“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”.
We’ve reached the penultimate issue – Part 11 – of the Turtles’ most epic story.
From issue #58-60, the covers by A.C. Farley’s covers have been a sequence setting the stage for the Turtles’ final battle against the Shredder Elite. But this cover does not do that. Instead, it shows the aftermath of the battle, with the Turtles standing triumphantly, though battle-worn, over their foes. I don’t want to say that this cover spoils the comic… but it totally spoils the comic.
Once again, Farley himself provided a bit of commentary on this cover (from AlteredEarth.com):
The fourth and final cover in the sequence. Wow. The turtles kicked butt here. These Mirage turtles are the original creation. They are actually quite alot darker and infinitely more interesting ( in my opinion ) than the turtles you see on TV.
Picking up where the last issue left off, we see Karai held at sword-point by a Shredder Elite, but the perspective of this image has changed. Now, we see that an injured Donatello is nearby.
Jim Lawson gives us an overhead image of Donnie, complete with the unfortunately positioned turtle tail. We see that he is within reach to one of the fallen Foot Soldiers. But more importantly, we see that he is within reach of their gun as the Shredder Elite prepares to deliver a killing stroke to Karai. He leans over, grabs the gun, and unloads a clip into the Shredder Elite’s chest. Donnie fully embodies the trope of “invincible incompetent” by showing great skill with a gun.
April stands outside an apartment building, commenting “This looks like the place.” There are little details thrown into this panel by Lawson that heighten it, like the tree poking through an iron grate and a few stray scraps of paper – details which are recognizable to anyone that’s taken a stroll through NYC (outside of Midtown). Anyways, she rings the bell, and the door is answered by an older woman that goes by “Mrs. Jones.” Yup, it’s Casey’s mom, who we met in the previous issue. Furthermore, Mrs. Jones refers to April as “the young lady who wants to get into real estate.” That means April isn’t looking to lease a new apartment, it means she looking to take her inheritance and buy an apartment building.
Mrs. Jones leads April on a tour of the building, starting with the basement. While down there, she mentions that she has a son, Arnold, that she hopes April will keep on staff to perform building maintenance. While we as readers know that Arnold is really Casey, April is in the dark. As a reader, this is satisfying storytelling by Laird*, as readers eagerly await the moment when these two are reunited.
*It’s been a while, so just a refresher that Eastman and Laird are credited with developing the story, but Laird is the one who actually scripted the issue – with an assist from artist Jim Lawson.
Leonardo does battle with the Shredder Elite in an evenly matched fight. In fact, the Shredder Elite must resort to playing dirty to gain an upper hand – an action which Leo returns with pleasure. In a mostly silent sequence, it is Jim Lawson who does most of the heavy lifting – a common theme throughout “City at War.” As is the case throughout the story, Lawson’s art captures the raw, gritty emotion of the fight.
The battle ends not with a grace swing of a blade, but in a knock-down, drag-out fashion. With a positional advantage, Leo gets the Shredder Elite into a headlock, breaking his neck. Exhausted, he looks up to see Raphael and Mikey looking down through the broken ceiling, announcing to him (and the reader) that it’s finally over.
We get a quick check-in with Nate, who is actually checking out of the hospital. What should be a happy occasion is shrouded with melancholy; the implication being that Nate has nothing to go home to.
With the battle over, the Turtles and Karai gather themselves and tend to the wounded, i.e. Donatello. The Turtles are determined to hold Karai to her word, which she eventually gives. Relieved, the brothers take a moment in the realization that they are finally out of the Shredder’s shadow.
Karai looks to the direction she’s going to be taking the Foot, hopefully making it a force for good one day. For those that have read TMNT Volume 4 and Tales of the TMNT Volume 2, you know that it takes a very long time for that change to take place. Her parting words to the Turtles are simple: use this opportunity well.
In a closing splash page featuring a wonderfully epic image of Leonardo, he reassures her that they will make the most of this opportunity.