TMNT fans were disappointed to see The Last Ronin delayed, however the series’ explosive return with issue 3 is more than worth the wait.
One of the year’s most surprising hits has been the runaway success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin. With the Turtles’ original creators returning for a ‘last story,’ fan interest has been high, which is why it was disappointing but understandable when the series was hit with a series of delays. Luckily for fans, the series’ third issue proves that the wait was well worth it.
Coming from series creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird as well as Tom Waltz, Esau, and Isaac Escorza, The Last Ronin takes place in a dark future where all of the turtles have died save for Michaelangelo. After more than a decade away, Mikey returns to a New York dominated by the Shredder’s grandson, Hiroto. Though Mikey initially suffers defeat in his mission of revenge against Hiroto, this defeat serves as the catalyst for him reuniting with April O’Neil. The last ninja turtle will need to team up with April and her daughter Casey if he has any hope of freeing New York from Hiroto’s oppressive regime.
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Following directly from the previous issues, issue 3 sees Mikey become the most wanted turtle as Hiroto declares martial law on New York City. Though the present is certainly bleak, what makes this particular issue so dark are all the flashbacks where readers learn the final fates of more than a few classic TMNT characters. Eagle-eyed viewers may even be able to predict the fates of a few more based on the series’ original pitch found in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin Director’s Cut. As sad as it is to see how things grew so dark though, the series’ true heart is firmly planted in the present rather than the past.
Issue 3 of The Last Ronin continues the series’ strong character writing. As goofy as the concept of a ‘dark and gritty TMNT series’ is, there is more than enough genuine emotion to be found. Themes of aging, survivor’s guilt, and accepting mistakes all arise organically and make characters like Michaelangelo and April feel like fully realized people. There are even hints at deeper motivations or ambitions for the series’ villain, Hiroto. It’s all impressive stuff that never feels obnoxious or overwrought. Eastman, Laird, and Waltz deserve a great deal of credit for making these characters as compelling as they are.
The solid writing is backed up by strong artwork. Somewhere between Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight artwork and the 1987 TMNT animated series’ goofy style, The Last Ronin’s artwork consistently nails a tough balancing act. A particular delight to be found in this issue are the few flashback pages that use the unmistakable art style from the original TMNT comics.
Overall, TMNT: The Last Ronin continues to be one of the strongest ninja turtle books ever published. Fans who have been with the turtles since the beginning will no doubt derive endless pleasure from the countless callbacks and continuity references, while newer fans will enjoy the deep characters and thrilling artwork. Look for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #3 when it releases on May 26th from IDW publishing.
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