And, here we are. We’ve finally made it to the final chapter of both “City at War” and the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book. Let’s go see how Eastman, Laird, and Lawson close out this era for our beloved heroes-in-a-half-shell.
Throughout this story, A.C. Farley had done a great job of making his covers representative of something that happens within the issue. That’s no exception here, with the Turtles waving goodbye as they part ways with Splinter and Donatello.
Farley himself once again provides commentary on the cover:
The last black and white issue of the Mirage TMNT book. These comics all had color covers with black and white interior art. After this issue the book was changing over to color interior art. So in this picture the foreground color turtles wave goodbye to their black and white past. This wasn’t an entirely symbolic effort. It also illustrated exactly what occurred in that issue.
As has been the case throughout the story, the issue opens with a full-page splash. Only this time, we find Team TMNT not in Foot-free city but back at the farmhouse in Northampton. This placid imagery sets the tone for a tale of peacemaking and reflection.
We see Casey and April (with Shadow in tow) enter the house and adjusting to its initial state of neglect. However, it appears that the house is in fairly good shape overall. Fallen light fixture, sediment in the pipes, and dust are the only problems of note.
From their conversation, the newly formed family is not looking to stay, but rather pick up some items to bring back to their home in New York. After dinner, Casey finds Leonardo’s knife on the window sill while washing the dishes. He presents it to April, and reflects on where they might be.
Casey refers to the knife as an aikuchi, a cursory Google search states is a form of mounting for small Japanese swords (nihonto) in which the the tsuka (hilt) and the saya (scabbard) meet without a tsuba (hand guard) between them.
Throughout the first volume of the Mirage comics, the natural surroundings of the Northampton farmhouse have presented the Turtles and their allies with numerous dangers and challenges (e.g. “The River” from issue #24-26). But with the battle finally over, the creators present the scenery as it really is: beautiful and serene. It also appears to offer up a decent spot to swim, as April’s head emerges from a lake.
Those dangers I mentioned before? They might still exist, as a pair of eyes glare at April from the vegetation at the bottom of the pond. The perspective then shifts, with each panel moving closer and closer to her legs in what is clearly a reference to the 1976 film Jaws.
The Jaws tribute continues as April is pulled beneath the water’s surface, a look of terror on her face. From the shore, Casey looks on in terror, fearing the worst. Suddenly, she fully emerges with a smile on her face, propped up by a series of familiar-looking, 3-fingered hands.
Casey, April, and the Turtles take the time to catch up, as they were separated before “City at War” began back in Issue #50. The brothers are also introduced to Shadow, and almost immediately Mikey develops a connection with her. They also express their condolences to April regarding the loss of her father.
One of the Turtles is currently absent – Donatello. When asked where he currently is, the only response is “He’s… with Splinter.” That response – and the format of the response – only raises more questions. Did Splinter succumb to his injuries? Did Donnie?
Once again, the backdrop of this conversation, as illustrated by Jim Lawson, showcases the loveliness of rural Massachusetts. There is also noticeably less detail, which makes the issue much brighter thanks to the black and white presentation.
Apparently, “he’s… with Splinter” means “he’s… hanging out with Splinter in their new cave hideout.” Gathered at the mouth of the cave, the entire crew is together for the first time since TMNT #49.
As grateful as he is to see everyone, Donnie reveals that he plans to stay with Splinter for the time being to recuperate both his mind and body. It’s pretty clear that he is still in discomfort, with his leg bandaged and using a crutch to walk. Given Splinter’s ordeal with the Rat King, he is definitely equipped to help his son.
April suggests that Donnie and Splinter at least stay at the farmhouse, and lets him know that the keys are in their usual hiding place should they decide to move in. In Mirage Volume 4, Splinter eventually does move into the farmhouse.
Casey, April, and the Turtles say goodbye to Donnie and Splinter, recreating the image from the cover.
As they walk back to the farmhouse, April asks Casey for a moment alone. She returns to the edge of the woods and begins addressing Splinter. It’s a truly beautiful and heartfelt moment that captures the bond that April has developed with these characters since her first appearance in TMNT #2.
In a surprising turn, Splinter emerges from the woods and the two share a final hug goodbye. Only this isn’t just a goodbye between these characters, this is also a goodbye for readers to this version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Even though the Mirage continuity would continue, these characters would never be the same.
The Turtles’ story officially over, the last few pages are used as a final update on the status of Nate Buscheyev, the victim of the apartment bombing in TMNT #50 which kicked of the story’s conflict.
Having recovered from his injuries and escorted by what one can presume to be a social worker, Nate is brought to his new apartment. It’s very clean and overall much nicer than what he lived in. Left alone, he walks over to the window and looks out with a sad expression on his face.
We see what Nate sees. His new home is in a very nice-looking building with a park right outside his window. But it isn’t home to him, and likely never will be.