On Christmas Eve, Master Splinter is attending to his duties as the leader of the Foot Clan when he’s visited by a ghost. The specter warns him that he’ll be visited by three beings over the course of the night, looking at his past, present, and future. Yes, this is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle take on A Christmas Carol. Where it could have been used as a joke, writer Tom Waltz weaves this into the overall narrative that’s been building for some time and uses it to help develop Splinter’s character further.
Some folks, including the Turtles themselves, have felt that Splinter has gotten a little too dark lately. Since he took over the Foot Clan, he’s been cold and ruthless. It’s led to his own sons splitting off and creating their own clan. This night allows him to realize the error in his ways and understand what is most important in life.
It’s fitting that the first ghost to visit Splinter is none other than Shredder. Artist Michael Dialynas creates a ghastly visage that floats in front of the rat as a shell of his former self. This could serve as a bit of prelude as there’s a Shredder mini-series coming up where he’s in Hell.
Colorist Ronda Pattison steals the show in TMNT #89. From the eerie glow of ghost Shredder to the bright landscape of Splinter’s past, this comic comes alive in the colors. Pattison sets the tone of every single page, so you have an idea if you’re going to witness pure joy or abject terror.
This issue also serves to lay some ground work for the lead up to TMNT #100. Splinter’s glimpse into the future is a dark one. It features some new samurai-like designs for the Turtles, but those come at quite a cost. If this is what’s in store in the coming year, I am so hooked. I have no idea how we’re going to get there, but I’m most definitely plugged in to find out.
All of this gives Splinter some major revelations. He understands what’s most important right now by looking back at his happiest moments and how integral his family was in all of them. They are stronger together and most vulnerable when they’re apart. There are subtle details in the scenes of the past that help differentiate them too. Letterer Shawn Lee uses a faded shade of word balloon, like we’re seeing an old photograph.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #89 is a heartwarming holiday special and so much more. It’s not a throwaway chapter where we get some Christmas fun. Instead, it works as a re-introduction to one of the major characters in the series and sets events into motion that will pay dividends in the coming months. It’s a great time to be a Ninja Turtle fan.