Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #21

Publication date: March, 2006

Plot: Ryan Brown, Steve Murphy and Peter Laird
Script: Steve Murphy
Breakdowns: Jim Lawson
Pencils and tones: Dario Brizuela
Inks: Andres Ponce
Frontispiece: Eric Theriault
Lettering: Eric Talbot
Letters page art: Aaron Tompkins
Special thanks for “art assistance”: Leandro Corral, Nelson Luty, Abril Barrado

“A (Bull) Wrinkle in Time”


Frontispiece: On a freeway, Michelangelo is facing down a tornado, complete with a cow sucked straight from a dairy farm.  The sight reminds Mikey about how much he hates “Got Milk?” ads, because they’re unfair to low income families who cannot afford milk.  He also hates how unhealthy beef is due to qualities such as mad cow disease and bovine growth hormones.  All this cattle talk also reminds him of a story…

In Moo Mesa, Generic Native American Stereotype Jose Rey is busy telling the story of creation to a school of kids (they’re all anthropomorphic cows, by the way).  Rey explains that in the beginning, there was only the Great Turtle and his animal friends, swimming in an endless ocean.  Then a comet came out of the sky carrying a beautiful girl and landed in the ocean.  The Great Turtle asked that soil be brought up from the ocean floor and placed on his back so that the girl could have a land to live on.  The soil grew and became the Earth, now held up forever by the Great Turtle.

The story is interrupted by the youngster Cody Calf, who has terrible news: Sheriff Terrorbull invaded the Sacred Cave and stole the Crystal Shard (a piece of the comet that created the Earth).  The C.O.W.-Boys (Marshal Moo Montana, the Dakota Dude and the Cowlorado Kid) tried to stop him, but he escaped through a magical door.  The C.O.W.-Boys gave chase and vanished.  Jose Rey uses his mystical third eye to begin searching the Astral Plane for wherever the C.O.W.-Boys might have gone.

Turns out they’re in Manhattan.  The bovines are bewildered by this strange city (and displeased with the light pollution and lack of flora), but decide to continue their pursuit of Terrorbull before he can cause too much trouble.  They follow the sound of an alarm to a jewelry store which has just been robbed and figure they’re on Terrorbull’s trail.  The police mistake the C.O.W.-Boys for the thieves, however, and give chase.  The cattle are chased into a blind alley, but Michelangelo surprises them from a manhole.  He invites the C.O.W.-Boys to join him in the sewer before the police catch up.

Following Mikey to the lair, both groups fill the other in on their origins and situation.  As Raph fights a sudden craving for burgers, Donnie figures he might be able to get a bead on Terrorbull with his police scanner.  The police band mentions a gang of cow-men robbing the Gold Reserve and the TMNT and C.O.W.-Boys head out.

Arriving at the Gold Reserve, they spot a dozen Terrorbull clones shooting it out with the police.  Montana figures the fiend used the Crystal Shard to create magic duplicates of himself.  The Turtles, Dakota and Cowlorado keep the Terrorbull clones (and police) busy while Montana sneaks into the Gold Reserve to take out the genuine article.

Inside, Montana finds Terrorbull raiding the gold vaults and using the magic doorways to stash his horde in his hideaway back in Moo Mesa.  The two do battle, while outside, the Turtles and the C.O.W.-Boys commandeer some police horses to round up the Terrorbull clones and lasso them.  With that out of the way, Mikey hurries to help Montana knockout Terrorbull.  With the Crystal Shard now out of villainous hands, all the clones vanish.

The Turtles and the C.O.W.-Boys carry the hog-tied Terrorbull back to the lair where they find Splinter and Jose Rey communicating via the Astral Plane.  Jose Rey helps Montana use the Crystal Shard to open a doorway back to Moo Mesa and the C.O.W.-Boys bid farewell.

Epilogue:  The C.O.W.-Boys return the Crystal Shard to the Sacred Cave and with a job well done, decide to head down to the Tumbleweed Saloon for some sarsaparillas and turtle soup (though they’re not proud of the latter).  At the schoolhouse, Jose Rey tells the kids all about how the four Great Turtles saved the Crystal Shard.  One of the kids says that he thought there was only one Great Turtle.  Rey says that, at least for the day, there are now four.

Turtle Tips:

*The Turtles will encounter the C.O.W.-Boys again in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #32.

*As for where this one goes in the timeline, Splinter threatens to ground Raphael after he makes a comment about hamburgers, meaning the Turtles still have to be relatively young.  Since they're living in the sewer lair, that would have to put this sometime after TMNT (Vol. 1) #21.

*In case you don’t remember, the Wild West C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa were characters created by Mirage staffer Ryan Brown and his father Bob Brown.  They had a short-lived cartoon, comic series and toyline which, according to the opening editorial, were much more popular in Latin American countries than in the US.

*This issue featured a contest from Steve Murphy challenging readers to name the source of every literary quote he included throughout the letters page.  Winner would receive the Eric Talbot letters page artwork from Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #20.  The more difficult challenge would be to read through all of Murphy’s letter responses without gagging, rolling your eyes or falling asleep.  I failed on all three counts.


Wow, that sure was some fanfiction-quality stuff, wasn’t it?  A deus ex machina to bring the two groups together, a no-questions-asked alliance and a thoroughly lackluster resolution (Montana punches Terrorbull and that’s the end of that).  Honestly, this is a really lousy story and the only attraction is seeing the TMNT and the C.O.W.-Boys crossing over (and Brizuela’s art).  But are there really that many Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa fans out there to even warrant much excitement over this crossover?

I recall the C.O.W.-Boys from back in the day, but it was just one cartoon in a repulsive glut of anthropomorphic animal action shows churned out to cash-in on the popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa left about as big an impact on me as the Biker Mice from Mars.  It came in to piggyback on a fad while the iron was hot then vanished just as quickly.  26 episodes total.  That’s it.  I mean, seriously, guys; Street Sharks and Extreme Dinosaurs lasted longer than that (and their crossover was better, God help us all).

But I guess what separates Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa from all the other TMNT wannabes was that this was a TMNT wannabe created by a Mirage staffer.  So that awards it a little extra mileage, I guess.

What bums me out is that Ryan Brown has no credit in this issue beyond plotting the story (with two other people).  It might have been interesting to see the creator return to his creations after a decade, but he didn’t write the script or draw the issue or anything.  Instead, go-to-guy Steve Murphy handles the writing side of things and I already covered how uninspired the whole story was.  Seriously, Michelangelo just pops his head out of a random manhole in New York, sees the C.O.W.-Boys running from the cops and instantly thinks “they must be good guys; I should invite them to our secret lair immediately!”

At least Murphy keeps his jacking off to Native American culture to a minimum and shows the restraint to sprinkle in only a couple of environmental messages.  Well, except for the frontispiece and Michelangelo's unsolicited rant about the dairy and beef industries.  That was nothing but Murphy using the Turtle as his own personal mouthpiece.

I dunno, I guess I’m being a jerk in this review.  I’m sorry.  Wild West C.O.W.-Boys has its fans (apparently they’re all in Latin America; you know, like that friend of yours who insists he has a girlfriend, but she lives in Canada) and I imagine they got a kick out of seeing their thoroughly dead obsession resurrected for an inexplicable comic book crossover.  And when there hadn’t been any C.O.W.-Boys material in 12 years when this issue came out, I doubt they were feeling especially picky.  But the story is awful and the characters have absolutely no personality whatsoever (Montana is the leader, Dakota and Cowlorado are The Other Guys).  All this thing has going for it is some wonderful art by Dario Brizuela and a slew of cow puns.  On second thought, scratch that second compliment; those puns were excruciating.

If this had been a one-off, it would have been harmless enough.  But we got three more issues of this shit, for some reason.

Grade: D (as in, “Dakota Dude was the only one whose voice I remembered, but that's because he sounded like redneck Nega Duck”.)