Hero In A Half Shell: Reviewing ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Last Ronin’ #1
by Brendan M. Allen
‘In a future NYC far different than the one we know today, a lone surviving Turtle goes on a seemingly hopeless mission to obtain justice for his fallen family and friends. Kinetic layouts from Eastman, moody inks from Andy Kuhn and a thrilling script full of surprises from longtime TMNT scribe Tom Waltz all combine to make this one of the most memorable TMNT stories you will ever read! This is a perennial TMNT tale that can’t be missed!’
The premise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1 is beautifully and painfully simple. The last remaining Turtle, our ‘Ronin,’ sets out to avenge the deaths of his three brothers. We don’t immediately know which brother has become the Ronin, but there are plenty of clues peppered throughout, leading up to the big reveal in this chapter. I had it narrowed down to two possibilities by the midway mark, and he ended up being one of my guesses, so there’s that. To be fair, I had a one in four shot.
Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz walk a fine line between the classic TMNT stories and the current mythos, which creates a broad appeal to both current readers and the folks, like myself, that were reading the black and white books in the eighties. Old. I know.
Having the departed turtles ‘speak’’ to the Ronin, whether this ends up being auditory hallucination, fond remembrance, or their actual spirits, is a stroke of genius. These characters have always played off each other, and work best as an ensemble. The interactions cleverly provide exposition, while kicking around some dark humor and motivating the Ronin to stay on task.
The visuals are incredible. Eastman’s layouts work together with Esau and Isaac Escorza’s linework to bring a gritty throwback to the franchise’s roots. Action is fast and furious, but easy to follow. Backgrounds and settings are detailed without being distracting. The Ronin is covered in scars and wrinkles, and the pure emotion driving him is telegraphed through subtle and blatant facial cues. Color by Luis Antonio Delgado with Samuel Plata modernizes the look and makes The Last Ronin truly timeless.
I can’t speak enough to how absolutely gorgeous this book is.
I feel like I have to mention that there are approximately one thousand variant covers for this first chapter. Normally, I’d call that a Liefeld-esque cash grab. I’m not going to here, though. These characters have meant so much to so many people over the last 36 years, I don’t blame any of these artists for wanting a piece of this legendary mini.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1 is just about a perfect start to an incredible story. It leans hard into the history of the franchise, hitting all the right nostalgic notes, while bringing in casual and new readers. It’s mean and filthy and emotional. There are at least a couple spots that will make you laugh out loud, and then a couple that will rip your heart out. That final pop? It’ll get you. Right in the feels.
Seriously, buy this book.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1, IDW Publishing, 28 October 2020. Story by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, and Tom Waltz, script by Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman, layouts by Kevin Eastman, pencils/inks by Esau & Isaac Escorza, page 39 art by Ben Bishop, color by Luis Antonio Delgado with assistance by Samuel Plata.
It’s the TMNT event of 2020! Springing from the minds of TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird comes an epic like you’ve never seen before!