With the Foot clan under the control of Splinter, Karai returns to Japan to find herself, only to find a very different homeland from what she left. The players have changed and the respect and honor she had gained in the ascension with the Foot has been forgotten. Meanwhile, Bludgeon and Koya are struggling to settle into their new lives despite their injuries.
What is immediately apparent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #12 from IDW Publishing is how badass, yet headstrong Karai is. The comic opens with her being shot in the arm by a tattooed woman on a motorcycle for seemingly no reason. Instead of nursing her wounds, she kicks off her shoes, leaps into traffic, and tackles the woman off her bike. Karai then shows how skilled she is in combat with a quick, yet brutal fight that’s only ended when the woman causes a quick distraction to get away.
Artist Sophie Campbell brings an unmatched level of excitement to these scenes. It feels as if the artwork is moving, pulsing with a frenetic energy. Karai glides from blow to blow like a fish to water, seamlessly weaving her body around her enemy. This is some expert level fight choreography. Campbell also handles the lettering for this issue and that energy comes through in the sound effects too. They fly off the page in dramatic fashion. It reminds me a bit of James Stokoe’s work.
While the first half of the story is Karai reacting to a slight of honor, the second half is her going on the offensive. If you thought she was cold and calculating before, just wait until she gets into her actual fighting clothes. She is completely in her element, acting with swift efficiency to show her enemy who’s boss. This is why she rose to the top of the Foot clan, bringing the group back to prominence after all those years.
The scenes with Koya and Bludgeon are like something out of a movie where the main character is recovering from a devastating injury. They’re basically going through physical therapy. Koya has to learn how to fight when she can’t fly. As a mutant bird, that’s easier said than done. Bludgeon is a mutant shark that can’t see. He might be a bit better off than Koya as he’s falling back on his other senses and instincts that are kicking in. They’re trained by a master named Toshiro who is a great motivator and will not let them give up, pushing them to grow and learn, even if it means acting out of anger and frustration. Writer Erik Burnham instantly establishes the relationship between these characters with just a panel or two.
Campbell’s depiction of Koya and Bludgeon runs the gamut between terrifying, humorous, and intimidating. Toshiro looks tiny in comparison to the mutants massive size, but he stands confident and unwavering. Koya’s bandages flow out around her, like phantom feathers, replacing those she lost. Despite his hulking appearance, Bludgeon looks more like a gentle giant. He has a very zen feel to him. Of the two, I expect him to find his new place in the world far quicker than Koya, coming to terms with this new status quo.
It’s not all frustration and heartbreak for Koya. The backup feature, written and illustrated by Sophie Campbell, shows the beginnings of some very interesting new possibilities for the character. I love how Campbell changes up her style in this section, making it standout from the main story. The final two pages look like they’re from a completely different artist, but it flows so well. It’s a great evolution of the comic as it builds to an impressive full page spread.
TMNT Universe #12 continues to flesh out the ever-growing cast of characters within this world. This story doesn’t necessarily have a place in the main TMNT comic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth telling. Karai is an important part of this mythos, especially with the Foot clan. This shows just why she’s worthy of that inclusion. There’s never been room for Koya and Bludgeon to really flourish, so now they’ll have the opportunity to grow.
My only issue with the book is that the print version is priced at $4.99. There are a couple extra pages, but not enough to warrant an extra dollar on the price point. The digital version is only $3.99 which adds to this mystery.