Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends (#19 – 21) – Gary Carlson

3 out of 5

Sort of a loose ends wrap up and Big Things set up arc.  In TMNT Image fashion, writer Gary Carlson keeps starting and ending things soon after, which isn’t a problem in itself – it’s a fun aspect of the run, and allows for the constant shakeups and craziness that defined volume 3 – but seems rather odd in that we’ve spent time on lesser threats, and now, faced with Triceratons, one of the few baked-in TMNT adversaries, they’re never too much of a problem.  Instead, Carlson seems to be using this as a way to further explore the internal conundrum of Raph leading the Foot – which is well written, and uses the Splinter / family dynamic in an intriguing way – bringing Raph’s team in for a battle royale with the space dinos (which, although featured in the pitch perfect 21st issue, is still over and done with sorta between panels).

Other plotpoints – the governments agents who’ve arrested Donny; Leo’s lost hand – get that shrug-it-off Carlson treatment, but it is interesting how many deep Mirage-y cuts get tossed in in this arc, while also trying to tie the history moreso into the Image-verse via potentially linking Horridus to the ‘Tons.  In our fortunate TMNT-soaked present (currently 2020), we have two fan-printed followups to the Image series, along with IDW finally printing these issues plus a conclusion, but I imagine reading this back in the day – while I was hoping for a more extended throwdown with the Triceratons, or at least something that made them a bit more definitive than dudes who just show up, remember the Turtles and shoot some lasers and then get punched in the face – and being really excited by the character work and overall ideas Carlson was chugging along on, building up to what will presumably be a tussle between the Japanese Foot and Raph’s iteration in the “final” two issues (which I’ll soon be reading for the first time…)…

Given that, as the letters pages in the originals came clean on the series ending, it would’ve been an absolute bummer.  Frank Fosco had made the book his own, very much in the way I identify Jim Lawson with the Mirage turtles almost more than Eastman & Laird, and while his art, as inked by Mark Heike, can be irresolutely messy at points – Frank seems to be saving his energies at points in issues 19 and 20 for the many characters and Triceraton and Foot battles in the skillfully crowded and energetic 21st issue – when we do get to books such as that one, the dude’s fun and visceral work is priceless, and, as mentioned, Carlson undeniably had a lot of cool concepts packed in to the run.

IDW’s reprints, as Urban Legends, look sharp, although colorist Adam Guzowski can’t do much but add splash colors to the empty, simple panels Fosco delivers.