Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 18, originally released January 23rd, 2013.
Taylor: Whether it be in the world of writing or the world of art (hell, even in the 9-5 workplace) consistency is something that is difficult for the average person to achieve. Perhaps this statement should be clarified: it is hard to be consistently good at something. It goes without saying that doing things poorly on a regular basis is easy, as doing so requires virtually no effort. However, to create something that is continually good is no easy task. Just take a look at the comic books that litter the shelves of your digital or real-world comic shop. How many of those titles are good month in and month out? How many never have an off issue? How many never let you down? There is perhaps no greater complement that can be paid to a series then that it is consistently good. To craft an issue that is always on point is truly the mark of a great creative team, and something that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has always been able to claim. Yet in the 18th issue of the series some fault lines are beginning to appear and the question is, is this an aberration or the sign of something more troubling?
The turtles have been transported to the planet Neutrino after attempting to capture Chet and suddenly find themselves in the middle of a war zone. Deciding that they stand a better chance of surviving with Commander Dask of the Neutrino forces, the turtles make a quick alliance with the inter-dimensional travelers and barely escaping the onslaught. In all this action our heroes see Princess Trib being kidnapped by Krang’s forces and — with a certain heroic flair — rescue her, but not before some rock soldiers make off with the King and Queen of Neutrino. The turtles and Commander Dask, along with Princess Trib, make amends regarding their previous altercation in the park back on Earth and get down to some explaining. It turns out Honeycutt (aka Chet) is Fugitoid who was on Earth trying to stop Krang from completing his Technodrome, which has the capacity to enslave Earth. Also, we learn that Krang is trying to recreate mutagen so that he can rescue the rest of his brain-creature family from stasis and take control of all Dimension X. Meanwhile on Earth, April attempts to learn what is going on and learns of Burnow Island, home of Krang’s forces on Earth.
For the most part issue 18 of TMNT is solid on many fronts. We get a fair amount of action; we are introduced to some new characters; we learn some important background information; and we also get a bit of character development. But for all that, this issue also suffers a bit from inconsistency, the first of which appears when Michelangelo is attempting to rescue Princess Trib. Mike throws a ninja star at the head of the rock soldier making off with Trib only to see it bounce off of his stone head. While this is an amusing moment it blatantly ignores some of the issues that have been plaguing the turtles in the preceding issues of this story arc. After Leonardo battled Slash the turtles assumed that he had been killed by Leo’s sword (unintentionally or not, we are not sure). This action had repercussions among the all turtles, and Mikey took the death particularly hard. However, in this instance, we see Mike apparently attempting to kill someone by throwing a ninja star into his brain. It’s not like he knew the soldiers he was battling were stone — his shock from seeing the ninja star’s reflection is obvious. So what were his motivations? Was he really trying to kill someone, thereby ignoring the very thing which has given him so many moral troubles? It’s unclear what to make of this action, but for now it comes off as being inconsistent with his character up to this point. Hopefully Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz will address this somehow in the next issue. Perhaps it will be the cause of the riff between Leonardo and the rest of the turtles deepening and driving him closer to the Shredder’s clutches. One can only hope.
There is another inconsistency which I noticed in this issue, but one that is also welcomed. From time to time in this series, it has been easy to forget that the turtles are supposed to be teenagers. Perhaps that’s because they are giant green animals or perhaps it’s because they are going through some pretty serious shit. Regardless, it’s easy to forget that these are supposed to be teens that should react to situations as any other normal teenager would. But in this issue there are a couple instances of the turtles reacting to events that have happened to them in typical teenage fashion, which — while not normal in this series — is also more than welcome. Mike’s infatuation with the pretty Princess is an example, but nothing quite surpasses their astonishment when Chet reveals to the turtles that he is robot. Credit has to be given to artist Ben Bates’ rendering of their astonishment at this reveal. The use of two panels that are exactly the same with the exception of Mike’s facial expression is quite humorous and the shocked expression on Donatello’s face is priceless.
It’s nice to see these teenagers, who are used to a lot of weird stuff happening, freak out at the reveal of a robot in their midst. It serves to remind us that these turtles are more than just ninja turtles. They are human too. Hopefully this is a theme that will be explored more consistently in the future since this series really is at its best when it’s developing characters as opposed to having inter-dimensional warfare take the forefront of the plot.
Patrick, how did you feel about this issue? It had its good points but it also didn’t totally win me over and I’m not sure why. Any thoughts on that? Also, how soon before we get Shredder and Krang teaming up? I want that, hard.
I made a crack last month about these characters looking like the drawings inside the instruction manual for Legend of Zelda on the NES, and this issue kept that status quo up pretty well. All of this negativity can be wiped out if we ever see one of these Neutrino characters being cool. Or effective. Take your pick, guys. At the moment, not only do they look stupid, they’re hopelessly out-gunned and bumbly as shit. Further, with the introduction of a princess (and by extension, a whole royal family) that needs rescuing, they’ve become a whole planet of maidens-in-distress. The turtles will help them, but that says more about the character of the turtles than the reader’s investment in the Neutrino way of life.
Just one cool Neutrino, that’s all I’m asking for.
On the flip side, I do like that the turtles seem to share my frustration for the silliness of this world:
The issue also suffers from a little bit of “yes, I already know this because I read the TMNT Microseries 8” syndrome (a condition so specific, I made it up for this very issue). The tiny glimmers of new information are intriguing — including that little extra information we get about the ooze. As we discovered in the Secret History of the Foot Clan 1, the ooze plays a much larger role in this universe than simply creating the a coupla mutants. The ooze, as it turns out, is also a key component for life of the Utroms. That makes the single solidest connection between the turtles, the Foot and Dimension X. It’s so clean and elegant, that I can’t help but admire it, even when delivered in issue that neither of us love.
But I suppose that’s being unfair to some of the quiet moments back on Earth that do shine. It’s sorta scary to see Splinter lose his cool, even it only means him breaking a broom in his hands. This poor guy literally has to process the guilt of letting his sons die, like, every time they’re put in danger. But rather than accept that anger is a proper expression of his feelings, Splinter continues to blame himself. It’s a strong statement of who Splinter is and what he values — even if he can’t control himself at all times.
Plus, it’s fun to see April spring into action and weave some fucking lies to get more information from that other technician at StockGen. She marches in with such authority and just demands answers — it’s pretty sweet. And while she stutters for a second, she totally plays it cool when “Burnow Island” and “General Krang” are used in rapid succession. Mikey might have rescued the princess, but I nominate April for MVP of this issue.
Oh and Taylor, on the subject of Michelangelo throwing the ninja star at the rock-soldier’s head: I was thrown by that too. It’s just so violent. But maybe he was just hoping to severely injure the guy… severely. Kids, don’t throw ninja stars into your friends heads — even if they’re made of stone.
A final thought that I’d like to debate in the comments more than pontificate about in the article here: is the Utrom war against all of Dimension X and analogue to American war efforts in the Middle East? There’s a running theme of improper resource allocation — the war depletes the utroms’ abilities to keep them selves alive in peace — and our defense budget is astronomical (even in a recession). The comparison is paper thin and I haven’t put much thought into other similarities, but that’s why God invented comments.
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 Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?