Focus is a Strength in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 14

by Ryan Mogge

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

In real life, people who exhibit single-mindedness can be a bore. In fiction, that same behavior can work as a backdrop for more entertaining action. Erik Burnham and Sophie Campbell present two storylines in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe 14, each with a woman at the center who provides the story’s drive if not its color. This is not a negative thing, Karai and Natsu both demonstrate a sense of purpose and commitment that pushes the story forward while also challenging the world around them to make room.

While Karai is clearly the hero of this arc, Burnham uses this issue to give Natsu a parallel arc. She holds onto to the lessons of grandfather even as he dismisses them as fairy tales. When he threatens to disown her, she doesn’t even hesitate. Natsu is not at the center of the story, but Burnham uses her behavior as a way to underline the themes of the issue.

While Karai’s companions find challenge with the monsters of the caves, Karai doesn’t deviate from her goal. Burnham underlines this theme by making the first obstacle a set of monsters who can be essentially bypassed if the crew can stay focused and keeping anger in check.

Karai and ghouls

Campbell’s art in this scene is striking. The ghoulish versions of former enemies and even just regular skeletons are legitimately grotesque. It’s one thing to face down a bunch of generic ghosts, but when they take on the visage of your failures, it takes significant nerve to face them down. Even when she meets Ocho, she is unflappable. Burnham and Campbell don’t allow her clarity of purpose to be a drag by amping up the visual power of the world around them.

Here, Karai speaks only of her goal, but the bloodstained backdrop of Ocho’s origin story as well as the gleaming teeth in the lower right of the page give the story power. Karai functions as the spine of the narrative while Burnham and Campbell endow the world around her with danger, spirit and emotion.

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