An Ending Most Bittersweet: Reviewing ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin’ #5
by Scott Redmond
At long last the story that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird envisioned in the past has become a reality and wraps up, concluding its main story while laying a path into the future for potentially more stories. This is a far more intimate, brutal, and emotional character-heavy chapter in the story as old grudges are settled once and for all.
They say that good things come to those who wait. After an almost six-month wait, the fifth and final issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin has arrived, and it is indeed something good. It wraps up the overall storyline, expands this alternate future world, and brings to a heavily emotional conclusion while promising something more in the future.
Such a massive story has brought together a massive art team that has all returned for this issue to close things out. Esau & Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, Kevin Eastman, Samuel Plata, Luis Delgado, and Shawn Lee, with the addition of Ronda Pattison on colors in this issue, continue to wonderfully integrate such a variety of styles and looks into such a seamless and effective way. There is far more time spent in the present than in the past since the past moments of loss have all been shown, but the art styles in the present through all the character moments and action shift and change at times so smoothly.
Despite the overall darker nature and tone of this story, the colors continue to marry together that darkness with the right flashes of brighter colors. In fact, things get brighter the closer the story moves towards the end, as Mikey, the last ronin, gets to the point of accomplishing his mission and saving what family he has left.
Every bit of this story is energetic and detailed and so very dynamic as we can feel what these characters are going through every step of the way. We can see the wear and tear that has come from age/time, and how deeply they feel, while the battles that are fought have such weight and motion to them. It’s brutal and dark but so hopeful all at the same time. It’s like they took all the feeling and energy that has come from every single incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and distilled it down to the perfect epitome of these characters/this world and packed it into five wonderful issues.
More and more there are a handful of people that define what TMNT is at this point and what it can be, and Lee is one of those people as lettering the various books fall into his hands. His style always feels fresh and fun whether it’s for the actual dialogue/captions or SFX that fill these pages. It brings stability to this line, no matter how far apart the books are timeline-wise, by creating a connection that holds them all together as a true family of titles.
It’s been fantastic to see this story that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird envisioned so long ago come to life with Tom Waltz stepping in to help make it a reality. There is a ton of fighting here but unlike the war of the last issue, this is far more personal. Everything about this issue is about relationships, emotions, and characters coming to grips with their past, present, and future. I felt a great swell of emotion reaching the end of this story when Michelangelo avenged his family but also was able to reach his ultimate reward for all the suffering and time that he had to go through over so many years.
Often the best endings are the ones that bring things full circle and bring whatever the journey/quest happens to be to a satisfying conclusion. Yet, getting to see in the end that there is a glimmer of hope for a potential future return to this story and the world beyond Michelangelo’s story was a welcome surprise. It’s going to be quite fun to sit down now and read through this book with all the issues together.
The turtles are characters that I have loved for basically my entire life, and this story hit so many elements that gave birth to that love. It’s been an incredible journey, and I can’t wait to see what is next.
IDW Publishing’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #5 is now available.