Retro Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (volume 4)
(w) Peter Laird (a) Jim Lawson
After the second volume of TMNT comics by Mirage Studios, the old Turtle continuity splits into two distinct paths. One path follows the story told in the third volume of comics published by Image (reprinted by IDW as TMNT: Urban Legends). The other saw artist Jim Lawson reteamed with co-creator Peter Laird for the fourth volume of comics. Though as of this writing the volume remains unfinished, for many it is the true final chapter of the TMNT story.
This first issue of Volume 4 is full of world-building. Laird makes it a point of emphasis to establish that this story is not going to follow the Image continuity, and that despite the title, the Turtles are no longer teenagers. Like Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon, Laird has the Turtles age in real time, resulting in a more mature voice for the storytelling. However, the sense of wonder is not lost, and Laird doesn’t resort to shocking elements because he can. This feels very much like an extension of the original volume, and a step up from Volume 2.
One of the main plot points Laird introduces is a genius move to allow for different stories by moving the Turtles out of the shadows. Unlike a recent film that tried to do something similar, this works because of its wacky simplicity (and lack of Michael Bay).
Speaking of Volume 2, Lawson’s art is a welcome sight. This first issue features my absolute favorite effort of his over the course of the Mirage publications. This is aided by Laird’s inking, which adds depth and definition to each image. Look no further than our first glimpse of the Turtles. The visual is a reference to the original TMNT #1, but whereas that effort by Eastman and Laird had the raw energy of an underground zine, this one has a level of refinement befitting these creators’ growth over the years.
Overall, TMNT #1 (volume 4) is a great jumping on point for those that want a different Turtles experience. The writing is solid, but the selling point is the art from Lawson and Laird. However, the plot does enough to keep readers hooked for the next installment.