Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 27, originally released October 30th, 2013.
Taylor: In high school I ran track, an activity which was probably the product of your typical adolescent masochistic need to fit in and be cool. Running isn’t a fun sport and for the most part it’s pretty simple. Run faster than the other guy and you win. Despite these simple parameters surrounding track, there is at least a little bit of strategy that can help you win a race, namely: pacing yourself. Begin the mile run with a sprint and you’re bound to lose. Save all your gas for the last lap and you’re equally doomed. Ideally, you run at a pace that feels good and which happens to be faster than those around you. Save some extra juice for the final push near the end of the race and you could find yourself standing in the winners’ circle. Point is, pacing yourself is important, whether we’re talking running, boozing, or comics. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 27, puts on a clinic on how to pace a story wonderfully and the result is an issue that is enthralling from start to finish.
Having each gone their separate ways in their effort to retrieve their brother, the turtles and company reconvene at their hideout and prepare for their grand attack on the Foot Clan. Turns out that Mikey, disguised as a pizza delivery dude, has figured out where Shredder is holding a meeting of all the bad guys in New York. The turtles plan to crash this party and rescue Leo with the help of Ol’ Hob and Slash. Meanwhile, Leonardo has been having dreams where his mother speaks to him, apparently undoing some of the brainwashing that Shredder has forced upon him. Later, the turtles crash Shredder’s big party and fight ensues and the turtles are about to rescue their brother when Karai, with Bebop and Rocksteady in hand, appears looking for a fight.
Now, before I begin, it should be made clear that I’ve been engrossed in TMNT since the very beginning. My interest waned during the Neutrino arc but since the beginning of City Fall, I’ve been seriously loving me some turtle power. That being said, I found issue 27 to be a particularly engaging read because the issue is so well paced. There’s neither too much nor too little action, there is some interesting exposition, and we even get some wonderful reveals. It’s basically everything you could ask for in a comic.
In the beginning of the issue, writer Kevin Eastman and scripters Tom Waltz and Bobby Curnow do a great job of positioning the many pieces of the City Fall story on the eve of battle. First, we see Michelangelo, disguised in a pizza outfit (an obvious attempt to appease Patrick’s lust for seeing Mikey in cute hats) finding out where the Foot Clan is planning to hold its regional meeting.
Next, Angel leaves the Purple Dragons because Hun has pledged allegiance to Shredder. Then, the turtles are seen preparing for battle, which prompts Casey and Angel to action. Lastly, Leonardo is seen having a recurring dream with his mother, a set up for his mini-meltdown that occurs later in the issue. All of this table setting, which is masterfully split up in a small amount of pages, sets the stage for the bombastic action which dominates the latter third of this issue. Without setting the board, you can’t play chess, and it’s clear that Waltz, Burnow and Eastman clearly understand this. We not only see how and where everyone in this battle came from but, more importantly, we understand why they are there. This pacing also allows for the climactic moment where Leonardo begins to awaken from his brainwashing at the very moment the battle begins. It’s an intersection of two plot threads that couldn’t have been pulled off with better timing.
This writing displays a clear understanding of how to chart out a great story but it is not the only aspect of this issue which lends it a good pace. Throughout, the art team of Mateus Santolouco and Ronda Pattison make sure to create a visual experience that starts out muted and finishes with a flourish. The first thirteen pages of this issue are fairly flat in terms of color, and Santolouco is sure to keep the number of panels depicting action to a minimum. However, at page fourteen, where the battle begins, the issue really begins to open up. The Pattison’s colors begin to pop off of the page and almost every panel is devoted to showing some sort of dynamic action. It’s a neat effect that mimics some of the more colorful and unique action movies I’ve seen recently – which brings to mind the likes of Pacific Rim and even such classics as Star Wars. I feel like showing two different pages, which exemplify both parts of this issue wouldn’t do this effect justice, so I urge you to flip back through your own copy and enjoy what I just talked about it. It’s worth it!
Lastly, and this has nothing to with pace, did anyone catch the amazing cameo worked into this issue?
Is that everyone’s favorite meth dealer Walter White aka Heisenberg? Now, I’ve never watched an episode of Breaking Bad in my life (don’t even tell me I should, I’ve heard it already) but I think that’s just darn fun. It’s a nice little homage and the fact that he’s meeting with a bunch of criminal overlords is all too perfect.
There’s still so much more going on in this issue that I haven’t even touched upon, which makes me think that it has even more left in its tank, suitable for a final push. What do you think, Drew? What’s up with Kitsune and Alopex? There’s something to be said about the turtles teaming up with allies using guns, right? And what’s your vote: turtles in hats or no?
Drew: Is there any way I could really say no to Mikey in hats? It brings us one step closer to punching someone through a hat — one of my favorite gags. Mikey doesn’t quite do it here, but punching someone through a pizza is almost as good.
To answer another of your questions, I’m not sure what to make of the moment between Kitsune and Alopex. Eastman and Waltz have been seeding dissent amongst Shredder’s minions for quite a while, but I don’t think they can all pay off in this arc. At least, I think Kitsune’s jealousy is going to come to a head first. Or maybe it will simply dissipate when Leo eventually rejoins his brothers.
In the meantime, though, I’m actually loving seeing how Leo’s absence is affecting the rest of the turtles. Of all of the glib theme-song characterizations, “Leonardo leads” has always seemed like the weakest. All the rest give you some hint to what the character might like (and might be like), but Leo has always been primarily defined by his stoicism. Or has he? Perhaps I don’t have strong associations with Leo’s personality because it’s so malleable. He can joke with Mikey, butt heads with Raph, plan with Donnie, and lead with Splinter. In that way, he’s actually the glue that holds the group together.
Eastman and Waltz illustrate this idea beautifully by breaking the turtles up for the first part of the issue. Mike’s plan involves pizza and adorable costumes (of course), but he goes it alone because that’s not really Donnie or Raph’s speed. Donnie’s isolation is actually highlighted by Raph’s presence, since Raph can’t understand just what’s so exciting about a gravity gun. It’s not until they all get together that a plan can form — something that may have happened sooner if Leo was there to take the edge off of their personalities.
Actually, Leo’s malleability also makes him the obvious candidate for Shredder’s brainwashing — effectively illustrating what happens when the rest of the turtles are taken away from Leo. At first, it seemed like he was just evil (basically the opposite of the upright leader we see at first blush), but piece by piece, we’ve seen that it’s actually much more complicated. Without his brothers there to anchor him, Leo just gets confused.
Taylor, your emphasis on pacing here is spot-on — Santolouco does a brilliant job of measuring his slow burn in the first portion of this issue — averaging around 6 panels per page — and kicking into overdrive in the final battle, which opens with a nine page panel before slackening the page count back to the rhythm of the rest of the issue. The effect is a punctuation mark not just of event, but of speed, accelerating us into the drama with Leo, and eventually the arrival of Bebop and Rocksteady.
City Fall has been a thrilling arc, and this is a fantastic first-half of what promises to be a great two-part conclusion. I’ll take the cues from the issue and pace myself, but I kind of just want to read #28 right now.
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