Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 37, originally released August 13, 2014. Drew: By the time I was watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, it was already airing in syndication 5 days a week. That was awesome for the part of me that wanted to see sweet ninja turtle action on a regular basis, but decidedly less awesome for whatever part of me was supposed to learn patience. I could wait exactly one day between episodes, but no more. Indeed, I didn’t even have patience for scenes on the show that didn’t feature the turtles (to my credit, they almost never ordered pizza at the technodrome), so the finer points of plotting were often lost on me. Intrepid youtubers have aimed to rectify my ignorance, compiling all of Shredder’s scenes with Krang into bite-sized videos, but life has offered a much more fulfilling second chance in the form of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 37, which focuses exclusively on Shredder and Krang’s first (er, second) meeting.
Like all good supervillain meetups, this issue takes place on a yacht in international waters. Shredder offers to be Krang’s…warlord? Puppet leader? It’s not totally clear, but basically, he wants Krang to give him Earth. Krang is utterly uninterested — he wants to turn Earth into Utrominon, not see it ruled by yet another human — so they slug it out. Shredder gets some timely reinforcements in the form of Koya and a shark mutant named Bludgeon, but they quickly switch to retreat mode as the ship goes down, leaving both Krang and Shredder bitter about the partnership that will apparently never happen.
Or will it? Tom Waltz (credited here with scripts) and artist Cory Smith tease us with a spread seemingly designed to evoke the halcyon days of Krang and Shredder’s cooperation from the cartoon.
This series has never been shy about it’s soft spot for the cartoon, nor has it been particularly bashful about teasing characters, locations, or plotlines from classic turtles stories, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it be quite as transparent as it is here. If I’m an indicator of this series’ target audience (and I really think I am), this spread so strongly evokes Shredder and Krang’s team up that they HAVE to do it now. Sure, they might draw it out with a “will they/won’t they” coyness, but I think we all know that the turtles will inevitably unify these two against them, and I cannot wait.
Geez. I don’t mean to sound like a fanboy, but Waltz, Curnow, Eastman, and all of the writers of this and all related series have done such a fantastic job of defining these two villains as leaders that imagining some kind of partnership leaves me almost giddy. How will Shredder react to orders from Krang? Or vice versa? How will they handle their inevitable disagreements? Or their decidedly conflicting goals? These are problems that aren’t even on the horizon yet (did I mention how poorly this meeting went?), but I have every bit of faith in this series to make those conflicts well worth the wait.
Of course, this issue offers the first taste of that friction, which might be why I’m so excited about it. I tend to be leery of “Let’s you and him fight” scenarios, but the inevitable fight between Shredder and Krang feels both totally earned, and totally satisfying. Their motives are at cross-purposes, and both are well-established as dudes who would fight over such a thing. Heck, these dudes would fight over ANYTHING, but Waltz takes the time to lay out their goals here. More importantly, Smith takes the time to layout an appropriately epic battle, balancing careful fight choreography with big, jaw-dropping action beats.
I legitimately thought this issue was drawn by Mateus Santolouco until I flipped back to the credits page — and I mean that in the best way possible. The list of artists who can pull of action sequences this dynamic and clear is incredibly short, but Smith has more than earned his place with this issue. If I can defend my confusion further, I think that Ronda Pattison’s colors lend a remarkable level of consistency to the art. Smith and Santolouco may have some similar affinities in their styles, but both are obviously distinct from Sophie Campbell, yet I never felt lost or unsettled, even at dropping in on characters we haven’t seen since the turtles were in Northampton.
I could go on about the colors in this issue all day (I love the red/green dichotomy Pattison uses in that Shredder/Krang spread), but I’ve got to turn this over to Patrick at some point. After all, I think he may have learned patience (or rather, NOT learned patience) through the turtles, too. Patrick! Were you as pleasantly surprised with this turtle-free issue as I was?
Patrick: Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that I was totally enthralled with an issue that included a fight with ninjas, rockmen, robots and a shark monster. Just from a bare-bones description, this issue sounds amazing. I really only missed the titular turtles when I got to the last page and saw a “next time!” page that promised the brothers. That’s partially because there’s enough crazy-awesome shit here to sustain a pretty insular story, but also because this vignette is so artfully staged. With one exception (which I will get to in a minute), the audience is held in time and space to the experience at hand. By the time Krang drives his accusatory finger through faux-Shredder’s chest, the table at which these character have been sitting feels like a real table in real space. Smith shows us the space from every vantage point, giving us a clear understanding of the exits, the size of the room and the various perspectives of the people that populate it.
It’s such a patient set-up, but pays off hugely when Shredder blows the whole thing and flips out to the deck for the real fight. That’s basically all that happens for the rest of the issue: they fight. Where I think this fares much better than the usual “let’s you and him fight” scenario is when the fight actually occurs. I don’t know why this is the case, but so many comics seem convinced that their characters can engage in fighting and diplomacy at the same time. Once Krang and Shredder start throwing punches, they’re not still negotiating with each other – they’re just talking shit.
Also, Drew, I’m not nearly as convinced as you are that an armistice between the Utroms and the Foot is an inevitability. The question of where the Turtles should focus their efforts next — the technodrome or the Foot — is too central a question to the series, and far too contentious a point among our heroes. I sorta love that these groups would present discrete threats, and even if we’ve been trained by history to expect a team-up, their goals overlap only on the specific issue of the Turtles. And really, if Shredder keeps adding badass mutants to his army, I won’t even have to struggle about who to root for. I sure do love seeing Koya again, and the entrance she shares with Bludgeon is a show-stopper. Perhaps even better than their actual splash page entrance is the two-panel tease they get on the bottom of the previous page.
It’s a simple, but super effective, trick: the wing and the shadow is enough to remind us of the Foot’s agent of destruction from the North Hampton story arc. Paired with the ominous shark fin in the water, our imaginations kick into overdrive. When I turned the page to see both of these creatures already raining hell on Krang’s soldiers, it was like a kind of instant wish-fulfillment.
And then there’s Alopex. Poor, poor Alopex. That scene is almost the rest of the issue in miniature. Kitsune appears and offers an olive branch, explicitly stating that she’s not there to harm Alopex, before using precisely the kind of magic trick we expect her to to brainwash our favorite fox mutant. I guess the moral of the story is not to trust the tricksters when they promise not to trick you.
Oh, I also think it’s worth pointing out how well Smith handles the interaction between Kitsune and Alopex. I see all the same hallmarks of Santoluoco’s work that Drew does throughout the rest of the issue — particularly in Shredder’s movements and the drawn-in sound effects — but Smith’s take on Aly retains a lot of the innocence that Campbell imbued her with in her Villain Micro.
Even after her snarling, that glassy-eyed hopefulness, and her posture — which is at once feral and juvenile — visually recall a much softer character. Plus, there are few ways to earn my sympathies like kicking a character I love when she’s down.
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?