When it comes to my most anticipated comic books of 2020 the one that has been at the very top is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin. When this mini-series was announced it was an immediate must buy whenever it released. Now after some delays The Last Ronin is finally here. It’s time to see what a future where only one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles survives in what looks to be a Dark Knight Returns-style future. There are a lot of questions about the setting for The Last Ronin to go along with who the surviving TMNT brother is. Will the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1 begin to answer those questions?
Story Writers: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, and Tom Waltz
Script Writers: Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman
Artist: Kevin Eastman, Esau, Isaac Escorza,and Ben Bishop
Colorists: Samuel Planta and Luis Antonio Delgado
Story Rating: 10 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 10 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 10 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the present the Ronin Turtle gets all his weapons together as the ghosts of his brothers try to talk him out of what he is planning to do. The Ronin Turtle says he is done talking and starts heading to New York City.
We then see New York City that has surrounded by walls with all bridges cut off and a large building in the middle towering over the entire city.
The Ronin Turtle works quickly to disable security cameras so he can climb over the wall.
As he walks through the city the ghosts of his brothers once again, this time about how crowded the city is and that it won’t be easy for the Ronin Turtle go get through all the security. The Ronin Turtle spots some motorcycles and decides to steal one.
One of the bikers notices one of the motorcycles gone and gets someone named Jones’ attention to that.
The Ronin Turtle rides through the city straight to his target, the large building at the center of the city.
Once he reaches the outside of the building the Ronin Turtle decides to create a distraction to get in by blowing up a nearby fuel tanker truck with dynamite strapped to the motorcycle he was driving. He uses the explosion to create some momentum for himself to make it to get to a vent.
The Ronin Turtle cuts through all the cables inside and is able to find a sewer grate that leads him right inside the building.
Once inside security immediately detect the Ronin Turtle breaking in. The Ronin Turtle tries to make a break for it but security, who he thinks are all robots, catch up to him. The Ronin Turtle does not hold back in fighting all of the security guards and is able to easily defeat them. Once they are all defeated the Ronin Turtle is surprised that the guards are actually humans transformed into cyborgs.
Not thinking more of it the Ronin Turtle continues to make his way through the facility until he reaches the main headquarters inside the building. Security once again tries to stop him but he is able tackle them off and then jump on a train. The Ronin Turtle then hijacks a flying police car to get him even closer to the main headquarters.
After using some rooftops the Ronin Turtle nears the headquarters.
Inside the headquarters the person in charge of New York City is alerted to an intruder approaching. The leader demands his guards to make the intruder an example by pursuing, capturing, and executing him.
The Ronin Turtle is able to find a transport entrance to the main headquarters and uses it to sneak inside the headquarters.
Once inside the Ronin Turtle waste no time in fighting all the guards by using his surprise entrance to his advantage. The security droids inside try to surround the Ronin Turtle but he is still able to use a combination of all his brothers weapons to help him from being overwhelmed.
The leader demands all available Foot to attack the Ronin Turtle.
On the second floor, the Ronin Turtle uses Leonardo’s katana to defeat all the security droids.
Seeing all this go down the leader decides to activate the Stockman Tech.
The Ronin Turtle then demands the leader to face him.
The leader laughs saying he would never soil his fingers by fighting the Ronin Turtle. He then says he won’t make the same mistake thinking he killed all the Turtles before and will get the job done this time.
Suddenly advance Mouser robots appear and attack the Ronin Turtle. The largest Mouser robot overpowers the Ronin Turtle and tackles him out of the building.
While they fall the Ronin Turtle quickly defeats the large Mouser robot. This causes him to run out of time to catch himself and he crashes hard on to the ground from the fall.
The Ronin Turtle quickly regains consciousness and decides to escape before he is captured.
Jones appears and tells the security guards looking for the Ronin Turtle the direction she saw him take off to.
After the security is gone Jones goes to the actual direction the Ronin Turtle went by following the blood he was coughing up. She follows the blood all the way to a sewer entrance.
Back at the headquarters the leader rants about how foolish the Ronin Turtle was for trying to get revenge by trying to get through all of his defenses. He then wonders how one of the Turtles was able to live after he wiped them out a decade ago.
The guy then pproaches a container with Karai’s body inside. He talks to Karai, who he calls his mother, saying he will not let anything threaten the ironclad rule over the city he has with the empire he created. One of the Foot Captain Ikusa reports to the leader, who is identified as Master Hiroto, that they could not find the Ronin Turtle’s body.
In the sewers, the Ronin Turtle continues to bleed heavily as he tries to walk. Eventually he is unable to continue walking .Before he dies by bleeding out the Ronin Turtle puts all of his brothers weapons and masks down along with one of Splinter’s books. He thinks about how much he misses his brothers and wished to make them proud but believes it is too late now. He then grabs Leonardo’s broken katana and stabs himself in the gut with it.
As the Ronin Turtle collapses from all the blood loss Jones appears and is shocked to see a mutant turtle.
As the Ronin Turtle is dying he wakes up surrounded by his brothers in their old sewer hideout. The brothers all talk to the Ronin Turtle like things are normal. Before he can put his thoughts together the Ronin Turtle sees a bright light.
Back in reality the Ronin Turtle is shocked to wake up with April O’Neil welcoming him back. After mentioning how worried she was for him April address the Ronin Turtle as Michelangelo. End of issue.
The Good: Well hot damn. This was a non-stop, adrenaline filled first issue to kick off Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin. There was absolutely no time wasted getting us straight into this future world as The Last Ronin is just one long action sequence until the last few issues when things settle down, giving both the characters involved and readers time to catch their breathe after all that went down.
Once we get through the introduction of the Ronin Turtle, who turned out to be Michelangelo, there was barely a moment to breathe. This entire issue reminded me a lot of when we watch John Wick tear through a building of assassins in one of his movies. Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, and Tom Waltz do not hold back in showing how this much older version of Michelangelo has adopted all of his brothers fighting styles and weapons to make his way through the new version of New York City.
What makes The Last Ronin so great is that Eastman, Laird, and Waltz do not hold back on the fact that this series is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles version of The Dark Knight Returns. The entire vibe of this world will remind fans of The Dark Knight Returns. Embracing that and showing us what a world where all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were wiped out except one was fun to see.
Making the action all the better was how Eastman, Laird and Waltz were able to combine visual storytelling along with the dialogue of the characters we see in this world. Everyone from Michelangelo to Karai’s son, Hiroto, help give us a an idea of the mentality of the people that live in this new world order that has been created. We understand that all of these characters, including the regular people that live in New York City, have been harden by what Hiroto has done with his new Foot Empire. That is furthered by all the visuals that have a look of what you would see from an 80s movie envisioning what the future in 2020 would look like. It all helps transport you right into the mindset of these characters so you get a genuine investment.
Adding the ghost versions of Michelangelo’s brothers constantly talking to him off-screen and giving him advice was a nice touch to add weight to what Mikey has been through. You get a clear idea of how traumatizing the deaths of his brothers was as its made clear by the time Hiroto discovers Michelangelo is the intruder that their deaths was a brutal one. Even though he acted annoyed at times its clear that talking to ghosts of his brothers has been helping Michelangelo stay sane over the last decade.
At the same time, The Last Ronin #1 does an excellent job in getting over how this is a suicide mission that Michelangelo is taking on. For Michelangelo there was no going back after this. It was either he was successful in taking down Hiroto and the Foot Empire now or this was the end of the road for him. There is even a sense of desperation in the way Michelangelo progresses his way through all the Foot security guards that grows as the issue goes on.
All of that action built up well to the dramatic way Michelangelo’s mission failed with him forced to retreat as he was bleeding out. That made a solemn Michelangelo apologizing for failing his brothers and deciding to commit suicide was an impactful decision. It all makes you realize that for Michelangelo he went into New York City expecting to die and in the state he was he felt this was the end.
Having that lead into a dream sequence with Michelangelo waking up to see his brothers all back in their teenage forms was interesting. Seeing them in that form made it clear that this was more of a dream than Michelangelo actually ending up in the afterlife. Which is further set-up to we are left to wonder how this entire suicide mission Michelangelo took on by himself will change his mentality for the rest of this series.
Adding in April O’Neil to the ending of The Last Ronin #1 was a great way to cap things off. After the Turtles and Shredder, April is by far the most iconic character in the franchise. Her surviving is not all that surprising. And it was good to see that she wasn’t surprised to see Michelangelo. Setting her up in this way immediately creates a lot of questions into what April has been doing since she last saw Michelangelo and the other Turtles.
Also inserting the Jones character was an interesting move to also possibly set-up how Case Jones may not be around anymore. While it is not said that she is Shadow Jones, it’ll be interesting to see who she is in relation to Casey. We are given the idea by the fact that she took Michelangelo straight to April that Jones is likely involved with an underground group. How her development goes could add to what the state of this world is.
Having Oroku Hiroto as the main villain and the one responsible for the current state of the world, including the deaths of Leonardo, Raphael, and Donatello, was a cool legacy move. Eastman, Laird, and Waltz give themselves an opportunity to craft a new villain that has direct ties to the eternal rivalry between the Turtles and Oroku Clan. The character definitely seems a lot more unhinged than his grandfather, Shredder, and his mother, Karai. At the same time, he seems to embrace technology much more as we do see how he utilizes cyborg Foot soldiers and advance Stockman tech to keep his reign over New York City going.
Adding in how Karai is being kept in a stasis pod was an unexpected move. What made the whole thing surprising was the fact that we see Karai in her youthful form. Given how The Last Ronin seems to take place several decades into the future this creates a lot of questions as to what went on between the Turtles and the Foot that led to this new world order under Oroku Hiroto’s control. It is all good set-up to give all the characters involved development from a strong foundation that is built with The Last Ronin #1.
As mentioned earlier, the artwork by Kevin Eastman is fantastic throughout The Last Ronin #1. It is great having Eastman back drawing the world of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The whole vibe of the world does feel like we are picking up from the 1980s continuity of the Mirage TMNT comics and feeling like it is happening several decades into the future of whatever year we are in. Having this series have a muted color palette made for a good mix of the current art style we see in TMNT comics with the black and white comics that Eastman drew back in the day.
Also having Ben Bishop draw the dream sequence was a good choice as it allowed Eastman to focus his style on the future setting we are in. In doing so Bishop was able to give a youthful appearance to the dream sequence that does match the current IDW TMNT art style off the Turtles.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: From beginning to end Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1 is a fantastic reading experience. This is something that all comic book fans will want to check out, especially if you have ever been a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan at any point in your life. It is easy to get into as Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, and Tom Waltz craft a future world that stands alone while building on whatever the connection fans have with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.
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