RETRO REVIEW: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #4 (Volume 2)
In this issue, Donnie tangles with an uninvited house-guest while Leo’s exploration of his new crib leads to a big discovery. Also, Baxter proclaims he won’t be stopped after coming this far…
RETRO REVIEW: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (Vol.2) #4
(W/A) Jim Lawson (I) Eric Talbot (C) Eric Vincent (L) Mary Kelleher (Cvr) Peter Laird & Kevin Eastman
Each issue of Volume 2 has been an exercise in increasingly decompressed storytelling. Furthermore, it is evident that the direction of the Turtles under their creators (or at least their anointed proxy in Jim Lawson) was vastly different from that of the pop culture mega-franchise. Case in point: this issue focuses on only two of the Turtles – Donnie and Leo – and they don’t even cross paths. Unlike the movies or television series, the Mirage Turtles grow further and further apart as time passes.
Jim Lawson’s writing has strengthened with time, but at this stage of his career he was still experiencing growing pains. The pacing of this issue is rather uneven and the dialogue is clunky. It is understandable that certain information needs to be conveyed in order for the story to progress, but the script has very little nuance. The dialogue does nothing for character development, instead solely offering up exposition. Furthermore, it is not believable or natural dialogue, which hurts when readers are already exhausting their disbelief on anthropomorphic, ninjitsu proficient turtles.
Despite the dialogue hangups, the story itself is solid, but forgettable. Following a brief prologue with Robo-Stockman, the issue focuses on the Northampton farmhouse, where Donnie takes on an unwelcome snooper in the nearby forest. After a brief tussle, the identity of this person is unveiled. While readers of the previous series (or even the current IDW books) may take enjoyment from this moment, for others it may fall flat. However, this moment is elevated, albeit briefly, by the only decent dialogue exchange in the entire issue.
Elsewhere, Leonardo is exploring the sewer system that is connected to his new residence and happens upon an impossibly large cavern to exist in New York, particularly Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, or Staten Island. If Leo is living in the Bronx, this cavern might possibly be able to exist on the borough’s outskirts, but even that is a stretch. This demonstrates the sad truth behind this issue: put even a little bit of thought into what you’re reading, and the story falls apart.
While the story may be flimsily put together, the artwork is what truly holds it together. Lawson’s artwork is as lively as ever, thanks in large part to Eric Vincent’s use of a bright palette. The flat technique gives the issue a charming look, unlike the grittier books of the era that began to employ digital coloring. Meanwhile, the two action set pieces for which the issue is framed around wonderfully realized.
The fourth issue of TMNT Volume 2 contains a couple great action sequences, but the story itself leads a lot to be desired. Readers could very easily skip this issue in its entirety and not miss a beat in Issue #5. It’s not a train-wreck, but it contributes very little to the overarching story.