Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries Villains 2: Baxter Stockman originally released May 22nd, 2013.
Patrick: One of my persistent questions about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been “why would Baxter Stockman put up with Krang’s bullshit?” After all, regardless of what he could offer, Krang’s ultimate goal is the destruction of the human race. Psst! Baxter, you’re one of those humans. There’s a bully component to their relationship, but Stockman also has this too-cool-for-school attitude, seemingly above intimidation. So why would he work so hard toward the completion of the technodrome? Same reason he does anything: because there’s something in it for him.
And that “something” is the technodrome itself – the thing is a marvel of alien technology, and could be as beneficial to mankind as it could be devastating. There’s still an awful lot Stockman doesn’t know about its systems, so hi-jacking the thing might prove tricky. So how can he gain access to information about those systems? Enter the Flyborg:
Stockman created this cybernetic fly mutant to do some of the more complicated work on the technodrome. Stockman simulates a malfunction, causing the Flyborg to rampage throughout the technodrome, killing Rock Soldiers and generally smashing shit up. Stockman pleads to Krang for somewhere — anywhere — to hide from the monster. Krang acquiesces, and grants Stockman access to a secure control room. Of course, it’s only so secure, and Flyborg is a fucking badass, so it’s only a matter of seconds before the cybernetic fly bursts in, destroying the surveilence equipment. That’s when Stockman shuts down Flyborg remotely and uploads all of the technodrome’s data to his iPad. Back in his own lab, Stockman evaluates his assets: the complete specs of the technodrome, access to Fugitoid, and an army of Flyborgs.
I love this subversion of fans’ expectations: instead of becoming a mutant fly himself, Baxter Stockman will lead an army of mutant flies. Plus, they’re cybernetic just for good measure. Double plus: there are TONS OF THEM. On top of all the superficial reasons to like this change in mythology (which, I maintain would be enough to justify it), the army of Flyborgs says an awful lot about Stockman himself. Baxter’s a resourceful dude, and his army reflects how well he utilizes those resources. He may not have ancient secret ninja know-how, but he does have mutagen and cybernetics. What’s more is that he knows better than to trust his soldiers to do his bidding – he hardwires obedience into their mechanobrains. Krang’s intimidation can fail, the Foot Clan’s sense of honor and nobility can fail, but the Flyborgs will always heed their master’s orders. That highlights the isolated cut-throat he’s become. He only allies himself only with people (and Utroms) he can manipulate in some way – with the Flyborgs, that equation is tipped entirely in his favor. Also, I’m in love with the term “Flyborg,” can you tell?
God, they even look cool too. Andy Kuhn returns to the TMNT family for this issue. Previously, he handled art duties during the Slash story arc. At the time, we praised the frenetic horror Kuhn injected into Eastman and Waltz’ script – particularly in the final confrontation between the turtles and their erstwhile brother. He brings that same kind of slasher mentality to the Flyborg’s rampage. At the time, we don’t know that Stockman’s controlling him, and the creature is like a chaotic whirlwind, delivering blows against the Rock Soldiers from every conceivable angle, bouncing off the walls and dominating the middle of the page with his raw strength. It’s an impressive feat that establishes just what these robo-mutants are capable of.
I also like the idea that they’re a logical extension of Stockman’s previous robot army – the mousers. As if to assure us that they haven’t forgotten about them too, writer Erik Burnham litters them around the opening pages. In fact, their presence foreshadows Stockman’s ultimate control over the apparent rampager. The text here says that there’s a solution to every problem, and there’s a helpful little mouser right there solving a minor problem. It’s only fitting that an even bigger robot could solve an even bigger problem.
Taylor, I haven’t touched on the flashbacks to Baxter’s childhood, which all revolved his father teaching him strategy through chess. I’m usually turned off by a crummy chess metaphor, but for whatever reason, this one got me excited about Stockman’s prospects. If he’s capable of playing a game on a much larger scale than his opponent is even aware of, then he could be another totally viable player in this world – at odds with the turtles, the Foot and the armies of Dimension X. Are you as excited by this development as I am or do you wish he was just a nebbishy fly in a lab coat (you know, just like we remember)? Also, did Stockman say that the Rock Soldiers are humans encased in rock? Did we know that? I assumed they were aliens made of rock.
Taylor: I should begin by first disclosing that as a kid, Baxter Stockman was one of my favorite characters. I always was a fan of the brainier characters who inhabited the cartoons I watched, so Donatello and Baxter, regardless of their allegiances, were two of my favorite characters on TMNT. Of course, add to Stockman the fact that he was a giant, hideous, half man-half fly abomination and I couldn’t resit. Despite the the loss of its wings, the action figure of Stockman I owned remained one of my favorites for years, right up there with Mecha-Turtle. While I can’t fully explain this fondness for Baxter, I just feel that it should be known these forces were in play while I read this issue.
So, with that as preamble, I should say I’ve been underwhelmed by Stockman’s role in this reboot of TMNT. However, with this issue I find my latent love of Baxter being restored and I couldn’t be happier. Just as in my youth, I find characters who have to rely on their smarts fascinating, so it’s great to see Stockman portrayed as something more than just a nutty professor. The reveal that he is working with his own ends in sight, while welcome, really shouldn’t surprise us. In previous issues sprinkled throughout the TMNT library, Stockman has shown himself to be a ruthless manipulator, hellbent on achieving his own goals. So when we find out that he is working on the technodrome for his own ends or that he has amassed an army of Flyborgs we should feel all is right with the world. I mean, the man even likes to punish helpless Flyborgs. What kind of animal could do that?
And oh those Flyborgs. Patrick, you mentioned that this is perhaps a change in the mythology behind the good doctor, but I’m not so sure. While he has created several Flyborgs, I think it’s still a bit to early to say if they will actually be replacing the man-fly we all know and love from our childhood. It seems like a stretch for Stockman’s plan to actually come to fruition, which as far as I’m concerned, is the only way Stockman can prevent himself from becoming a fly.
Now stay with me here.
If Baxter somehow pulls off his little Flyborg coup then he will have defeated Krang and will be in control of the technodrome. This seems a little unlikely to me since Stockman’s plans for the future once he has the technodrome are a nebulous at best. Simply put, I just can’t see it happening narratively (unless Stockman gives the technodrome to the Foot Clan, which…damn interesting. Maybe we have something here). Now, if Stockman tries to rebel against Krang and fails, how do you think he will be punished? Krang isn’t the nicest little brain walking around the galaxy so it seems to kind of him to outright kill Baxter. Rather, I think he would turn him into a giant fly. Anyway, now that I’ve sufficiently strayed off the topic of discussing this issue I’ll return to it.
Patrick, you asked if I liked the chess game flashbacks or not. While you’re right that such a thing is pretty cliche, I still liked them. The reason for this is that it reminds me of a common theme we’ve seen in all of the TMNT titles to date, which is the master and the apprentice relationship. We all know about Splinter and the Turtles, but this relationship is prominent in the development of a lot of characters in this title. Oroku Saki has his father and master who taught him, Karai has Shredder, and even Hob has Stockman… to an extent. Each of these master/apprentice relationships are unique and have greatly influenced the people involved and it’s nice to see that theme continue here with Stockman and his father.
The return of Stockman as a legitimate threat, not only to the turtles, but perhaps the world, is a great addition to the TMNT universe. We already know that trouble is heading the turtles way, as was discussed in the previous issue of TMNT, but this seems to suggest it could come in a different form than we can expect. And perhaps that is exactly how Baxter Stockman wants it because he knows it will work to his advantage.
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?