Thursday, November 1, 2012

TMNT Annual 2012

 Publication date: October 31, 2012

Story: Kevin Eastman
Script: Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz
Art: Kevin Eastman
Letters: Robbie Robbins with Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Dedicated to: Peter Laird

"Big Trouble in Little Italy" (title taken from color edition)


On the rooftops, Leo, Don and Mike finish up their workout and head home.  Raph, however, is on his own workout with Casey Jones (though it’s more goofing off than working out).  Horsing around, Raph tackles Casey and knocks his bat into the street.  Going down into the street to retrieve it, they witness a car hit a telephone pole.  The crash sends a briefcase flying out the window and into the shopping cart of an old bum.  Fearing the car might explode, they pull the two passengers out of the wreckage right as cops and a news crew pull up.  Two hoods that were standing in the middle of the street and thus caused the crash, Timmy Two-Shoes and Kanada, recognize the limo as belonging to the Savate Ninja gang and decide to sneak off before they get in trouble.

Five minutes earlier.  The limo is filled with hoods working for the Savate Ninja, namely Louis Royo and Max Frezatto.  They’re on their way to deliver tribute to the Foot Clan and broker peace.  Suddenly, the driver sees two hoods in the middle of the street staring at a baseball bat and swerves into a telephone pole.  The briefcase containing their tribute flies into the cart of a bum named Kid Kennedy, who used to be a boxer in the good ole days.  He decides to take it to his friend, Fergie, as a gift.

Back to the present, Casey reclaims his bat and slinks away with Raph.  Detectives Frank Corbin and Richard Miller arrive on the scene and both are pissed.  As it happens, both are in cahoots with different members of the Savate Ninja and had planned to ambush the car, though neither detective knows that the other is on the take.

Elsewhere, Two-Shoes and Kanada bump into Kid and, realizing that a briefcase belonging to the Savate Ninja must have good stuff inside, try to take it from him.  Kid starts beating them down and is joined by his friend, Fergie, another former boxer.  Finally, Brooklyn S. Bridge, owner of the nearby Skara Brae pub, comes out and scares them off.  Raph and Casey happen upon the scuffle just as the two thugs run off, leaving the case behind.  The case pops open, revealing a payload of diamonds.

Five minutes earlier.  Angel and the Purple Dragons decide to head over to the Skara Brae and see if they can do some odd jobs to get some cash off of her dad, Brooklyn.  At the Skara Brae, Brooklyn is telling Fergie all about his plans to one day leave the squalor of New York behind.  They hear a noise outside and go to break up the fight.  Of course, they find the diamonds, which brings us back to…

The present.  Brooklyn tells Casey, Raph, Fergie and Kid to grab the diamonds and get inside.  Closing the pub, he asks Casey (who is friends with his daughter, Angel) what he knows about the briefcase.  Casey retells the story of the crash and Brooklyn decides that they should keep the diamonds, as there’s no sense in giving them back to the Savate gang.  The others aren’t so sure about keeping stolen goods for themselves.  Suddenly, someone starts banging on the door.

Five minutes earlier.  Detective Corbin talks to his Savate insider, Max, about the screwed up ambush.  Max tells Corbin to keep Detective Miller busy while he and Louis look for the diamonds  Once they find them, he’ll take Louis out of the picture.  Miller, meanwhile, is talking to HIS Savate insider, Louis, and they pretty much make the same deal.  As Miller and Corbin keep each other busy, Max and Louis go to find a phone and call in the bad news to Fabrice, the leader of the Savate Ninja.

Now.  Max and Louis demand that Brooklyn open up and let them use the phone.  Brooklyn has Casey hide the diamonds and lets the two thugs inside the pub.  Max calls Fabrice, who is furious about the crash.  He suspects a doublecross from the Foot Clan and orders his second in command, Victor, to get to the scene and find the diamonds.  Victor calls his NYPD insider, Miller, and wants to know what’s going on.  Apparently, Victor has designs on taking control of the Savate Ninja and had worked with Miller to orchestrate an ambush that never happened.

Five freakin’ minutes earlier.  At the Second Time Around shop, the Turtles catch a news report about a pair of masked Halloween revelers that valiantly pulled two injured men from a car crash.  Splinter, angrily, recognizes the two teens caught on tape as Raph and Casey.  The Turtles head out to find Raph and get him home when they spot Victor and the Savate Ninja jumping across the roofs.  They decide to follow them to where the action is at.

Now.  At the pub, Max calls Corbin, who tells him that something funny’s going on and he needs to get back to the crash scene fast.  Max and Louis leave and Brooklyn continues his debate with Fergie, Kid, Raph and Casey.  The others vote him down and Fergie and Kid leave to return the briefcase of stolen diamonds to the scene of the crime.

At Foot HQ, a Foot Soldier returns with news of the crash and missing tribute.  Karai suspects that it was orchestrated by the Savate Ninja, so Shredder sends her and a unit of Foot Soldiers to see what’s going on.

In an alley, Max is about to shoot Louis in the back of the head when he hears Two-Shoes and Kanada talking about the briefcase full of diamonds.  They beat the info out of the thugs that Brooklyn has the diamonds at the Skara Brae.  Max and Louis each make private phone calls and report back to Corbin and Miller about the diamonds.  Another Savate thug, overhearing, calls Fabrice with the same news.  Fabrice decides to head to the pub himself and get to the bottom of things.

At the pub, Casey and Raph decide to follow Fergie and Kid, as they notice they aren’t heading back to the crash scene.  It turns out Kid has a brain disorder and needs an operation to fix it.  Fergie wants to fence the diamonds to pay for his friend's operation.  Near the docks, though, they’re confronted by Victor and the Savate Ninja.  Casey and Raph jump out of the shadows to help the old timers and they’re joined by the other three Turtles.  Then Karai and the Foot Soldiers show up and an all-out brawl ensues, with each side desperate to get the briefcase.

At the pub, Corbin, Miller, Max and Louis burst in and try to shake down Brooklyn for the diamonds.  Fabrice and his guards then arrive and accuse Max and Louis of betraying him.  Then Angel and the Purple Dragons stumble in, looking to borrow $20 bucks from Angel’s dad.  An all-out brawl ensues.

At the docks, the briefcase is being passed around like a football between factions.  Eventually, Casey gets a hold of it.  Sick of the whole thing, Casey opens the case up and dumps all the diamonds into the river.  The SWAT team arrives to break up the fight, but as soon as they shine their lights, all three ninja factions vanish, leaving behind only an old baseball bat that Casey dropped.

The next day.  Fabrice, Max and Louis share a jail cell, having been busted by the SWAT team at the pub.  Corbin and Miller both agree to never deal with Ninja factions again and decide to work together on something else.  At Foot HQ, Karai tells Shredder that the Savate Ninja have refused the tribute.  Shredder declares war on them.  At Savate HQ, Victor takes command now that Fabrice is in jail.  At the Skara Brae pub, Angel helps Brooklyn clean up as Fergie and Kid tell the same old jokes to each other.  In an alley, Two-Shoes and Kanada wake up and decide they’ve had enough of briefcases.

At the Second Time Around shop, Splinter has punished Casey and Raph for being seen on TV with an epic day’s worth of dishes to clean.  When the job is finished, they decide to blow off some steam with a rooftop workout.  Horsing around, Raph tackles Casey and sends his bat flying into the street…

Turtle Tips:

*This story takes place between TMNT (IDW) #14 and TMNT Micro-Series #7: April. (As confirmed by IDW's trade paperback reading order.)

*The TMNT: IDW Collection Vol. 3 hardcover places the Annual between TMNT (IDW) #20 and TMNT (IDW) #21.  This was done as a matter of space, as the Annual could not fit in Vol. 2.  Thematically, the Annual acts as a prelude to the "City Fall" arc and is entirely self-contained, so it reads just fine in either established placement.

*The Savate Ninja last appeared in TMNT (IDW) #6.

*Detectives Richard Miller and Frank Corbin are, obviously, named in honor of Richard Corben and Frank Miller, two of Eastman’s biggest influences as an artist.

*This issue was originally published with 6 variant covers: Regular Cover by Eastman, Retailer Incentive Cover by Eastman, RE Cover (blue) by Eastman for Jetpack Comics, RE Cover (black and white) by Eastman for Jetpack Comics, RE Cover (blank) for Jetpack Comics, and RE Cover (blank with bandanas) for Jetpack Comics.

*On January 21, 2014, the Annual was rereleased in a Deluxe Edition which featured all new colors from Ronda Pattison.


Believe it or not, but the last time Kevin Eastman wrote and drew an issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was in August of 1992… A little over 20 years ago.

There’s an epic-length interview with Eastman that was conducted by the Comics Journal back in the 90s, and in that interview he discusses how running the growing TMNT business devoured all of his time and kept him from doing what he got into comics to do in the first place: write and draw.  It’s a shame that it took two decades for things to finally work out so he could take up pen and pencil again, but I’m glad he was finally able to strut his stuff after all this time.

If “Ready, Set, Go” was a 4-page taste of Eastman's return, TMNT Annual 2012 is the sumptuous banquet.  Despite taking place in a different universe than the one he crafted in the 80s, this book is packed not only with classic Mirage-isms, but unmistakable Eastman-isms that'll take you back in time.

When it comes to storytelling, Eastman has long been a proponent of “flying by the seat of your pants” momentum.  In tales such as “The Unmentionables”, “Fun With Guns” and “Bodycount”, you’ll notice similar situations: The main characters find themselves inadvertently caught in the middle of some convoluted crime and are forced along for the ride at a breakneck pace, improvising along the way.  Sometimes this works out to hilarious effect (“The Unmentionables”) and sometimes the joke wears really thin, really fast (“Bodycount”), but it’s nevertheless a trademark of Eastman’s writing and one of his most charming traits.

The untitled story in this Annual, in my opinion, is one of the best examples of Eastman’s style and, in a way, almost a self-parody of his own clich√©s.  The doublecrossing detectives that are unknowingly doublecrossing each other and thus nullifying their own schemes was one of my favorite touches, as the idea just frolics in its own absurdity.  The convergence of the multiple warring factions, with Casey and the Turtles caught in the middle, is another fingerprint of “A Kevin Eastman Joint”, but he cranks the trope up to an eleven with the climax of this Annual.  Fergie and Kid are dramatically accosted by Victor and the Savate Ninja.  Then they’re dramatically accosted by Casey and Raph.  Then they’re dramatically accosted by Leo and the Turtles.  Then THEY’RE dramatically accosted by Karai and the Foot Clan.  And by the time it’s all over, EVERYONE is dramatically accosted by the SWAT team.

And that’s not all.  While all THAT is going on, Brooklyn is dramatically accosted by Miller, Corbin, Max and Louis (who unintentionally bump into each other at the scene).  Then they’re all dramatically accosted by Fabrice and his goons.  Then Angel and the Purple Dragons show up and it’s all just pandemonium.

To be less sugar-coated, I’ve always found Eastman’s almost stream of consciousness “running battle” style of writing to be a bit unfocused and sloppy (I could barely make it through his “Melting Pot” graphic novel published in Heavy Metal a few years back).  I think that’s where Tom Waltz comes in with this script, helping keep the best parts of Eastman’s approach to storytelling in check and not letting the madness spiral too far out of control.  The constant flashbacks to “five minutes ago” became a hilarious gag toward the end and helped to add some extra oomph to what would otherwise be a pretty straightly delivered story.

As part of the ongoing IDW TMNT saga, it picks up on a plot thread left dangling for nearly a year.  We finally learn the Savate Ninja’s deal, though revealing them in such an almost comical manner might have been more of a disservice to their threat than a favor.  I’m not sure how big a part they’re going to play in the grand scheme of Eastman and Waltz’s TMNT universe, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

As for the art, well, it’s classic Eastman and it’s a joy to see him doing more than just layouts or short back-ups.  He hasn’t lost his knack for action staging and the duo-tone shading gave the book such a wonderfully nostalgic feel.  While so many people recognize the old Mirage TMNT comics for their gore and violence, I never felt this tale lost a beat by omitting the blood and guts.  It doesn’t feel like “neutered Mirage” in the slightest.

This Annual was a wonderful early Christmas gift from Eastman and everybody at IDW.  I certainly hope they make a tradition of it.  Eastman’s dedication to Laird on the credit's page was nice and also leaves me hopeful that we might get a truly classic Eastman/Laird team-up some day (which, again, we haven’t seen since TMNT (Vol. 1) #50).  Having this annual released the same day as TMNT #15, well, I think I may have just overdosed on Turtles.

Grade: B- (as in, “But, man, when was the last time Eastman drew Splinter?  I’m genuinely curious”.)