Friday, June 30, 2023

TMNT 2030


Publication date: May 2020 (Vol. 1), June 2023 (collected edition)

Story and art: Jim Lawson 

"My Mutagen Mother"



The year 2030. Leonardo is in the sewers, battling mutant roaches to save some masked children. The kids lead him to an underground shacktown where Leo is reunited with Raphael. Raph has taken in several hundred mutated children, but he fears that they have become mutated due to their close proximity to him. Leo doesn't have a solution, but says he knows a Turtle who does...

On the surface, Donatello (who is blind) is inside his sentient cyborg armor named Kirby, taking down a bunch of terrorists. He stops them from blowing up a building, but a pair escape on motor pods. Michelangelo goes after them in his alien rocket pack and takes them down, only to discover that one of the terrorists is Shadow Jones. He lets Shadow escape just as Casey Jones, now a member of the NYPD arrives. Mikey gives a loose description of Shadow to Casey, before he and Donatello are pelted by one of the masked mutant kids.

They chase the kid into the sewers (as an excuse to dodge Casey's questions) and are met up with Raphael and Leonardo.


In his lab, Donatello analyzes blood samples from the kids and Raph. He determines that Raph's mutation is not affecting the kids, however, he senses through his blindness that the mutagen is sentient and watching them. Together, they hypothesize that the mutagen which created them seeped further into the New York underground and proceeded to evolve over the past 50 years. Raph, worried, runs back to the underground shacktown to check on the kids.

There, he finds the town empty save for one kid (Luis, from the beginning of the story), who leaps into an abyss. Raph leaps after him and finds himself in a cave where the Mother Mutagen speaks to him from the walls. It tells Raph that she has watched them grow and has a plan for all her children. Suddenly, Michelangelo swoops in on his alien pack and airlifts Raph out of the cave.

Topside, Office Casey Jones tracks a perp into a construction zone. After a brief fight, he unmasks her to be Shadow. She explains that she is an activist, not an anarchist, and is trying to stop corporations from demolishing low income housing projects. Casey sympathizes, but says he has to stop her. She ninja-vanishes as a guard appears.

Down in the caves, the mutant children devolve and explode into spores that enter the atmosphere. The girl who was with Luis at the beginning remarks at how beautiful the transformation is.


In the caves, the Turtles return to the lair of the Mother Mutagen. She explains that after seeping into the Earth, she experienced the horrors man has done via pollution. So through the children, she has released spores that will cull more than 80% of the human population by making them infertile. Only a few humans will be able to reproduce, enough to keep the species alive, but that's it.

The Turtles, enraged, demand that the Mother Mutagen show herself. She reveals herself as a large starfish, still not personally done evolving into a higher state. The Turtles attack, but she reacts with paralyzing tentacles, singling Donatello out as her greatest threat.

Topside, Casey and his partner Sweeney investigate a beach where remains from the dissolved children have appeared. Casey follows them into the sewer while Sweeney retreats from the smell. He finds Leo, Raph and Mikey recovering from being knocked out, but Donnie is still missing. They are led by the last surviving child (the girl) who has gone feral and begun eating the mutant roaches.

They encounter Donatello, who has summoned his cyborg armor Kirby to his aid. Together, they fight the Mother Mutagen and Michelangelo plops her starfish form into the empty Kirby cyborg armor. Kirby initiates a sterilization routine, but tells Donnie that he cannot be 100% certain that the Mother Mutagen has been eradicated. Having foreseen this, Donnie sadly asks Kirby to go into statis lock to keep the Mother Mutagen permanently contained.

Kirby shuts down and the Turtles thank him for his sacrifice.

Turtle Tips:

*Volume 1 was originally made available as part of Lawson's Box City Wallops "The Happiest Creature" graphic novel campaign on Kickstarter in 2020. Volumes 2 and 3 were never released individually.

*The entire series was later released as a single graphic novel in 2023, available in limited quantities at conventions and via Lawson's website.

*Volume 1 had a print run of 300.

*The Collected edition had a print run of 100.

*TMNT 2030 is clearly designated in the indicia, cover, and all promotional material as a fan comic. It was not approved or distributed by the Viacom Corporation (who have owned the TMNT intellectual property since 2009) in any way.

*This series takes place sometime after the event of TMNT Volume 4.

*Specifically, it takes place after the events of the short "Night of the Ninja Girl", when Shadow returns to New York after college.

*As you surely must know, the mutagen was leaked into the sewer in TMNT (Vol. 1) #1.

*Donatello's cyborg partner Kirby is most likely named in honor of Kirby King from Donatello (Microseries) #1. Donatello would eventually create a new AI companion named Chet in "Old Times".


It's been a while.

A lot has changed since I mostly shut the site down in 2018. I don't have time to review every TMNT comic that is published anymore, but I made an exception to myself for anything truly Mirage. And low and behold, Jim Lawson has self-published his own post-Volume 4 graphic novel, TMNT 2030. He started it in 2020 and finished it in 2023, but here I am!

It's hard to come up with a lot of things to say about this one. I mean, I really liked it, but I liked it as much for the story as the feeling it gave me. We used to get comics like this from Mirage every month until the Viacom buyout in 2009. And it made me realize what I'd taken for granted.

I used to give Lawson so much crap. Like my review for The Brain Thief. Reading that a month at a time, I was irritated and angry. And my reviews for Volume 4 were no kinder. I didn't know then that Mirage's TMNT was on borrowed time. That Peter Laird was planning to sell to Viacom. And once he did, that was it. It was over. No more Mirage. No more original, OG Ninja Turtles.

It's all been Viacom corposlop ever since.

IDW hasn't cared about continuing the Mirage continuity with Mirage creators. And Nickelodeon has cared even less. 2009 was it. The Mirage era was over. I sort of just... took it for granted.

So I get something like this, TMNT 2030, a "fancomic" in all legal sense, and it feels like mana from Heaven. One of the major OG Mirage creators, Jim Lawson, giving us HIS story about what the MIRAGE TURTLES would do in a nebulous post-Volume 4 world. It feels like a step back in time. The kind of story that I would have given an ignorant, mean review to back in 2009, but am so grateful to read in this post-Viacom world full of obnoxious Michael Bay and Seth Rogan TMNT bullshit.

It makes me feel like an asshole, but in a good way. Like when you remember how ungrateful you were to your parents as a teenager, but also how awesome it was that you had food on the table every night and never had to pay rent. 

We used to get introspective, world-building Mirage TMNT stories like this from Mirage EVERY SINGLE MONTH until 2009. Until Viacom. We were so lucky and we didn't know it.

As for the story? It asks a question I never thought to ask. (Obviously) We know what happened to the Turtles and Splinter after the origin in TMNT issue 1. And we know what happened to the boy who held the turtle bowl in that story. We even know what happened to the Utrom who drove the TCRI truck that spilled the mutagen in the first place.

But what happened to THE MUTAGEN!?

And that's this story. Lawson has long been an introspective writer for the Turtles, venturing into their hearts and their heads. TMNT Volume 2 was all about the Turtles deciding what they'll do next, after the Foot Clan, and it was fascinating (but sadly cut short). If there is any creator better at cracking into the skulls of the Mirage TMNT, it would be Eastman or Laird (or Murphy, let's be real).

So we get this very personal story about the Turtles, dealing with what is essentially their "mother" in the worst possible circumstance. Donatello ultimately sacrifices the AI cyborg he created in honor of his long-lost friend Kirby to forever imprison his "mother". And when you take the continuity of the Mirage series into consideration with all that, you understand why the sacrifice at the end is so hard for him.

Also, the entire wait between Chapter 1 in 2020, and the remaining issues in 2023, I was bugged. "But CHET is Donatello's AI sidekick in the future," I said! And Lawson did not forget that. Chet is the next AI in Donatello's library, but Kirby is once again forever lost.

As for how all this fits between TMNT Volume 4 (still unfinished) and the future era of the TMNT, it's hard to say. That blip in their time remains nebulous. But it brings me to another point...

Is this canon!?

I am a member of many TMNT collector groups on Facebook, Twitter and other places. And I've seen some people saying "don't pay too much for this" and "it's a bootleg" and "it isn't canon" and "it isn't official" and I want to PUKE.

So is that where we're at, now? Unless a TMNT comic has the stamp of approval from the Viacom Corporation, it doesn't COUNT? It's WORTHLESS?

Here, we have a comic that continues the original Mirage TMNT continuity from an original Mirage TMNT creator and I see collectors calling it a BOOTLEG!?

I'm brought back rather nostalgically to my review of Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck (which guest starred the TMNT). It tackled that same conundrum in 1996. Which opinion on canon matters more? The creator's or the corporation's? Sadly, in this age of MCU multiverse bullshit corposlop, I see more and more people valuing the corporation over the creator in rules of canon.

If an OG Mirage TMNT creator says that THIS is part of the TMNT Mirage canon, then THIS is what is part of the TMNT Mirage canon. No Viacom lawyer can tell me otherwise. I care about what the creators say, not what a corporation who bought the IP in 2009 to milk it for all its worth has to say.

And that brings me back to where I was in the 2000s. I wrote some MEAN reviews of these Mirage comics as they came out. I don't necessarily feel differently about all of them, but one thing I do miss is the authenticity. Those were comics from the original creators of the TMNT, or at least vetted by those creators. Those comics were LEGIT. And I took that for granted.

Now I see garbage from IDW, pushing some social media cow's latest identity politic-fueled OC, or whatever the fuck Nickelodeon, Viacom, and Seth Rogan have shoved onto mainstream media in the most obnoxious way possible... And I wish. I WISH I could go back to 2008.

But I suppose that's also a benefit and a curse of having a blog like this that has persisted for so very, very long. You can read my ignorant, vintage reviews and laugh at my shortsightedness. Or weep. 

Me? I miss reading Mirage TMNT comics from Mirage TMNT creators. We only see their work in non-Viacom capacities, these days (TMNT Odyssey, TMNT Origin, TMNT Shredder), and when we do, stupid children warn readers away from them, calling the works "bootleg" and "non canon". 

Is this the worst timeline? I don't like to be a pessimist, but sometimes I feel defeated.

Anyway, I'll post a new review when TMNT (Vol. 4) #33 is published...