Sunday, April 10, 2016

TMNT: Odyssey

Publication date: July, 2015
Originally published by: Self-published by Andrew Modeen

Story: Andrew Modeen

*Jim Lawson (pgs. 11-28, 32-65, 67, 70-101)
*Dan Berger (pgs. 7-9, 107)
*Rick Arthur (pgs. 2-6)
*Arseniy Dubakov (pgs. 1, 66, 108-109)
*Ross Campbell (pg. 104)
*Mark Feltham (pg. 103 – pencils)
*Dennis Kennedy (pgs. 29-30, 105)
*Angie Sternitzke (pg. 30 – CGI)
*Dmitry Bobrovnik (pg. 106 – pencils)
*tOkKa (pgs. 68-69)

Inks: Arseniy Dubakov (pg. 106), Courtland Brugger (pg. 103)
Tones: Andrew Modeen (pgs. 7-9, 44-65, 70-101, 103, 106-107), Courtland Brugger (pgs. 1, 66, 108-109)
Renders: Andrew Modeen (pgs. 31, 102)
CGI & SFX: Andrew Modeen
Lettering: Arseniy Dubakov
Cover: Rick McCollum & Bill Anderson
Back cover: A.C. Farley
Colors, inside cover flaps: Courtland Brugger
Special thanks: Jeffrey Oughton, Sharon Lee, Dawn Coll, Elsy Modeen




2014.  Somewhere in the multiverse.  A man on a motorcycle stops by a house, but the lady says he just missed his old friend, who has left to go on a drive in the desert.  The motorcyclist sees a sports car in the distance and heads after it, intent on reuniting with his long lost friend…

2035.  Dimension Prime, New York.  The city has been flooded and a storm rages.  A pair of children brave the storm and make it to Lucindra’s house and, despite her age and prosthetic limbs, she opens the door for them.  The kids want to meet Raphael, the Ninja Turtle, because they need his help.  Lucindra is not in the best of mind, and isn’t sure if she even remembers Raph, but she recalls a time long ago when they fought the Foot Clan together.  During the fight, Raph told her that Leonardo and Splinter warned him not to trust anyone.  After defeating the Foot Soldiers, she asked him if he changed his mind.  All Raph said then was “Maybe”.  Lucindra calls the kids a cab and wonders if the Turtles ever trusted each other, if anyone at all.

January, 1987.  Northampton, Massachusetts.  As April and Casey wait back in the farmhouse, the Turtles and Splinter meet at a camp in the woods.  Splinter tells them that despite all that has happened to drive them into retreat, he remains proud of his sons.  More than that, he tells them to never forget that he loves them.

Many year later.  The Turtles meet in the woods of Northampton for their annual camping trip.  Michelangelo has returned from his commando missions in space, Raphael has been mutated into a monster and Donatello has been shrunken and forced to pilot a robot body.  Despite all their struggles, they still managed to meet up and Leonardo is proud of that.  It’s the first year they’ve done the trip without Splinter, but Leo tells his brothers that they’re still a family and must never forget their bond.

Decades later.  A middle-aged Leonardo sits by the camp site alone.  Michelangelo arrives, late, but he’s the only other Turtle to show up.  Leo says that he doesn’t expect their brothers to show up, but that they must carry on the tradition regardless.

The end of time.  Entropy.  Savanti Romero observes various points in the lives of the Turtles.  2095: Leo and Don visit the grave of Mikey (1970-2058).  2002: Leo, Raph (mutated), Don (robot mech suit), and Mikey (commando outfit) play poker.  1989: Leo (one hand missing), Raph (wearing Shredder armor), Don (robot body) and Mikey spar.  1985: The Turtles have their rooftop battle with the Shredder.  1970: Chet buys the baby turtles from the pet shop.

Romero remarks that the Turtles have been the center of all his troubles over the centuries.  However, in their last encounter, he was not only able to survive, but absorbed the power he had needed to become nearly invincible.  Using his new power, he resurrects Savanti Juliet.  Together, they thank their “new benefactor” and prepare to destroy the Turtles once and for all.  But first, there’s a “meddling tramp” they want to deal with…

The 79th Level of Null Time.  Renet awakens, having seen a vision of Romero resurrecting Juliet.  She feels herself begin to unravel and sees her past versions disappear.  Realizing that Romero has killed one of her ancestors, she knows she hasn’t much time and uses her powers to travel back to the past.

2105.  Honda Province, Japan.  Renet arrives at Donatello’s home just as a past version of herself was leaving.  Old and feeble, Donnie is about to die when Renet awakens him.  She explains that Romero has escaped and she’ll be gone, soon.  She only had enough time to reach a Turtle at the closest point to her in the future, and with Donnie being the last and this being his date of death, it had to be now.  Donnie isn’t sure how he can help in his condition, but offers to do what he can.  Renet transfers her power to him a moment before being erased from history.  Now understanding the nature of his odyssey, Donnie leaves through time to gather help.

2099.  San Francisco.  Donatello enters a tree house and finds Leonardo preparing for the end.  He energizes his brother and together they travel to their next destination.

2081.  Darien Province, Panama.  Raphael has suffered fatal wounds after a battle with poachers in the swamp.  Bleeding out, he crawls toward Brown Bear, his childhood stuffed teddy, on the shore of the swamp.  Donnie arrives and heals him; he and Leo had always contemplated how their brother died after he disappeared in the flood lands.  After being informed of the mission, Raph agrees to help them and they leave.

1970.  New York.  Romero and Juliet make havoc in the streets, blasting people into ashes.  Romero is enjoying his freedom, though he wonders if his master, the Shogun, or the Shogun’s other minions, will inevitably betray them.  Juliet says it doesn’t matter and continues blasting people.  Somewhere in time and space, the armored Shogun watches various versions of the Turtles from across the Multiverse.

2058.  Sri Lanka.  Preparing to leave the Earth for good, Mikey boards a transmat platform.  Historically, a malfunction would disintegrate him, killing him instantly.  Donnie interrupts history and the Turtles reunite.  They go to the peak of Adam to talk and Raph asks why Donnie’s collecting them from their death beds, not when they were at their best.  Donnie suggests that Renet encoded a set path in the powers she gave him, which were already badly weakened due to her unraveling.  They then leave for their final destination: 1970.

1970.  New York.  Romero and Juliet are about to destroy Big Apple Fish and Pets, the place where Chet bought the baby turtles that would become the Ninja Turtles.  The Turtles arrive and try to stop the Savantis.  They fight, but cannot prevent them from blowing up the store, killing their infant selves.  The Savantis then wipe the floor with the elderly Turtles and are about to finish them when Cudley the Cowlick arrives.  Cudley whisks them away, though Romero lets them escape, knowing that the Turtles will soon follow Renet into oblivion.

Stump Asteroid.  Dimension X.  Cudley tells them about the Shogun and how he has been exterminating Ninja Turtles from across the Multiverse.  Along the way, he gained the Turnstone from Cherubae and Sarnath.  The only reason they are alive is because they are from Dimension Prime, the source of all, and the only world left.  With his dimension destroyed, Cudley is dying, but he uses the last of his strength to take them to the future of their dimension to get them closer to the end of time where the Shogun waits.

2238.  The Turtles arrive in a jungle as Cudley tells them that their path to the end of time must not be direct.  They are confronted by the Earth-Watch, a group of armored alien creatures.  Cudley gives the Turtles his last gift: Slash!  Slash kills all but one of the Earth-Watch, who turn out to be mutant turtles.  The survivor explains that they were mutated by an atomic war and that their time is a “twist” in the timestream; many time travelers get stuck here.  He warns them against proceeding to the end of time and pulls a gun on the Turtles, so Slash immediately kills him with his dagger.

With the danger passed, Cudley tells the Turtles that he has reset Renet’s path to take them to the end of time.  And with that, he bids them farewell and dies.  The Turtles mourn Cudley, but Slash mourns him most of all.  As they bury Cudley, onlookers watch from a distance.  When the work is done, they leave.

The end of time.  The Shogun admonishes the Savantis for failing him and compares their sniveling sycophancy to a quote from Voltaire.  The demonic Null then arrives and suggests he might have a better idea.

2363.  The Turtles arrive in a massive industrial zone and are attacked by robot bears.  Donnie tries to time-jump, but his powers seem to be jammed.  They destroy the bears, but are then approached by a robot scorpion calling itself Omnia.  It explains that after the war, the robots were programmed to destroy all mutants, but misinterpreted that as all life.  It spares the Turtles and invites them back to its factory to talk.

Inside the factory, Omnia gives them armbands that will block the energies jamming their time travel capabilities.  The Evermind who controls Omnia and all machines (and apparently wiped out the Utroms) supports the Turtles where Earth-Watch did not, as it sees the survival of their reality as something of value.  Omnia then lets the Turtles time jump without incident.

2488.  The Turtles arrive in the smoking ruins of the factory where they’re surrounded by freedom fighters.  The mutants say that when they destroyed Omnia, it warned them of their arrival.  The Turtles try to explain when suddenly everyone around them begins to die.  The Turtles fear that their meddling with time is causing all this, but know they can’t stop now and proceed.

2713.  Civilization seems to have reset and the humans who approach them are very generous and offer the Turtles rest and refreshment.  Wary, the Turtles accept.  They notice that the only males they’ve seen are children.  They ask the women where the men are and they refuse to talk about it.  Deciding things are weird, the Turtles prepare to leave when a little girl, Aeli, warns them to avoid the Night Walkers.

2838.  The Turtles arrive in a forest and are immediately attacked by weird simian creatures.  They kill them all and are then approached by a young woman.  She recognizes the Turtles as the ones “Aeli the Mad” wrote of.  She says that the Night Walkers (what the men of their time become when they turn 19) became angry when the Turtles visited last and began massacring villages.  Thus, they became known as the Night Stalkers.  She runs away weeping and the Turtles fear they’re causing even more destruction than ever.

2963.  With no immediate danger present, the Turtles decide to rest here and make camp.  They realize that this may be their last camping session together, so Raph breaks out a bottle of moonshine to mark the occasion.  Donnie has a feeling this will be their last respite before the end, so he likewise indulges and the Turtles get soused, remembering their many adventures.  Mikey admits that after they all went their separate ways, he was heartbroken and about to leave the Earth forever via the transmat.  His brothers tell him that it wasn’t his fault and when they found out he had died in the transmat mishap, they spent the rest of their lives regretting letting him go.

Raph turns to Slash, who has been quiet for the most part, and asks for his story.  Slash tells of the fate of his homeworld, Palmadise, and also the deaths of the Mutanimals at the hands of Null.  With his cousins, the other TMNT dead at the hands of the Shogun, palm trees no longer bring him peace and all he wants is revenge.  The Turtles go to sleep and Slash stands guard throughout the night.  When they awaken, they see Slash among a pile of corpses; he had protected them in silence from various marauders.  With newfound respect for their “cousin”, they proceed to their next destination.

2986.  The Third Millennial Barrier.  A giant door bars their way and Donnie explains that the barrier was built to stop “formative time” from being disrupted by the battles taking place beyond it in Null Time.  Donnie isn’t sure how to bypass it, but then a time portal opens up and out steps Mei Pieh Chi, better known as Venus De Milo.  She explains that when the Shogun attacked her world, she was able to channel some of his magic into herself using an old time scepter and her shinobi magic.  She now seeks the end of time and vengeance, as well.

Venus asks for their armbands to help her open the door, but the Turtles don’t trust her.  Venus then attacks them and tries to take the bands by force, but Donnie uses his powers to defeat her.  Venus explains that after the Shogun wiped out her dimension, he offered to restore it for her if she became his minion.  She realizes she was foolish to have believed him and explains that the armbands they’re wearing are the key to passing the barrier.  Donnie forgives Venus and asks her to join them in their odyssey (though Slash warns her not to betray them again).  The Turtles then raise their arms and energy shoots out of the bands, opening the door.

3088.  The Turtles arrive in a futuristic city where they’re met by a trio of Time Lords.  They warn the Turtles that passage to the end of time is forbidden, but one Time Lord says she can vouch for them.  Donnie recognizes another of the Time Lords as a younger Lord Simultaneous, and Donnie tells him of Renet, which is enough to convince him to let them pass.  The third one, Timagetus, agrees with his peers of the worth of their mission against the Shogun.  They agree to let them pass, but only if one of them remains and joins the Time Lords.  Venus volunteers and as the rest of the Turtles proceed without her, Slash recognizes the female Time Lord who vouched for them as Aeli.  As soon as they leave, a young man accosts the Time Lords for letting outsiders do as they please.  The Time Lords tell the young student, Romero, to be quiet.

Somewhere in the Multiverse.  The man in the sports car continues through the desert and swerves violently when a coyote leaps out in front of him.  The man on the motorcycle continues on his trail.

As the Turtles travel to the end of time, they see various events from their lives and the lives of their counterparts throughout the Multiverse.  They eventually emerge at the end of time.

They soon find Romero and Juliet.  They fight and Romero quickly stacks the odds by raising three of the Turtles’ greatest enemies and one ally from the dead: Baxter Stockman, Zog, Complete Carnage and Bloodsucker.  The Turtles take on their mindless foes and dispatch them in battle.  They then face Romero and decide to forgo their past strategy of banishing him or imprisoning him, as he always seemed to rebound from those.  Instead, they stab him to death.  Romero begs for Juliet to help, but she betrays him and Leonardo cuts him in two, killing him for good.

Juliet then slinks into the arms of Null, whom Slash immediately recognizes.  Slash pounces, but Null impales him with his tail, mocking him as he falls.  Just then, Venus returns, older and now a full-fledged Time Lord.  She tells Null he has much to answer for and summons the spirits of the Mighty Mutanimals: Man Ray, Wingnut, Screwloose, Jagwar, Dreadmon, Mondo Gecko and Leatherhead.  Dying, Slash watches his friends tear Null into pieces.  As Slash passes away, the Mutanimals likewise disappear, their spirits avenged.

The Turtles and Venus continue on and the Shogun greets them with a quote from Shakespeare.  Juliet joins him in gloating that with the power of the Turnstone, they cannot be stopped.  The Shogun then destroys Juliet and tells the Turtles that even though he could have erased them in an instant, subconsciously, he knew he wanted to see them one more time.

Mikey charges and the Shogun immediately disintegrates him.  Venus goes next and is likewise destroyed, though the Shogun mocks her by saying she was never supposed to exist in the first place.  The Shogun tells the remaining Turtles that he can correct all reality and free it of other “mistakes”.  Leo demands to know who the Shogun is and the villain obliges, removing his helmet to reveal…

Michelangelo.  Mikey explains that he sent a younger version of himself to join their odyssey with no memories of what he would become, and that he didn’t actually destroy him, but ensured that he would one day become his future self.  Going back further, though, Mikey explains that he was emotionally devastated when their family broke up.  So he staged his death on the transmat, having actually set the coordinates to carry him across dimensions.  In another world he met Null and made a deal to gain some of the power he needed, enough to get the Turnstone.  Upon gaining the Turnstone from Sarnath, Mikey became the Shogun and freed Savanti Romero from the Eye of Aga-Moo-Tou to gain a portion of his time travelling powers.

The Turtles ask him why he would do all of this and Mikey reveals that he spent so many years observing their other incarnations from across the Multiverse that all the little details have begun to blur in his mind.  He wants to “fix” reality by creating a universe that includes the best aspects of each incarnation.  To do it, the Turnstone needs to draw energy from the entropy found at the end of time.  Mikey tries to convince his brothers that what he’s doing is right, that he can keep them from ever falling apart and can even bring Splinter and all their friends back.  More than that, he can make them a true biological family; humans born to Hamato Yoshi, Splinter, and reincarnated as mutant turtles.

Donnie tells Mikey he’s gone insane and, in a rage, Mikey summons the Devourer; a creature created by Omnia to stop the Shogun but ultimately fell under his power.  The giant robotic manta ray attacks the Turtles to keep them distracted while Mikey finishes recreating reality.  Donnie uses Renet’s powers to their fullest and, sapping all his strength, destroys the Devourer.  Leo then accuses Mikey of failing Master Splinter.  The accusation distracts Mikey and Raph uses the opportunity to attack, impaling Mikey with his spear.  Mikey begs forgiveness from his brothers and says that “Life, at best, is bittersweet” before dying.

Although they’ve “won”, the Turtles have lost their brother and their reality while the Shogun’s plan remains in motion.  Donnie is tempted to use the Turnstone to undo everything and put reality back as he remembers it, but knows he’d be just as tempted as Mikey to “correct” things and instead chooses to let things be.  A moment before the entropy erases them all, though, Leo grabs the Turnstone and imparts his final wishes on the new universe to come.

A new Multiverse is born.

Dimension E.  The Turtles are in the lair when they feel something strange come over them.  Splinter calls them to attention and says that he feels a great shadow has been lifted.  He hugs his sons and tells them not to take this new life they’ve been reincarnated into for granted.

Dimension F.  The Turtles take on Snakeweed in an alley and, after chopping him up, get ready to take on Kraang Prime.

Dimension G.  Some rather ugly, er, “realistic” Turtles drive around in a van and fight Foot Soldiers dressed in military gear and wearing weird masks.

The Halls of Lost Legends.  The Realm of All Creation.  Down the corridors housing the greatest heroes in all of time and space (Batman, Superman, Captain America) the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Master Splinter have taken their rightful place.

The Multiverse Nexus.  The Last Level of Null Time.  An elderly, seemingly immortal Turtle observes the various incarnations of the Ninja Turtles from across the new Multiverse.  He marvels at how different they all are, but is satisfied nonetheless.

Reality.  2014.  The man in the sports car swerves out of the way of the coyote and goes rolling.  His car ends up teetering on a cliff’s edge.  The man on the motorcycle catches up with him and pulls him out of the car before it goes over.  The man in the sports car turns out to be Kevin Eastman and the man on the motorcycle is Peter Laird.  The two shake hands, happy to see one another after such a long time.

Turtle Tips:

*cracks knuckles*

*The lady at Eastman’s house asks Laird if his showing up is about “the documentary”.  This is a reference to “Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, a documentary released in 2014.

*Lucindra was last seen in TMNT (Vol. 1) #44.  Raphael mentioned her in TMNT (Vol. 3) #25.

*The January, 1987 prologue takes place during TMNT (Vol.1) #11

*The second camp site prologue that takes place during Volume 4 creates a continuity error, as Mikey has returned from his space adventure while Raph is still mutated, contradicting the events of TMNT (Vol. 4) #32.  The reason for this is that Odyssey was written and being drawn before issue 32 was published.

*The third camp site prologue with the Turtles in middle-age likely takes place around the time of “grouchy Leonardo” seen in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #13, Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #14, and Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #41.

*Savanti Romero was left trapped in the Eye of Aga-Moo-Tou in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #32.  The Turtles and Renet killed Savanti Juliet in TMNT (Vol. 1) #42.

*Donatello is plucked from his death bed as seen in the Tales of the TMNT Volume 1 Treasury Edition frontispieces and epilogue.  Leonardo is plucked from his death bed as seen in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #41.  Raphael’s battle against the swamp poachers was seen in “Choices”.  Mikey’s death was never shown in the comics, though his “missing in space” status was implied at the end of Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #55 (the significance of Brown Bear was also explained in that issue).

*On page 19, the Shogun is watching versions of the Turtles from (top to bottom): Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, TMNT Tournament Fighters, TMNT (2007 Imagi film), TMNT: The Coming Out of their Shells Tour, Mutant Turtles: Superman Legend (the anime OVA), TMNT Adventures #7, TMNT (1987 Fred Wolf cartoon), and TMNT: Back to the Sewers (screencaps too small for me to identify episodes from the TV shows, sorry).

*Needless to say, the origin of the Turtles in the pet store was seen in TMNT (Vol. 1) #1.

*Romero mentions his romance with Renet (when he was human), as seen in “The Paradox of Chudnovsky”.

*The Turtles last met Cudley the Cowlick in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #58.

*The Turnstone was last seen in TMNT Adventures #50.  Cherubae was last seen in TMNT Adventures #13.

*On page 30, the montage of worlds destroyed by the Shogun are: The 1987 Fred Wolf cartoon (Dimension A), the ‘90s live-action movies/Next Mutation TV series (Dimension B), the 4Kids cartoon (Dimension C), and the 2007 Imagi TMNT film (Dimension D).  Cudley warns that the Shogun is a greater threat to the Multiverse than Galactose and Ch’rell, as seen in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #58 and Turtles Forever.

*Slash died fighting the Malignoids in TMNT Adventures #57.

*The Earth-Watch, the “Factory Mind” and the “False Eden” originate from the Palladium TMNT & Other Strangeness supplement sourcebook Transdimensional TMNT.  The Earth-Watch mention the atomic war, which is from the supplement sourcebook After the Bomb.

*While camping in 2963, Leo recalls when Raph was de-mutated in TMNT (Vol. 1) #24 (the editor’s note mistakenly cites it as TMNT (Vol. 1) #23), Mikey gets wistful over the death of Klunk from Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #9, they mock Leo’s romance with Radical from Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 1) #41, Raph’s thing for Lucindra which began in “The Name is Lucindra”, and Donatello’s crush on Jhanna from TMNT (Vol. 1) #13.

*Mikey mentions Splinter’s death from TMNT (Vol. 4) #10.  He also mentions “the other Splinter” who made a brief appearance in TMNT (Vol. 4) #31 (which had been the most recently published issue at the time this comic was written).

*Raph says that Slash reminds him of someone he met once, a reference to “Slash!”, an unpublished comic from a tribute book that Mirage ultimately did not complete.  Slash’s history on Palmadise was detailed in Mighty Mutanimals #9.  Null killed the Mutanimals in TMNT Adventures #54.

*Venus references the time the Turtles of her world (the live-action movie universe) used a time scepter to travel to Feudal Japan in “TMNT III”.

*Baxter Stockman died in TMNT (Vol. 4) #9, Zog died in TMNT (Vol. 1) #20, Complete Carnage died in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #41, and Bloodsucker died in TMNT (Vol. 1) #26.

*Mondo Gecko tells Null he wants revenge for what he did to Candy.  Null brainwashed her into his service in TMNT Adventures #56.

*Donatello mentions going to the center of the universe and meeting the Creator, an event the editor’s note cites as happening in TMNT: Origin.  That is a fan-published comic by Andrew Modeen which, as of right now, has not been completed.

*Dimension E is the IDW universe, where the Turtles’ origin as the reincarnated sons of Hamato Yoshi was detailed in TMNT (IDW) #5.  Dimension F is the Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon universe and Dimension G is the Paramount live-action movie universe.

*The Turtles visited the Hall of Lost Legends in TMNT (Vol. 1) #43.

*This was a self-publication created by Andrew Modeen.  Despite featuring work from numerous professionals who have worked on the TMNT brand over the decades, it is an unofficial comic and was not made for sale.

*The original soft cover, English language print run was 260 copies.  Hardcover editions in both English and Russian were also printed by Arseny Dubakov, though the print run on those is uncertain.

*Andrew Modeen made a digital version available to view for free Here.


Although I mentioned it at the bottom of the Turtle Tips, I feel obliged to reiterate it at the top of this review, just so there’s no confusion.

This is not an official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book.  It is a non-profit fan-publication.  Despite all the official TMNT creators who contributed to the book, it is still essentially fan fiction.

Bear in mind that the phrase “fan fiction” is not a description of the comic’s quality, despite all the baggage that comes with the phrase.  I just don’t want any confusion about the “canonicity” of this graphic novel or whether or not somebody needs to be sued.

Anyway, Odyssey was a longtime coming.  I think Andrew first contacted me about it in 2011 (according to my gmail archives) and the book didn’t see print until 2015.  It was an anxious wait, but I think the end product shows as much craft and care as any “official” publication.  Hell, it’s better-produced by leaps and bounds than much of the legit Turtle shit I’ve reviewed on this site.

After the sale of the TMNT brand to Viacom in 2009, Mirage-centric Turtle fiction essentially ended.  Laird retained the right to publish up to 17 (I think) Mirage TMNT comics a year, but he’s mostly ignored that luxury in his retirement (not blaming him; I’d want to relax in my retirement, too).  So there’s been an extended drought of stories from the original TMNT universe, or “Turtle Prime” as it was designated.  Odyssey came along to try and meet that demand while also telling what’s essentially the “last” Mirage TMNT story; a sort of closure we never got since Volume 4 went on indefinite hiatus.

If you actually succeeded in reading through that massive string of Turtle Tips, you might be left thinking that the comic is a self-indulgent pile of fanwank.  “References for the sake of references”, etc.  While this comic is HEAVY on the minutia, I think a certain level of context needs to be taken into account before anyone jumps to conclusions about “fanwank”.

Odyssey is the “last” Mirage TMNT comic; an ultimate conclusion to that universe.  It builds off of everything that has come before it, and in order to do that, it has to REFERENCE everything that has come before it.  It would ring hollow as a finale if it didn’t acknowledge all that preceded it.  

And even if you aren’t a hardcore TMNT know-it-all, the deluge of references still serve a purpose beyond a titillating Easter egg hunt.  The universe feels rich and lived in and the characters feel accomplished and well-worn.  Whether every reference was to an existing piece of media or even if they’d all been made up, they still serve the purpose of illustrating how these Turtles at their twilight have grown from all their experiences.

So no, I don’t think this is a case of “fanwank”.  I certainly had fun picking out all the sly nudges to old stories (but maybe not so much fun actually trying to annotate them for Turtle Tips), but that was more of a bonus to the narrative mechanic.

The basic beats of the story are perhaps derivative of Hal Jordan’s arc during the 1990s.  You can Wikipedia this shit for the whole story, but basically: Hal Jordan was Green Lantern and a hero until a great loss made him lose his mind.  He killed his friends, obtained great power and tried to recreate the universe to “fix” things.  His closest friend (Green Arrow) had to kill him, but the universe was reborn anyway.  Ultimately, Hal was redeemed.

Mikey’s arc is more or less identical.  Even some of the lesser talked about details, such as manipulating proxies to hide his identity as the big bad (during Zero Hour, Hal/Parallax used Extant as a pawn until his usefulness ended much in the way Mikey/Shogun uses Romero).  If you’re at all familiar with Green Lantern comics, then you are going to notice the similarities right away.

That said, I would challenge you to sit down and read Emerald Twilight/New Dawn, Zero Hour: Crisis in Time, Final Night, Day of Judgment and Green Lantern: Rebirth back-to-back.  It is NOT a good storyline, at least in terms of execution (Hal’s downfall and redemption arc runs through a series of crossover event titles and those are rarely good reading).  Odyssey, at least, takes those story points and implements them in a much more palatable fashion.  So while it is derivative of those Green Lantern comics from the ‘90s, it certainly improves upon their ideas and execution.

Although the story beats are familiar, the actual content of the tale is unique.  Much of the titular odyssey is mined from the pages of Transdimensional TMNT, an RPG sourcebook published by Palladium in the late ‘80s.  That’s about as obscure as it gets, but even if you’re unacquainted with such esoteric Turtle lore, the adventures feel self-contained and don’t require any prior knowledge of the RPG.  You don’t have to know that the Earth-Watch originated from some old sourcebook to get their part of the narrative, for instance.

The actual adventure does feel taxing and grueling on the characters, as they’re already geriatric and on the cusp of dying by natural causes.  This is not the Turtles at their physical best and at points it does appear as though they’re limping toward the finish line.  The final battle in general comes across like a body rallying just before giving up to an inevitable illness.

If you’ve ever spoken to Andrew, you probably know that he’s something of a Mirage purist.  Nothing wrong with that; we all have our preferred incarnation of the TMNT.  But despite such preferences, he gives all the different versions of the brand their time to shine, even the ones that are notoriously hated.  Venus De Milo playing a central role was nothing short of a shock, and although there’s dialogue denigrating her (Laird has never been shy about his hatred of the character, who was created by Eastman without his input), she still proves her worth in the final battle.  Slash, likewise, represents a more kid-centric avenue of the brand, being plucked from the Archie comics, but he holds his own through to the 1 yard line.

Andrew could have easily used the comic as an opportunity to deride or dismiss the parts of the franchise he doesn’t personally care for, but instead did a fine job of keeping his personal grievances out of it.  While the Mirage TMNT are rightfully held in esteem as the One True Incarnation of the Turtles (because, being the progenitors of all offshoots, they ARE), none of the other variations are depicted as being illegitimate or unworthy.  It’s one of those elements that makes Odyssey feel less like what we perceive as “fan fiction” (part of that “baggage” I was talking about earlier).

So the elephant in the room is, of course, Michelangelo.  The comic endeavors to justify his turn in this story, but if the actual comic couldn’t convince you to buy it then I don’t think I can, either.  Personally, I’m not entirely sure I buy it myself, but I can see the angles Andrew exploited to get Michelangelo/Shogun into the Hal Jordan/Parallax role.

In the Mirage comics, Mikey was always shown to be more sensitive than his brothers and far more interested in the bonds of family.  He was shown dating the most often (between Image and Mirage) and he might even have had a family at the end of Volume 4 (we don’t know due to the unfinished nature of that story).  So it’s easy to see how he could have taken the Turtles drifting apart the hardest of them all.  Maybe not… THAT hard, but it’s something.

Using his love of writing and creating art to facilitate the impetus for his plot to recreate the universe was a nice touch.  Having the Shogun constantly quote Voltaire and Shakespeare as a means to hint at his identity was also a swell detail.  And in the end, we find that none of the Turtles are really much better than Michelangelo.  Raph kills his brother, Don is willing to let Mikey’s plan proceed unchanged, and Leo makes some last second adjustments of his own before the end.  Mikey gets the short end of the stick, but he isn’t necessarily singled out as the worst of the bunch; they’ve ALL got problems.

Whether you buy into Mikey playing God or not, it does allow for a nice segue into the modern Viacom era of the franchise.  Mirage’s ending allows for a new beginning with the IDW incarnation taking center stage (IDW Splinter narrates his feelings throughout the montage of new dimensions).

In terms of pacing, I think there might have been a few too many prologues and epilogues added to the story.  Admittedly, that’s a bit give or take, as those additional bookending sequences also allowed for guest contributions from other TMNT alumni, so the ends somewhat justify the means.

For instance, the prologue with Lucindra.  It was great to see Rick Arthur at it again after such a long absence from the series.  While Lucindra wasn’t one of my favorite characters, I always did love his art.  That said, it's connection to the overarching plot feels tenuous and tacked-on; some random musings about trust that interrupt the flow of the intro.  

Likewise, the epilogue with the elderly Turtle watching the Multiverse gave us more Dan Berger art (always a plus), but it also undercut what I felt would have been the strongest parting image: The Halls of Lost Legends.  IDW Splinter’s monologue is rather inorganically extended to preside over the Old Turtle epilogue whereas it had felt more conclusive when it ended on the image of the Mirage Turtles enshrined in the Hall.

Then there’s the sequences with Eastman and Laird.  I’m not entirely sure those were a good idea.  I think the intent of those pages came from a good place, wanting the two to put aside their differences and let bygones be bygones, but I also kind of feel like that… isn’t really anybody’s business?

If Eastman and Laird don’t want to be friends anymore, well, who are we to try and “get the band back together”?  I mean, for all we know, Laird could have run over Eastman’s dog, or Eastman could have slept with Laird’s wife.  So where does anybody else get off telling them to kiss and make up?

Like I said, I think the intent was a positive message, but it kind of crossed a personal boundary.

On the topic of the artists, there are a LOT of them in this comic.  Jim Lawson does the lion’s share and I understand that Andrew paid him out of pocket, page by page, to make this comic a reality.  And the comic looks great, as excellent as anything Lawson produced officially for Mirage during the 2000s.

Other official artists include Rick Arthur and Dan Berger, as previously mentioned, but A.C. Farley also puts in a beautiful back cover (though the Halls of Lost Legends sequence is adequately rendered in Farley’s style by Dmitry Bobrovnik).  Rick McCollum and Bill Anderson team-up for a wonderful front cover (colored by Courtland Brugger) and it was a trip to see them take on the TMNT again.  Sophie (formerly Ross) Campbell also provides the page representing the Nickelodeon Turtles.

Guest artists that haven’t done official TMNT work before include Mark Feltham, who does a nice job copying Dan Duncan’s style for the pages featuring the IDW Turtles.  Dennis Kennedy and Angie Sternitzke pick up the slack on most of the other universes, providing pastiche art to make the other incarnations of the characters look accurate (even going so far as the render the Turtles from the Imagi film in CG!).  There’s also a cool montage spread by “tOkKa”.  Remaining inks and tones were done by Andrew and Arseny Dubakov and they look excellent as well.

In the end, I think it’s for the best that this comic was an unofficial fan publication.  I say that because, being “unofficial”, it’s free to have unlimited access to ALL versions of the brand throughout history.  

You see, there were parts of the TMNT franchise not owned by Mirage and, as a result, are not currently owned by Viacom.  While all IPs are their property, the actual episodes of the 1987 TMNT cartoon and the Next Mutation TV series are owned by Lions Gate and Saban, respectively.  Then there’s the issues of the Mirage comic done by Rick Veitch, who was the only creator who refused to sign Eastman and Laird’s “mandatory retroactive work-for-hire” contract, which would have given them full ownership of his creations.  As a result, neither Mirage nor Viacom own Bloodsucker or any other characters created by Veitch.  And then there are the cameos of Superman and Batman in the Halls of Lost Legends, which never would have made it into an official publication.

So you can see how being “fan fiction” actually played to this comic’s strengths as a final tale that acknowledges EVERYTHING that came before it, even the stuff not owned by Mirage/Viacom.

Odyssey, I think, will be a divisive comic among fans.  Michelangelo as the villain will either make or break it for a lot of people and the fact that it is unlicensed will cause others to pass it by without a second thought.  Regardless, I think it is the most ambitious fan project in TMNT history and a very impressive achievement on Andrew’s part.  I am proud to own a copy and have it on my shelf right alongside all my Mirage trade paperbacks and hopefully everyone else who received a copy will treat theirs as reverently.

So congrats to Andrew on his hard work and thanks to all the creators, both pro and fan, who pooled their talents to make Odyssey happen.  I think no matter who you are, if you like Mirage Ninja Turtles, there’ll be SOMETHING in this comic that will appeal to you.