THE ANNOTATED CITY AT WAR PART 11: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #60
“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 final battle ready to begin, it’s time for Part 11 of the Turtles’ most epic story.
Since issue #58, A.C. Farley’s covers have acted as more than just pretty picture to entice readers to pick up the book, but rather as their own piece of storytelling. What began as a close-up image of a Turtle’s face has now zoomed out to a battle-ready image against imposing foes. No commentary from Farley himself this time, other than noting this is the third in the sequence.
The issue opens with a bang – continuing from where TMNT #59 left off. Inside the burnt husk that was the Second Time Around shop, the Shredder Elite drop in on the Turtles and Karai. It’s an impressive, full-page splash from Jim Lawson which, like A.C. Farley’s cover, sets the tone for the issue. And that tone involves a lot of great action and visuals.
The battle lines are drawn. On one side, the Shredder Elite. On the other, the Turtles. As they stare each other down, Karai, dressed as Shredder, surprises the Turtles by stepping past them to face the Shredder Elite alone.
Lawson’s composition of this page is very cinematic, which is only matched by Laird’s dialogue. Staring them down, Karai (posing as Shredder) tells them they have brought dishonor to the Foot, and they should commit seppuku. One member stares right back as they oblige. That’s right, Karai just Jedi-mind-tricked a Shredder Elite into seppuku.
To be honest, this is one of the sillier moments of this entire story arc, if for no other reason than Karai has a very different body type from the Shredder.
Apparently, the other members of the Shredder Elite feel the same way, commenting that their fallen colleague (named Tomei, for those keeping score) was a weak minded fool. Claiming she is not the real Shredder (even though the one that appeared in TMNT #10 and “Return to New York” was a clone…) they demand that she show her true face.
She obliges, hurling the Shredder helmet at them. Seeing the Shredder Elite are stunned by this move, the Turtles take this moment to spring into action. The splash page that ends this sequence is fantastic. From an art standpoint, Lawson continues to deliver great work, although is knack for emphasizing character’s crotches (and those unfortunately placed Turtle tails) is on display here.
With the battle about to begin, the creative team turns the reader’s attention to Casey, who has arrived back in New York with baby in tow. To the surprise of everyone, he turns to an unexpected and never-seen-before ally – his mom. Even more surprising is that she doesn’t call him Casey, but Arnold. Turns out that “Arnold” is his real name, but he goes by “Casey,” kind of like how Henry Jones Jr. prefers “Indiana Jones.” While there is no evidence that the family named the dog “Casey,” readers should note that Arnold Jones in the IDW series is both Casey’s father and the villainous leader of the Purple Dragons, Hun.
It turns out that Mama Jones (for the record, Casey just calls her “Ma”) owns an apartment building, and is going to let Casey stay in one of the vacant apartments. After giving him a ribbing about knocking up some girl (he didn’t), she asks if the baby has a name. With his response, no longer is this baby just a plot device but a character – Shadow Jones. Mama Jones, taken aback by the name, can’t help but ask if the name was Casey’s idea (it was).
Though she remains a baby for the remaining issues of Volume One and through Volume Two, Shadow Jones plays a prominent role in the as-of-now unfinished Volume Four.
This next set of pages is textless and all action as the Turtles and Foot take on the remaining Shredder Elite. Despite the numbers, the Shredder Elite hold their own and quickly thin out the numbers to a more level playing field.
We check in on April, who is looking over the classifieds section of the newspaper. Specifically, rental properties. Looks like she’s going to be getting a new place soon, which is a good call since her last place is now a hollowed-out husk of a building that is currently the sight of the Turtles-Foot battle going on right now.
More interesting, at least to me, is the guy who asks her if she wants a refill on her coffee. Why is he interesting? Because he doesn’t say coffee, but rather “cawfee,” as if he’s from Boston or Rhode Island. This seems like an attempt by the writers to throw people off the scent as to where they’re located. If she’s in New York, why not just have him say “coffee.” The same could be said for Northampton. Or perhaps it’s commentary on how many people that live in New York aren’t actually from New York. Whatever the reason, it’s a fun little detail to speculate about.
It’s a Nate appearance! You remember Nate, right? He’s the guy who’s apartment was blown up as collateral damage back in this story’s first chapter. Looks like his recovery is coming along, as he’s able to move around his hospital room unassisted. Good for you, Nate.
The battle is on, with Michaelangelo getting his ass handed to him by a Shredder Elite, who moves in for a killing blow. Leonardo jumps in, parrying the attack with his swords before delivering a fatal blow to the Elite’s head. Meanwhile, Karai and another of the Elite size each other up before engaging in combat.
The action continues on the rooftop with Raphael. Both he and Karai end up giving their foes similarly gruesome deaths. Donatello is not as lucky, as a surprise attack leads to a damaged knee and being incapacitated. These pages are characterized by Jim Lawson’s big, cinematic panel layouts that give the action room to breathe.
As one member of the Shredder Elite watches Donnie fall into one of those cliche bottomless pits, another gains the upper hand on Karai in battle. During their fight, he goes on and on about how she has profaned the image of their master. That is a bit hypocritical, considering the many imperfect clones of Shredder that the Foot produced (as seen in the “Return to New York” story arc).
Lawson ends the issue with a splash page that has clear influences from comic greats Jack Kirby and Will Eisner. It’s a hell of a cliffhanger with Karai in peril and a couple of the Turtles helplessly standing by, unable to do anything.