JUST JOSHING: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1

I’m doing something special for April. With issue 150 closing out the era of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I’m going to talk about some of my favorite runs and surprises with the new era. (hint: You will get issue 150 before the month is done). That said before I begin, I want to thank Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz for the incredible run, as well as Sophie Campbell, who had an incredibly tough act to follow, for creating and expanding the TMNT universe in ways I never anticipated. Thanks for a great run, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

But before we go forward, we’re going back, as some of the expanded universe is among my favorite stuff of all. Right in 2020, there was a release of an equivalent to Legends of the Dark Knight in the teenage mutant ninja turtle franchise. Everyone was curious which turtle would be featured, and what kind of story would be told as a result.

What we got was this week’s featured book, as I talk about the Last Ronin.


The Book

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1

Story by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, and Tom Waltz

Written by Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman

Layouts by Kevin Eastman

Pencils/Inks by Esau and Isaac Escorza

Colors by Luis Antonio Delgado

Color Assistant by Shawn Lee

Additional Editorial Coordination by R.G. Llarena

Edited by Bobby Curnow

Page 39 Illustrated by Ben Bishop

Publisher: IDW Publishing

I was so excited when this project was announced. The idea of a dark knight-style tale told in the world of the turtles was such an appealing concept to me before I ever saw this book. Picking it up, it exceeded all my expectations.

One of the big mysteries of the book was which turtle would be the last Ronin. And that was the mystery that hooks readers to book one.

Issue one began with one of the turtles coming back to New York for revenge. We see him talking to some voices in the back, that we recognize as kind of the other turtles. But reading this, you weren’t sure which ones. They were familiar, but just generic enough to keep you guessing.

Part of the mystery was the Ronin himself. This turtle used all the weapons of the clan and was the last survivor of it. Here he was coming back to New York to get revenge for his lost family. And throughout issue one it goes terribly. The Ronin finds himself facing Japanese Robo Samurai, which seem like horrifying versions of the inventions of turtle past. Despite the new technology, the old turtle very nearly makes it to his target, before he tumbles. It wasn’t going to be that easy for him.

Fate works in mysterious directions in this first issue. The Ronin started his trek in the city stealing a motorcycle from a face that would become a mainstay of the series. After he falls and fails hard, she follows him into the sewers. Before she does, he is holding a sword, about to end it all, and commits suicide for failing his clan.  He passes out and wakes up, looking into the face of a very old April O’Neal.

April identifies him immediately. It’s Michaelangelo.

I’m spoiling this because the book is two years old, but I applauded this choice. Of all the turtles, Michaelangelo is by far the kindest of them, and being the survivor of a war between the descendants of the Shredder would get to him, and the voices he’s talking to? His lost brothers. He would be the most interesting choice to be the last Ronin, and I’m glad it was him.

This is an amazing cast of creative people putting this book together. Tom Waltz is one of the big architects of the modern turtles. Yes, he’s had Eastman’s input the whole time, but he has led the way to the turtles being reimagined in incredible ways. This story feels very true to the visions of not only Eastman and Laird but also his. This is a heartbreaking, yet incredibly touching take on Michaelangelo.

What is there to say about Eastman and Laird that hasn’t already been said? Awesome they were a part of this whole journey. I want to talk about the future of New York. It is the desolate wasteland you imagine it to be, but it also oddly still has little easter eggs and glimpses of the city it was once in Last Ronin. The technology looks haunting, yet for all the darkness in the story, I love the little glimpses of light and hope still in this universe despite the dark fate inside. That’s a credit to Esau and Escorza. They designed a fantastic dystopia. Credit to the Delgado and company for establishing the right mood in the right places.

This book is beautiful. It’s a love letter to the world of TMNT, and at the same time, despite its dark beginnings, a hopeful take on the future. I enjoyed this series and am happy this possible future exists. If you haven’t checked out Last Ronin, you should. It’s easily one of the best books of the 2020s.


The Business

Been in the business of doing a lot of projects since the new year began. I’m working very hard on my novel. It’s in an agent’s hands. No guarantees what’s happening next, but I’m happy I got this far. It’s been the second-biggest project so far this year.

The biggest is my podcast course. I’ve uploaded 6 of the 8 modules and the 7th one is going live sometime after this is out. Adding worksheets and teaching everyone how to create a blooper video and the importance of making small clips for a bunch of marketing. You can check out the course here, and see what else I’m up to.

Finally, I’m working on a graphic novel. Right now you can see me creating the characters for Lights Out on my webpage, newsletter, or Patreon. I’ll be starting to post the story soon. I’ve come a long way as an illustrator. It blew me away to see where I’ve gotten to working on this. I can’t wait to finish the story. Is it a traditional graphic novel? No. I would recommend checking out Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller’s Cursed for the inspiration for the design.

My next column has a ton more turtle love. I’m going to review my favorite story of the current run. Should be a good tale to tell.

Stay inspired out there.

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