(w) Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Tom Waltz (a) Kevin Eastman, Esau & Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop (c) Luis Antonio Delgado, Samuel Plata
The debut issue of The Last Ronin was an impressive effort, a The Dark Knight Returns inspired tale spun from the minds of the Ninja Turtles original creators. This is a fitting direction to take these characters, given their roots as an homage to Frank Miller’s Daredevil. However, Issue #2 makes The Last Ronin truly its own thing, taking the time to fill in the past and show the fall of the Turtles and their allies.
While there was some speculation amongst readers where in “canon” this story takes place, the truth is it doesn’t really matter. Is it part of the Mirage continuity? Well, it doesn’t really work with what was happening before Volume 4 went on indefinite hiatus in 2014. How about the IDW series? Nah, doesn’t make much sense there either. Don’t even try to make sense of the Image series from the 1990s. If anything, this seems to take place at some point after the “City at War” story that concluded the original TMNT series back in 1993, but at the end of the day this is truly a standalone, “what if?” tale. Free from the shackles of any continuity, the story by Eastman, Laird, and Waltz is able to go in very bold directions – which is exactly what it does.
Whereas Issue #1 was a fast-paced action story, The Last Ronin #2 is a slower, character-focused story that sees Michelangelo reconnect with an older, battle-hardened April O’Neil. Through their reconnection, the creative team informs readers of the events that lead to this series. While there is a bit of exposition, the issue’s flashback sequences do a pretty decent job of adhering to the principle “don’t tell, show.” Yes, there are moments when the book feels a little talky, but reads like a necessary evil rather than a crutch for the writers. What we are shown is the Turtles on the ropes, but true to their well known personalities. Because of the story’s premise, the ultimate demise of one of the turtles isn’t a surprise, but it is difficult to watch all the same thanks to the script’s pacing and the artwork by Eastman and the Escorzas.
Speaking of the artwork, it is incredible that this issue, with 4 different artists and 2 colorists, is as visually cohesive as it is. Esau and Isaac Escorza are once again back, providing the finishes on layouts by Eastman, but they alone are not responsible for the look of this issue. While the Escorza’s handle the story’s present, there are two sequences that take place in the story’s past that are illustrated by Ben Bishop and Eastman himself. Eastman’s artwork is particularly fitting when Michelangelo recounts the time leading up to last issue’s ill-advised attack on the Foot Clan’s headquarters. Eastman’s extremely gritty, stylized artwork recounts the Turtle’s indie comics roots in a sequence where Michelangelo explains his intent to die in isolation. Given that Mikey was the first turtle, it is appropriate that he also be the last. Everyone’s artwork works so well in unison, that The Last Ronin #2 should be the example that other publishers look to when they put multiple artists on one book.
The Last Ronin #2 continues the great storytelling from the first issue. Despite a ridiculous amount of variant covers, the story is so good that it need not rely on gimmicks for readers to pick it up. Acting as a breather after an action-packed debut, Waltz’s script is full of quality character moments that only add to readers’ engagement. Fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles should read this, but if you’re a fan of great comics, you need to read this.