Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TMNT: Turtles in Time #4

 Publication date: September 17, 2014

Writer: Paul Allor
Artist: Dan Duncan
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow

“Turtles in Time, Part 4”


The Turtles blip into a futuristic Manhattan populated entirely by mutants.  Intrigued, they decide to get some sushi and reflect on how swell this world is.  A fish-girl at the restaurant fawns over them, explaining how she always wanted to be a ninja but her master wouldn’t let her.  Donatello tells her that she needs a new master and should follow her own path, but his words arouse the suspicions of a nearby gang.  Apparently, that sort of talk is considered treason on “Shredder Island” and a fight breaks out.  The Turtles flee (running past several humans being rounded up by Foot Clan officers) and make their way to the nearest manhole.  Unbeknownst to them, Renet arrives seconds late, but soon enough to trip the thugs that are chasing them.

The Turtles find sanctuary in their old lair, but also find a map with grim tidings.  Apparently, in this future, Shredder controls North and South America, General Krang controls Asia, Europe and Africa, and Baxter Stockman controls Australia.  Then, Renet blips into the lair, having fixed her time scepter.  She explains that after their first adventure, the Turtles absorbed an excess of quantum particles, which is why they were suddenly sent hurtling across time and space.  Raphael wants to know why they went to time periods very specific to their history and Renet suggests that the “universe” was guiding them in an attempt to teach them a lesson.

Suddenly, they’re greeted by Future-Don, an old man and the last of the Ninja Turtles.  They ask him what happened and Future-Don tells his younger self that he gave up on fighting and in doing so, his brothers were killed and the last of the resistance rounded up.  Donnie is mortified and insists on restoring the resistance before they all head back to their present.  Future-Don says that the last of the resistance are scheduled to be publically executed in only a few hours.  Don forces his future self to guide them to where the executions will be taking place.

In a public square, a walrus-mutant is about to kill the humans they rounded up earlier when the Turtles storm the platform.  Future-Don joins the fray, feeling the fight return to him.  Don attempts to free one of the soldiers, but the man is executed.  He gets the rest free (including one with a scarred face), but the walrus-mutant intervenes before they can escape.  He’s summarily shot by the fish-girl from the sushi restaurant who says that Donatello inspired her earlier to fight back and follow her own path.  She joins them in escaping, following Future-Don back the lair while the Turtles keep the Foot clan at bay.  They’re then menaced by an older, more demonic-looking Shredder flanked by dozens of Bebop and Rocksteady clones.  He attempts to strike, but Renet sends them home before his blade can connect.

In the lair, the scar-faced man, actually Woody and leader of the resistance, asks Future-Don to consider returning to the fight to inspire and lead the people.  Future-Don holds his old purple bandana and considers it.

In the present, the Turtles reflect on the future they’ve seen.  Donatello is racked with guilt, especially because he has, in fact, considered giving up the fight many times.  Leonardo repeats what Renet said, that the “universe” was trying to teach them something.  Don is confused and unsure what to do.  Michelangelo tells him that all they CAN do is keep fighting.  Don is satisfied with that.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT: Turtles in Time #3.

*The future in which Shredder and Krang wage war upon one another was first glimpsed in TMNT Villains Micro Series #8: Shredder.  The older, more demonic version of the Shredder was also seen inhabiting the afterlife in that issue, as well.

*The Turtles had their first adventure with Renet, and absorbed the quantum particles, in TMNT Annual 2014.

*This issue was originally published with 2 variant covers: Regular Cover by David Peterson, and Subscription Cover by Dan Duncan.


Alright, before I get ahead of myself by talking about Turtles in Time as a whole, let’s discuss this single issue.  It’s rather… formulaic.  I mean, it’s really formulaic.  Every clich√© of the “characters go to a future ruled by the bad guy and inspire the masses to fight back” plot is present as a matter of obligation and it’s all rather graceless.  I mean, the script follows the guidelines right down to having the character the heroes briefly talk to at the beginning show up to save the day at the end because they “inspired” her.

Hey, remember that episode of “Darkwing Duck” where Darkwing goes into an alternate universe ruled by Negaduck and inspires the local heroes to resist the fascist tyranny before going home?  Heck, remember that episode of the 4Kids NINJA TURTLES cartoon where Donatello goes to an alternate future ruled by the Shredder and inspires the future Turtles to resist the fascist tyranny before going home?

I’m sure if I spent 5 minutes on TV Tropes I could come up with a dozen more doppelgangers of this story right down to the letter, but do I really need to?  In the end, the dull familiarity made for a very boring, predictable read.  For all my grievances with the last issue, it was at least a fun (if rushed) tale of rascally hijinks that felt spontaneous and original.  This was writing by formula and for a tale all about “inspiring” others, this was an utterly uninspired script.

On the other hand, it does fit into the massive tapestry of IDW’s TMNT universe, following up on the glimpse of a dystopian future we saw in the Shredder micro, as well as the Shredder’s older form.  It also reads well after the one-shot story in TMNT (IDW) #37, where Shredder and Krang officially declare war on one another.  The release of these two issues was well-timed, as they complement each other nicely.  So while the story is nothing fresh, it has its place in the grand scheme of this narrative. 

Now, for those patiently waiting for a flashback or a circular storytelling gimmick or SOMETHING to explain the in medias res beginning of this miniseries… too bad.  In fact, if you were reading this issue on auto-pilot and not really digesting the dialogue, you may have even missed the explanation.  Offhandedly, Renet mutters some mumbo jumbo about “quantum particles” and that’s all we get.  I guess it didn’t really need anything more than that.

Looking at the whole Turtles in Time miniseries, I think it was a lot of fun, even if it ended on a bland note.  The tonal pacing was rather bipolar (fun-serious-fun-serious), and the time period one-shot nature of each chapter sometimes forced storytelling truncations, but the end ultimately justified the means.  We got a lot of crazy situations out of this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants storyline and it sewed up a handful of loose threads that might have been dangling from the ends of the aforementioned IDW TMNT tapestry.  Each issue also served, sort of, as a spotlight on each Turtle and nobody felt shortchanged.  While I didn’t care for this chapter much, the whole miniseries was pretty cool.  Confusing, thanks to all the delays and scheduling bullshit, but pretty cool.

Grade: D (as in, “Doesn’t the ‘footprint’ style Foot Clan symbol represent the Feudal Era incarnation of the clan while the ‘claw’ style symbol represents the modern incarnation of the clan, at least in the IDW universe?  Or was future-Shredder just feeling nostalgic and changed the logo to Foot Clan Classic?  It’s not important.”)