I’ve recently been going back through the first few issues of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics every Tuesday, hence the term “Turtle Tuesday” for the next few weeks. Eastman and Laird’s original versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) are far darker and more serious than their later, more comedic and family-friendly interpretations; they all wear the same red bandanas, use their weapons to slice and even kill their opponents, and usually come out of most battles all bloody and cut up. After avenging the death of their master Splinter’s master in the first issue, the TMNT returned home from fighting Baxter Stockman and his robotic Mousers to find their lair ransacked and Splinter missing, presumed injured or dead. With nowhere else to go, the TMNT have moved in with their human ally, April O’Neil, while they regroup and try to come up with a plan of action.
Issue four kicks off with the TMNT taking to the rooftops of New York City at night for some exercise and to clear their heads; it’s been a week since Splinter went missing and tensions are still high but no mention is made of Raphael’s solo adventures (as covered last week) or his encounter with Casey Jones. Catching a breather on a rooftop, the TMNT are randomly attacked by the venge-seeking Foot Clan; in the bloody, violent battle, Foot are thrown from the roof to their deaths and beaten (presumably to death) by the TMNT’s weapons.
Raphael takes a spill off the roof, crashing through the window of a nearby civilian apartment and once again exposing himself to a family of New Yorkers, and summarily murders one of the Foot when he injures “Michaelangelo”’s wrist. I guess the Foot are still indiscriminately worthy of capital punishment, despite Raphael’s lectures to Casey about dishing out capital punishment in Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
With the Foot defeated, the TMNT suddenly realise that they are right across the street from the T.C.R.I. building. Yeah, apparently, the TMNT never spotted this giant, glass-and-steel building with “T.C.R.I.” emblazoned upon it in giant letters. Go figure. Anyway, with the sun rising, they head back to April’s and recap her (and the reader) on the specifics of their origins to explain the significance of T.C.R.I. to them (the company name is stamped on the canister that contained the mutagenic ooze responsible for the TMNT’s existence).
Curious about T.C.R.I. and their origins, the TMNT choose to suspend their search for Splinter and check out the T.C.R.I. building; April offers to help but, as their actions are illegal, the TMNT convince her to stay behind. With no visible entrances, the TMNT head up to a nearby rooftop and cross over to the T.C.R.I. building using a rope; Donatello then borrows the old “place a photograph in front of the camera” trick to allow them to slip past the security cameras and enter the building.
Exploring their surroundings, they find the building has a strange layout (such as a reception area three floors from ground level) and pick up a mysterious security card that features some strange, alien writing on it. Eventually, after randomly trying a bunch of doors, they use the card to access a chamber and find Splinter being held in captivity. Enraged, and believing their father-figure to be dead, Raphael wants to trash the entire place but is stopped by Donatello, who reveals that Splinter is alive but held in suspended animation and that trashing the room could kill their master.
The TMNT are suddenly confronted by Splinter’s captors; alien, sentient brains stuck inside robotic endoskeletons. On edge and understandably upset, the TMNT don’t stop to think or listen to reason; instead, they attack full force but are forced to beat a hasty retreat due to the robots’ sheer numbers, dexterity, and sheer firepower (though they don’t seem to twig that their enemies are blasting them with stun rays). Fleeing to another room with a huge piece of machinery in it, the TMNT prepare to make their last stand, confidant that the odds are in their favour as their foes don’t want to risk damaging the “translocation device”. However, while trying to cause a distraction so his brothers can escape, Mike’s injured wrist gives out on him and causes him to destroy the machine’s control panel and, in a flash of light, the TMNT suddenly vanish from sight.
This issue continues the ongoing story arc revolving around Splinter’s disappearance and the impact this has on the TMNT. We already saw how deeply it has affected Raphael (he got a whole one-shot comic to explore his rage at the loss of his master) but, here, it’s clearly affected each of the TMNT as they don’t even hesitate to fly at the cybernetic T.C.R.I.’s at full force. Clearly, seeing their father-figure held in captivity is skewing the TMNT’s usual stoic focus and, in their rage, it causes them to be caught in the translocation machine’s teleportation beam. Eastman and Laird continue to keep the truth about the T.C.R.I.’s under wraps; we really don’t know anything about them except that they are aliens, scientifically curious, and have no intention on actually hurting or killing the TMNT or Splinter. It’s difficult to consolidate this in retrospect considering that these creatures served as the basis for the one of the TMNT’s most enduring villains, Krang, but, in their initial appearance, they more like scientists than anything else.
I also liked that Mikey’s injury actually factored into the issue’s plot; so many times in comics, characters will be injured and get patched up and it’s either never addressed again or disappears between panels but, here, it’s directly responsible for the TMNT’s trip to parts unknown. If you missed Raphael’s one-shot, this issue also reinforces his friendship with Mike but, while Donatello’s knowledge of machines factors into the TMNT’s exploration of the T.C.R.I. building, I’m still waiting for “Michaelangelo” to actually stand out from his brothers in some way other than the unique weapon he wields.
What did you think about the T.C.R.I. aliens? Do you still find it jarring to see the TMNT getting cut and hurt or are you getting used to it now that we’re a few issues in? Do you think the TMNT were right to leave April behind or should they have brought her along, or called on Casey for help? Feel free to share your thoughts on the TMNT below and pop back for next week’s instalment of Turtle Tuesday in which the TMNT are left stranded on an alien spaceship!