Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 26, originally released September 25th, 2013.
Patrick: The Foot Clan is already an army – that’s sort of their whole shtick. The Ninja Turtles are another story all together. They’re a family. Their list of allies is pretty long, but, well – not all of those allies are immediately combat-ready. Lucky for them, The Foot seem hellbent on ridding the city of all other distractions before taking down the three remaining Turtles and their Rat father. What they might not be counting on is just how varied and awesome the Turtles’ friends are. Super scientists? CHECK. Badass brawlers? CHECK. Spies all over the city? CHECK. A potential mutant army, armed to the teeth? CHECK and also CHECK. These teams are moments away from squaring off, and our heroes’ bench is starting to look awesome.
Tonight’s the night: the Foot Clan make a move against the Savate. Together, Shredder, Evil Leo, Karai, Alopex and an army of ninjas dispatch everyone, culminating in a dramatic one-on-one brawl between Leo and Victor. Leonardo wins, and is poised to deal out death until Shredder stays his Chunin’s hand… and slices off his opponent’s.
Elsewhere, the Turtles work to secure the relationships and resources they’re going to need to get through the on-coming war, both physically and emotionally. As we’ve seen in previous issues of the City Fall arc, this issue features a handful of 2-3 page vignettes, each tracing one of the four main characters as they reforge some of their lost connections. It’s a little disheartening to see that the brothers are so scattered without the leadership of their eldest brother – it seems like they even have a hard time relating to Splinter in his absence. Instead of working together, they branch out into their extended family tree. Some of these connections are immediately obvious – like Angel or Old Hob. Their value is totally apparent, and they’ve both been present for previous events in this arc. Donatello and Michelangelo, however, stray off the beaten path, and reinforce this series’ connection to it’s own past.
First up is Michelangelo, who visits his old friend Woody. Woody is the pizza delivery guy. Now, that totally reads like a joke: “Michelangelo orders so much pizza he’s friends with the delivery guy,” but Eastman and Waltz play the emotion seriously. Woody’s not just a weird dated punch-line about pizza-obsessed teenagers, but he’s a real guy and his relationship with Mikey is equally real. Sure, Woody is able to provide some valuable information about where the dangerous people in the city are hiding out, but that’s not why Mike reaches out to him. Apologies are in order, as Woody burned that bridge in the wake of the Slash incident. I hope you’ve been taking notes, because that was almost a year ago.
Donny’s story puts that to shame though, as it reaches back even further to the TMNT Micro Series 3. Donny and April go to visit Harold, a scientist that’s always nearly on the verge of inventing something awesome. One of the quirks of the character is that he misuses or slightly alters words, and hates to be corrected. (YOU ALL KNOW SOMEONE LIKE THAT.) Eastman and Waltz even play one of those moments for laughs – Harold says “obtruse” when he means “obtuse.” April wants to correct him, but Donny’s quick to sweep it under the rug. It’s a wonderful little easter egg, and one that rewards the obsessives that have been reading this title since IDW’s relaunch a couple years ago.
This is apropo of nothing, but I love the different ways the turtles disguise themselves for a night out on the town. Each costume expresses something thoughtful about the character. Raph wears a blue baseball cap, and a suede jacket, which is sort of a classic tough guy look. Even if people aren’t going to recognize him as a Ninja and a Turtle, they can still be intimidated by his outfit. He’s the only one of his non-brainwashed brothers to do any punching this issue, and he’s certainly dressed the part. Donny wears the standard turtle disguise, one I recognize from the 1987 animated series and the 1990 movie – trench coat and fedora. Donatello’s choice is doubly relevant because his clandestine meeting at a derelict warehouse feels like it’s ripped right out of a noir detective story. And then there’s Mikey: good ol’ Michelangelo dresses for comfort, in a blue windbreaker and a fur-lined hat (complete with adorable ear flaps). He’s so friendly and approachable, I just wanna give him a hug!
Kudos to Mateus Santolouco on those designs – they’re basically perfect.
Actually, Santolouco is characteristically on fire this whole issue. There’s plenty of ninja-on-ninja action to showcase his deft gift for action, momentum and perspective. My absolute favorite panel of this issue, though, is an establishing shot of Savate headquarters.
The panels that follow depict a relatively peaceful meeting of the Foot’s rival clan, and it’s not until the page turn that we realize that these helicopters contain enemy ninjas. I’m not used to having secret dramatic irony in my establishing shots, but sonofabitch, do I love it. It’s also cool to note the extremely wide-angle lens Santolouco uses on this panel. It creates the illusion that the horizon is curving much more than it would otherwise, and effectively makes New York City seem like it’s own planet. For all parties involved in City Fall, it might as well be.
Ethan, I barely even mentioned Splinter’s mad skillz at StockGen or Raph and Casey’s touching moment. And I just straight-up didn’t mention Leonardo’s meditation-fantasy at the beginning of the issue. Actually, “fantasy” might not be right… “Dream?” I don’t know – it sorta seems like he’s really talking to Tang Shen… maybe it’s a reincarnation-based memory?
Ethan: Patrick, you are like ten times better at posing those end-of-post questions than I am. I’m glad you mentioned Leo’s dream. To be honest, for the first few panels, I wasn’t sure if it was something that came from Leo, or something being imposed on his mind to further cement the brainwashing. Especially when I came to this panel:
Now, until you turn the page (or tap the right side of your screen, as the case may be) this could EITHER be the spirit/memory of Tang Shen nudging Leo in the right direction – and also some a pretty wishy-washy answer to his question – OR it could be a beautiful set-up for a simulacrum of Leo’s beloved, departed mother to say something like “Your brothers and your father have stolen the best part of you and now you have to forge yourself anew by beating the crap out of Shredder’s enemies” as part of Kitsune’s Mystical Brainwashing Offensive (band name!). It turns out to be the former, but thanks to the very weird place Leonardo is in right now, I was skeptical right up until the end of the sequence.
The details of the sequence are still a little up in the air, though. Is Leonardo’s mind subconsciously fighting back against the brainwashing? Kitsune’s work was pretty brilliant – she took the images of the people he loves and trusts the most in the world and turned them against him when she first broke his mind, stripping away his support network and his moral compass. So is Leo’s brain now reaching for the image of a loved one that hasn’t been corrupted and twisted in order to pull him back to sanity? Or is Tang Shen actually reaching out from beyond the grave to guide her reincarnate son back home? I’m betting we won’t get much clarity on these questions; in the meantime, I like to think it’s a bit of both: I think some echo of Tang Shen – as an actual spirit or as a memory – is trying to help him, and his subconscious brain is trying to shake itself out of Kitsune’s cage.
While Leo dreams and his brothers look for help in the coming street war against the Foot Clan, Splinter does some crime. Old Hob’s offer to help the Turtles and their father comes with a big, fat string attached: he wants someone to sneak in and steal some mutagen from StockGen so he can grow himself a mutant army. Who’s good at sneaking? Ninjas. Who’s the ninja-est ninja there ever ninja was? Hamato Yoshi, aka Splinter. And now that Hob has Splinter right where he wants him, Hob doesn’t hesitate to use him to get what Hob wants.
The scenes of Splinter circumventing StockGen’s security are wonderful. It’s a busy issue, so there aren’t a lot of panels for Santolouco to play with, yet he still somehow packs in a lot of oomph to Splinter’s break-in. Splinter can flow through a forest of swords without taking a scratch, so dodging some security systems is child’s play. You might even say he puts the “Splinter” into the “Splinter Cell-style infiltration,” eh? *Wink wink* Ok, yeah that was a stretch. Anyway, Splinter is fun to watch in action.
For me, this bit of acrobatics made me think about StockGen’s security consultants. I imagined the guy who designed the laser grid chatting with one of his coworkers, something along the lines of:
Consultant 1: “The lasers are a nice touch man, very sexy. Everything looks pretty good- wait, isn’t there a little too much room in between the beams? Someone might be able to jump through them without getting caught.”
Consultant 2: “What? Oh, yeah, I see what you’re saying, but you’d have to, like, bounce off the walls to get through there without triggering the alarm. NOBODY can move like that. We should be fine.”
Cue Mutant Rat with the muscle memory of a warrior from fictionalized feudal Japan. Laser-hallway, shmazer-hallway.
All in all, very fun issue. I’m eager to see where Leo’s hidden musings take him – how will he finally break free from his mental captivity? And what the heck is Karai planning?
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