Review – TMNT: The Last Ronin – The Lost Years #1 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman
Artwork (Then): SL Gallant, Maria Keane
Artwork (Now): Ben Bishop
Colorist: Luis Antonio Delgado
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Release Date: 25th January 2023

[WARNING: Contains Spoilers for TMNT: The Last Ronin]

For those of you who haven’t read IDW’s TMNT: The Last Ronin miniseries (firstly, what the hell are you doing with your life?), here’s a quick catch-up: Set 30 years in the future in a world where three-quarters of the Turtles, Splinter, Casey Jones and pretty much every other good guy in New York has been killed by the Foot Clan, the story follows sole survivor Michaelangelo as he grapples with his guilt, a burning thirst for vengeance and even his own sanity as he sets out to settle the score with Oroku Hiroto, the grandson of The Shredder himself, Oroku Saki.

The series was a critical and commercial juggernaut, and rightfully so, introducing a ton of fascinating plot threads and new characters, including Casey Marie, the daughter of April and Casey, who Mikey takes on as something of a student throughout the course of the series.  It also featured a far more gritty, adult approach than the main ongoing IDW series, feeling faintly reminiscent of the characters’ roots with Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird at Mirage Studios.  Indeed, the basis of the ‘Last Ronin’ story was conceived by Eastman himself back in 1987, and he remains heavily involved with the plotting and scripting of both the original and this brand new series.

Honestly, for me, The Last Ronin was pretty much a perfect open-and-shut story, delivering Michaelangelo’s story and character arc to absolute perfection. That said, one of the more interesting wrinkles was thrown in during the epilogue, which revealed Casey Marie Jones’ plan to raise four young mutant turtles of her own.  For that reason and pretty much that reason only (although I do make it a point to pick up pretty much anything TMNT related from IDW), I was more than willing to give this new series, which is marketed as both a prequel and a sequel, a go.

The framing is perhaps a little jarring, with the main post-apocalyptic New York thread with Casey Marie, April and the new youngsters giving way to a flashback-within-a-flashback as we go from Mikey struggling to overcome his fear during a Foot Clan skirmish with his father and brothers to his time spent alone in the mountains of Japan following their deaths (which was touched on briefly during the original series). It’s certainly an interesting approach, and I suppose keeping Michelangelo involved makes sense to an extent, but as I mentioned above, his story has already been well and truly told, so it’s difficult to imagine what his struggles against a group of rampaging thugs is going to add to the overall narrative.

On the plus side, at least this first issue looks the business, courtesy of SL Gallant – who is probably best known for his work on G.I. Joe – and Ben Bishop, who returns following an impressive stint on the original series.  Gallant brings the energy and action to Mike’s exploits in the mountains of Japan, while Bishop does a great job of introducing our new reptilian quartet in the disappointingly brief “now” portion of the episode.  Luis Antonio Delgado provides some much needed consistency between both artists with his colour work, and there’s enough action, emotion and, yes, even a little humour to keep any TMNT fan more than satisfied.

At the end of the day, The Last Ronin was always going to be a tough act to follow, and while there are some undeniably intriguing storyline threads being introduced (or reintroduced) here, the basic question of “is this series really necessary?” still remains. I’m going to reserve full judgment until I see where Eastman and Waltz are taking things, but for the time being this feels like a solid, if slightly superfluous, expansion of what is, for my money, one of the best TMNT stories of all time.

Rating: 3.5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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