3 out of 5
It’s to creator Hajime Isayama’s credit that, uh, I don’t think he’s a great storyteller in AoT volume 4 – narratively or visually – but the world and characters he’s created are interesting enough to keep me invested and reading. The amateurish structure, in which Isayama’s core idea is now requiring tons of backpedaling to fluff it up and outward, is massively apparent: we hit a dead stop while Eren has collapsed after his in-Titan-form rescue effort and then – with zero transition – flash back to Eren’s, Armin’s, and Mikasa’s training for several chapters, and then with another no-transition, flash back forward at volume’s end. There’s a loooose thread in this flashback to make it relevant, but it’s otherwise not directly relevant in any way.
Except to flesh out the characters. And, dammit, despite Hajime’s clunky, repetitive dialogue, he juggles his cast much better in this flashback than he has previously, and their backgrounds and quirks and motivations work. Isayama’s art still can’t keep up with the kind of action he’s designing, and his representation of emotions is pretty stiff, but, again: the world and concepts being worked on are intriguing in and of themselves, and I his pacing during dialogue sequences is vastly improving.
So we’re sort of watching an artist become better at his trade while we watch the story take shape at the same time. I haven’t peeked at later volumes – I have no idea if things actually do shape up, but I’ll admit that I’m on board, even in the presentation’s (as of this volume) rough shape.