The “Invasion of the Triceratons” arc continues. After the skirmish that brought the previous issue to a close, all sides of the battle are forced to retreat and regroup. Meanwhile, the TMNT is just trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #77
(W) Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, & Bobby Curnow (A) Damian Couceiro (C) Ronda Pattison
This current incarnation of the TMNT has been often compared to the famed run of X-Men comics by writer Chris Claremont from the 1980s. With the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #77, it appears that the creative team took that comparison to heart, delivering wordy, action-light installment that saps much of the energy from “Invasion of the Triceratons.”
Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with an issue that features a lot of dialogue, and TMNT #77 does a lot of things right. There are moments when Tom Waltz’s script mixes humor and deception with most of its dialogue – itself a masked exposition dump. Unfortunately, the amount of dialogue used in this issue prevents the artwork to adequately breathe. Unlike a movie or television show, where characters can move while carrying on a conversation, comics are restricted. As a result, Damian Couciero is forced into drawing many (very expressive) talking heads.
Another unfortunate side-effect is that attention is called to the lettering work of Shawn Lee. It is often said that the best lettering work isn’t noticed. Well, in this issue, it was noticed. Lee has been lettering this series pretty much from the beginning, but this is the first time following conversations has proved troublesome due to word-balloon placement. There were a few occasions where pages needed to be reexamined in order to decipher the correct order for the dialogue. Hopefully, this is a one-time thing, as Lee has done an admirable job for the entirety of his run on the title.
One of my favorite things this series has done, and is on display here, is made Baxter Stockman an unreliable ally of the TMNT. He’s a sleazy scientist with eyes on getting rich, but he’s not inherently evil. His rationalization for charging people trapped in the battle-ravaged area of New York for supplies underscores his cynical personality. For readers, he’s grown into one of the most interesting aspects of this entire TMNT saga.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #77 is a comic that defines the term “meh.” It does some things well, and others… not so much. The character interactions are at times entertaining, but the overall story goes nowhere. But perhaps the biggest flaw is that there is no underlying sense of tension. It’s a problem that could have been avoided by simply keeping the Triceratons motives seemingly altruistic. Without that, this issue – and by extension this arc – exists only to allow the series to bide its time until issue #100.