Effectively Establishing a Large Cast of Distinct Characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 71

by Spencer Irwin

This article will contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 71 is a masterclass in quickly establishing an entire group of distinct, memorable characters (seriously, Tom Waltz, Bobby Curnow, Kevin Eastman, Dave Wachter, and Ronda Pattison should be teaching a class on it). This issue has the unenviable task of finally introducing the “Pantheon” in full, but it’s a challenge the creative team tackles with gusto, making each new character immediately distinct, their personalities and relationships with their siblings immediately clear. It not only makes a heaping helping of new information easy to digest, but fun to as well.

Amazingly, there’s very little straight exposition delivered in this issue — instead, new information is revealed naturally through conversation between the various immortals. The creative team not only understands that character is more important than plot, but that delivering information via character interaction makes the information that much easier to remember.

The most vital aspect of this issue, though, is the characters themselves. If the Pantheon turned out bland and unmemorable, it would be impossible to get invested in their scheme or even to remember the fine details. Thankfully, the creative team foresaw this hazard and avoids it masterfully by leaning into each character’s defining trait. Aka is kind and patient, Jagwar fierce and impatient, Rat King a troublemaker — no two characters share the same primary trait, making each of their personalities distinct, their voices and dialogue immediately recognizable, and their relationships with each of their siblings unique. And despite how it may sound, none of these characters feel one-dimensional, as we’re already starting to see hints at their complex motivations and plans.

A lesser title may lean on a sequence like this to introduce and differentiate their cast, but TMNT‘s creative team uses it more as a conclusion than an opening statement. The majority of the information mentioned could already be gleaned from dialogue earlier in the issue — this spread isn’t attempting to introduce readers to the Pantheon, but simply to summarize the information they’ve already learned. In that sense, it’s a terrific memory aid, even down to the way Pattison uses color to convey the various “feel” of each immortal. After only one issue the members of the Pantheon, as well as their relationships, conflicts, and plans, have all been clearly established, meaning the creative team can get now dive head first into their story without worrying about any readers feeling lost. It’s a far more complicated task than it sounds, but man, the TMNT creative team makes it look easy.

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