Tuesday, January 16, 2018

TMNT Universe #17


Publication date: December 20, 2017

Writer: Chris Mowry
Artist: Giannis Milonogiannis
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher Ted Adams

"From the Heart, for the Herd, Part 2"

Summary:

MAIN STORY:

From a vantage point overlooking Krang's palace on Utrominon, Zom prepares to assassinate Krang with her sniper rifle.  She is stopped by Zog, who tells her that this is not the way to gain their freedom and that he wants to see what she has learned.  They return to the Archives and Zog reads the same classified files that Zom had.  Zom wants to start a full-scale rebellion immediately, but Zog convinces her to follow a more discrete strategy.


At the Barracks, Zog gathers all the Triceratons and reveals to them the truth.  The dropship containing the original herd was not destroyed by enemy combatants, but by the Utroms-themselves, who feared that batch of Triceratons were getting unruly and wanted to start over with a fresh generation of clones.  He tells them that with the Utrom Empire spread thin, now is the time to take the freedom they'd been yearning for by joining with separatist factions around Dimension X.  To do this, he orders Zom to take half the herd in one ship and find refuge by taking over an Utrom garrison, ensuring half their species survives.  The other half will remain on Utrominon with Zog and attack the Utroms as a distraction.  Zog and Zom bid a tearful goodbye and the plan gets underway.


Zog meets with Krang and tells him that an emotionally deranged Triceraton shot up the Archives and stole a ship to escape.  He has dispatched Zom to hunt the renegade down.  Krang is furious and tells Zog to do whatever he has to in order to thwart this insurrection.  As Zog leaves, Krang asks him if he's still on his side and Zog confirms that he is.  Once outside, though, Zog convenes with another Triceraton and they signal Zom that they're ready.


On the alien planet the Triceratons conquered for the Utroms the previous day, Zom's army takes the Utrom garrison by surprise.  Zom's right horn is broken in the battle, but the Triceratons prove victorious.  Much time passes as the Triceratons await news from Zog.  Eventually, the remainder of the herd meets up with them, but with the news that after defeating Krang, Zog vanished in a flash of light.

Taking command of the Triceratons, Zom leaves a message that she hopes Zog will find someday, should he ever return, thanking him for all he has done.  She then leads the Triceratons on their long odyssey to find their place in the universe.


BACK-UP STORY:

Writer: Erika Anderson
Artist: Michael Dialynas

"Triceratots!  Part Two"

In the Barracks, as the Triceratons break up into their two groups to begin their rebellion, a pair of young Triceratons sneak onto Zom's ship.  They get into an argument and start wrestling, accidentally falling out of the loading dock before the ship takes off.


Watching the ship take off, they wish Zom luck and rejoin the rest of the young Triceratons.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Universe #16.  A new story begins in TMNT Universe #18.

*During the recap of the rebellion, the scene in which Zog chucks Krang out of an airship is taken from TMNT: Utrom Empire #2.

*Although it is not said what happened to Zog when he disappeared, he was most recently seen as a warrior in the Battle Nexus in TMNT Annual 2014.

*This issue was originally published with 3 variant covers: Cover A by Freddie E. Williams II, Cover B by Giannis Milonogiannis, and Incentive Cover by Tony Shasteen.


Review:

"From the Heart, for the Herd" is both a good companion and a bad companion to the Utrom Empire miniseries.  In case you haven't read it, that mini took the centuries-spanning history of the Utroms and boiled it down to its highlights.  After it was finished, there remained a lot of narrative opportunities left unexplored, as the mini only covered the gist of things and always from Krang's perspective.  And one of the big moments it had to provide the Reader's Digest version of was the Triceraton rebellion and Zog's betrayal of Krang.

"From the Heart, for the Herd" decompresses that sequence from Utrom Empire and tells the story in more detail and from the POV of the Triceratons.  And that's where this arc shines; we get into the heads of these characters and better appreciate their motivations.  Zom, who has been appearing in the TMNT ongoing, now has a tragedy to her backstory and we better understand why she loses her shit whenever one of her teammates is killed.  Zog, too, finally gets a personality to his name even if I'm not sure about the consistency of it.  He's eloquent, even-tempered, clever and treacherous in this story, where those elements were more described or implied than displayed during the haste of Utrom Empire.  Then again, in the 2014 Annual, he was portrayed as a bulldozing brute who couldn't string a sentence together, but there's a fairly unimaginative easy-out for that (blah blah blah centuries of gladiatorial combat turned him into a lumbering monster blah blah blah).

Those are the good things about "From the Heart, for the Herd".  The negatives are much the same as I discussed in my previous review.  It kind of feels like Mowry was reading Utrom Empire at the same time as he was writing these issues and course-corrected for his own discontinuity along the way.  So whereas Krang was dismissive and/or nasty to Zog in the previous chapter, here he tries to suggest that they're partners and share some sort of camaraderie.  It's an attempt to portray their relationship closer to how it was presented in Utrom Empire, but only after it was so badly misrepresented in the first chapter.  If by chance you ARE reading "From the Heart, for the Herd" in a vacuum without the context of Utrom Empire, you can't get a bead on how Krang and Zog get along because the nature of their relationship shifts drastically between the chapters.

Then again, it could just be an unintended visual portrayal from the artist.  Go back to the previous issue and reread Krang and Zog's discussion, but take a Sharpie and draw a smiley face on Krang.  It changes the context of the dialogue, especially Krang's parting words about how things will be changing for Zog once he's in charge.  Milonogiannis drew Krang with a sinister, evil face as he said it.  But then in this issue, Krang is pathetically begging for Zog to assure him that they're still on the same side.  Maybe as written, Krang's "things are going to be different" line from last issue was intended to be more of a friendly suggestion of rewards for Zog for remaining loyal to him?  As drawn, though, it came across as a diabolical threat.

I think this story is more confusing than it has any right to be.  The plot is actually very simple: Triceratons work for the Utroms, Utroms betray the Triceratons, Triceratons rebel against the Utroms.  But the mess of incompatible characterizations between outside appearances and sometimes even within this two-issue storyline just baffles the whole experience.  I appreciate how it told in detail an important plot point that had up until now only existed in summary, but it really could have used some better story editing.

As for "Triceratots"...?  Outside of "the cuteness", I'm not sure what this back-up really accomplished.  I mean, aside from making me wish the extra 4 pages would be given to the main story and the back-ups eliminated entirely, that is.


3 comments:

Dermot Mac Flannchaidh said...

I don't have much more to comment on Heart/Herd. Whatever really can be said, has pretty much been said. The only thing else that loosely comes to mind, is that maybe it can be viewed as more Zom's story than Zog's? Even if Krang and Zog had ever been on a friendly basis, it was Zom who discovered the skeletons in Utrominon's closet, and she has no reason to view Krang fondly. But even that's an admittedly weak suggestion, and can't really dress up plot holes or inconsistent characterizations.

As for the backup comics, like I said for part one, I thought adorbsness was the primary appeal of Triceratots, and it was worth it. That said, it is the TMNT equivalent of cat videos, and while that alone is enough to melt the hearts of some readers, it may leave other readers wanting—perhaps the kinds of readers who aren't as likely to say things like "adorbs" or "melt hearts." :) I still generally like my TMNT to be more on the mature side, but even it can sometimes benefit from periodic doses of cuteness, as long as it isn't so farcically excessive as to derail story and characters (I'm looking at you, later-2K12 Mikey). At least it actually made sense for Triceraton youngsters to be somewhere in the picture and have little stories of their own, and it is super-effective in helping paint a more humanizing portrait Triceraton society that has been rather lacking in most TMNT incarnations until recently.

Katie Kunkler said...

I agree that it could be Zom's story more than Zog's. But I would completely rewrite it to fit in line with Utrom Empire.

Maybe Zom discovers the skeletons in the closet right off the back, but let's make it a different one. If we're going to have a romance between Zog and Zom, let's do it without Zom being Zog's clone. Yuck!

So she tells Zog what she's found, but he finds it hard to believe; Krang is his friend, how could such a thing be? It takes some convincing, but Zog finally comes to her side and attempts to question Krang for the truth. Said truth comes out, Zog is upset and betrayed.

The next issue is Zog sloughing off his feelings of commadiery toward Krang, but still retaining respect. Maybe it could be about how he was arrested & imprisoned, and where he went when he escaped. I've wondered that for a while.

Dermot Mac Flannchaidh said...

Katie Kunkler:

To be honest, I never got the impression that Zom was Zog's clone. I mean, Zom is a clone, that much is clear, as the only living Triceraton who isn't a clone is Zog. But in part one, I was wondering if Zom was a clone of Zog's mom ("Zom" = "Zog" + "mom"), which would make their relationship creepy but also logical, since a weird element of (at least) human nature makes people biologically more attracted to family members who have been absent all their lives. And really, this theory could still be possible because of Zom's name.

But in part two, I realized that what had actually shocked Zog and Zom was that Zog wasn't a clone, as Zog had always been told he was, and that Zog really did have parents who loved him. I mean, he was young enough that he was very easy to remold and brainwash. It was also clear in part two that Zog and Zom thought their own close bond was taboo, and then realized that other pairs of Triceratons had clandestinely bonded too, and it was all normal.

And that's the insidious thing implied by this suspected Triceraton genocide: They may have killed off the First Herd to culturally reboot the Second Herd and make it taboo for them to have families or loved ones, and to be loyal only to the Utrom empire. And from what Ma'riell once mentioned in the Leatherhead arc, we know Quanin did commit genocide at least once, and she was dismayed that Krang had tried to follow in his father's genocidal footsteps. Maybe exterminating the First Herd was exactly the kind of thing Ma'riell was hinting at.