Bizarro Back Issues: And Then There Was The Time The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Caused The Extinction Of The Dinosaurs (1989)
One of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the history of our planet is the question of what killed the dinosaurs. There is, of course, the leading theory that the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event was the result of a massive asteroid impact, something that's supported by a layer of sediment in the fossil record that includes high traces of iridium, and by the discovery of the massive Chicxulub crater, all of which amounts to a pretty compelling batch of scientific evidence. Personally, though, I don't buy it, and not just because of noted scientist Dr. Victor Fries and his assertion that the mass extinction was the result of the onset of an ice age.
No, my doubts come from the fact that, like everyone else who read Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in 1989, I already know what killed the dinosaurs: It was the Ninja Turtles. Specifically, Leonardo. I know, I was surprised, too.
That, at least, is the premise of Peter Laird, Jim Lawson and Ryan Brown's "The Return of Savanti Romero," one of the weirdest stories in a comic that was nothing but weird stories. For instance, as you might guess from the title, this one's a sequel to to the first story about Savanti Romero, a former apprentice to Lord Simultaneous, Master of All Time, who tried to steal an all-powerful time scepter and ended up being exiled back to dinosaur times for his trouble.
Also, Cerebus the Aardvark was there. Comics in the '80s were weird, y'all. Just weird as heck.
Anyway, that's where we're picking up with this issue, and after an opening page where Leonardo tells us that dinosaurs are super cool while riding on a truly massive triceratops --- a scientific fact if there ever was one --- we cut to a museum where April O'Neil has taken Donatello and Michelangelo to see an exhibit on fossils. Unfortunately, any educational value is lost when a velociraptor skeleton suddenly rearranges itself into the horned face of an evil time sorcerer:
Thanks to some cross-time sorcery, Savanti is able to send a message to the Turtles, challenging them to meet him somewhere in the Ring of Fire so that he can get his revenge. And this, honestly, is a terrible plan.
I mean, really: Savanti's still stuck back in the Cretaceous Era, and while animating dinosaur bones across 66 million years is certainly impressive, it's not really an indication that he has the ability to travel through time himself, especially considering that his challenge to the Turtles asks them to come to him. All the Turtles have to do to avoid this fight entirely is not travel back in time, and as you may have noticed just by living your life, that's a very easy thing to avoid doing.
Unfortunately for the Turtles, there are forces beyond their control meddling in these particular affairs, namely Renet, the current apprentice of Lord Simultaneous, who has shown up to take them back to answer Savanti's challenge. And even though Donatello asks the same questions I did...
... Everyone just sort of agrees that there's not much of a comic if they don't go back in time to get in a fight with a dinosorcerer.
And with that, they're off.
Needless to say, the first thing they do is get in a fight with a bunch of dinosaurs, and while their ninja skills would usually be up to the task, things get a little complicated when Savanti himself shows up riding a T-Rex in a page that I think we can all agree is pretty rad.
It looks especially good without dialogue obscuring the art, although I'm not exactly sure that was on purpose. The entire fight scene over the next three pages --- and the opening spread back in the museum, for that matter --- are completely devoid of lettering. In his introduction on the inside front cover, Brown cracks a few jokes about Mirage's notorious lateness in getting books out, mentions that this issue in particular was lost back in 1988, when it "disappeared into an ever increasing barrage of TMNT licensing and production art." Considering that this was the last issue, I wonder if they ended up going with just the lettering that was already done in order to get it out in a rush before Mirage went back to just focusing on one title.
Or maybe they just decided that pages of ninja tutles fighting dinosaurs don't need any words cluttering things up. It's a valid choice.
Anyway, in the fracas that follows, Renet and her Time Scepter are abducted by a pteranodon, and carried off to Savanti's headquarters, a towering structure made of (fresh, non-fossilized) dinosaur bones:
The idea is that he's rigged up this massive superstructure as a magical focus for a rift in spacetime that's set to appear right at the top. The unleashed cosmic energies, focused through the Time Scepter, will destroy Renet, and the resulting explosion of power will cause every volcano on Earth to erupt at once, slowing the planet's rotation around the sun just enough to make that asteroid miss the planet entirely, and give us a world where the dinosaurs were never wiped out.
Clearly, the TMNT can't let that happen.
And that's about how it goes. We get a pretty amazing fight scene that includes a bit where Savanti magics up some armor made of dinosaur bones (awesome), and in all honesty, it's less about butt-kicking and more about fighting him to a stalemate while they free Renet from his magical superstructure. In the end, though, they manage to do just that, and instead of their friend getting zapped by cosmic rays, it's Savanti who gets it, complete with a Wile E. Coyote-esque drop into the ocean below:
The only problem is that he takes the Time Scepter with him, which means that the Turtles and Renet are stuck back in dinosaur times. And for the next three months, that's where they live, eventually going full Flintstones as they build huts, craft tools, and live off the land --- right up until they find the scepter in the stomach of a giant paleozoic fish that they catch for dinner:
So after a hearty dinner, they pop back to 1989, secure in the knowledge that they are directly responsible for stopping someone from preventing the extinction of 70% of all species on Earth. So, uh, good job, guys?