Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Teenage Mutant ninja Turtles 17, originally released December 19th, 2012.
Taylor: There comes a point when reading anything that is speculative in nature where the author asks the reader to take a leap of faith. In The Lord of the Rings, the reader has no choice but to accept that magic and elves are every-day occurrences. Similarly, in Hebert’s Dune, you have to accept that spice is a wonder-drug and faster than light travel travel is physically possible. Most reasonable readers recognize these elements as fantastic and they also realize they are simply part of the universe that the author is creating. These readers also realize that to deny the validity of the fantastical elements of a plot would lessen their reading experience. Those who read Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are all too familiar with taking this leap of faith in their readings — just look at the title and main characters of the series. So when the title asks its readers to take an even larger leap of faith than ever before, perhaps it is worth discussing.
The seventeenth issue of TMNT delivers on some of the issues that were discussed in our previous write up of the series: namely how the turtles will eventually interact with Krang. As the issues opens, Krang’s army is besieging Smada City on the planet Neutrino. His plan is to take over the city and leave Baxter Stockman in charge of the Technodrome project. What he doesn’t realize is that King Zenter plans on retrieving Chet from Earth to help with his resistance efforts. Meanwhile, the turtles and company are recovering from the events of the previous issue and attempting to return to normal life. Additionally, they feel the need to garner more allies, starting with Chet. Yet when April attempts to sway Chet to her side, three commandos from Planet Neutrino beam in to take him back to Smada City. The turtles, thinking April is in danger rush to her rescue but end up being accidentally teleported to Planet Neutrino with the Chet and the commandos. Also, The Shredder is still attempting to recruit Leonardo and is perhaps going to create a super soldier using mutagen, but how either of those is going to happen remains a mystery.
In our last discussion of this title we speculated how all the various story lines in play in TMNT would come together. Our primary concern was whether the more science fiction elements of the Krang story would mesh well with the biopunk aspects of the primary turtles story. In issue 17 we are beginning to see how these stories will merge and from initial impressions its interesting to consider whether it will be successful or not. While I’m glad to see all of the story lines coming together (minus the foot clan still) I’m finding it difficult to reconcile my conception of the turtles with that of Planet Neutrino. I think the reason for this comes from how the two arcs have been developed up to this point. The turtles portion of this title is a fairly gritty endeavor that explores the themes of loyalty and family under the guise of a feudal ninja epic. The Planet Neutrino arc — on the other hand — is a story dealing with the galactic domination and oppression and the will to resist such malice. Now, will all of these themes still get their full due when the two story lines are merged or will something fall to the wayside? Also, how well will the turtles be able to function in a story that deals with saving an entire world as opposed to just a member of their clan?
I think some of my hesitation to see how we’ll lithe two stories will merge comes from how the two stories, and worlds, are drawn by artist Ben Bates. Now, I’m not complaining about the art by any means – in fact, it is good as ever. However, looking at the Nuetrinos (as seen below) creates a bit of cognative dissonance compared to the turtles.
These Neutrinos look as if they came from an anime space epic as opposed to the same as the turtles. But it seems likely that this is an intentional move on Bates part to perhaps emphasize the difference between the turtles and what is an alien world both to them and to us. I hope this discord continues throughout this part of the story as it’s sure to create some interesting tension in the story. Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz are sure to do this with his story telling so it would be nice to see that reflected in the artwork as well.
Speaking of which, I ultimately have faith in Eastman and Waltz to justify the merger of these two stories and make them work well together. The original TMNT comic had a significant amount of weird-inter dimensional shit that was a signature of the series so it seems like they’re up to the task of doing it again in this particular version of the TMNT story. I, for one, am willing to take the leap and go with where this story is going, even if at first it strikes me as discordant because I think this series is too good not to.
Patrick, are you willing to take that leap with Eastman and I or do you find the jump to big to make? Do you think the Neutrinos will team with the turtles against Krang? Do you think the turtles have a lot to fear from the brain?
Actually, on the topic of that nerd-voice (the one that’s frequently interrupted by the snorting laughter and the pushing-up of glasses): mere minutes before heading to the comic book store, Drew and I were joking about the absurdity of reading a Tron book. Don’t ask me how we arrived at ‘Tron’ as an appropriate subject of our ridicule, we just did. Even though we read books about Superman and the X-Men and Ninja Turtles, Tron was too ridiculous. If I were to see a Neutrinos series on the shelf right now, I’d likely treat it the same way: too ridiculous.
AND YET. Here I am, basically loving this issue. Taylor mentions the borderline-anime stylings of artist Ben Bates, who is taking over the artsy duties from Andy Kuhn. It’s not just our Dimension X friends that get slightly more rounded features with this issue – everyone’s looking a little bit like a Peanuts character. I sorta put up a stink when Dan Duncan was replaced with Kuhn, and my initial thought was to push back against Bates’ work here, but his designs are clean and expressive.
Colorist Ronda Pattison keeps with a simpler color palette, which lends the shading of the characters more of an animated feel as well. This isn’t to say that the change in style is flawless. The anime-ish touch robs Karai of all of her menace and the King of the Neutrinos looks like a fucking wiener.
Aside from the art transition, though, I think a lot of what I like about this issue is how the turtles aren’t seeking out any of this craziness. They’re going about their daily lives, pointedly still dealing with the fallout of their last big adventure when BAM – inter-dimensional freedom fighters accidentally bring them over to their world. It might be a sucker-punch for the turtles, but it’s not a sucker-punch for the readers; we’ve been getting a page or two about this conflict for months now (plus that excellent issue about Dr. Honeycut’s escape to Earth). It’s amazing how many plates Eastman and Waltz keep spinning at one time. Splinter notes at the family meeting that their “enemies benefit from alliances,” but the real story is that these enemies are also at war with each other. Savate Ninjas vs. Foot Clan vs. StockGen vs. Krang vs. Neutrinos… or something. We assume the turtles will hop to the defense of the Neutrinos, but who knows?
Hey speaking of the Foot Clan, two things: 1) The Foot have been quiet since issue 12, but with the forthcoming Secret History of the Foot Clan series, they’re bound to be sliding into a more-prominent role in TMNT proper. 2) We don’t get much of them in this issue, but what is up with Shredder’s conference room? It’s dank and industrial as shit, but the walls are still lined with Japanese Oni masks.
Those masks might just be an example of a detail to link these characters with their roots in feudal Japan, but we also don’t really know how Oroku Saki is still alive. Splinter and the turtles were reincarnated, but there’s something different going on with Shredder. Maybe these demons are hinting at this. I don’t know shit about specific Oni (if there even are such things), so I can’t say that these particular designs mean anything.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how both the far-future and immediate-future conflicts play out, but I’m equally excited to see how our remaining heroes with function without the turtles. Will Casey let April get a punch in without being sort of a macho douche about it? Will either of them be able to relate to Splinter without their cool turtle-friends to mediate? Just how strong is this “family” anyway?
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?