bratty? No thanks. I have to give the writers of the recent TMNT comics some props, though. Shadow’s personality develops in a manner not unlike real teenage girls. She’s positively “precious” at around ages five through ten, but once she hits fourteen or so? Like in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #7? Look out. She’s going to drive you nuts.

But anyway, the spotlight of this story is simply seeing Casey act like a real dad and nothing but a real dad. No superheroics. No crazy adventures. Just all-dad, all the time. It’s amusing to see how he’s been “tamed” by his family, but still behaves like the same old Casey we’ve come to love. April, unfortunately, sort of fades into the background like she always does, which is a shame, since there really aren’t enough stories showing her having a hand in Shadow’s life as there should be (aside from a couple of examples, we really don’t get to see much of a mother-daughter dynamic between them).

My favorite scene has to be the bit where each Turtle gives Shadow some advice on how to behave on her first day at school. It’s hilarious and totally spot-on (like Dan Berger could write the Turtles spot-off?). While I could’ve done without the follow-up scene where Raph and Casey do an anime wild-take (seriously, what was up with that? Brizuela never implemented any of that anime stuff in his previous issues), it’s still a wonderful scene.

The subplots involving the Turtles felt a tad shoehorned in for the sake of action. While Raph’s story had something of a related point about seeing the worth in one’s self despite what others say (which worked with Shadow overcoming the ridicule of her peers by being proud of her family, at least in a roundabout sort of way), I still think the point could have been delivered without it. And while Mike’s and Don’s story kinda-sorta had something to do with the overarching theme of “money trouble”, it was entirely superfluous. All these subplots did was take away from seeing more of Shadow preparing for school and Casey and April trying to cope with their financial troubles, which I’d have preferred to see more of (particularly if it meant giving April more to do than be talking scenery).

Anyway, this was a very cute issue that’s mostly going to appeal to the hardcore Turtles crowd who actually care about mundane stuff like “Shadow’s first day of school” with no ninja goons or monsters in sight. I can’t imagine any casual readers really being thrilled with the tale. Of course, by this point, I don’t think Tales of the TMNT has any casual readers. And since only the diehard Turtle fanatics are still picking up the title this far into its coffin, I can’t say the story really had any major failings.

Grade: B+ (as in, “Bet you all forgot Shadow was really a blonde, right? Ha!”)