By: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (story), Andy Kuhn (art), Ronda Pattison (colors)

The Story: Forget doves—nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing a turtle cry.

The Review: This site is not the proper forum for espousing political or moral views—but what the heck.  If you ask me, it seems pretty clear that no sensible moral compass requires you to let yourself get killed.  If someone’s threatening to take you down, you can try to dodge the bullet as well as you can, but at some point, you’ve got to take a shot yourself.  And as long as you don’t take that choice for granted, you shouldn’t have to guilt yourself to death afterward.

Last issue, the Turtles found themselves confronting this rather perplexing question of ethics: does the right to survival give them the right to end someone’s life?  As anybody else would do, they decided to leave the answer for another day.  Unfortunately, the moral dilemma has caught up with them, in the form of Slasher, a fellow mutant turtle without the distinguishing intellect, forcing them to confront their principles a lot sooner than expected.

Predictably enough, the Turtles do their best to diffuse the situation to avoid making the hard choice.  Given the circumstances, they make a very respectable effort toward minimizing the violence while keeping themselves alive.  While their behavior is worthy of applause, ultimately the mindless savagery of their opponent leaves them with few options.  And with Mikey pleading for compassion on one side and Raph and Donnie insisting they’ve got to ensure their safety on their other, the burden falls on Leo to call the shots.

Even though Leo’s the de facto leader of the brothers, it seems a bit mean to leave all the responsibility to him.  He shoulders it admirably, though, and does his very best to keep the peace.  And since this is TMNT we’re talking about, and not Kick-Ass, Eastman-Waltz write the circumstances to make Leo as blameless as possible.  To the very end, Leo tries to reason with Slasher, even with his brother’s life in the balance, and only the most unfortunate of accidents results in blood spilt.

I’m also impressed with the aftermath of the battle.  While everyone tries to move on from an obviously pitiable conclusion, no one takes it lightly.  Their discussion of the event results in one of the better speeches of the After School Special variety, probably because this is the Ninja Turtles and also because the message of it means a great deal in this day and age.  Of course, Master Splinter delivers it, and I think it says a lot that it takes an overgrown rat to declare, “In a world as jaded and cynical as this one, Michelangelo’s unbridled optimism is to be celebrated, not discouraged.”  I hope all the other comics out there are listening.

Kuhn basically benefits from working on a title where the demands are lighter than your average comic book.  In almost every other circumstance, I’d consider his rudimentary sort of art childish and stiff.  And even compared to the last guy who worked on this series, Kuhn’s work looks mostly unremarkable.  But his cartoony approach does manage to convey the story tolerably, and an innocent character that meshes well with the general tone of the titular characters.  Pattison does a fine job with colors either way, although her attempts to distinguish the Turtles by skin color alone is defeated by their utter similarity.

Conclusion: A bit of a narrative cop-out where the more complex material is concerned, but a thoughtfully written tale of turtle-vs-turtle conflict nonetheless.  Art-wise, Dan Duncan is sorely missed, though his replacement puts up an acceptable effort.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: TMNT may be the last comic in the world where you’ll find characters willing to come down and help you clean out a sewer.

– Is anyone else starting to think Raphael is acting a touch like a douche?