Monday, February 27, 2012

TMNT (Vol. 3) #25

Published by: Independently published by Andrew Modeen (unofficial publication)
Publication date: February-March, 2012

Writer: Andrew Modeen
Pencils/inks: Arseniy Dubakov
Pencils (pg 6, 26, 46, cover): Frank Fosco
Pencils/inks (pg 48-49): A.C. Farley
Cover inks: Kevin Eastman
Notes: Gary Carlson
Lettering/production: Adam O. Pruett
Additional plot/edits: Ross May
Tones: David Seltzer with Red Herring Color (Nick Rodgers, Kenny Madrid, Jay Stiverson, Amanda Sims)
Cover colors: Courtland Brugger
Special thanks: Mark Pellegrini


In his secret lab, Donatello wakes to the sight of Baxter Stockman hovering above him, inserting cables and tubes into his body. As it happens, Don’s natural immune system is rejecting the cybernetic parts and if they remain, he will die. Stockman is using his own cyborg body as “life support” for Don while he siphons off the nanite-infused liquid metal. As it happens, though, as the nanites recede, Don’s own mutagen-enhanced healing factor is now able to progress unimpeded. His shell has already grown back and he’s gradually returning to normal.

At the mausoleum, Leo, Raph, Mikey, Splinter, Dr. X and Pimiko have survived the explosion set by the Lady Shredder, Cheng and the Foot. As they escape through the streets and into the sewers, a Shredder Elite sees them and alerts Lady Shredder. In the tunnels below, Leo sends Splinter to hide and protect Dr. X while he, his brothers and Pimiko stand their ground against the final assault.

At the Jones apartment, Casey is icing his head from the beating he took at the bank when his check bounced and he pitched a fit. April soothes him, assuring him that they’ll make ends meet and he’ll find another job. They’ll just have to save up a little bit longer for their wedding. Shadow awakens from bed and comes to see her parents, having had a bad dream about Uncle Mikey.

In the sewers, the battle begins. Hordes of Foot Soldiers fill the tunnels and overwhelm the Turtles. Leo orders everyone to retreat back to their original Lair. Meanwhile, Cheng unloads his “surprise” from the back of a van at the behest of the Lady Shredder.

Don comes to once again in his lab and finds that he is rid of nearly all traces of the liquid metal, which Baxter has absorbed and used to repair himself. Don resigns himself to the fact that Baxter will now be able to escape, but such isn’t the case. Only being a brain, there wasn’t enough organic matter for the liquid metal to bond with and Baxter crumbles back to his previously dismantled state. Baxter thanks Don for the fun, anyway, and asks that after he puts him back up on his shelf… he give April his regards. Don leaves with a suspicious look on his face as Baxter laughs maniacally.

In the sewers, Cheng’s surprises reveal themselves: the two surviving mutant Shredder clones the Turtles thought they killed years ago. The clawed Shredder clone and the midget Shredder clone, fully healed, attack. Cheng is pleased with his work, certain that by perfecting Mashima’s mystic worms, he’ll be able to create whole armies of the creatures. There’s another surprise on the way, though, as King Komodo returns amidst the chaos to finish Leo off. King Komodo kills the clawed Shredder clone so that he can have an unobstructed match with his one-handed foe.

Cheng and the Lady Shredder finally enter the fray, with Cheng leading a pair of Foot Mystics in mystically enhancing their army’s strength. Lady Shredder prepares to take Raph off guard when Pimiko intervenes. Raph confronts Cheng as Leo continues his battle with King Komodo and Mikey takes on the midget Shredder clone. With all the extra Foot Soldiers around, things look bad until Don returns to lend a hand. Grabbing a staff from one of the Foot, he offers to give explanations later and proceeds to fight by his brothers’ side. In the battle, King Komodo bites off Leo’s prosthetic stub-blade, revealing a re-grown hand beneath. Komodo is perplexed and Leo uses the distraction to decapitate the monster. Taking a cue from his brother, Mikey wraps his nunchaku chain around the midget Shredder clone’s neck and squeezes until the creature’s head pops off. Meanwhile, Raph kills the two Foot Mystics with shuriken and stabs Cheng with his sai. Raph believes that by killing Cheng, his astral tether to Splinter is now severed. While that is true, Cheng assures the Turtle that he has already dealt their father a fatal spiritual blow. Angered, Raph kicks Cheng’s corpse.

Lady Shredder and Pimiko continue their duel and it becomes apparent to Lady Shredder that Pimiko is her daughter. Pimiko won’t believe it and, protecting Raph from the Lady Shredder’s gauntlet, impales her through the stomach with her katana. In the skirmish, the Lady Shredder delivers a decisive strike to Pimiko as well, piercing her stomach with her gauntlet. As they both lay dying, they remove their masks and the truth is revealed. Lady Shredder, Tang Amaya, tells Pimiko that she left her with Warlord Komodo in the hopes of sparing her the life of an assassin and is truly saddened to see that her daughter could not escape her fate. Even sadder, she regrets that she was unable to avenge her sister, Tang Shen, or her beloved, Oroku Saki. Hearing this, Splinter exits from the Lair and places his hand on Tang Amaya’s head. He shows her the death of Tang Shen as he saw it through his own eyes (as a normal rat) and Amaya finally knows what really happened. With her final breath, she curses Oroku Saki and tells Pimiko she loves her. Pimiko attempts to tell Raph something important, but her life gives out and she dies, too. Removing his bandana, Raph cries through both now-healed eyes.

Their leader dead, the surviving Foot Soldiers retreat into the darkness. Only the last surviving Shredder Elite remains. He approaches the Turtles and, cursing them, pulls out his katana and commits seppuku. With the circle of blood that has plagued them and the Oroku family finally complete, Splinter tells them that the feud that has lasted their whole lives is over.

The next day, Karai arrives in New York via helicopter. As it happens, her whole “disgrace” was nothing but a ruse to weed out the last remaining Shredder-loyalist dissenters amongst the New York branch of the Foot. She addresses the two shamed heads of the branch and the surviving Foot Soldiers: The need for a “Shredder” is over, the Council of Five from the Japanese branch has her back and she is now in complete control.

In New York harbor, Leo and Raph cremate Pimiko’s body on a funeral pyre as they did her father many years ago, though they wish her peace in the afterlife. Confidentially, Raph tells Leo that he sort of had a thing for Pimiko; a real thing, not like the “romance” Leo and the others chided him about having with his friend Lucindra. Leo understands and, also confidentially, tells Raph that he and Radical have been seeing each other, lately. On that romantic note, April and Casey deliver Mikey the good news: his novel “A Rose Amongst Thorns” has gone for a third printing and is a best seller. Mikey’s muse, Horridus, stops by to visit and Mikey can’t wait to share it with her. Horridus, though, reveals that she’s developed a thing for Dragon and that she’s staying with him, now. Heartbroken, Mikey throws his typewriter across the room in a fit of rage.

Later, the Turtles, Splinter and Dr. X reconvene at the Lair, where Don finishes picking the last of the liquid metal from his skin. Suddenly, Leatherhead arrives through the transmat to complete his task; sending Dr. X back to the Utrom Homeworld for a debriefing. Dr. X is surprised that her assessment of the transmat’s functionality was incorrect (while Leatherhead is surprised to learn that Dr. X is actually female) and bids her friends a fond farewell (Leatherhead opts to stay on Earth).

At Puzorelli’s apartment, the mob boss finds the severed head of his nephew, Joey, on his bed along with a terrible message on his answering machine: the Foot Clan has rallied and are aggressively taking the city back from the mob. Even worse, the assassin Razorback is rumored to be back in town. Puzorelli pours a drink and considers that, in the end, it is better off that Shadow is with a family that can keep her away from the mob violence that has consumed his life and murdered his family. Right on cue, several Foot Soldiers invade his apartment and assassinate him.

With all the insanity of the past year finally behind them, the Turtles and Splinter take a much-needed retreat to the farm in Northampton.

On the Utrom Homeworld, Ambassadors Korobon and Klag debrief Dr. X on her extended mission to Earth. Dr. X reveals that she believes the Earthlings to be ready for “first contact”, though a few more years are necessary before they can make their move.

At the Halls of Lost Legends, Merlin talks with his pet owl, Archimedes, who wonders if the Turtles are ready to join them in the Hall. Merlin discards the notion, as the Turtles won’t be ready for quite some time.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (Vol. 3) #24.

*Andrew Modeen has made a digital version of the issue available for download Here.

*Donatello will revisit Baxter in TMNT (Vol. 4) #9.

*The mutant Shredder clones last appeared in TMNT (Vol. 1) #21.

*King Komodo last appeared in TMNT (Vol. 3) #18.

*Pimiko’s history with Warlord Komodo was detailed in TMNT (Vol. 3) #5.

*Cheng’s cryptic words about Splinter’s fate will come to fruition in TMNT (Vol. 4) #10.

*Karai's dishonor and missing status was first referenced in TMNT (Vol. 3) #7 and was most recently referenced in TMNT (Vol. 3) #21. Chronologically, she last appeared in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #43.  She'll appear next in TMNT (Vol. 4) #4.

*Karai brokered the truce with the Turtles in TMNT (Vol. 1) #61.

*Raphael and Lucindra were last seen together in TMNT (Vol. 1) #44.

*Leo’s romance with Radical will be seen in greater detail in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #41.

*Horridus last appeared in TMNT (Vol. 3) #22. Her… “relationship” with Dragon was detailed in Savage Dragon #71.

*Razorback last appeared in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #61.

*Further tests by the Utroms regarding “first contact” will proceed in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #42. “First contact” itself will occur in TMNT (Vol. 4) #5.

*The Turtles visited the Halls of Lost Legends in TMNT (Vol. 1) #43.

*This issue received a print run of only 135 copies in the US. 15 additional copies were printed and distributed in Russia by Dubakov. The Russian version contains a few slight variations in art, particularly page 36, where the first panel of the Elite Guard unsheathing his sword had the hands redrawn.

*This issue also contained a bonus story, “Christmas Past” by Andrew Modeen and Dan Berger, and two bonus pin-ups; “Lady Shredder vs. Pimiko” by Jim Lawson and an untitled piece by Frank Fosco.


It’s been an agonizing wait, but we finally have it: the concluding chapter to Image’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 3, which was abruptly cancelled way back in October of 1999.

Once again, author Andrew Modeen coordinates all the talents necessary to see this publication through to the end, and the talents he collects here are staggering. Original series author Gary Carlson provides notes, pointers and approval for Modeen, as does Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) author Ross May (whose stories were utilized heavily in this issue). Art-wise, Russian penciler Arseniy Dubakov provides the bulk of the work and does so admirably, with some surprise guest appearances by Frank Fosco (artist on the original Image series), A. C. Farley (original Mirage staffer), a sweet pin-up by Jim Lawson (another Mirage staffer) and cover inks by none other than Kevin Eastman-himself!

And not to undersell the rest of the team: the toning by David Seltzer and the Red Herring gang create a suitably gritty atmosphere, Courtland Brugger’s cover colors accentuate a great piece of art, and Adam O. Pruett’s letters are unobtrusive and intuitive (to say nothing of the work he put into the actual publication side of this project).

So applause all-around for everyone involved. You’ve earned it.

Story-wise, the Volume 3 conclusion project has had a dual agenda since its conception: to provide closure on the Image series, but to also tie it back into Mirage continuity (Peter Laird struck it from the record when he started Vol. 4). What’s fascinating is that stitching Vol. 3 back into the overall tapestry of Mirage continuity proved far more intuitive than it may seem. There were very few direct contradictions amongst the post-Vol. 3 Mirage publications (and even a few sideways references, like the continued presence of Dr. X in Tales of the TMNT Vol. 2 issues) and all that really needed be done was a “fill in the blanks” game of sorts; getting the Turtles back to where they needed to be before Vol. 4 began.

While some lingering plot threads from the Image series have no choice but to get the short end of the stick (Mikey’s break-up with Horridus, Puzorelli’s demise), Modeen finds a way to stitch them in that still leaves them open-ended enough to complement what comes later. For example, Mikey is never again seen pursuing his dreams of being an author in Vol. 4. The reality is that though his interest in writing dates back to TMNT (Vol. 1) #17, it was a character element Laird and Eastman discarded and never cultivated. By making Mikey’s dismissal of his dreams part of an ugly break-up (evident in the great visual of him throwing his typewriter), it adds an extra layer of tragedy to his Vol. 4 stories, particularly when he takes the less ambitious job of “tour guide” for visiting alien dignitaries.

Other plot threads are sewn-up but in a way that conveniently foreshadows future events. Cheng’s time spent leeching off of Splinter’s spiritual energy will ultimately lead to the Sensei’s abrupt death in Vol. 4. Likewise, Baxter seems to give up on escaping rather nonchalantly, but his ultimate satisfaction is in knowing that he will nearly be the death of April later in Vol. 4, as well. The Jones family's money problems even foreshadow the fact that they wait many, many years to get married (April is still Casey's "girlfriend" by the time Shadow begins attending elementary school). Like I said earlier, these plot threads are tied-up, but in a manner that segues into future plots to make the transition more seamless. If you're reading everything in order, it will appear as though the later stories are referencing this series of events, further cementing its place in continuity.

The real meat of the story, though, comes in completing the Foot narrative, left ominously lingering with the original Image series’ cancellation. Whereas issue #24 was all about Tang Amaya’s complicated background, this one was all about the action. The sewer fight is a massive ordeal that spreads for page after page. It’s got Foot Soldiers, Shredder Elites, Foot Mystics, mutant Shredder clones, the Lady Shredder, a giant Komodo dragon… everything! I’d rank it among the most chaotic and thrilling fights from any Mirage TMNT comic.

The death of Tang Amaya and Pimiko was beautifully done and a fitting send-off to the two characters. What pressed upon me more, however, was that they represented the last of the Shredder’s negative influence on the Turtles via the Foot Clan. While this story acts as a “bridge” to Vol. 4, it never the less functions as a genuine “ending” in its own right, as the feud between the Turtles and the Oroku clan finally ends. While I appreciated Splinter speaking that reality at the fight’s conclusion, and Karai hammering the point home during her triumphant return from self-inflicted exile, my favorite moment of the entire issue was when the last remaining Shredder Elite commits seppuku. That wasn’t just a totally bad ass scene, but one of the most meaningful in the entire Mirage series: the last remnant of the Shredder’s influence goes out with a whimper. Absolutely perfect.

Arseniy Dubakov’s art for the issue is far more polished than his pencils for the previous installment. I think what really makes the difference here is the inking; he uses a much lighter touch this time around. There’s a better sense of line-weight so the characters don’t look so flat against the background. The thinner strokes also allow you to appreciate his line-work much more so you can see the finesse and detail. And as I said before, the entire fight scene in the sewer is an amazing marathon of insanity and carnage.

As for the guest artists; Fosco and Farley, well… How awesome was that? Fosco provides multiple splash pages, and while the “strike a pose while facing no one in particular” moment on page 6 was kind of goofy, it was goofy in a very 90s sort of way that suits this story. King Komodo’s decapitation provided some great cinematic emphasis and the “return to Northampton” splash page was thoroughly gorgeous (gotta love Klunk in the foreground). Farley’s 2-page spread, though… that just about brought a tear to my eye. “Halls of Lost Legends” was one of Mirage’s best one-shot stories and is a beautiful-looking issue. So to see him revisit that with a positively stunning two-page epilogue was truly epic. As I understand it, Farley says that this will be the last TMNT-related art he ever draws, and while it’s sad to see him leaving the characters, I can’t say he didn’t go out with a bang.

If I had any particular criticisms, I suppose I’d have to lob them in the direction of some of the gratuitous swearing. “Shit” was used in the Image comics, which is fine, but it was more the use of “fuck” that felt a bit insincere to me. I’m not a prude when it comes to expletives, but it just didn’t seem like it fit the tone of the scene it was used in (Pimiko’s funeral) and isn’t something you’d find in a Mirage/Image TMNT comic outside of “Bodycount”.

And I suppose the use of so many continuity points to construct the issue, while awesome for those of us that eat, breath and drink Ninja Turtles, is probably distracting and confusing for less-inducted fans. Of course, this was a creator-sanctioned fan-project limited to 135 copies and not really intended to be seen by anybody other than the most hardcore members of the TMNT fanbase. So I feel inclined to concede the point.

Quite honestly, I think that this entire 2-issue project is a wonderful display of the dedication and enthusiasm within the TMNT fanbase and from the people involved in making the original comics. This was a non-profit production, yet everyone involved from Erik Larsen to Gary Carlson to Frank Fosco to Andrew Modeen to Ross May to Arseniy Dubakov to Kevin Freakin’ Eastman were perfectly thrilled to do their part and see that this thing made it to the fans; at either their own expense or for no reimbursement whatsoever. The term “labor of love” gets thrown around in excess these days, but that is genuinely what this was. The passion involved in making this happen is nothing short of an inspiration.

Grade: A (as in, “And if you’re wondering why I got a special thanks, I helped out with some timeline stuff and did some research here and there”.)