Challenges Posed by Starting in the Middle in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 72

by Ryan Mogge

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

When a story opens in media res, it’s a promise in two parts. First, the audience is given a glimpse at the excitement of the climax, a bit of a tease for when is it to come. The second and more tricky element is that by opening up at that point and then going back, the writer is telling us that the story of how they got there is somehow as interesting as what is to come. Often, there is a heavy layer of dramatic irony on the proceedings (preceedings?), characters laying out boundaries that we know they will cross, assurances of “what could go wrong?” when we have the exact answer, etc. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 72, the “Before.” section is more of a recap and road map, making it feel superfluous.

From the panel that the story leaves the Toad Baron’s house, momentum stalls. Instead of being about the plotting of a diverse band of ancient siblings who somehow are able to convey their god-like power and petty disagreements in the same breath, the focus is on convincing grumpy Dr. Stockman to help. If we didn’t know how interesting the story would get, maybe the earnest argument for Stockman’s help would have been enough to sustain the plot. Instead, we know that as soon as the scene is finally over, there will be the reward of seeing how the Pantheon react to the Teenage Mutant intruders.  Should this be a reader’s first issue of the story, all of this background and context is helpful. The structure of having us know what is next is what sinks it.

Once the Turtles get back to Toad Baron’s house, things pick up considerably. It’s more fun, more exciting and as far as the rats are concerned, more icky.

Also, the fighting allows the Pantheon members to reveal themselves in action. Both their individual personalities and relationships with their siblings are demonstrated in the manner of battle with what are so clearly lesser opponents. Leonardo is right when he says that it was only play to the Pantheon. The issue ends in almost as strong a place as it started, if only it weren’t for that stuff in the middle.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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