Action is Character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 12

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

For a character we’ve been hanging out with for like 60 issues, we don’t know an awful lot about Karai. She is the fiercely loyal Chunin of Oroku Saki’s Foot Clan, solely responsible for both the clan and its leader coming back to life in the 21st century. She’s a character of constant struggle, and she has an adversarial relationship with everyone. Erik Burnham and Sophie Campbell’s first chapter in Karai’s post-New York saga starts with circumstantial violence, and escalates it into meaningful scheming and action — and Karai is the merciless engine behind all of it.

We start the issue mid gun-shot: Karai catches a stray bullet during some other thug’s play for more power in the Tokyo underworld. It’s sort of a heart-stopping premise isn’t it? Civilians getting hit by stray bullets in gang warfare is horrifying — simultaneously mistake and crime. But if we know anything about Karai, it’s that she’s not a fucking victim, so bullet wound or no, she’s going to get justice. Because it’s Sophie Campbell on art duties, this balletic chase through the streets of Tokyo is story enough for the entire issue. The choreography during this fight is impeccably clear, with Campbell using the space her combatants take up on the page to communicate the pace and direction of the fight. Check out this moment Karai turns the tide.

Notice how the camera gradually pulls away for the first three panels, but pops up to a more closely framed shot with Karai’s reversal uppercut. Both fighters trade which side of their body they’re leading with from panel to panel, increasing the sense of fluidity in the scene. Add to that, the diagonal path of the shrinking sound effects in the first three panels, punctuated but that panel-spanning KRAK. Even colorist Brittany Peer obeys this pattern: normal, normal, normal, STYLE. This is who Karai is: context isn’t important. What’s important is that she’s kicking ass. That’s where the creative team’s priorities lie, and it couldn’t be a better match for the character.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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