Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 16, originally released November 28th, 2012.
Patrick: Killing. Your comic book heroes don’t like doing it. Famously, Batman has a no-killing policy, but if you look close enough, that mantra applies to just about everyone in a cape. But why? Is it the hero’s morality? Or is it the squeamishness of publishers that keeps their heroes from killing? After all, it’s such a neat dividing line: Green Lantern doesn’t kill, so he’s a good guy; Deathstroke does kill, so he’s a bad guy. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a special case – they are essentially children, after all. But they exist outside of society and mutanes – re-incarnated murder-victims, trained by a ninja master. The psychological profile that background suggests is staggering. So when Leonardo is forced to kill to protect his family, the decision Means Something.
The bulk of this issue is handed over to concluding the fight that started last issue – between our hero turtles and the evil monster turtle. Even with their superior numbers and ninja training, our boys are basically no match for Slash… until Leonardo goes against all his instincts and lands what should be a fatal blow.
Slash falls into the rushing sewer waters and is swept away. The turtles return home, and they all try to cope with what they had to do in order to survive the encounter. It’s hard for everyone, but there’s a cute little story tucked away in these pages about Michelangelo heading out to get pizza from his buddy at Rupert’s Pizzeria. Woody has decided that he can’t deal with the kind of heat that comes down on the friends of the turtles, and he says so much in a note pinned to a piping hot pizza. Mike skulks away, pizza in-hand and tears in his eyes.
Now, this is clutch – and a pronounced demonstration of this series simultaneously paying homage tot he series goofy, materialistic past and subverting those expectations. All throughout this series, we’ve seen Mikey be enthusiastic about getting a slice of pizza. And that enthusiasm was totally a throwback to the cowabunga-90s, and that idiot-surfer mentality that made TMNT so marketable to nine year-old me in 1991. The truth behind Michelangelo’s pizza-fervor is that he had a friend that liked him for all the reasons that made normal people shy away from him – a friend that was always there to listen to his problems and help him out and never asked anything in return. Mikey needs that friend in a way Don and Leo don’t (and in a way Raph already has in Casey), and it’s powerful to see him lose it.
And while Leo just needs to internalize his grief (and make a nice little shrine with Slash’s mask acting as a flag), Michelangelo needs his optimism rewarded. I flipped back through this issue and the previous, and it’s sad how much Slash seems to favor Mikey when dishing out his beatings. It’s also Mikey that Slash explicitly threatens to kill.
They all view Slash as a kind of long-lost brother, and it’s interesting to consider how much more that means to these characters because family is just about all they know.
Since most of the issue is simply the action of fight sequence, I’d be remiss not to praise Andy Kuhn’s artwork. I have a hard time writing about the fight because all four Ninja turtles participate and the action effectively tracks them all. It’s remarkable how clear it is – you get the sense that you know where everyone is at all points during the battle. Frequently, this clarity comes from eliminating the background entirely, so only thing Kuhn’s drawing are the five warriors. Look how clean that makes this fight:
Taylor, there’s a fair amount I didn’t touch on here, but will most certainly play a part in the up-coming issues. First, there’s the 11th hour reveal that Slash is still alive and his meeting with Old Hob. It seems like Hob is interested in assembling a merry band of discarded mutants, operating independently from StockGen and/or Krang’s army. Tom Waltz’ willingness to suggest YET ANOTHER GROUP in this already dense universe.
There’s also a little bit with Krang and his army of rock men. Do we know what they’re planning to do? Krang says they’re about to launch an assault on the Neutrino capital city, which is bad news for the citizens of Dimension X. But aside from our affections for Fugitoid, I don’t know how much I can invest in Krang’s invasion. And where have the Foot Clan been hiding this whole time? I’m sure Waltz and Eastman will properly re-introduce those elements as they become relevant, but right now I’m just happy to watch surprisingly well-realized Ninja Turtle psychology play out in front of me.
Taylor: Patrick, I think despite the fact that we receive monthly updates on Krang I would like to see his story line developed more. While I appreciate the tale of revenge and reincarnation that makes up the Shredder portion of TMNT, I don’t feel like the Foot Clan poses any real threat to anyone outside of the turtles. Krang, however, has an entire army of rock soldiers at his bidding and in this issue he makes it clear that he intends to use it. This type of power threatens not only the turtles, but the entire world, so it seems like it should be given more attention. However, I’m willing to let this story simmer for awhile. Waltz and Eastman definitely are going for the slow burn in this series and are happy to take their time while they prepare the various aspects that make up the universe. You get the feeling that at any point things could explode in this story and I’m enjoying not knowing where that will come from. As you mentioned, Patrick, apparently yet another group is about to be added to this mix, making things all the crazier. That Hob is included in this group makes me so happy, as I’m sure you guessed. He even wears a trench coat now, YES!
Since I’m happy with the development and deepening of the TMNT universe I wasn’t put off in any way by the amount of this issue that revolves character development. Patrick, you mentioned that you enjoyed seeing Michelangelo get pizza for a reason beyond a simple obsession with pizza (which is totally valid by the way, I know). I too was glad to see Mike become something more than the quintessential “party dude.” While a Slurms McKenzie like character is funny and passable as a one-off character, it’s not the type of person you want as one of your primary leads. The rest of the turtles all have clearly defined characters what with Leo’s leadership, Don’s nerdiness, and Ralph’s so it’s gratifying to see Mike become the turtle known for his compassion.
However, Patrick, unlike you I’m not so sure what to make of the “fatal” blow that Leonardo dealt to Slash. While I realize he was threatening to use a terminal form of violence I’m not so sure that he actually intended to insert his sword into Slash’s shoulder. Rather, I saw it as an unfortunate (or perhaps fortunate) accident that was unavoidable when the two are balled up together fighting. The ramifications of this accident could be severe given that the Shredder is hatching a plot to that involves Leo joining the Foot Clan. How will Leo, the moral and de facto leader of the turtles, deal with what could be an accidental murder? Michelangelo was shell shocked when Slash fell into the whirlpool so is he going to assume that Leo showed slash little mercy? And could this end up driving him away from his family and into the hands of the Foot Clan? All of these questions, and more, are swirling around this title at this point and I simply cannot wait to see what happens next. The next issue could be a back story for Baxter Stockman for all I know and I think I would still find it engrossing, feeling safe with the knowledge that it will somehow make for an awesome story in the future. In the mean time I need to go find Michelangelo and offer him a slice of pizza.
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