TMNT: The Last Ronin #1 Review - Old Man "Redacted"
Pulling our favorite heroes out of the present day and placing them in bleak and apocalyptic future states has been a comic trope longer than I've been alive.
Whether It's Days of Future Past, The Dark Knight Returns, or Old Man Logan it is a popular story to tell because it takes our heroes out of the perpetual prime of their lives and places them face to face with their own mortality and challenges we all face in our lives as we age and begin to experience loss.
TMNT has always been my favorite IP and regardless of incarnation I always default to the characterizations of the 80's cartoons. I've read the Mirage comics which was always gritty but I'm never really read a Truly dark TMNT story. In TMNT #44 Donatello was beaten within an inch of his life but he was back in the next issue. In the much-maligned TMNT, Vol: 3/Urban Legends series the Turtles were all maimed over the course of the series but otherwise it was business as usual. The darkest TMNT story I actually recall reading was from the Archie run that featured Michaelangelo being captured and tortured with a cattle prod.
The Last Ronin is the first TMNT story that I've read in my 30+ years that gutted me emotionally. The story is a collaboration between Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird (Creators) and Tom Waltz, the lead writer of the groundbreaking IDW run. The story fits into the future of any possible TMNT timeline you'd like to drop it into. The story is about the Last of the Hamato Clan going on a quest for revenge against the Foot Clan who have taken over the city of Manhatten and destroyed his family.
The comic is equal parts action, exposition, and worldbuilding. The pacing is also excellent and the nearest comparison I can make would be putting a quarter into an arcade machine and pressing start. The Last Ronin is skilled, crafty, and conveys a cunning you'd expect from an aged Ninja Turtle. He makes quick work of his enemies and is great at making decisions on the fly. The bulk of the story is from his perspective and the focus is constantly moving forward and the mission. The closest story I can compare this to would be the suicide run made by the X-Men during Days of Future Past.
About 2/3's of the way through the issue the situation gets dicey for our hero and he's faced with potentially failing in his mission and his Clan. This section of the book is the most heartfelt especially after we get the reveal of who the Last Ronin actually is. I've never read a TMNT story where the hero was this broken. The climax of the issue stuck with me days after reading and honestly may be the most shocking moments I've read in a comic this year.
TMNT: The Last Ronin is beautifully illustrated by Isaac and Esau Escorza. They join a talented stable of IDW artists that have tackled the franchise in recent years. There is a ton of energy on every page. They also get a variety of cool set pieces to work with on top of the excellent design of the Ronin. The linework and colors perfectly complement the script which represents a perfect merger of the Mirage and IDW works.
The Last Ronin #1 maybe the closest thing we'll see to a perfect single issue this year. It's definitely the purest take on TMNT we've seen in a while. You'll be hard-pressed to come up with a better comic in 2020. This one has it all.