Friday, June 10, 2016

Savage Dragon #22 When: September 1995
Why: Erik Larsen How: Erik Larsen

The Story So Far...
When a construction worker violated sacred ground, he was destined to become part of a cosmic struggle of good and evil. Transformed into the demon Complete Carnage, he was a being of total evil until finally slain by his pure counterpart Radical and The Ninja Turtles.

Two years later, a new version of Complete Carnage has emerged to wreak havoc on the modern marvels he draws strength from! His existence: the product of scientific experimentation on a severed limb by the Whelan-Freas Research Centre! The product: an even more savage clone!

Radical is forbidden to intervene, forcing The Ninja Turtles to catch the train to Chicago alone. They won't have to look far for an ally in the fight with Complete Carnage, though. Officer Dragon is reporting for duty!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Dragon 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Donatello 5 (Professor)
Speed: Turtles 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Dragon 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Turtles 4 (Gymnastic)
Fighting: Draw 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Turtles 2 (Projectiles)

Just when you thought it was safe to crawl out of the sewers -- we've got an inter-company crossover on our hands!

The Turtles are: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael & Michaelangelo.

We join the teenaged ninja-ones in the midst of a good old fashioned superhero team-up with none other than Chicago PD's finest: Officer Dragon!

You may remember him from his epic showdown with evil armored arch-nemesis Overlord, way back in Savage Dragon #7! Kinda appropriate, given, when last we left The Turtles on The Comic Book Fight Club, they were taking out their own notorious, evil armored nemesis: The Shredder - in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1!

As if that wasn't enough in common: these heroes are all mutually mean, green and good for your environment -- provided you don't mind a little collateral damage with your thwarting of evil-doers!

The bad guy in question is Complete Carnage: A humble construction worker who violated sacred ground, placing a curse that manifested when he was struck by lightning whilst repairing a concrete wall. The event mutated him into the evil demon Carnage, whose mastery over cement and steel allows him to control both substances, draw strength from them, and even pass through them!

To combat the specialist demon The Turtles usually rely on specialist help - namely Radical, who was struck by the same lightning as the construction worker, and possesses powers of pure good. She was instrumental in destroying Complete Carnage once and for all, by trapping him in a liquefied road.

This particular Complete Carnage is a clone derived from a dismembered arm. Radical was ordered not to intervene by her spiritual guides due to the creature's illegitimate existence. That means The Turtles can only rely on Dragon when the creature goes on a rampage in concrete jungle of Chicago!

Officer Dragon certainly has the muscle to stand toe-to-toe with a jacked up, construction powered demon clone. Power reserves supplied by the cityscape could pose a problem in fighting and/or containing Complete Carnage, but The Turtles are there to supply invaluable tactical knowledge!

The Math: Dragon & The Turtles Ranking: Donatello (#169)

What Went Down...
Police Officer Dragon and The Ninja Turtles tumble into the Chicago streets as a building collapses behind them! Still trapped inside: the hulking demon known as Complete Carnage - alive again after two years through scientific tampering!

Drawing strength from man-made objects of concrete and metal, the creature is super-charged by the bricks and mortar that rain down on him! A giant purple fist punches through the wreckage before the demon explodes free!

Michaelangelo attacks first - leaping into the fray with his nunchaku leading the way! They smash against the bridge of Carnage's nose. The demon returns the favor, swinging a giant purple right hand that clobbers the bashful turtle!

The rest of the brothers aren't far behind - Leonardo leading as they take the fight to the cloned monster. Donatello recognizes extreme differences in the creature cloned from Complete Carnage's arm. This version lacks "the finesse of his predecessor" and shows a greater savagery!

Michaelangelo is pinned beneath the beast as he brothers attack, but the ground soon gives way beneath them - sending all five plummeting into the dark void of the underground sewers below! Reluctantly - The Dragon dives in after them!

Shrouded in darkness, falling uncontrollably - the ninjas strike! Nunchaku smash, blood sprays, a sai stabs into the demon's neck - it lashes out! Raphael is swatted away. Then The Dragon arrives like a piledriver - fist-first into evil!

Raphael tries to use the opening to get another shot in, but is knock away by gigantic limbs. The Dragon is knocked away, too. He takes a straight shot to the nose with a krak! Ninja silhouettes dance all around. Donatello's staff extends like a limb to strike the demon in the side of the head. The demon goes wild!

Flailing limbs and confusion keep Complete Carnage from focusing enough to utilize his power over man's sewer tunnels. The Turtles try to use it to their advantage, but they're in Chicago. Officer Dragon has dibs on this beat!

The two powerhouses collide in the dark! Dragon's powerful fists are hammers of justice, but the collapsing building has kept Complete Carnage strong. He fires a punch that launches The Dragon into the sewer structure. The next one sends him exploding out of the sewer - into Lake Michigan!

The Turtles take charge, whomping on their nemesis' clone while Officer Dragon is forced to swim back to shore. Donatello does some damage with his wooden staff. When Dragon arrives he's soaking wet - and hopping mad! He snatches Complete Carnage from behind and tosses him into the air like a ragdoll!

The heroes watch on, waiting for the rampaging demon-clone to return - but he does not! Little do they realize - another demonic entity is lurking beneath the surface. A creature driven by pure hatred for Dragon: The Fiend - Bonnie Harris!

The Fiend's red hand clutches Complete Carnage by the skull. Bubbles froth into the water as the clone is confronted with its fate. While Carnage searches for breath, The Dragon springs into action from the shoreline, leaping into the lake!

When Dragon arrives - it's already too late. The Fiend has disappeared, leaving only the drowned corpse of the Complete Carnage clone.

Dragon hauls the remains back to the sewer exit, where The Turtles are stunned by the ease of its defeat. Clearly a pale shadow of the original Complete Carnage that caused them so much trouble! Officer Dragon is left to believe it was his actions that led to the death - an act he hoped to avoid.

The Hammer...
It was one helluva superhero team-up, but in the end, it was the surprise influence of a villain that gave us a victory shared by The Fiend & The Dragon! Take nothing away from The Ninja Turtles, though! They'll take away a well earned assist stat you can see in the rankings update at the bottom of this entry.

If you weren't paying attention, you may like it clarified that this is Bonnie Harris as The Fiend - the third incarnation of Dragon's infernal nemesis.

As noted throughout; this incarnation of Complete Carnage is a significantly discounted version of the deadly Ninja Turtles adversary. He was cloned by The Whelan-Freas Research Center in a twist that feels equal parts Terminator 2 and Aliens.

The fact that he was a clone doesn't ease the burden on Dragon as he and the Turtles leave the scene. It's an interesting contrast of morals. Even in 1995, the grim 'n' gritty red clad turtles of the comics aren't too fussed about slaying an enemy. Not that I typically think of Dragon as being one to pull his punches, either.

This the second outing of both independent creations on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. In both cases, we've talked about the influence of Frank Miller. In the case of Eastman & Laird, I tend to think of the influence as conceptual, and a matter of content. Without the influx of ninja into Daredevil's New York City under early eighties Miller, we may not have four humanoid turtles in 1984 [see; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1].

In the case of Larsen and Savage Dragon, established in print eight years later, it seems to be the artwork of Miller that has the biggest impact. We saw that earlier in the series [Savage Dragon #7], and it's on display in this issue, again.

In both instances, Larsen seems to invoke the Frank Miller of Sin City, casting heroes in blood spattered silhouette in staccato action. You can see the effect in one of the panels featured above - half a page wide, with a grid of eight panels to its right. This goes on throughout the sewer fight - an effective tribute.

In both cases, the creators and their creations are part of a generation drawing direct influence from their predecessors. Once upon a time I would've thought of all concerned as contemporaries, but as we venture through mainstream comics of the 2010s, I'm spending more time thinking about the fractured narrative of generational comics creation, and less on the continuum of the whole.

Perhaps due to the slightly tongue-in-cheek nature of it all, or because of the youth behind their creation, there's an unmistakable sense of "independent comics" about TMNT. The characters have an enthusiasm for the same disjointed logic I remember thinking as a child, yet trying to fight. Irradiate anything and a gimmick is instantly justified. Reverse engineering the creation process from an idea one of the Big Two hasn't stamped their name all over yet. A concrete construction worker mutates, becomes evil, a purple demon, and can move through cement? Sure!

It's the rough sketch impression of comic books I remember existing among the uninitiated for a long time, yet never related to the comics that seemed to inspire it. A weird, toxic mutation rising from the muck of misspent youths ripping through comics long forgotten in front of B-movies on TV. A post-modern accident that gave the culture a whole new wing? What ever it is - I enjoy the enthusiasm and quirkiness it created.

I'm a lot less enthusiastic about the degrees of separation fuelling todays retro franchise fixation, but what can you do? Talk about old comics and the fights that bind them - I guess!

This entry was once again inspired by the theatrical release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (June 3rd). A wonderful excuse to pick out a couple of now-classic Ninja Turtles comics and bring them back to the light. That's all the turtles we've got time for this month, though. If you're reading in the future, you can use labels and links throughout this post to find more, or log in to the Secret Issue Index for a full archive of reviews!

Want to read the comics for yourself? Use Amazon links provided for your convenience [like the one to your right] to check out the full collected editions of the comic reviewed! Next week: The Brexit?! Not quite...

Winners: The Fiend & The Dragon
#174 (new) The Fiend (Bonnie Harris) [+1 kill]
#332 (+443) Dragon
#128 (+41) Donatello [+1 assist]

#129 (+41) Leonardo [+1 assist]
#145 (+140) Raphael [+1 assist]
#146 (+140) Michaelangelo [+1 assist]

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