TMNT: The Last Ronin (Danny's thoughts)
In comics there's always a beginning, but seldomly is there ever an end. True, every now and again there is an "ending" for a character or characters, but more often than not they usually tend to come back in some fashion. However, for some there are endings that give a sense of closure, and in the case of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles there is finally such an ending in one of their universes, with The Last Ronin.
The story begins with a lone Ninja Turtle who seems to be having a conversation with other people who are telling him not to try to make the swim across an extremely toxic ocean. Undeterred, the lone Turtle - who by now we can guess is The Ronin - makes his way through the sludge to an isolated New York City and somehow still finds himself in conversation with some "voices" though we still don't know who they are. In no time at all The Ronin finds himself in a scuffle or two with what seems like security drones/troops, with a man named Oroku Hiroto eventually hearing of this and authorizing deadly force against the Ronin.
Wounded during the fight, The Ronin makes his way to the sewers and feeling as though he failed in his mission, tries to commit seppuku and be free from the pain of losing his family, as well as the mission he has burdened himself with. Only to pass out due to his injuries. At first he has a dream of his fellow brothers, only to then wake up with an elderly but spry April O'Niel greeting him, and we finally learn the identity of The Ronin - Michelangelo.
As the rest of the story goes on we learn more about what happened years before the story starts and to make a long story short, The Foot Clan's "ceasefire/peace" with Splinter's family doesn't hold, and pretty much everyone from Splinter to Casey Jones to the rest of Mikey's brothers are lost in a bloody battle. Feeling more alone than ever in his life Michelangelo leaves the city and heads for the mountains, and for a long time, he waited for death only to find that that was impossible. So Mikey rebuilt himself in his solitude, learning to live off the land and reading his Sensei's journal for answers. At first he thought this was to be his end - to live out his days in solitude, but a nasty encounter with strangers proved otherwise, and upon hearing voices that were his own late brothers Mikey knew that he will never find closure until he finishes what his Sensei and brothers started. And that meant putting an end to the Shredder's grandson once and for all.
Does Mikey succeed?
In a word, yes. And in doing so he finally gets the peace he had desired for so long, as well as leaving behind Splinter's journal for Casey and April's daughter KC to now read.
But along with Mikey being finally reunited with his brothers and father, we are also treated to nice little epilogue with KC helping her mother out, and speaking to four infant turtles, with a very familiar canister off to the side, thus indicating that while the original four are gone, the Ninja Turtles legacy is far from over.
So where to begin with this tale? Well, as a TMNT fan since the late 80s this is truly an awesome way to give the turtles a "final chapter" to their saga. Although I didn't discover the original comics until later on in life, this tale works just as good if you know the characters from other media. But if you have discovered the original stories and loved them then this story is only more profound.
Interestingly enough this story wasn't one that was thought up out of the blue. Rather the genesis of this story goes back to the old Mirage days when Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were working on the titles themselves. They had managed to put out a few issues and the idea of how to do a denouement for the Turtles came up. Ideas were thrown back and forth but for years nothing ever came of it until 2020 when finally Eastman was able to put the story together. Unfortunately due to Covid things were delayed more than usual and it wasn't until early 2022 that the story was completed. Fortunately it was more than worth the wait, and while I hadn't purchased the issues I had heard enough about the story to want to get the trade when it came out (Hardcovers are the best).
Along with Kevin and Peter, talented folks like Tom Waltz, Esau and Issac Escorza, Ben Bishop, Luis Delgado and Shawn Lee helped to create an incredible TMNT story that that not only takes the characters back to the roots, but it takes the story forward and allows there for possibilities no one can fully predict until you get to the end.
Perhaps the most notable part of the whole is the enormous character development that Michelangelo goes through. When you think of the character you think of the goofball, the class clown who never seems to take things seriously. However, there have been hints over the years by Kevin that Mikey was the one who had the most potential out of all his siblings. From what I understand about Mikey's signature weapons, the nunchaku are not easy to master, so why would Mikey be given those if he was mostly the goofball of the group? Could it be that Splinter saw something in Mikey that no one else saw? Plus both in the original Mirage books and in the 1990 movie there was a turtle exercising with a heavy bag, and in said film that same turtle was screaming out Splinter's name into the night sky. I thought - as did everyone else - that that was Raphael, but it turns out that in actuality it was Michelangelo doing all those things, showing that Mikey despite his goofiness, he too carries his own angst, and heaven help anyone who dares anger Mikey.
Plus in the 2003 animated series Mikey did win the Battle Nexus tournament, so there is that to consider.
So if you haven't already read this, check it out. Even if you're not the biggest TMNT fan it is a great comic book story, well told.
And to my favorite turtle Michelangelo - you did it buddy. You stopped the Foot clan, avenged your brothers and father, saved your extended family and the city. Rest well dude. Rest well.
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