The MacGuffin Is Established In TMNT Universe #13

by James Ferguson

After settling back into Tokyo, Karai is getting involved in the underground mob scene. While seeking revenge for an attack in the streets, she is offered a job of sorts by a local boss. He wants an ancient and powerful sword that’s believed to be in the possession of the Foot Clan. Karai doesn’t have much of a choice as there are about a dozen soldiers pointing guns at her, so she agrees to track down the weapon.

Throughout this tense negotiation, Karai is steadfast and firm. There is a single panel where she breaks only to laugh in this man’s face, then she’s back to her gruff exterior with an ever-present frown. You can see the power in Karai’s form, like a coiled spring ready to pounce. She oozes confidence.

Artist Sophie Campbell shows an incredible versatility with her artwork in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #13. The “standard” scenes are well-detailed and beautifully rendered, but it’s the flashback sequence that really stands out in this issue. It’s drawn like a Japanese painting, with noticeable brush strokes and a sparse use of color. These few pages are absolutely gorgeous.

This is helpful because the flashback scene is the story of the sword recounted by the mob boss. It’s three pages of pure exposition which would have been very dry and boring on their own. Coupling it with Campbell’s artwork brings it to another level, making it far more interesting and exciting.

Even when several firearms are pointed at her, Karai is in control of the situation. We see this later on when she gets out into the field with the mutants, Kota and Bludgeon. This is a mission and she’s in charge. Everyone will need to get in line or pay the price.

These two mutants are on the opposite sides of the spectrum, with Karai in the middle. All three have been burned by the Foot Clan and they’re trying to find themselves. Writer Erik Burnham has established these characters well in this arc. Karai is handling it the best–or at least appears to be. Kota is in denial, angry at her new handicap. She’s a bird that can no longer fly so she’s filled with rage, lashing out at everyone around her. Meanwhile, Bludgeon has been blinded, but he’s taking it well. He’s calm and has learned to use his other senses to allow him to see, kind of like Daredevil. Speaking of, Campbell illustrates Bludgeon’s “sight” in a unique way, kind of like a photo negative. It’s a nice effect.

The backup story,”Prey”, written and illustrated by Campbell, follows Kota as she feels the effects of a mysterious artifact. It’s changing her, piggybacking on her existing anger to create something far more intimidating. I’m curious as to how this will alter Kota. It has the potential to make her into a great villain.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #13 from IDW Publishing is the middle ground of this four-part arc. Where the previous issue re-introduced the characters, this one establishes the MacGuffin and the reason for them to dive into adventure. It’s a bit text-heavy at times, but it still flows well.

The whole reason this series exists is to highlight additional stories and characters that don’t get the time in the main TMNT comic. This issue delivers that in spades, pulling us into the lives of Karai, Kota, and Bludgeon, and more importantly, making us care about what they’re going through. They’re more than just one-note side-villains or henchmen. There’s some great development at work here.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #13 is currently available at your local comic shop or digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.