Writer: Barbara Randall Kesel
Art: Marley Zarcone
Colors: Heather Breckel
Cover: David Petersen (Main), Marley Zarcone (Variant)
Suggested Audiences: People who really like the idea of other turtles, I guess.
Despite my overall disappointment with the series, I had reason to hope that TMNT Micro-Series: April would satisfy: not only did it star one of my favorite characters in the franchise, it featured a story by Barbara Randall Kesel (*), whose Meridian I thought was an underrated gem. Plus, as a one-shot, it was almost certain to be better-paced than the main book. And upon reading it, I discovered that… well, those three things are certainly true.
The gist of the issue is that Stockgen, the lab responsible for the mutagenic agent that created the turtles, has developed a device that, if successful, would allow them to track their missing test subjects; April, being a Stockgen intern, decides to use her access in order to steal it so that Donatello can presumably develop a way to stop it. Conceptually, it’s a solid premise, allowing April to take advantage of her particular circumstances and highlight what she brings to the team while giving the viewers some fun corporate espionage hi-jinks. And while this is technically what happens, it’s executed in a way that makes me think not “April is awesome”, but “everyone involved here is an idiot”. The way the book presents the challenges she faces makes me feel that she succeed not because of any ability in her part, but because the writer stocked the odds in her favor.
Take, for example, the sequence that begins with page six. April overhears Chet, her supervisor, talking about what she presumes is the Turtle Tracker, lying on a nearby cart. April asks Chet about the device, before engineering a distraction that allows her to take it and stow it away in what looks like a microwave in that same room before she can return to pick it up.
Putting aside the contrived aspects of her distraction, this should not have worked. Chet had just been asking about the tracker; given its importance, there’s no way its disappearance wouldn’t be noticed, and impossible to believe that he wouldn’t remember that, when he last saw it, April had been inquiring about it. What’s more, given that it had literally been placed less than ten feet away from its last known location it’s hard to believe that any half-decent search wouldn’t have turned up the device before April returned that night. Conclusion: everyone at Stockgen is incompetent.
Worse still is April’s return visit to Stockgen, during which she returns armed solely with a stolen employee ID and a disguise consisting of glasses and her hair in a bun, apparently oblivious of the fact that people have long term memory and can tell one person from another, especially if they’ve known those people for more than a year. Had this been the original cartoon, its effectiveness would be merely an example of the same cartoon logic that makes a trenchcoat the perfect disguise despite the fact that they’re very good at drawing people’s attentions; however, since this is meant to be at least somewhat realistic, the fact that she is able to see not one but two different experiments that are almost certainly above her pay grade suggests that she needn’t have bothered, as Stockgen’s security is something that only exists in theory. It utterly breaks the story, since it’s no longer about a plucky girl infiltrating the enemy’s lair armed only with her wits but a story about idiots vs. the reader.
To whomever was responsible for this: Kesel, artist Marley Zarcone (whose pencils, while lovely, seem to work against the writing much of the time), or editor Bobby Curnow: humans do not work that way; should you care to argue that they can, then you need to either explain how this can be the case or feature a follow-up to the story where Stockgen’s goons show up at April’s house to ask her about her involvement that night.
Compounding the issue and making it clear that what the creators think is happening and what is actually happening are two different things, the issue ends with April’s escape and with her expressing satisfaction with her performance and her enthusiasm about doing things like that again, which on top of everything makes her seem unreflective and makes me kind of hate this version of the character—a first.
It’s not a total loss. Like I said, Marley Zarcone’s art—at least in the areas outside storytelling–is rather great, and with the exception of that last bit, I feel Kesel does a great job with April’s inner monologue. Conceptually, the beats are sound, which makes the utter failure in execution all the more painful and makes me think not terribly good things about the editor. More care, please.
(*) Who, I should note, is the first woman to write the TMNT in their quarter-century publishing history. Perhaps not coincidentally, Marley Zarcone is the first woman to draw them.