Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Secret History of the Foot Clan 2, originally released January 23rd, 2013.
Drew: The first issue of this series wowed me with the way its sophisticated exploration of narrative perspective. To me, the notion of a single story pieced together from tidbits contributed by many storytellers represented comics generally, and this iteration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles specifically. In issue 2, writers Mateus Santolouco and Erik Burnham pull the scope back even further, commenting on previous iterations of the Turtles. As someone who grew up in the ’90s, I couldn’t be more pleased.
The issue begins with April, Casey, Leo, and Raph heading out to ask Dr. Miller about his research, but when they arrive at his office, they see him getting into a limo with Karai. A high-speed chase ensues, complete with car-top ninja fights, but Karai escapes with Dr. Miller — though not before Raph sticks his briefcase with special tracking shuriken. The turtles track them back to Shredder’s office suite, where an even bigger fight ensues.
The issue also tracks the further history of the Foot Clan, picking up with Oroku Maji as leader. Maji is concerned about Kitsune’s curse that suggested that Tatsuo Takeshi would be reborn as Maji’s first-born son, Saki — a curse that was confirmed with a Dalai-Lama-selection-process-esque “which of these things belongs to you?” test. Maji believes that he may be able to rescue Takeshi’s soul through good parenting, but when we jump ahead to Saki’s adulthood, we see that he’s kind of a dick; taking credit for things he didn’t do and groping his peers’ pregnant wives. One of those peers, Himato Yoshi, is promoted to Saki’s rank, meaning they will one day co-lead the Foot Clan. Saki is predictably pissed, and is approached by Kitsune, who directs him to find the Ashi No Timitsu, the book that explains Takeshi’s story.
This begins to flesh out the mythology of Splinter and Shredder, as the story progresses into their generation. Learning that Splinter (or, his soul, anyway) was once the co-leader of the Foot Clan alongside Shredder is exciting (though Patrick, you’ll have to tell me if this is information we already knew), as is the prospect of meeting Yoshi’s sons. The fact that Yoshi hasn’t yet had his first child puts an elegant timeline on Saki’s inevitable betrayal, and adds a dash of real suspense once that fourth son is born.
In spite of the prominence of the titular Secret History, I was actually much more enamored of the present-day action. This probably has something to do with my lifelong fandom of the Turtles, but I think that’s exactly the point. Check out this exchange, and tell me you don’t get excited.
Hahaha. Not only does Raph reference one of the greatest theme songs in the history of the world, it’s brought up as something Don is actually embarrassed about. It’s a clever way to address what many fans see as kind of a silly time in Turtles history, while still involving the fans of that silly time. Of course, Burnham and Santolouco could have really put this scene over the top if, instead of “cut him some slack,” Leo had asked Raph to “give him a break.” At any rate, I like to imagine that Mike’s screen name is “partydude.”
That kind of acknowledgment of our own history with these characters can’t help but pull us out of the action a bit, but again, I believe that that was the intention. Last issue, I was so preoccupied with the question of who was telling the Secret History, I never got around to questioning who was telling the present day story. This issue noticeably lacks any narration, but moments like the one above remind us that this is a work by and for Turtles fans. This lends Santolouco the flexibility to do some fascinating things with perspective that might feel out of place in a more straightforward story.
This is a gorgeous and inventive image, but the fisheye effect isn’t just flash — it allows Santolouco to cram a LOT of detail into this panel. Not only do we see all of the Turtles (and Splinter) doing some pretty badass fighting, we also get Shredder asserting his dominance, and Casey and April slowly creeping their way towards the office — won’t they be surprised when they find Alopex in there next month!
Patrick, I know there’s a lot to talk about here, so I’m going to set you up with an appropriate intro that’s sure to guarantee whatever comes after will be awesome. Enjoy!
Patrick: IDW’s TMNT is a modern comic book so the “Mutant,” Ninja and Turtle designations get a little bit more moody attention than the “Teenage” descriptor. But this issue hits nice little notes that remind us who these turtles really are. Thankfully, not in a brooding, angsty way, just in a fun and energetic way. Look how happy Michelangelo is when he explains how he helped Donatello:
Christ, that’s cute.
I find the whole history surrounding Oroku Saki’s rise to power fascinating. I mean, how cool is it that Kitsune’s curse means that Tetsuo Takeshi’s strength and malice will be reborn in the form of his murder’s son? It simultaneously celebrates the Oroku family name by elevating Saki to such a position of power, but also undoes all of his father’s work in setting the Foot Clan straight. And I love that the Clan arrives at this conclusion when Saki states that the Ashi Nu Tomitsu is among the objects that belongs to him (in that aforementioned Dalai Lama test). Pointedly, Saki doesn’t just claim the book with the most enthusiasm, he claims that he made it. I can’t wait to see what’s in that book.
Drew, to address your question: we knew that Himato Yoshi was part of the Foot Clan and that he once considered Oroki Saki his brother. I went back digging for it – from TMNT 5:
As far as I can tell, this is the first its been stated that Yoshi was in line to be co-leader with him. Man, is that a dynamic relationship – and it serves to fuel their rivalry in the present just beautifully.
Speaking of beautiful – I can’t get over this sequence where Yoshi and Saki talk for the last time before Saki discovers that book (and whatever it contains). I’m going to post WAY TOO MUCH OF IT here, but I feel like I could literally talk about every panel of the flashback. Saki stares into his reflection in the pond, which is hard to make out due the ripples and the glare of the moon – just then Yoshi steps in and his silhouette eclipses the moon. That’s as Saki’s expressing his feelings of having his destiny usurped by Yoshi.
Also, if you look closely, Kitsune-as-a-fox is in the background for this scene, even though she’s not properly revealed until the next page. The subliminal effect of burying her image in with scenery is fucking awesome, and broadcasts the nearly psychotic moment where Saki’s meditation is interrupted by two simple names. Throughout the issue Santoluoco uses a lot of fun, active sound effects that appear to be incorporated right into the action. This instance is the most emotionally significant, and the words wipe out everything else, surrounding Saki in a moment of weakness.
Hey, how much of a sucker is Dr. Miller? That dudes needs to step up and take a little personal responsibility for his own safety. Getting into the car with NINJAS? Honestly! At least he’s got Alopex to protect him… no, seriously, what’s the over/under on Miller making it out of this thing alive?
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?