After lending Tuesday to the gargoyles for one week, the turtles are back on Turtle Tuesday and this time it’s for the latest (and final) issue in the The Last Ronin storyline. The Last Ronin is a concept for the final story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dating back to the days of Eastman and Laird. It was decided in 2020, after issue #100 of the modern IDW series, that the time was right to tell this story. Despite being only five issues, it took awhile for the series to finish as multiple episodes were delayed with the final issue being the longest such delay. If it’s done to tell the best story though, then who cares? It’s here, and now I’m ready to talk about it.
The Last Ronin tells the tale of the last of the Ninja Turtles. The first issue introduced this dreary future where New York is controlled by a descendent of Oroku Saki and times are bad. We get to see the last turtle on a suicide mission that’s basically a failure, since the villain isn’t toppled and the turtle isn’t dead! Over the next three issues, the plot advances quite slowly as Ronin (yes, I’m still committed to not spoiling anything) acquires some allies, but we also see lengthy flashbacks detailing how each of the brothers fell and the present came to be. The violence is not gratuitous, so while seeing our beloved childhood heroes actually dying is uncomfortable, it wasn’t exploitive in any way. The flashbacks are over though, and the stage is set for the final confrontation.
From that perspective, issue 5 delivers. We see Ronin go after the big, bad, guy of the series with the intent being to kill him or die trying. There is a B plot to the story as well, so it isn’t just straight action, but it’s not the most compelling of B plots. It’s merely a plot device to keep Ronin isolated from his allies. Otherwise, this is a brisk read as it reads almost like how a video game plays with Ronin dispatching of the fodder with minimal challenge before getting to the boss. Roughly half of the book is reserved for that battle and there is a wrinkle tossed in that Ronin needs to overcome in order to actually inflict damage upon his foe, but otherwise it’s pretty straight-forward.
And if that’s all you wanted, you’re probably happy. For me, I found the first issue very intriguing, but every following issue was less interesting. The gravitas of this story demanded something a bit more epic, but we don’t get that. We don’t really get much character development either, only finally getting a glimpse of such at the start of this issue as Ronin tries to banish the “ghosts” of his brothers once and for all. It’s assumed they’re a figment of his imagination, but it was interesting to see how Ronin feels each brother views him. It might be something more interesting for me as someone who has not read the IDW series as I don’t know if it’s a lot of re-tread, but for me, it was the best part of the finale. The ending was very predictable. That’s not necessarily a weakness as many stories have obvious outcomes, but there wasn’t anything special tacked-on to that end to earn it.
What largely remained a strength of the book for all five issues was the artwork within. The Escorza brothers brought it, and not just in a technical sense. I really enjoyed the look of a lot of the characters in this series. The flashback turtles had a neat construction about them that was a bit more modern, but also implied a grizzled lifestyle of battling crime. I love the look of Ronin, and the action in this was easy to follow. The only thing I didn’t care for was the battle armor of the ultimate foe, who looked like the Shredder crossed with a costume from Tron. Eastman gets an art credit as well, though this time it’s not obvious to me which section. It’s possible that credit is just there because some of the variant issues feature a cover by Eastman.
Were my expectations unreasonable? Perhaps. It’s possible they always intended for this to be a very straight-forward tale for how the turtles could end up. There are certainly a lot of similar stories in cinema and television that are much celebrated, but I think all of those do a better job of developing the characters. I’m just left feeling like this could have been one issue, and considering the impact that first issue had, maybe that would have been the way to go? It’s possible I’m in the minority as well. I just wanted this story to elevate itself above other TMNT stories similar to how Logan elevated itself above other X-Men films. It’s certainly not a bad read or anything, it just doesn’t leave a mark on the franchise or the main character. Hopefully for IDW I’m in the minority as the issue ends with a “To be continued…” The story of The Last Ronin is complete after this issue, so I’m left to assume any future stories will center on his allies. Personally, I’m not interested, but others might be.
The Last Ronin #5 is currently on-sale at your local comic book stores. If supplies have already been depleted, rest assured there will likely be a trade paperback collecting all five issues. It also looks like there may be future director’s cut styled issues to come as well. Needless to say, you shouldn’t have to pay 20 bucks or something on the secondary market to experience this issue.