Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #69 review: The great escape of Mondo Gecko


The forces of Agent Bishop are right at the doorstep of the Ninja Turtles and Old Hob. Yet can Mondo Gecko give them the keys to survival?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #69

Writers: Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman & Bobby Curnow

Artist: Mateus Santolouco

Colorist: Ronda Pattison

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First of all, there will be no jokes made about this issue’s numbering. In fact it inches closer to a TMNT milestone. To date, the longest running volume of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the licensed series from Archie Comics. That series ran 72 issues from 1988 to 1995. Mirage Studios‘ original volume ran from 1984 to 1993 for 62 issues. IDW will hence outlast both by the summer, a tremendous feat for the creative team. The three writers (and colorist) have all worked together to weave this Turtle tapestry since 2011 without any breaks and with minimal lateness.

Image by IDW Publishing

This milestone comes at a pivotal time in TMNT. Agent Bishop is steering the soldiers of Dark Water and his Earth Protection Force agency full steam against mutants. To this end, he’s captured most of the Mutanimals and now has the Ninja Turtles (and Old Hob) surrounded. Yet their salvation may come from two escapees. One of them is Mondo Gecko, and while he may not be a ninja, he is the master of his environment. He manages to slip past security and even hack them!

Image by IDW Publishing

No One Wants to See a Naked Mondo Gecko in the John!

While the Mutanimals fight Bishop’s group from within, Old Hob and the Ninja Turtles fight them from the outside. A reasonable distrust of Old Hob’s motives placed the Turtles right in Dark Water’s cross hairs. As Agent Bishop rushes to the scene to “reactivate” Slash as his living weapon, Leonardo struggles to put together a plan. He finally capitalizes on Hob’s zeal for combat to form a diversionary escape. Yet it is only due to the presence of outsiders that the Turtles survive.

Image by IDW Publishing

The Turtles are hopelessly outclassed by the weaponry of Dark Water. Raphael gets hit with a tranquilizer dart and a sonic weapon dazes Michelangelo. Old Hob and his stolen weapons from Null manage to delay their capture, but it’s ultimately Sally Pride who rides to the rescue. The mutants have to literally drive off a bridge to escape, and Pride’s tactics earn her an earful from Leonardo. Splinter’s star pupil continues to struggle with a commanding presence without the rat.

Image by IDW Publishing

One criticism that some fans have had with this series, as evidenced in letter columns, is that the Turtles themselves sometimes get overshadowed. They rarely earn clean wins against enemies without aid. The drama of their supporting cast of thousands often overshadows them, or at least replaces them in the spotlight. While I feel this is a fair criticism at times, I don’t mind it for two reasons. One being that the Turtles still develop, the other being that the writing is just that good.

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Agent Bishop Has a Sensitive Side?

This issue further proves this point with how it handles two antagonists. We learn a bit more about Agent Bishop when he visits a nursing home. In the original 2003 cartoon, he was centuries old and lived by cloning bodies. Here, Bishop is clearly not immortal, but having him interact with his dementia suffering dad does a lot to humanize him. Bishop may be a zealot against the mutants, but his motives are not out of pure malice or sadism. He is trying to honor his legacy.

Image by IDW Publishing

Honoring legacies is a major theme within TMNT regardless of adaptation, so this is a solid direction for Bishop. It turns out his dad was a similar “monster hunter” during the Cold War. During a lucid moment, Bishop Sr. brings up a real life incident revolving around Dwight Eisenhower and Area 51. The elder Bishop faced a lot of scorn for spending his career trying to defend America from threats nobody believed existed. Now, Bishop has proved they exist.

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The presence of Leatherhead proves that animals were exposed to the Utrom’s mutagen before current times. There were simply fewer of them before Baxtor Stockman started working for Krang. The source of mutants come from an alien warlord, and when left unchecked, many can be very dangerous. Yet Bishop received a prophetic talking to about not becoming “a monster himself” in his quest to hunt them. Between brainwashing and torture, he is close to being that.

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Old Hob Is a Radical Cat!

On the other hand, Old Hob remains an ally of coincidence to the Turtles. Once again, their enemy is his enemy, little more. His reckless zeal for violence saves the Turtles this time, but he has little of their mercy. Considering Agent Bishop’s cruel use of Slash against the mutants in ambushes, it is hard to make him look too sympathetic. Yet that is exactly what this issue does. When Mondo Gecko shows up with hacked personal files, Old Hob decides to threaten Bishop’s dad as revenge.

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Regardless of circumstance, threatening an elderly man in a nursing home who has dementia is utterly despicable. It isn’t something any of the Turtles or even most of the Mutanimals would condone. It proves that the only path Hob follows is his own. He had little to do with the Mutanimals when they stopped blindly following his orders—a crime he blames on Michelangelo exposing his sins. Hob’s suffering at the hands of humans had made him utterly remorseless.

Image by IDW Publishing

Therefore, this issue highlights antagonists from two angles. On the one hand you have Agent Bishop, who represents awesome government power. He deploys the full might of the comic book military industrial complex. Yet his motivations are in the name of protecting humans, and grossly misjudging all mutants. Using Slash as a slave against the Mutanimals is also despicable. Yet when Hob threatens his dad, it actually became possible to sympathize with Bishop in that situation.

Mondo Gecko Never Looked Better!

Having two antagonists from different angles is good drama. It’s easy to paint characters as all good or all bad in fiction, and comics do it all the time. It takes more talent to have layered characters, both heroes, villains, and all in between. Hob was the Turtles’ first enemy in this series, eager to lead his own criminal gangs to his own ends. He’s often vile and has little sense of loyalty. His threatening of Bishop’s elderly father may only bring down more carnage upon the mutants.

Image by IDW Publishing

Mondo Gecko gets a notable sequence at the start. He’s another longtime character to the franchise who is recreated by IDW. He got his own action figure in 1990 and originally turned up in both the original cartoon and Archie Comics series a year later. This version is more anatomically accurate to a gecko, but remains the same. Mondo Gecko is all about skateboarding and fast one-liners. In this series, he has the ability to cloak himself, Predator style. Dr. Shevlin gets a taste of it!

Image by IDW Publishing

Mateus Santolouco once again proves why he’s become TMNT’s primary penciler. His panels are full of detail, yet without bogging things down. Once the action starts, he has a blurred line technique akin to many manga artists. The meeting between Bishop and his father is also great, as Mateus does a great job of making the old man look like an elder Bishop. The fight against Slash at the end is brief, but immediately dangerous. Pattison’s colors once again shine, and they’re great.

Next: Man Ray takes on Agent Bishop in #68!

The Most Consistently Great Licensed Comic out There!

As incredible as the art is, the writing on TMNT may be its main draw. The series is on the cusp of 70 issues, and it remains just as good as it was within its first year—if not far better. The cast of allies and enemies gets more layered, and their adventures always emerge organically as reactions to previous stories or incidents. It remains one of the best revamps of a well known franchise in comics history. With or without Mondo Gecko, it always is one of the best in the biz.