Thursday, January 22, 2009

TMNT Adventures #27



Publication date: December, 1991

Main story:

Plot: Ryan Brown
Script: Doug Brammer
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney
Inks/Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy)
Managing Edits: V. Gorelick
Cover: Ken Mitchroney and Steve Lavigne

“In the Dark”

Back-up story:

Script: Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy)
Pencils: Garrett Ho
Inks: Mike Kazaleh
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: V. Gorelick

“The White Ninja”


Summary:

Main story:

Late one night, on a lonely Massachusetts road, a pair of truck drivers (Benny and George) and their pet cat (“Pookey”) enter an incinerator plant. There, they are greeted by their boss, Mr. Rutt, who tells them to haul as much toxic waste as they can over to Hampshire County and dump it on the back roads before dawn. As he explains this, a crow and an owl are knocked out by the fumes of the plant and plummet into the smokestacks where they land in the vats of waste. Back inside, Mr. Rutt accidentally trips over Pookey and, in a fit of rage, kicks the cat into a vat of toxic waste. Benny laments the loss of his pet, though George reminds him that the cat was always mean to him and everybody else.



Near a drain outside the plant, the three animals wash ashore, now horribly mutated.

The following Spring, April is driving through New England, on her way to Boston to research a story on toxic waste dumping, when her rental car gets a flat. With no spare, April has no choice but to walk to the nearest town, a small place called Innsmouth. Getting lost on the country roads, April is eventually met by an unpleasant cop, Officer Barney, who hauls her back to town.

At the Sheriff’s office, April tells her story to Sheriff Taylor, who is suspicious of any visitors coming to Innsmouth. He tells her to go to the diner across the street while they fix her car. Officer Barney insists they keep April from telling the outside world about Innsmouth, so Sheriff Taylor makes a phone call to the diner. After eating her meal, April becomes very ill and nearly collapses on the street. A young girl named Beth Ann tries to help her get to some place safe before the sun sets and “the Boogeyman” come out. April, fed up with all this small town nonsense, ditches Beth Ann and hobbles away.



April is suddenly besieged by the people of Innsmouth, who don’t want to hurt her, but make her stay with them forever. Still sick, April makes a run for it, only to find all the people of Innsmouth following her like zombies. She ducks into an alley and loses them, then makes her way over to a phone booth. She calls the Turtles, but unfortunately, Michaelangelo answers. April tries to explain what’s going on, but Mike isn’t sharp enough to follow. April’s phone call is suddenly interrupted as she is dragged away.

Mike, believing it to have been a prank call, resumes his sparring session with Splinter and the other Turtles. They ask him about the call, but Mike tells them it was just some jerk pretending to be April. They remind Mike that nobody knows they’re friends with April and nobody else knows their home number. Realizing it really WAS April, the Turtles load up into the Turtle Van and head to Innsmouth.

Arriving in Innsmouth, the Turtles sneak onto the streets, only to find themselves standing amidst a crowd of people. Curiously, the people don’t even appear to notice them. Beth Ann then introduces herself to the Turtles and explains that about a year ago, “the Boogeymen” came to Innsmouth and put stuff in the food, turning everybody into zombies. Beth hasn’t eaten much and so far has not been turned. She shows the TMNT over to a boarded up church where she claims the Boogeymen have taken April.



Inside the church’s steeple, a mutant owl, crow and cat are trying to force April to partake in their “toxic communion”. They blame humanity for turning them into monsters and now take their revenge by poisoning them. Raph kicks the can of toxic waste from their hands and the Turtles attack. They beat up the Boogeymen and send them hurtling out of the steeple and onto the hard, unforgiving ground. However, when they go to the window to check, the Boogeymen are nowhere to be found.

A week later, the people of Innsmouth have returned to normal. Thanks to April’s investigations, the plant which created the toxic waste has been closed down for good. Beth thanks April and breathes a sigh of relief that everything is finally over. However, as April and the Turtles drive away, the Boogeyman watch them from the shadows.


Back-up story:

As April and Splinter interrogate the spook, a White Ninja drops down from the ceiling and attacks. Splinter recognizes his garb as a sign of Death and the White Ninja effortlessly bests him in combat. As he prepares to deliver the killing blow, April swings her katana into the ninja’s face. Instead of chopping his head in two, the ninja simply evaporates, leaving only his white outfit.



April and Splinter return their attentions to the spook, who finally reveals that Fu Sheng and Chu Hsi have been taken to Hiroshima, Japan.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Adventures #26.  The story is continued by TMNT Adventures #28.

*The fictional town of Innsmouth was a popular town within the mythos of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, most notably in his story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”.

*The Turtle Van was last seen in TMNT Adventures #4.

*Some time between now and next issue, the events of TMNT Meet the Conservation Corps #1 and "Coney Island Days" occur.

*Though they’re referred to as “The Boogeymen” in this issue, TMNT Mutant Universe Sourcebook #2 identifies their group name as “The Uncanny Trio”.

*Some fans believe that the cat member of the Uncanny Trio is supposed to represent the character of Scratch, a mutant cat in a pinstripe getup who was released in the 1993 wave of the Playmates toyline. Aside from both being mutant cats in striped shirts, there wouldn’t appear to be any further connection between the two.

*According to the indicia, the Uncanny Trio's names are Nevermore the Scarecrow, Nocturno and Hallocat. These names never appear in the issue-itself or in the Mutant Universe Sourcebook. This is the only place they've ever appeared in TMNT Adventures.

*The Uncanny Trio will return in "Coney Island Days".

*Nocturno actually made his first appearance a few months before this issue, in TMNT Magazine (Welsh) #3 (which is a separate continuity).

*The ending of the main story is a parody of the ending of John Carpenter’s “Halloween”, right down to some cribbed dialogue.

*This issue was published in the UK by Fleetway in TMHT Adventures #49.


Review:

Another filler story about environmental awareness, but at least this one was made a bit more palatable thanks to some horror movie trappings. The Boogeymen or the Uncanny Trio, or whatever the Hell you want to call them, aren’t particularly enthralling villains. I mean, they don’t even have individual names in the text (unless you count “Pookey”). They’re defeated with ease, something which Leo points out in amusement, and then proceed never to appear in the book again. I can’t claim they’re as tremendously lame as, say, Vid Vicious, but they still suck pretty hard.

We’re treated to more in your face environmental issues ripped straight from Captain Planet. Mr. Rutt spending the first few pages of the issue detailing how evil he and his corporation are through brick wall exposition is pretty rough to read through and a worse slap in the face than usual. At this point, you can tell that the creative team behind this issue were more interested in standing on top of their soapboxes than telling an entertaining story.

As for the art, well, say goodbye to Ken Mitchroney, as you won’t see him again until TMNT Adventures #41. Not a very high note for the guy and his art seems a bit more phoned in than usual. I get the feeling he didn’t know if Beth Ann was supposed to be a girl or not, either.

The back-up story is going somewhere, but still suffers from the same problems I detailed in my review for last issue (boring, solid color backgrounds, achingly slow pace, etc.). At least this one had some more action to sink your teeth into.

Overall, this and the previous issue represent the worst kind of filler and a true creative low point in what has been a pretty good book. I’ve found the five-page back-up stories to be more engaging than the main stories, which is a shame, as they’ve been pretty dull, too.

Grade (main story): F (as in “Fitting the mutant crow with ‘dumb Southern’ archetype clothing seems in poor taste for a number of reasons I won’t even bother addressing”.)

Grade (back-up story): D+ (as in “Did…did something just happen? In the back-up story? Saints be praised!”)



Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TMNT Adventures #26



Main story:

Publication date: November, 1991

Script: Doug Brammer
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney
Plot/Inks: Dan Berger
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Steve Murphy
Managing Edits: Victor Gorelick
Cover: Steve Lavigne?

“The Keeper”

Back-up story:

Script: Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy)
Pencils: Garret Ho
Inks: Allison Flood
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Victory Gorelick

“Questions”


Summary:

Main Story…

Out in space, a flying saucer enters Earth’s atmosphere and approaches the mountains of Tibet. Back at the Turtles’ Lair, Master Splinter in meditating. His astral form is drawn to Tibet by an unknown force. He is wary until he is greeted by the friendly and ancient yeti known as T’Pau. T’Pau beckons him into his home/cave and the two become fast friends. T’Pau tells Splinter he felt his strong spirit and summoned him for aid. T’Pau has had visions of a strange alien creature and has felt ancient life forces from Scotland, the Atlantic Ocean and the woods of Northern Canada vanish without a trace. Splinter agrees to help and asks T’Pau to stay calm, as a flight from New York to Tibet could take a while.



Splinter returns to his body in the New York City sewers. In the living room, the Turtles are suffering through some very badly animated Saturday morning cartoons. Splinter enters and tells them all his story and that they must hurry. Mike jokes that they should wait for April to arrive with their pickle and whipped cream pizzas, which makes Splinter very upset. Leo calms Splinter down and he admits that at times he forgets the humor of youth. Then, just as April enters the lair with the pizzas, the Turtles and Splinter are teleported to Tibet.



Splinter points them toward the mountainside where T’Pau lives, urging them to hurry as he feels they were summoned so hastily because his friend is in danger. They scale the mountain and arrive in T’Pau’s home to find the yeti wrapped in the mechanical tentacles of a strange alien monster. Using its scepter, the alien zaps Splinter, Leo, Don and Raph out of existence. Thinking them dead, Mike attacks the alien in blind fury, freeing T’Pau. The alien recovers and zaps them both.

Mike and T’Pau eventually awaken in a holding cell and become better acquainted. Though his nunchakus have been taken, Mike still has his lockpick hidden inside his belt. He picks the lock and the two make quick work of the guards outside. Sensing a cluster of lifeforces, T’Pau guides Mike to the spaceship’s bridge.



There, they find the Turtles and Splinter alive and well. Splinter introduces Mike to the alien, named Boss Salvage, who is actually a kind being. At last getting his universal translator to work, Boss Salvage explains that he goes from dying world to dying world, plucking up the last remaining members of certain species and finding them a new home. He was the one who rescued Nessie, Sasquatch and Kingfish the Merman, and had intended to rescue T’Pau, as well. Boss Salvage claims that Earth is doomed, though T’Pau rejects the claim, informing him that humans have woken up and are doing more now to protect the environment than ever before. Boss Salvage cheers with glee.

Before returning home, T’Pau bids farewell to his new friends, making a special point to thank Mike for his acts of bravery. The Turtles and Splinter are then teleported home, and slightly back in time, as they arrive at exactly the same moment they’d left. And that means pizza!

Back-up Story…

Having followed the black suited spooks, April hides behind a door and listens in on their conversation with a mysterious group of ninja. Not receiving the answers she wants, April kicks the door in and demands to know where Chu Hsi and Fu Sheng have been taken. The spooks refuse to answer, claiming the ninja would kill them if they talked.



Suddenly, an armor-clad Splinter bursts in, pretending to be a demon to frighten the ninja off. Now alone, he orders the spook to tell him the truth. The spook still refuses, claiming the ninja are still there. Indeed, a giant white ninja drops down from the ceiling and prepares to strike April and Splinter.


Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Adventures #25. The story continues in TMNT Adventures #27.

*The Turtles wincing at the low quality of early 90s Saturday morning animation is pretty ironic, as by that point in the Fred Wolf TMNT cartoon, the animation had gotten really, really bad. Perhaps it was intentionally ironic?

*April is seen wearing her yellow jumpsuit, an outfit she hasn’t worn since TMNT Adventures #4.

*Kingfish appears to be of the same race as Merdude, who won’t appear until Mighty Mutanimals #7. This makes Boss Salvage’s claim that Kingfish is the last of his kind a little hard to swallow.

*Some time between this and next issue, the events of TMNT Adventures Special #1 and TMNT Adventures Special #2 occur.

*This issue was published in the UK by Fleetway in TMHT Adventures #47.


Review:

Doug Brammer who? That’s right, for the first time in a very long time, an issue of TMNT Adventures is not written by Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy). Doubtful you’d even notice, though, as this issue lays the environmental preaching on just as thick as anything Clarrain would have written.

With the Slash Trilogy having tied up some loose ends and ending most of the ongoing storylines, TMNT Adventures was in position for a nice break, which in comic book terms, means a standalone filler issue. Rather than getting anything fun, we receive the usual soapbox finger-wagging about litter and pollution, making for a pretty dull experience. Wasted potential, indeed.

On the other hand, however, Brammer’s approach to the environmental message is a little different than Clarrain's. Clarrain’s preaching was typically doom-laden stuff, telling the children of the world that there is no hope for the Earth and that we are all going to drown in our own oil spills. Brammer personifies that opinion in Boss Salvage, who is promptly told to shut the Hell up by T’Pau, as humans are doing more now to combat pollution than ever before and that there’s plenty of hope for the Earth. That was mildly entertaining, unfortunately, it is immediately followed by everybody crowding together and shouting with righteous joy that they can save the Earth through recycling and highway litter patrol.

Laaaaaaaaame.

The art’s nice, though! Ken Mitchroney returns for this issue, as well as the next. His art’s just as fun as ever, with lots of little touches, like Raph flicking Mike on the head whenever he acts stupid. Still, this issue is just a case of good art complimenting a bad story.

The back-up story feels a bit too disjoined from the previous installment, like we missed something between the two. Nothing much happens, either. Garrett Ho takes up art duties from Chris Allan and fills in nicely. The fact that the story takes place in an empty room, however, makes the adventure bland due to lack of backgrounds of any kind (almost all the panels feature nothing but solid colors with a ring of shadow around them). While it advances the April solo story, it really isn’t very exciting.

Grade (main story): F (as in “For the love of God, I get the message already! You can stop preaching now!”)

Grade (back-up story): D (as in “Dude, c’mon. One ninja against Splinter and April is supposed to be a cliffhanger?”)