Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries Villains 1: Krang, originally released April 17th, 2013.
Patrick: To the best of my recollection, the original TMNT action figure line contained two basic Krang toys. The first was Krang in his battle armor — it was like double the size of a regular action figure and cost about three times as much. The second was a weird minimalist walker-thing that he rode around in. I had the latter, because I was never patient enough to save up for the big one. As a kid, I knew I had the shittier toy: I wanted that big robot — the scary one that would send the Turtles running. While I technically had the character right there, I never felt like I had Krang. What good is a squishy little brain monster without his killer-robot-suit? Writer Joshua Williamson answers that question by arming Krang with the most tenacious agency usually reserved for survival fiction.
Krang’s just hanging out in his ooze pod — minding his own business — when a rock soldier bursts in and gives him the bad news about the missing ooze and murdered Utrom. Krang struggles to get himself out of the regenerative pool, and swats the soldier away when he tries to help. Krang poses the question to himself: am I losing my edge?
FLASHBACK: Krang was a spoiled little Utrom Prince until one day he stowed away on one of his father’s army’s missions and inserted himself in one of the never-ending wars the Utroms seem to be engaged in. The attack force is swamped by the enemy — a long-time opponent of Krang’s father named Traxus. Krang survives the scuffle, but he’s the only one. So he slinks off into the notoriously deadly swamps of planet Morbus. Krang masters the art of survival, fashions his own weapons and tames some of the deadlier wildlife. When he’s finally ready, Krang rides his lizardy steed right into Traxus camp, kills him and commandeers his army. Naturally, Papa Krang is happy to accept his son after that.
Oh and then — back in the present — Krang murders that rock soldier with his bare tentacles, just to prove he can. And this wasn’t even a Darth-Vader-style killing — the soldier didn’t really do anything to disappoint Krang. Also, while Vader has the luxury of crushing a man’s windpipe remotely, Krang’s reach is minimal, so every manual kill is an intimate encounter.
What really separates Krang’s crew-killings from Darth Vader’s is that Krang isn’t punishing a subordinate as much as he is repeatedly asserting his utility. Vader’s blowing off steam, but Krang is just trying to prove himself to himself. Essentially, Krang always has the will to win.
But that’s not to say that he’s the most sympathetic character in the world. In fact, this issue might bring us in too close to Krang’s psychology as to push us away again. Daddy issues? Fine. Finding the determination to survive a difficult situation? Great. Proudly carrying those same insecurities forward into everything you do? That’s where I get off the empathy train. But it got me thinking about the role these “villain” books play. Are we meant to feel for these characters or is it enough witness a defining moment in their lives? What does it add to future encounters that the Turtles will have with Krang to understand his motivations? This is the most isolated of all the TMNT supplemental material that’s been released so far — the previous Micro Series all tied in pretty directly with the plot of the mains series, and the Secret History of the Foot Clan told a sweeping epic over the course of four issues. Krang is pretty much one-and-done. So what’s the point of this story?
In the end, I think it makes Krang scarier. He basically turns into an evil Rambo — and if that sounds kinda funny, that’s because it is. Artist Mike Henderson seems to understand the inherent absurdity in posing Krang like warrior when he’s hiding behind a long, waiting for a wild animal to pass him by.
Look at his little spear! “Cute” isn’t the right word for it — but there is something oddly compelling about watching this grotesque little creature find his courage in the wilderness.
Drew, how did you feel about this issue? The Turtles themselves are notably absent from the proceedings, and while we only have to wait another week to get them back, I found it to be kind of a bummer to go a whole issue without them. In fact, Krang is the only pre-existing character that appears in this issue (if we don’t count Granitor, and why would we?), so perhaps its appropriate that the whole issue is so myopically focused on him. But then again: what the hell, man? It says Ninja Turtle right on the cover.
Drew: There may have been a bit of Krang proving to himself that he’s capable of wanton violence, but I saw that as mostly for the benefit of his underlings. It’s easy to forget when you’re dealing with a smushy, weird little goobero that he’s a hyper-violent psychopath, and Krang clearly has some issues with being underestimated. Actually, it kind of felt like this issue had a similar complex with how tough Krang is, taking care to beat us over the head with it, lest we forget our place.
But come on! How scary can you hope to make a waddling little brain? Are a tiny widdle spear and the ability to tame lizards really going to make him seem less ineffectual? This issue has an admirable go-for-broke attitude that ultimately succeeds the same way Krang does: dogged determination. I’m glad you mentioned Darth Vader, Patrick, since it demonstrates just what Krang is up against. Like, even if Vader wasn’t able to choke you remotely, he’s still an imposing presence: he’s over six feet tall, wears a scary mask, and sounds like James Earl Jones. Krang, on the other hand, looks like a wad of bubblegum. He has to scream and shout and stamp his squishy little feet to make himself seem even remotely intimidating. This issue attempts the same thing, assuring us that Krang really is tough, you guys. Stop laughing.
But a Napoleon complex makes a lot of sense. You combine that with some daddy issues, and you’ve got a pretty believable little booger bent on world domination. I may have my qualms about just how formidable Krang would be in hand-to-hand combat, but he’s got that battle armor. Speaking of that battle armor:
HE MADE IT OUT OF HIS ENEMY’S CORPSE. Krang insisting that he can reach the top shelf on his own, thank you, may be adorable, but that shit is FUCKED. UP. I’d throw up if I hadn’t already been desensitized by reading an entire issue devoted to this lumpy little squid.
As much as I like the current design for Krang’s armor, it was nice to see the old visor glasses on his dad’s model (or should I say, hollowed-out-corpse-of-an-old-enemy?)
And that’s really where IDW’s TMNT family continues to shine: nostalgia. That little visual cue reminded me that there was a time where I never doubted how scary Krang was. You combine that memory with Krang’s demonstrated instability, and I can totally suspend my disbelief enough to see him as a threat. A soft, marshmallow of a threat, but a threat, nonetheless.
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