In the late 80s and early 90s, it was nearly impossible to find a young boy (and quite a few girls too!) who wasn’t obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). I would know. I was one of them. What began as a limited comic series ballooned into a massive enterprising franchise, from toys and cartoons, to bedsheets, apparel, shoes, blockbuster films and beyond. Pretty soon the pizza-eating, roundhouse-kicking “heroes in a half shell” became an entrenched element of the 90s kid experience, and while the collective influence may have waned over the years, recent animated series and renewed toy lines have pumped fresh life into the brand.
In a way, the Turtles have also returned to their roots, with a long-running IDW comic series that has won over many comic fans over the past decade.
Well, after many months of hype and a couple delays, the newest entry in the TMNT comic lineup, The Last Ronin arrived, in comic shops across the country yesterday.
Stock shortages and damaged shipments made the book even more scarce than originally planned, which has caused some havoc in the digital marketplace as the standard cover has shot up to 2-3 times the base cost.
Local comic shops had trouble keeping copies on the shelves yesterday, as TMNT fans clamored over the latest arc, pitting one of the brothers (you don’t know which one) against the Foot Clan, who have seized control of New York.
The story doesn’t waste much time getting straight to the action, as the “Last Ronin” begins his mission to infiltrate the city and wage a one-man war against the Foot. We get to see the turtle’s training in action as they use shuriken to take out security cameras, go toe to toe with robotic security guards, and scale perilously tall buildings with a grappling hook.
Quiet. Deadly. The Last Ronin demonstrates that he’s a force to be reckoned with as Eastman and the Escorza brothers bring the narrative to life with vivid color and immersive detail. A reminder that TMNT isn’t just for kids, there’s plenty of bone-breaking action to be found in these pages, though it doesn’t cross into “adults only” territory, in my opinion. I’d say for parents curious if it’s appropriate for their kids, consider it solidly in the PG-13 range. Of course, when in doubt, reviewing and assessing it personally is always going to be the best bet.
One of the biggest pieces of buzz around the series is speculation around who exactly The Last Ronin is – and the opening issue does appear to answer that question on its final page. However, even that appears to be up for discussion according to some fans. Regardless, you may be surprised, maybe even a little disappointed, that the reveal appears to come so early in the story. Curious to see if the reveal is actually correct, and how that will impact the narrative in the next 4 issues.
With such an extensive history, some might wonder if The Last Ronin will make sense if you haven’t been plugged into the last ~10 years of TMNT narratives. The short answer is: yes, it does make sense. I was impressed how accessible it was, considering that the IDW comic series is on my “to-do” list of series to catch up on. I was hopeful that The Last Ronin would be a good pick-up-and-go arc, and with a very basic understanding of TMNT, I would say there’s still plenty to enjoy. Of course, if you’re familiar with the broader narrative, your appreciation for the story will only grow, especially when it comes to the background of the story’s main villain.
Finally, I was impressed by the compelling and surprisingly emotional narrative. The title itself implies tragedy: this turtle is the “last” one. Knowing that the team of four brothers have historically been so close, the depth of pain and loss has yet to be explored, though there is some indication of this continuous mourning in the closing pages. The fight itself seems futile – one mutant turtle against an army…but you get the feeling that there’s really not much choice.
Overall, The Last Ronin kicks off its limited series with a bang, and I would say successfully delivers on the hype. With an accessible narrative, great art and a compelling story, new fans that can get their hands on this copy (or upcoming 2nd and 3rd printings), will likely be won over and perhaps explore more of IDW’s TMNT universe.
If you can, run down to your local comic shop today and see if they have some on hand! You might be paying a bit more over cover price (~$15 vs the $9 cover price), or you can skip the lines and get the digital version:
I look forward to future issues – stay tuned for my reviews!