Karai Returns To Reclaim Her Birthright In TMNT #91

by James Ferguson

At long last, Karai has returned to New York City. She’s on a mission to reclaim the Foot Clan, which she sees as her birthright. She is joined by an assortment of dangerous mutants. This could lead towards a bloody battle with Master Splinter, the Turtles, and the rest of the Foot Clan. Or it could be the complete opposite? Could we actually have a peaceful transition of power? Time will tell as several massive egos get into the same room.

Karai’s journey is very interesting as we’ve seen her mature a great deal over the years, most recently in the pages of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe. She’s no longer the young upstart, struggling to prove herself to her arrogant grandfather, Shredder. That guy’s dead so she’s on her own path now and she’s learned that every step doesn’t have to leave behind a bloody trail.
This maturity comes into play early on as Karai is confronted by her grandmother, Kitsune, who seems eager to rile her up. Karai doesn’t take the bait – or at least doesn’t appear to – as she has already accomplished so much in her young life. She could seek vengeance on Splinter and vow to destroy him and everything he loves, but that’s not her way. It’s a pretty great dynamic here and one we’re not really used to when it comes to the villains in this series. This paints Karai not quite as an ally, but maybe more like a “frenemy.”

These two are visually shown as complete opposites too. Colorist Ronda Pattison uses fiery tones for Kitsune with reds and oranges. A yellow mist swirls around the deity, inciting violence. Meanwhile, Karai is cool and collected, shown in dark blues. Although she’s holding the powerful and menacing Kira No Ken blade, she appears unaffected by its curse, keeping her composure.
Pattison works well to set the tone of each scene. There’s a tense confrontation between Metalhead and Agent Bishop at the EPF that’s full of greys and shadows. The lights from Metalhead’s body cut through the darkness like the Terminator. This is a frightening alliance in the works.

Letterer Shawn Lee uses a blocky, robotic font for Metalhead, creating an inhuman vibe. This character sees things as figuratively black-and-white, making moves to defeat the Turtles by any means necessary.
The eventual meeting between Karai’s forces and Splinter and the Turtles is fascinating to watch. These characters have so much shared history between them. They’re so used to being at each other’s throats so having a civil discussion is somewhat out of the ordinary. Writer Tom Waltz brings some fun dialogue here, particularly with Mikey, Koya, and Bludgeon. Michelangelo is the most innocent of the Turtles, so he’s still in awe of all the cool abilities that everyone has as a result of mutation.

Despite Karai and Splinter having cool heads, the rest of the group is a powder keg. Heck, Raphael alone is a powder keg. It’s only a matter of time before he explodes. Artist Michael Dialynas explores the size differential between Raph and the fear-eating mole, Ocho. You can tell early on that this is the creature Raph is going to lash out at, if for nothing else than its sickly smile. They both represent the wild cards in their group. Although Ocho is about twice the size of Raphael, you believe that the Turtle could hold his own and probably take the beast down. We see a bit of this although it’s cut short. While I hope this comes to a peaceful end, I wouldn’t mind seeing these two settle a score.

This issue might have been a little light on action, but it more than made up for it in the incredible drama and character development. It’s clear that we’re building up to something big with TMNT #100 looming in the distance. This chapter starts to move some of the players around, getting them all into position for what looks to be an epic story. It is a great time to be a Ninja Turtle fan.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #91 from IDW Publishing is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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