The Annotated CITY AT WAR Part 10: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #59
“City At War”, the 13-part story arc that concluded Mirage Volume 1, is a significant chapter in the Ninja Turtles’ history. It has driven TMNT storylines through Volume 2 and Volume 4 of the Mirage Studios comics, the current series from IDW Publishing, the 2003 animated series, and 2012 animated series. As the TMNT Fansite has previously discussed, “City At War” marks the maturation of the Turtles from teenagers into (for lack of a better term) men. Because of this story’s sheer significance and scope, one article is not enough to do it justice. It’s time to dig in, page-by-page and panel-by-panel into “City At War”.
With the TMNT establishing an uneasy alliance with Karai in the previous issue, it’s time for Part 10 of the Turtles’ most epic story.
The latest chapter of “City at War” begins with a colorful group-shot of the team, ready for a fight. Once again, A.C. Farley provided his own commentary on the cover design. From the mouth (or fingertips – it is typed after all) of the man himself:
The second in the sequence. It was taking time but my approach to drawing comics was changing. The line got stronger as time passed and I was agonizing over details a little less. All in all, my comics art was looking better.
The issue begins with the Turtles engaged in a little arts-and-crafts session. Based on the tools he’s using, it appears that Donatello is hard at work shaping some sort of metal. Meanwhile, one of his brothers is implementing the unusual method of cutting paper or fabric while using a wall – not a table – as leverage. It should be noted that the calendar on the wall indicates that at this point of the story, we’re in the month of May.
The arts-and-crafts continue, but Jim Lawson’s layout alternates between the Turtles hard at work and the stationary visual of a New York City rooftop. There are subtle hints as to what the Turtles are constructing, but Lawson is skillful enough to hide it from the reader. It doesn’t hurt that the black & white nature of the book makes it difficult to make out certain objects. One thing that is clear is the emergence of the Foot, who make their way across the rooftop in the page’s final panel.
These three pages follow the Foot, first of which opens with a brilliant image of the ninjas moving as a single unit. As revealed in Lawson’s art, they are being observed by a member of the Shredder Elite. His observation reveals a sight that shocks not only himself but the reader too: The Shredder is back. However, being at a closer vantage point than the Elite soldier allows the reader to see that this Shredder might not be the same as what came before.
We return to Colorado to see Casey is busy drinking away his sorrows. Presumably, his daughter is still at the hospital for observation because she is nowhere to be seen. What is seen, however, is a sight that brings this narrative full-circle: Casey’s car, which was stolen from him way back in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #51. In the space of two small panels, we see Casey’s demeanor change from an understandably broken man to one with fire. It’s clear that if nothing else, he will get his car back.
What we get here is a multi-page sequence of Casey Jones at his most unhinged since the Raphael micro-series – his first appearance in which he was used to caution Raph in not letting anger consume him. With the length of this fight and the setting, I can’t help but think of the movie They Live. Specifically, that famous scene between the characters played by Roddy Piper and Keith David.
Just when this seems to reach its apex for lunacy, Casey kicks a dog so that it lands on top of a billboard. Yes, it is ridiculous, but it is also befitting the title under Eastman and Laird. The series began as one that not only paid homage to the duo’s favorite comic creators, but also lampooned the self-serious tropes that had begun to take root in the industry. As of this point, in the early-to-mid 1990s, mainstream comics were full of musclebound macho-men performing ridiculously impossible feats at will. To see this creative team continue to poke fun at the industry’s popular tropes is a fitting development.
Splinter is finally well enough to stand and thus begins hobbling around the silo he has been trapped in for several months. He is not searching for a way out. Instead, he is searching for the Rat King, intent on thanking him for the assistance he provided throughout this ordeal.
To Splinter’s shock, it is revealed that the Rat King was never really there. Well, he was, but he was nothing more than a decomposing corpse. The strength that Splinter found truly came from within. With no reason to remain in the silo, Splinter begins his ascent towards the top to freedom. Visually, Splinter’s climb is comparable to the one seen in the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises, though this is purely coincidental.
This entire subplot – including the macabre revelation – was adapted in the 2012 animated series episode “Darkest Plight”.
Casey – with a baby in tow – begins his long drive back east. While there is a lot of stuff packed inside the car, the things that stand out the most are the books Casey has on the front seat, which is a nod to the character’s future development.
It appears that previous issue’s goodbye between April and Robyn was short lived, as the two are shown to be checking out a family landmark one last time. The Second Time Around shop – last seen going up in a fiery blaze in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #10 – is now a condemned property. According to April, some legal hassles have held up the building’s demolition. With one final glimpse at the building the sisters say their final goodbye (for real this time). However, those that have continued to read Turtles comics beyond Mirage Volume 1 are aware that Robyn eventually makes her return.
April continues to stand outside of the old shop, lost in thought, when she is startled by what she thinks is a noise coming from the inside. She eventually dismisses it as either wind or a rat before hailing a cab. However, her initial suspicion was correct, as Michaelangelo peeks out through one of the cracks in the building.
Inside the burnt-out husk of the Second Time Around store, we see the Turtles and the Foot assembled. Karai is revealed to be the one behind the Shredder’s helmet. Always to the point, Raphael asks the Foot’s leader “what kind of crap is this?”
Karai offers an explanation. It is through Karai that Eastman, Laird, and Lawson are able to explain the shop’s significance in the context of current events. It is where the Turtles first lived among humans. It is where Oroku Saki reappeared following his presumed death. It is where the Turtles suffered their first major defeat, leading to their exile in Northampton, and eventually setting in motion the events that lead to this current story.
Mikey and Don discuss the odd twist of fate that they are currently aligned with the Foot, yet they in the place that the Foot burned down when the two were enemies. Meanwhile, Leonardo is sifting through the shop’s wreckage to find a picture of Casey and April which he tucks away in his belt for safe keeping.
The proverbial calm-before-the-storm comes to an end as the Shredder Elite rain down upon the Turtles and the Foot, bringing the issue to a close.