If you read my “Nick’s Top 5 Comics of 2021” review, you may recall The Last Ronin, written by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, and Tom Waltz, landing on number 3 of that list. I had mentioned that it may move up or down on that list depending on how the final issue plays out. The final issue definitely has the series moving up in rankings. I would say it slightly passes up number 2, Marvel’s Inferno for several reasons. It is a complete story in its own right. It has a more concrete conclusion although it leaves room for spin off stories. Although Marvel’s Inferno was an immensely powerful story that set up X Lives/ Deaths of Wolverine very nicely and was an epic chapter in the long war against Orchis, it is a prelude to events of greater significance, while The Last Ronin leaves few loose strings and is a proper conclusion to everything the Turtles have ever fought for. It summarizes the finality of their purpose in just five issues.
As mentioned in the top 5 review, Mikey is the last surviving member of his family. The pain and guilt that he feels is overwhelming. Issue 5 does the best at depicting the toll it his taking on his soul and best illustrates his pressure to avenge his family when he is shown arguing with the ghosts of his brothers. I am still uncertain if this is entirely in his head, or if their years of Ninja training have given them abilities to communicate from beyond the veil.
Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo died in their rebellion against Oroku Hiroto as he claimed control over New York City. Hiroto is the grandson of the Shredder (who needs no introduction). The book reveals that their bloodlines have been at war for a long time, although Hiroto mocks that the turtles are not even related by blood. Yet their bonds through the mutagen is stronger and more honorable than that of the Hiroto bloodline.
Unlike some of the books I have reviewed, there is no mistaking that Hiroto is a villain. He is certainly the kind you love to hate. Other than mentions to his loveless childhood, it is hard to empathize with him. The book illustrates how vicious rulers have difficulty maintaining loyalty. There is also a theme of warriors becoming soft when they no longer feel threatened or needed. This reminds me of the sentiments Wolverine expresses in regard to the mutants on Krakoa, their mutant paradise.
However, it is not just the villains that have struggle maintaining loyalty. In our own society we have frequently seen dedicated and peaceful protestors and activists be undermined by opportunistic rioters and looters who overshadow and disrupt just causes. We see something similar in the Last Ronin when Casey Marie Jones, the daughter of Casey Jones and April O’Neil, is leading a rebellion against Hiroto’s forces.
Speaking of Casey, the bonds she forms with Mikey and the truth she learns about her family and her own abilities make The Last Ronin a must read in their own right. All signs point to us seeing more of her, and it would be a grave injustice for this to be her first and last appearance.
I also experienced some nostalgia from my childhood whether intended or not. I always loved the appearance of the Shredder as a kid. I nearly got goosebumps when Hiroto finally donned armor clearly inspired by his grandfather. On top of that, the armor also gave me symbiote (Venom) and T-1000 vibes (Terminator).
I used to play the ridiculously difficult TMNT game for NES as a child too. I actually still play TMNT 2 The Arcade game on NES from time to time. Early in the first game there is an underwater level in which you have to disarm several bombs within a time limit. This immediately came to mind when reading the pages where Casey is underwater and struggling to find air.
Finally, if you are a fan of Michealangelo (he was always my favorite), then you will certainly love reading The Last Ronin. Mikey has grown into the hero and mentor he has trained to be. I’ll admit that part of me missed the old carefree party animal (cowabunga!), but it was time to see real character growth and to see him rise to his greatest challenge after suffering his greatest loss. You’ll need to read to see how Mikey goes from student to sensei and to find out how or if he can avenge his brothers and make Master Splinter proud.