It was the biggest comic book limited series of 2021, and it featured a rare and certain end to a beloved set of comic book heroes. At a minimum Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin is a love letter to the cinematic action that permeated everything in the 1980s, as well as an homage to the kind of graphic storytelling Frank Miller shepherded into the minds of teens and twenty-somethings back then. Kevin Eastman returned with co-creator Peter Laird and Tom Waltz and a league of artists to wrap up nearly four decades of sci-fi fantasy antics and drama. And now like Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns it’s getting its own hardcover edition. It’s available in comic shops for the first time today.
The story, from its varying artistic styles, including Eastman’s vintage look, is consistent with early TMNT and is stuffed with the same martial arts action that has defined the series in all its incarnations. Written by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, and Tom Waltz, the script is by Waltz and Eastman, layouts are by Eastman, and pencils and inks are by Esau and Isaac Escorza, with Samuel Plata and Luis Antonio Delgado on colors, Shawn Lee on letters.
Set in New York City thirty years into the future, the future underworld of tunnels and sewers doesn’t look much different than the bowels of a big city today. The Last Ronin is drawn so much like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again that at times it feels like Miller’s 1980s futurism was the primary inspiration for the story–Eastman’s layouts feature the turtle hero jumping out windows and crouched with clenched fist in Miller’s trademark look that echoes the boxy-ness of The Thing (and his dialogue may even sound in your head like mine as if it’s being spoken by Michael Chiklis). We even meet April as a cyborg, swapped in for Oliver Queen in Miller’s story. Cyborgs and robots take center stage as the Foot Clan of the future, but names and legacies from the past aren’t lost here.
It also isn’t an Old Man Ninja Turtle tale that could spin off into further adventures, but a swan song as we witness in flashback the picking off, albeit in the expected noble and honorable fashion, of each of the brothers. As we said last year in our first review, it looks right. But it’s bleak.
This edition contains all five issues from last year. At 224 pages, the books’ design unfortunately doesn’t include even thumbnail versions of all of its many covers. The first issue of the series featured 71 variant art covers, with dozens more in later issues, but only 15 are reprinted in the back matter of this edition (and not the best of the bunch either). But for TMNT collectors, completists, and fans of future otherworld stories and what ifs like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, it’s a must read–unless you don’t need or want an ending.
C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg