IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a comic that I recently was able to catch up on where it is currently. Before this series it had been quite a while since I read a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book. I’ve been very impressed with the world that Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz have built along with art and story help from an impressive number of other talented creators. This TMNT Universe has grown to be very rich, filled with depth thanks to an impressively large cast built around the four main Turtles. Now it looks like I’ve caught up in the right time as the Foot Clan, who are currently being led by Master Splinter, are about to have some major changes happen. How will these changes help or hurt the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Let’s find out with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #91.
Story Writer: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow and Tom Waltz
Script Writer: Tom Waltz
Artist: Michael Dialynas
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Sometime earlier while resting in an apartment with her team Oroku Karai is visited by the spirit of her grandmother, Kitsune. Kitsune tells Karai that it is time she reclaims her birthright as the leader of the Foot Clan from the impostor leader. Karai responds by saying Himato Yoshi (Splinter) is no impostor as he honorably won the right to lead the Foot Clan in The Gauntlet against Shredder. Kitsune says that under Splinter’s leadership the Foot Clan has grown weak.
Kitsune notices that Karai has the Kira No Ken blade, which she uses as proof that Karai has the power to assert her her authority as the rightful leader of the Foot Clan. Karai says she will gain leadership of the Foot Clan by negotiating honorably with Splinter to do so. Kitsune reminds Karai that she is trying to negotiate with a rat when Karai is a dragon.
In the present Karai meets with Master Splinter, who happily welcomes Karai home. Karai is impressed that Splinter has kept the Foot’s artifacts intact and asks about the orphaned children. Splinter says they have been unexpected additions who were brought under the Foots care. He then asks Karai to gather her team to have a meeting over tea.
In the hall the Turtles come across their father with Karai and her team. Leonardo mentions he was trying to get to Splinter before Karai, who mentions that they had a “spirited debate” earlier.
Splinter asks Karai about why she returned. Karai says she would like to privately pay her respects to her grandfather’s grave. Splinter says he is happy to escort Karai to Shredder’s tomb. Leonardo says he would like to accompany them, which Splinter allows. Splinter tells the rest of the Turtles to stick with Karai’s team and reminds Raphael not to cause trouble while they are gone.
Elsewhere Bishop and the Earth Protection Force meet with Metalhead, who is seeking an alliance with the E.P.F. Bishop wonders what benefits they get from an alliance with Metalhead.
Metalhead reminds Bishop he already proved their defenses need an upgrade. This causes the E.P.F to form surround Metalhead. Metalhead is quick to respond by showing the weapons and defenses he has that could easily take out the E.P.F.
Bishop smiles and asks Metalhead what else he has to show them. Metalhead says he can also offer them the Mutant Turtles, much to Bishop’s happiness.
Back at the Foot Clans base Bludgeon reveals to the Turtles that she can see uses her new senses that allow her to see people in light-based forms (similar to Daredevil’s abilities, which Michelangelo makes a reference to). Donatello dubs these senses “Lidar” which Bludgeon takes a liking too.
In another part of the room Ocho tries her best to push Raphael’s buttons in order to get him angry and fight her. This starts to work as Raphael starts getting angrier and angrier with each of Ocho’s comments.
Over at Shredder’s tomb Splinter reveals that Kitsune recently stole Shredder’s body from his tomb for purposes they don’t know yet. Karai sees that this tomb is now more of a memorial rather than a resting place for Shredder. Splinter says that is not completely correct as mortal’s are allowed small victories. He then closes the door to the tomb to allow Karai some privacy.
Karai pays her respects and tells her grandfather that she has returned.
Elsewhere Casey Jones and Tommy are on a highway pushing Casey’s motorcycle after it stopped working. Casey and Tommy bond over their memories of Casey’s mom. Casey jokes that his dad is still a work in progress.
Back outside Shredder’s tomb, Leonardo talks to Splinter and reveals that his “talk” with Karai and her team was really a fight at first. He goes on to say that while Koya did come after him for what happened during the Gauntlet things ended up settling down. Leonardo says that when they did the Turtles and Karai’s team were able to set aside their difference to move forward.
Leonardo than reveals that Karai feels that it is her birthright to lead the Foot Clan and Leonardo thinks she is right about that. Splinter reminds Leonardo of what the Foot Clan were like while under Shredder’s leadership and that he is leading the Foot in order to protect everyone.
Leonardo responds by saying the Karai stepped aside for Splinter to take over and that they don’t need protection, what he and his brother’s need is their father back. Splinter wonders what that would mean for the city. Leonardo reminds Splinter that he and his brothers have quite a few allies that can protect the city if the need to fight arises.
Leonardo then mentions that when he and Karai spoke that they agreed to peacefully discuss things to make sure the leadership transition of the Foot Clan goes smoothly. Splinter is surprised Leonardo did this without his consent. Leonardo defends his actions by saying it was to get Splinter back.
Karai appears and thanks Splinter for allowing her to pay her respects to Shredder.
As they head back Splinter says he knows that it must be difficult for Karai to see how much has changed with the Foot Clan but that it is a good thing to pay respect to the past. Splinter asks Karai if she is ready to bear the burdens old and new. Karai says she is.
They suddenly hear the others yelling. Leonardo, Karai and Splinter rush to see what is going on and find their Raphael and Ocho fighting.
Leonardo and Karai quickly break up the fight. Karai reprimands Ocho for disrespecting the sanctity of the meeting they came their to have. Leonardo does the same to Raphael.
Splinter then speaks up and says it is time to get to the business at hand. Splinter goes on to say that they must have careful negotiations to make sure the undertaking of transitioning the leadership of the Foot Clan successfully. Everyone in the room is surprised by Splinter’s words. End of issue.
The Good: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #91 is all about setting up the next major chapter in this series. And to that point Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow and Tom Waltz craft a story that accomplishes that. They set every single puzzle piece in place that the reader continues to be interested in the multiple angles that the story around the leadership of the Foot Clan will be striking.
What continues to surprise me is how even with all the mini-series and one-shots directly tied to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the story continues to be clear. Even when references to events in Macro-Series: Leonardo or Shredder are thrown at the reader it is never confusion. The way Waltz writes the dialogue gives the reader enough context to understand there are a lot of things going on in this universe. We are given the choice to read those stories or not since Waltz gives us enough context clues that we can picture what likely happened.
The thing that helps this the most is how Eastman, Curnow and Waltz keep our attention focused on the characters we seen on screen. Whether it’s the Turtles, Master Splinter or Karai everyone’s story is written in a way that there is interest on multiple angles in how things will turn out for the Foot Clan. Each character involved has there own story going on and they all compliment the greater plot thread being told in this series.
Setting up the change of leadership for the Foot Clan to center around Oroku Karai is perfect timing. After everything that has happened in this series this is the time for Karai to rise back up to be the center of all this. Eastman, Curnow and Waltz have evolved the story with the Foot Clan during this run that any change for them is a major deal at this point. And for Karai we have seen how the character has grow from being a sidekick to Shredder to being a character that stands on her own as a leader.
Opening Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #91 up with Karai having a meeting with her grandmother, Kitsune, was the perfect tone setter for the rest of this issue. This opening is a reminder of the legacy that Karai is carrying on her shoulder. What stood out from how this interaction was handled is the fact that we see Karai’s respect for her family never waver. She fully understands what Shredder has done but won’t let that define who she is.
Kitsune bringing up the meaning of the Kira No Ken sword that Karai currently wields introduces an interesting wrinkle to how things will go for the leadership of the Foot Clan. As Kitsune mentions, Karai has special dragon blood makes her the rightful heir of the Foot Clan. That along with how we’ve seen her grow from just being an elite fighter. Given what Kitsune said and how Karai went about things there are plenty of ways things could go if Karai is successful in gaining leadership of the Foot Clan.
Karai’s arc in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #91 helped spotlight the development around Master Splinter since he took over leadership of the Foot Clan. With each passing issue since this happened we’ve been shown us why Master Splinter is only made to be a placeholder leader. Through all the character work Eastman, Curnow and Waltz have done a great job at making this fact not be a bad thing for Master Splinter as a character.
The scene that put this over was the conversation between Splinter and Leonardo. This was a particularly big moment for Leonardo who stepped up to voice his concerns to Splinter. That showed how much Leonardo’s character has developed over this series as he is no longer afraid to make his voice heard. He firmly sees what is going on and knew he was the one that needed to talk to Splinter about the meeting he had with Karai before this issue. He did not back down or try to make excuse for why he did what he did. Waltz wrote Leonardo in a way in which we are starting to see him willing to speak to Splinter as peer.
While not getting the same amount of attention it Waltz was able to utilize the other Turtles and members of Karai’s team. Developments like Bludgeon telling Michelangelo and Donatello about how her sense now work show there is respect built between both teams. This provided a strong compliment to how Raphael and Ocho ended up brawling. Both scenes were important in establishing how the transition with the Foot Clan won’t be easy but will mean a lot for all involved.
With everything that is going on with the Foot Clan it was interesting to see how other characters are doing. In particular, Waltz catches our attention with how Metalhead is now building an alliance with Bishop and the Earth Protection Force. Given the timing of this alliance this could prove to be a major wild card for how things will go after this issue. What exactly Eastman, Curnow and Waltz have planned from her will be very interesting to see develop over time.
Michael Dialynas’ strong, consistent artwork helped carry Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #91. Given the nature of everything that was going on Dialynas did a great job matching the characters reaction match what they are saying. And even with mutant creatures like Dialynas is able to keep everything grounded with how he designs each scene. That helps keep the focus on drama rather than being distracted by the ridiculousness of how the characters looks clash.
The Bad: The one part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #91 that did not fit was the scene involving Casey Jones and Tommy. Though it was nice to see what they are up to the page felt out of place compared to everything going on. It didn’t add much to how either Casey and Tommy have been developed. This could have easily been cut and it would not have taken away from all the much more interesting things going on at the moment.
Overall: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #91 perfectly sets the stage for what comes next. The leadership of the Foot Clan coming into question opens up a lot of opportunities for Tom Waltz and company to take all the characters in this series in several different directions. No matter which direction is taken there is so much potential in these directions that things are going to get much more exciting as we near the start of the “City at War” arc.