Wednesday, February 24, 2016

TMNT (IDW) #55

Publication date: February 24, 2016

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow and Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Michael Dialynas
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: Ted Adams

"Order from Chaos, Part 5"


Down in the ruins of the original sewer lair, Michelangelo finds himself consumed with nostalgia.  He recalls playing video games with Raphael and making a Father’s Day card for Splinter.  Looking at all the smashed Mousers, he wonders how things all went so wrong.

On a rooftop, Alopex confides in Angel that she hasn’t been feeling herself, lately.  She feels like there’s something in the back of her head, diverting her concentration.  Angel suggests that after they complete Harold’s intel mission, she get a full night’s sleep.

Turk and Maze of the Street Phantoms then appear down below and the two get to work.  Going into Nobody mode, Angel tells Alopex to distract the Phantoms and get a good example of their cloaks’ phasing powers while she records from the rooftop.  Alopex takes a few blows on the chin, but ultimately Nobody gets the footage and the two depart without further engaging the Phantoms.

At Cleary’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, the O’Neil family and Casey are celebrating April’s graduation.  Now that she has her degree, she hopes to combine that with her Stockgen intern experience for a good job.  Mr. and Mrs. O’Neil are just about done with remodeling the Second Time Around shop and politely promise Casey that they’re willing to give him as much time off as he needs to go back to school.  Casey declines the offer, much to April’s annoyance, and the dinner begins to get awkward.

At Foot HQ, Alopex brings Kitsune her dinner, but before she leaves, the witch uses her psychic powers to stop her.  Kitsune makes Alopex see her new friends as just an evolution of the bear that pursued her back when she was a normal fox.  As a "fellow fox", Kitsune reminds her that she must be sly and wait for her chance to strike back against the bears that pursue them.  Mesmerized, Alopex agrees and stumbles out into the hall with no memory of the discussion.  As she goes to her room, Splinter watches her from the shadows.

Outside the Second Time Around shop, April and Casey sit in the van and argue.  April is furious that Casey won’t go back to school while Casey is sick of being henpecked all the time.  As a pedestrian passes by, he tosses a can on the ground which incites Casey to start beating him up for littering.  April stops him and demands to know why he’s become so unhinged lately.

Casey explains that the Rat King showed him how weak he really was and so all he cares about now is making sure that the people he loves are safe.  And that means keeping the neighborhood clean of any crime, large or small.  April admonishes him, saying that the better way to fight crime is with your brain and this devolves into a petty feud about Casey’s intellect vs. April's high-and-mighty attitude.  By the time all is said and done, the two break up.

On Burnow Island, Harold contacts the Fugitoid and asks him if he’s sure he wants to go through with their plan.  Fugitoid agrees that the Turtles likely won’t be onboard with it, but that they owe their mysterious benefactor for saving Donatello’s life and must honor the bargain.  Fugitoid asks if Harold will be joining the Turtles when they come to visit, but while fussing with some cloth, Harold says he has other projects to concern himself with.

Down in the old sewer lair, Mikey finishes cleaning up and gets a surprise visit from his brothers.  They’ve brought a pizza (courtesy of Woody) and tell him that even if Mikey doesn’t want anything to do with the Foot Clan, they should still be a family.  They ask Mikey to join them on their trip to Burnow Island, no Foot attached, and a joyful Mikey accepts their offer.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT (IDW) #54.  The story continues in TMNT (IDW) #56.

*Old Hob destroyed the original sewer lair in TMNT (IDW) #7.

*Alopex’s origins as a normal fox, and her battle with the bear, were seen in TMNT Villains Micro-Series #4: Alopex.

*The pedestrian throws a can of Armacola on the ground.  The mascot is a shark-man.  You put it together.

*This issue was originally published with 7 variant covers: Regular Cover by Dialynas, Incentive Cover by Ben Bishop, Subscription Cover by Eastman and Pattison, Eastman Fun Club Edition by Eastman, and 3 Blindbox Exclusives (Splinter, and two different Michelangelos) by Robert Atkins and Simon Gough.


This self-contained story doesn’t feel too self-contained on the surface, as it furthers plot arcs that have been going on for years now, but there’s a consistent theme that runs through each segment.  Chiefly, it involves the symmetry of reunions and breakups.  Mikey and his brothers reconcile while Casey and April call it quits.  Kitsune turns Alopex against her friends while Fugitoid and Harold are forced to make strange bedfellows with their benefactor (Leatherhead, but no one will come out and say it).  So while the issue does feel like just another chapter in the serialized plot, there’s an idea uniting all the stories contained within.

There’s a nice compromise with Mikey reconciling with his brothers while still keeping his distance from Splinter and the Foot.  And I’m glad they didn’t drag Mikey’s estrangement out for too long.  This is the fourth go-around we’ve had with “Turtle is separated from the others” in this series since it started.  Raph got amnesia, Leo got brainwashed, Don got crippled, and Mikey got, uh, sad.  It’s a song and dance we’re maybe too familiar with by now and the well’s practically drawing sand, so let’s just get the band back together and forgo any further delays.  But, like I said, they found a compromise that got the Turtles back together (AGAIN) without undermining the integrity of Mikey’s moral dilemma.

But now that they’re back together, here’s hoping they can stay together for more than a year.  Each Turtle has had their turn getting separated from the pack, so maybe it’s out of everyone’s system.  Although I guess there’s always a possibility of a “Splinter gets kidnapped by aliens” storyline and we’ll have to go through this all again.  Hey, he’s got a history of getting kidnapped by aliens, so it’s not too far out of the question.

Angel/Nobody and Alopex as a dynamic duo needs more page-time; I’d dig a one-shot that’s just their escapades (with Harold’s ever-present harrumphing) from cover to cover.  As with the Mutanimals, they’re another case of interesting characters with a lot of potential who can’t find any elbow room in the already packed ongoing.  But while the Mutanimals managed to land their own two-parter recently, Angel & Alopex: Guardians of a Six Block Radius haven’t merited such a dedicated storyline. 

Obviously not everybody can have their own miniseries, but a one-shot would do wonders in developing their friendship and situation.  Thus far, all we ever see of them is their making small talk while on the job, then beating someone up, and then disappearing until it’s time for more small talk.  With the setup involving the Street Phantoms and Harold’s connections to them, I’ve got my fingers crossed for a storyline that will involve the pair more intimately sometime soon.

That’s assuming Kitsune doesn’t make Alopex betray everyone before then, but she’s been threatening to do that for, like, thirty years now.  Either put up or shut up, lady!

April and Casey are over.  For now, anyway.  And that just makes me wonder to a greater extent exactly why the Casey & April miniseries was a necessary detour.  This issue explains that the Rat King’s psychological torment of Casey is what turned him into a loon and ultimately strained his relationship with April.  Okay, that’s certainly fair.  But it also completely undermines the message of the Casey & April miniseries, which ended with the two confirming their love for one another and promising to overcome whatever gets in their way so they can be together.  Read this arc directly after Casey & April and the pair are now immediately doing the exact opposite of what they vowed.

The direct references to the events of that mini try to justify what’s going on, all while completely contradicting the spirit of that narrative.  If anything, it makes the Casey & April miniseries feel even further disconnected from the ongoing series.  This fight revolves around lingering frustrations that have been developing between the two for years, but Casey & April already resolved those arguments.  Yet now they’re suddenly and inexplicably back to square one.  It’s almost like you shouldn’t read that miniseries or something (because it’s terrrrrrrible).

All that being said, I thought the argument (that goes on for 6 pages!) was pretty evenly distributed in terms of the blame game.  Waltz doesn’t string one person up as a bad guy, but instead both April and Casey have points while both are making asses of themselves.

April acts like going to college and getting a degree is the end all, be all of a person’s worth and anyone who isn’t interested in that is wasting their lives.  A pretty condescending and hurtful attitude, and she HAS been henpecking Casey about going back to college for a while.  You can see how all her nagging has really chipped away at him and he’s finally had enough; Casey knows what he’s good at and wants to focus on those strengths, not slavishly follow the path his girlfriend is trying to force him down.  Pulling the "This is MY store and MY neighborhood and MY family" card to try and make Casey feel ostracized and extra worthless was an extremely low blow, too.

Casey, for his part, is definitely becoming unhinged and acting more and more criminal in his zeal to keep his loved ones safe.  It’s sort of a throwback to the Casey of the Fred Wolf cartoon, who would chase around jaywalkers and litterbugs with baseball bats, but played straight.  Casey was hired as security for the Second Time Around shop and he’s certainly showing initiative and passion for his job, but he’s on the fast track to becoming as much of a dangerous thug as the people he’s fighting.

So yeah, both of them are acting like idiots and, again, it’s really nice to see faults in both sides of an argument.  It seems like so many writers out there choose a horse in whatever race beforehand and wind up casting one individual as “wrong” and the other as “right”.  That formula makes such arguments a bore to read; if all we’re doing is observing the right party preach about how right they are and the wrong party listen to how wrong they are, it’s not an argument, it's a fuckin sermon.

And lastly, there’s something going down on Burnow Island.  The characters don’t want to say “Leatherhead” out loud and the comic continues to be really coy about him.  Come on, who are they kidding?  We know it’s the giant alligator-man; they’ve shown us about 35% of his body already.  Enough beating around the bush.  But ah well.  Thirty more days.  We've waited THIS long.

Dialynas departs with this issue and he’s been a solid artist for his three installments.  While the scripts he was given were very Michelangelo-centric, he’s shown great adaptability with all the other main characters in the series (at least one of each appears briefly in these three issues).  While the Santolouco/Smith on/off duo are the ideal team, Dialynas did a great job of adhering to their aesthetic while also implementing his own visual gimmicks to make his style stand out.  Hopefully we’ll see more of him when Santolouco or Smith aren’t on the job.

This was a good one-shot and maybe with the new five-issue trade paperback format we’ll start seeing more of these shorter length arcs and episodic adventures mixed in with the longer stuff.  While I do think the ongoing is rapidly running out of room for all its characters, that’s mostly a matter of the book having too many interesting characters for 22 pages a month to contain.

Grade: B- (as in, “Because I wouldn’t mind a second ongoing series.  I mean, if Transformers can have two complementary ongoings then certainly Ninja Turtles can pull it off.  And if they had to axe Amazing Adventures to make it work, well, I’m not saying I’d celebrate or anything, but…”)