Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TMNT Movie II: The Secret of the Ooze

Originally published by: Tundra and Archie Comics (see Turtle Tips)
Publication date: Summer, 1991

Script: Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy)
Art: Jim Lawson
Letters: Mary Kelleher
Color: Barry Grossman
Editor: Scott Fulop
Managing editor: Victor Gorelick
Based on the screenplay by: Todd Langen
Cover: Jim Lawson and Steve Lavigne


Pizza delivery boy Keno is on his way to April O’Neil’s place when he hears a commotion at the mall across the street.  He confronts a gang of thieves and holds his own with martial arts ability until he’s overwhelmed by their numbers.  Luckily, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show up (Mikey blurting out that they saw him from the roof across the street) and beat the thieves senseless.  Raph sends Keno away to call the cops and when he returns, April’s pizza is gone (but paid for).

At April’s apartment, the Turtles enjoy their pizza and celebrate their latest victory.  Splinter warns them not to get sloppy just because the Shredder is gone.

At the local dump, Tatsu has gathered the remnants of the Foot Clan at their backup HQ.  Before he can announce his plans to be the new leader, the Shredder (badly scarred from his fall into a dump truck) returns and repairs his helmet.  Shredder wants revenge against the Turtles for defeating him and orders one of the Foot Soldiers, Freddy, to follow April O’Neil.

At a toxic waste disposal site in New Jersey, April interviews Professor Jordan Perry of the Techno-Global Research Industries.  He explains that now that they’re developed new technologies to dispose of toxic waste, TGRI intends to dig up and properly eliminate all their previous waste chemicals.  (At the apartment, Splinter observes this report and decides to meditate on the subject.)

Freddy decides to keep up with Professor Perry when he goes off to look at something serious and discovers giant mutant dandelions.  He takes one back to the Shredder, who finds them very interesting.  He dispatches his men to TGRI to kidnap Professor Perry and steal any ooze that may be left.

Meanwhile, Splinter calls his sons to the roof of the apartment building and shows them the original canister of ooze that mutated them.  They read the inscription, “TGRI”, and realize where they must search to find answers as to their origin.  The Turtles infiltrate TGRI, but arrive too late.  All but one of the ooze canisters have been eliminated and Tatsu and the Foot have stolen it.

They return to April’s place only to be suddenly interrupted by Keno, delivering a free pizza.  Keno notices Raph hiding and stomps on his foot, drawing him out.  Splinter sits him down and tells him the story of where they all came from.  Keno says that he can help them find the Foot’s HQ, as Foot Soldiers have been aggressively recruiting teenagers with martial arts skills off the street.  Raph likes the plan, but Splinter forbids it, much to their chagrin.

At Foot HQ, Professor Perry refines the ooze and douses a snapping turtle and a wolf with it.  They are mutated into the hulking Tokka and Rahzar, but they have the minds of infants.  Shredder is displeased until he witnesses the destructive power they possess and decides to keep them around.

Keno and Raph have decided to go ahead with their plan against Splinter’s wishes.  Keno infiltrates a Foot recruitment center and with Raph’s help is accepted into the Clan.  Raph follows Keno as he’s taken to the dump, only for both of them to be spotted.  Raph is captured and Keno is allowed to escape, setting the Shredder’s plan into motion.

While all this is happening, the other three Turtles search the sewer for a new lair (deciding they’re too out in the open at April’s place).  Mikey accidentally stumbles upon an abandoned subway station and they move in.  At the same time, Keno makes it back to April’s place with the bad news and she relays it to the Turtles and Splinter.

The Turtles sneak into the dump, only to find that the Shredder is alive and waiting for them.  He traps them in a neat and a crane begins to maneuver them toward a bed of spikes.  Luckily, they were prepared for this and Splinter fires an arrow, cutting the net and freeing them.  The Turtles rescue Raph, only to be met with Tokka and Rahzar.  The two brutes pound on the Turtles, but in the chaos Donatello is able to rescue Professor Perry.  They escape into the sewer system.

Professor Perry joins them in the new lair and answers their questions about the ooze, explaining that the concoction and the fact that it was lost in the sewers was all one big mistake.  This depresses Donatello, but Splinter assures him that nothing in life happens on accident.

Meanwhile, Shredder sends Tokka and Rahzar to an empty city street where they destroy everything in their path.  April goes to interview Police Chief Sterns about the attack, but is cornered by Freddy.  He delivers a warning from the Foot: The Turtles are to come to the dockside construction site tonight or the Shredder will unleash Tokka and Rahzar on a populated Central Park.

April delivers the message and the Turtles have no choice but to comply.  However, Professor Perry reveals that he sabotaged the ooze when he refined it, which is why Tokka and Rahzar are idiots.  He says he can reverse the mutagen and together they whip up an antidote.  The only problem is that the evil mutants will have to eat it.

The Turtles arrive at the construction site where the Foot is waiting.  Shredder sics Tokka and Rahzar on them, but the Turtles trick the mutants into eating donuts laced with the antidote.  The only effect the antidote seems to have is that it makes them burp and the enraged mutants promptly throw the Turtles through the wall of the nearby Dockside Club.

Meanwhile, back at the lair, Keno decides he can’t stay and meditate with Splinter any longer and has to help his friends.

As for the Turtles, as they're getting beaten up by Tokka and Rahzar in the club, Vanilla Ice is inspired to freestyle the “Ninja Rap”.  Professor Perry and Donnie conclude that the burping is why the antidote is failing, because it needs carbon dioxide to function.  The Turtles then grab some fire extinguishers and blast CO2 directly down the throats of Tokka and Rahzar, kick-starting the antidote and de-mutating them back into a normal snapping turtle and wolf.  They then clobber Tatsu and the Foot Soldiers and dance on stage.

The Shredder isn’t through yet, though, and reveals that he has plenty of ooze left.  Keno then arrives and the distractions allows Leo to knock the canister from Shredder’s hands (where Professor Perry quietly picks it up and leaves).  Shredder takes a girl hostage and pulls out a small vile of ooze, threatening to mutate her.  Keno pulls the girl from his grasp, knocking the Shredder backward into a large speaker.  Donnie cranks up the volume and Mikey strikes a chord on a guitar.  The sonic blast sends Shredder flying through a window and out of the club.

The Turtles follow him to a pier and find that he’s taken the ooze, mutating himself into Super Shredder.  Super Shredder begins tearing apart the pier, knocking huge beams of wood down on top of them.  The Turtles dive into the water as the whole pier collapses, crushing and killing the Shredder for good.

The Turtles return home to tell Master Splinter of their victory.  He asks if they were seen and they assure him that they practiced the art of invisibility like true ninja.  Splinter then shows them a newspaper with the headline “Ninja Rap is Born!” and urges them to practice harder.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT: The Movie.  The story continues in TMNT III: The Movie.

*Obviously, this one-shot comic is an adaptation of the 1991 “TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze” motion picture from Golden Harvest.

*2 versions of this comic were published simultaneously by Tundra and Archie Comics:
**Tundra Edition (painted colors by Richmond Lewis, 4 bonus pages)
**Archie Newsstand Edition (flat colors by Barry Grossman, no bonus pages)

*There was no Mirage edition of this comic.  The Tundra edition is sometimes erroneously referred to as the “Mirage edition” probably because Tundra was the publishing company owned by Kevin Eastman (many Tundra comics are often mistakenly credited to Mirage).

*The Archie newsstand edition was published in the UK in 1991 by Fleetway under the title Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie II: The Secret of the Ooze.  Oddly, the "Ninja" was not changed to "Hero" as was done in nearly all other TMNT media released in the UK at the time.  A new cover by an in-house Fleetway artist was used for this printing.
*CHET ALERT: The mall Keno visits at the beginning is called “Chet’s Mall”.  The name Chet was an in-joke slipped into the TMNT comics by numerous creators back in the day because… they just liked the name!


Note: The only version I own is the Archie Newsstand Edition, so that is the version I am reviewing.

Just as the second TMNT film isn’t nearly as good as the first, so is the second comic book adaptation not nearly as good as the first.

I don’t want to talk too much about the story or anything, because I’d rather save those opinions for a review of the film (I’ll get to them one of these days).  So I’ll just say that the adaptation is a condensed but accurate scene-for-scene retelling of the events of the movie. 

Unlike the adaptation of the first film, this script seems to be working from pretty much what we got in the completed film, so don’t expect to see many deleted scenes or “extras”.  The only bit I noticed in the comic that didn’t seem to make it into the film (aside from a little extra dialogue that may have been Steve Murphy’s creation) is a scene explaining what “the sudden disappearance of TGRI” meant. 

There are a few scenes midway through the comic where April interviews the TGRI folks a second time and finds them packing up shop and refusing to explain themselves.  Professor Perry later mentions that it’s standard procedure in case of a waste containment breach and that facilitates April’s line at the end about the “sudden disappearance” (in the actual movie it comes off as a weird non sequitur since it wasn’t foreshadowed).

I think what hurts this adaptation most is the lack of layouts from Kevin Eastman.  Jim Lawson’s layouts look like somebody playing a game of Tetris… and losing

Oddly sized panels are randomly dropped down onto the page, leaving needless amounts of dead space and there’s always this feeling of disconnect between what you’re reading from panel-to-panel.  Nothing seems to flow coherently, especially when Murphy tries to fit in all the gags and dialogue, making these weird strings of nonsense that feel awkward without the proper scene pacing of the film.

Characters look extremely crude and I’m going to guess that Lawson was really rushed to put this 64-page special out.  By 1991, Lawson was doing a LOT of work for Mirage, Archie and whatever else he had going on, so I can forgive him for not giving this movie adaptation his all.

I don’t know how Richmond Lewis’s colors look in the Tundra edition, but Barry Grossman’s colors are all sorts of messed up throughout this comic.  Again, it feels like a rush job; he had to get 64 pages of comic colored and onto the stands pronto.  Just try and read the sequence where the Turtles and Splinter are watching April’s newscast about TGRI.  They can’t keep the right colored bandanas from panel-to-panel, so it looks like Leo spontaneously changes his opinion on what he wants to watch 3 or 4 times in the span of 10 seconds.

There are other weird disconnects, too.  For instance, when the Shredder returns from the grave and appears to Tatsu, he’s cloaked in Shadow and Tatsu is remarking that his face has been brutalized.  Just like in the movie.  But on the very next page, Shredder is fixing his helmet and his face is fully visible for several panels and it looks just fine (if a tiny bit scratched up).  It’s like between pages, Lawson forgot that the Shredder was supposed to look hideously mangled.

“The Secret of the Ooze” adaptation is pretty cruddy, all things considered.  It’s very clearly a rush job in terms of art and colors and doesn’t offer enough deviations from the finished film to feature anything “new”.  It honestly doesn’t represent any of the creators at their best.  Is it the worst of the Archie movie adaptation series?  Well, I’m not sure since I haven’t read the TMNT III adaptation yet.  But that one has art by Chris Allan, so how bad can it be?  I guess I’ll be finding out soon…

Grade: D- (as in, “Did I mention that there’s a throwaway line of dialogue before the shopping mall fight where Leo tells the Turtles to stow their weapons and be ‘masters of their environment’?  Well, now you know why they fought with yo-yos and sausages in that scene”.)