What better way to follow-up our 13 part retrospective on “City At War” than with a 13-part retrospective on the Volume 2 of Ninja Turtles comics. With no Eastman and no Laird to guide the ship, it’s up to Jim Lawson and Co. to lead the TMNT on their next adventure.
Retro Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Vol.2) #1
(W/A) Jim Lawson, (I) Jason Minor, (C) Mary Woodring
The first thing you’ll notice upon opening up TMNT #1 is the coloring, a striking visual difference from the previous volume, as well as any other series in the Mirage continuity. Though the covers to the Turtles’ comics have always been in color, Mary Woodring’s palette provides a defining look to the Mirage universe. Even though this hadn’t been seen before, there is something undeniably comforting about her use of bold, contrasting colors with little regard for “realistic” gradients.
But beyond the coloring, this appears to be very much in line with the type of storytelling readers have come to expect from their TMNT books, especially when a multi-part story is in the works. Unfortunately, that means not much of note – if anything – occurs in this issue. We see that years have passed since “City at War,” and not a whole lot has transpired since then. Leo, Raph, and Mikey are still living with April and Casey (and Shadow!) while Donnie and Splinter are off in the wilderness. While it is successful in setting the stage and introducing readers to this version of the Turtles (instead of the popular movies and cartoon series), there is a lack of any sort of hook. There’s nothing to grab readers and make them want to invest in the story.
Even those moments where the book is actually interesting, the execution is off just enough to be bothersome. For example, in a sequence where Casey is being tormented by his past, what could have been a fantastic reveal is ruined by Jim Lawson’s impulsive decision to spoil it before the intended page-turn for the sake of a visual gag. While it is true that the TMNT comics under Eastman and Laird were full of all sorts of irreverence and shunning of comic norms, they were able to do so in a manner that still allowed for effective storytelling. While this can be chalked up to the growing pains of an artist-turned-writer in Lawson, it is still sloppy nonetheless.
If for no other reason, check out this issue because of the art. The aforementioned coloring by Woodring makes the linework by Lawson and inker Jason Minor pop off the page. As has been the case throughout his time on the TMNT books, Lawson’s visuals are stunning. Figures are less clunky and more refined than his earlier work as he employs a more stylized aesthetic. It may sound paradoxical, but it works.
While it may not reach the highs of the previous volume, TMNT Vol. 2 gets off to a solid, if underwhelming start. The story is as thin as the paper the issue was printed on, but at least the great visuals (including the wraparound cover from A.C. Farley) are enough to move the needle for now.