Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Secret History of the Foot Clan 3, originally released February 27th, 2013.
Taylor: It’s weird to consider the effect that our legacies have on us. Who are family is and was, where we have lived and what we have done all impact us greatly when it comes to crafting our current identity. For some, a legacy is a source of strength and pride, while for others it may be the cause of embarrassment and pain. But speaking in the context of just a single lifetime, a person’s legacy can greatly influence their future actions. For a fun example, let’s take George Lucas. The man who created a classic and beloved franchise was so enamored with his legacy that he refused to listen to others when it came time to create his ill-fated prequels. Perhaps he was enamored with his own legacy as a genius myth-maker or perhaps he simply let pride get in the way. Nonetheless, his past influenced his actions, the resulting in a set of films that many felt betrayed his previous endeavors. It’s interesting to consider the role of legacies at play in the Secret History of the Foot Clan both — narratively and creatively — because they cannot be ignored in either instance. In this case, is the legacy a source of strength or a source of weakness?
With the aid of Donatello’s handy tracker, the turtles find where the Foot Clan have taken Dr. Miller. A battle ensues wherein the turtles beat up a bunch of Foot Ninjas and rescue Dr. Miller from the clutches of his would-be captors/employers. On the way out Raphael has a run-in with Alopex and “finds” a motorcycle (which this writer hopes will become the next Turtle-Cycle). While fleeing the scene in the Turtle-Van, Dr. Miller reveals to the turtles that Shredder may very well be immortal, much to the surprise of all. Meanwhile in the past (don’t judge me on that phrase), having found out his true identity from Kitsune, Oroku Saki begins his bloody takeover of the foot clan.
Now, frequent readers of this site might know that I wasn’t a huge fan of the last issue of the titular series from which this one derives. My main complaints were that it seemed too cartoony and was moving in a direction that seemed geared towards a younger audience than the earlier issues had led me to believe. Whether that fate proves to be true or not, I can’t say – but I am worried about it. To be honest, a part of me is worried that Kevin Eastman will take TMNT in this direction because he is concerned about the legacy of his franchise. What exactly this legacy is is hard to define, but a good chunk of it is caught up in the sphere of younger audiences. There is nothing wrong with that (after all, it is how I was introduced to TMNT) but I had hoped the comics would follow the legacy of a darker, more mature tone. Luckily, Mateus Santolouco is here to pick up where I hoped this series would go all along. It’s been such a pleasure reading what Santolouco has done with this mini-series that it has me wondering if the Turtles series would be better off in his steady hands, just as the Star Wars prequels probably would have been better off in anyone else’s hands but George Lucas’.
This third issue of the Secret History of the Foot Clan is everything I’ve ever hoped for out of a TMNT comic book. We have ninja action, intrigue, magic, and even a nice sprinkling of trans-dimensional meddling. In particular, the intersection of magic and science has me riveted to this title and I’m more-than-okay with it remaining in a gray area that defies solid definition. Oroku Saki embodies this intersection perfectly as it’s unclear whether his immortality is derived from some demonic force reincarnating him or from mutagen provided to him by the Utrom. Seeing him gain all of this information at once is exactly the reason why I’m such a fan Santolouco’s work. His rendering of Saki’s legacy is beautiful and it reminds us how cool this title has been so far. No single man should have as much talent as he does. (In southern drawl) It ain’t natural!
But Oroku Saki isn’t the only character who is dealing with his legacy in this issue. Leonardo squares off against Karai in a one-on-one battle, which is essentially like watching Leonardo battle his negative image.
Leonardo is to Splinter what Riker is to Picard and the same holds true when examining Karai and Shredder. Both of these “Number Ones,” Leonardo and Karai that is, are incredibly devoted to their masters and both of them are convinced that their master has the moral high ground in their centuries-old battle. But this legacy of devotion promises to be tested at some point in the future. Karai is frequently belittled and abused by Shredder, which could drive her away from the Foot in the future. Meanwhile, Shredder seems intent on luring Leonardo the Foot Clan which would certainly challenge his bonds with Splinter, for obvious reasons. With that as background, it’s interesting to see these two foes trade blows when you know that eventually their past and present will collide in such a way as to upset the current balance of things. It’s relationships like these that are conspicuously absent from TMNT, yet present here, that make me wonder just what the legacy of this present iteration of the turtles comic will be.
Patrick, how did you feel about this issue – too much action or just right? Do you think science or magic have more influence in the battle of the Foot Clan? Also, how about the art in this issue, isn’t it just great? Could Leonardo and Splinter have a falling out the way Maji and Saki do? Lastly, Turtle-Cycle?
Patrick: Here’s what I love about the Turtle-Cycle: Santalouco knows exactly what piece of Turtle-lore he’s implying there, but he doesn’t have to come right out and say it. Last month, Drew mentioned that Raph teases Donatello about his screen name (DuzMachines) – which is a marvelous way of acknowledging the Turtle’s publishing past while placing them firmly in the present. How do you convey goofy, theme-song titles in a modern day comic? Oh, just make it Donny’s cheeky messageboard handle. The “Turtle-Cycle” is another prime example of this. But if you want something blatant, something that all but screams “I LOVE TMNT, AND I DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS” you could hardly as for better than this.
Michelangelo seems to be moments away from suggesting “COWABUNGA!” as the Turtles’ battle cry. He won’t get a chance — Leo interjects with the much more direct “Shut up and fight” — but it’s clear that Erik Burnham and Santolouco love these characters, and every second of super-rad history. They remind us of this history and make it their own, emphasizing the theme Taylor so rightly identifies as crucial to this issue: legacy.
We’ve praised the art in this series throughout, but this issue is a stand-out. Not only do the feudal Japan scenes evoke that same moody atmosphere and the characters retain their subtle designs, brimming with personality, but the action in this issue is alarmingly well-staged. Taylor, you asked me if I thought there was maybe too much beat-em-up in this issue, but when the blows feel as weighty as they do in Santolouco’s drawings, I don’t know what anyone could complain about. Check out that image Taylor posted above – the showdown between Karai and Leo – it’s electric. (Part of that energy is due to the way Santolouco draws the sound effects himself – it’s effective on every single page of this issue.) Also, I can’t remember a time when Apolex was so terrifying. She tackles Raphael through a door, then discards him to chase after the van on foot. But she’s not drawn like a graceful animal, but like a rampaging beast – nothing will stand in her way. I mean, look how fucking tuff it is when she punches through the rear window. (And to my earlier parenthetical point, look how shards of glass spell the word “KRASH.”)
While it might be sort of a bummer that the flagship TMNT series is skewing a little juvenile at the moment, I try to remain open-minded the lighter narratives we encounter in comics. It’s not always a bad thing to forego depth and just have a little fun. Of course, when you can manage both — as this mini-series has — it does make you wonder why there’d be anything else.
There’s so much to these characters that is merely hinted at in this series — that’s the benefit of such a long legacy: the writers can make passing references that, when combined with what we already know about the characters, feels profound. Here’s a kick-ass example — one that both builds on, and pushes away from, our concept of the character:
Leonardo is pragmatic, he’s level headed, and he’s merciful. In the main series, we just saw him struggle with killing a monster that was attacking his family. “Killing” is exactly in his wheel house, and yet the news that he can’t kill Shredder is deeply frustrating to him. It’s also interesting to note that Leo is nursing a wound from his fight with Karai, but it doesn’t appear to have slowed him down at all. I don’t know why, but using his face-mask as a bandage seems incredibly cool to me. It all boils down to an amazingly competent character that still doesn’t know how to deal with the bad guy. That’s when you know: shit got real.
And I’ll leave the comment section with a question: is it sorta weird that Oroku Saki is scarred by a nameless ninja? It’s not Himato Yoshi or one of his children… seems like a missed opportunity, doesn’t it?
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?