It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to look at an issue of this mini-series, and boy am I happy to be revisiting it. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin is one of my favorite comics out there right now, and has consistently knocked it out of the park. The revival of an old school Eastman and Laird story continues to be one of the best Turtle stories ever put to page and beyond, and it’s not even finished yet.
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #4!
For the plot of this issue, we hear about April’s plan to storm Dr. Baxter Stockman’s base of operations in order to use the head of the Fugitoid to regain some control over New York, inter-spliced with sections of said plan already in motion. We also get a budding mentor and student relationship with Mikey (our titular Last Ronin of course) and April’s daughter Casey, and an extended flashback (within its own flashback no less) showing the final fate of the remainder of the Turtles and their Master. Basically, a lot happened, and the book certainly doesn’t shy away from using its nearly 40 some pages of story liberally in that regard.
That isn’t to say it’s poorly paced, because it certainly isn’t. While I wasn’t all that crazy about the jumping between the rebels’ planning stages and their actual attack, it’s not too disruptive and it’s over before you know it. The real meat comes from the Splinter flashback, where we learn how the wise old rat master and last remaining son (other than Mikey) Donatello met their end at the hands of Oroku Hiroto. It’s pretty intense, stereotypical old school samurai movie style action, with an appropriately tragic and honorable warrior’s end for Splinter and his son.
Characterization is great, but when you’ve got Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, and the unseen hand of Peter Laird’s ’80s self directing the story and its characters, you can’t get much more authentic Turtles than that. Everybody (and everything) in the issue feels like a natural final escalation of what’s been building since the start (and even the original Mirage stories at that). Gloves are off, morals are gray, and the situation is dire, and the characters all know it and act appropriately.
Mikey’s brief training session with Casey was also a particular highlight, showing how far Mikey has come from being the slacker ninja we know from his youth, to the battle hardened and seasoned, revenge driven warrior he’s now become. But of course, he’s still got his heart of gold beneath all that muscle and grit, which is ultimately his most important, and defining, trait.
Artwork is stellar, but with such a huge group of people working on it (and the fact that it’s, y’know, IDW Ninja Turtles), that should come as no shock. It’s just as moody, gritty, and bleak as it’s been in previous issues, and those famous Eastman layouts will always do wonders for the book’s action. The whole book definitely channels a lot of that early Frank Miller aesthetic that the original comic run from the ’80s was trying to emulate, which goes a long way to it feeling authentic to the spirit of the Mirage days of the franchise.
Do I even have to say it? This series could, quite possibly, go down as a true masterpiece among Turtles media. Every issue has continued to knock it out of the park, and this is far from an exception to that. We get so much done here, wrapping up more and more loose threads as we draw close to the end of this dark future tale. Though with most mysteries answered and a chunk of the city back under the control of the rebels, there’s still the final confrontation between the last of the Turtles, and the legacy of the Shredder yet to come, and I cannot wait.
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