I was chatting with a friend earlier today about IDW's work with TMNT and he pointed out how they always exceed his expectations. I must say, I agree 100% with him and this has happened yet again. I was expecting to enjoy this issue -- after all, the IDW stuff has been consistently solid and now it's giving Karai the spotlight. If you know anything about TMNT, then you know Karai rocks and is in quite a situation due to 'City Fall's' events. However, I didn't just enjoy it -- no, I wound up loving it. Ultimately, this issue brings everything you could want from Karai's origin story and then some. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it totally does.
Karai's origin never really goes too far outside of the box ("dream sequence" aside), but it hardly matters because it's executed in such an engaging fashion. Writer Erik Burnham's story successfully gives more depth to Karai, helping us further relate to her current problem with her grandfather (Shredder) and the newly introduced Dark Leo. Furthermore, we've seen the Foot's past in SECRET HISTORY OF THE FOOT CLAN and we know their current status, but this tale fills in the gaps and reveals just how impressive and important Karai's actions have been in this universe's take on the organization. The exposition in her backstory may be the core of this issue, but it's well-written and definitely an immersive experience filled with more than a handful of moments which keep this more lively than simply informative. And the ending? It's sure to make any TMNT find some confetti just so they can throw it in the air. GET EXCITED!
Did I mention there's a fight between Dark Leo and Karai? Because there is and artists Cory Smith and Ian Herring do a brilliant job with the conflict. A fight between these two should be filled with great form and dizzying speed. Luckily for us, that's exactly what goes down here as frenetic strikes are thrown and lethal attacks are narrowly dodged. The superb motion and visuals absolutely live up to Burnham's script for the fun melee. The art team also delivers in the rest of the book, filling the pages with animated characters in believably detailed surroundings. I really appreciate the decision to give more panel space to establishing shots of the larger environments. This allows us to truly appreciate the sheer size of the library as well as the skyscrapers which surround an individual as he uses his phone on a balcony. Plus, there's a certain moment with arrows which is sure to make you cringe.
There's no denying how awesome Dark Leo's new design is, but his head seems rather... well, smushed in two panels. I understand he's looking down in one of them, but it still came off as pretty squished to me. Also, if Leo absolutely decimated his former allies in the last chapter of the ongoing series, how'd he do so poorly against Karai? I get the implication is he's holding back to some degree and his brothers weren't going all out either, but his speed appeared to be just fine in his struggle with them. Minor gripe, I know, but I'm a battles junkie like that.
"What can we do to make TMNT fans freak out in the best way possible?" That's likely the question that was posed before creating this issue, BECAUSE HOLY FAN SERVICE, BATMAN! Seriously, not only does this issue provide a more than compelling origin story for Karai, it also brings about an awesomely illustrated Karai vs. Dark Leo encounter and wraps up with one of the best teases ever for longtime fans of the franchise. I've said it before but I just can't say it enough -- now has got to be the best time to be a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. IDW continues to pump out simply fantastic TMNT stories and if you dig the classic franchise, it would be a terrible mistake to miss out on what they're doing right now.