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Comic Book / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin

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"...No matter what's changed, this is still our home turf."

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin is a five-issue miniseries in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, published by IDW Publishing. Written by series creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird along with Tom Waltz, co-writer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW), the story takes place in a Bad Future where the Foot Clan has successfully taken over New York, leaving the last surviving Ninja Turtle—the titular Last Ronin—to embark on a mission to avenge his family and save the city.

A follow up entitled The Lost Years began in January 2023. It tells two parallel stories: the Last Ronin's journey back to New York after becoming a ronin, and the daughter of Casey Jones raising a new team of mutant ninja turtles.

An official sequel, The Last Ronin II: Re-evolution has been announced, starring the four new turtles as a new team of heroes. A one shot released in July 2023, The Lost Day, helped do some world-building and setting up the new status quo.

A video game adaptation was confirmed to be in the works on March 23, 2023 by Paramount Global’s senior VP of games and emerging media, Doug Rosen. Published by THQ Nordic and developed by Black Forest Games (the developers behind Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams and the remakes of Destroy All Humans! 1 and 2), the game is planned to be an Action RPG in the vein of God of War (PS4), and is set to be released on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S. The announcement trailer can be viewed here.

A live action, R-rated film adaptation is in development with Tyler Burton Smith (Boy Kills World) writing the script.

The Last Ronin contains examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The year is never specified, but it’s implied to be in the near future as a flash back shows April as a child during 9/11. In this future, flying cars, robots, synthetic food, and holograms are common place, and Earth is suffering from the effects of climate change. Other than that, people still dress like present day, ride normal motorcycles, and go about their lives the best they can under a dictator.
  • A God Am I: Hiroto rants to himself in Issue 3 that he considers himself a god.
  • An Arm and a Leg: April literally lost both an arm and a leg during the downfall of the Hamato Clan.
  • Anyone Can Die: This being an Elseworld tale. The premise of the series is that there is only one Ninja Turtle left. Leonardo, Casey Jones, Raphael, Splinter, Donatello, and the Fugitoid had died in between Hiroto's rise to power. Karai had fell into a coma after her last fight with Raphael and is killed by her own son before his and Mikey's last battle. Finally, Hiroto and Michelangelo die in the final issue.
  • And This Is for...: In the final showdown, the Ronin uses his fallen brothers' weapons of choice against Hiroto this way:
    Mike: (stabs Hiroto's palm with a sai) A gift from Raphael!
    Mike: (driving a katana through Hiroto's torso and then kicking it even further) This one's courtesy of Leonardo!
    Mike: (whacks Hiroto across the face with a bō staff) Donatello sends his regards!
  • Artificial Limbs: April O'Neil lost one arm and one leg years before the events of the story and wears prosthetic replacements.
  • Art Shift: Certain flashbacks adopt a similar artstyle to the Mirage comics, complete with being in black and white.
  • Bad Boss: Hiroto. After his men fail to capture the Ronin, he has the captain of his forces beheaded and fed to ravens and threatens his replacement with same fate if he fails to find the mutant turtle. Later on, while sparring with his men, he tells them to fight him like they're trying to kill him or he'll have them all executed. When one successfully strikes him, he kills him with a knife he had hidden behind his back.
  • Bad Future: In the year 2040, Oroku Hiroto, master of the Foot Clan, has defeated the turtles and rules New York City with an iron fist.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In a meta sense. Ever wanted to see Mikey at his full potential as a ninja, where he stopped being Brilliant, but Lazy and took his ninjutsu training deadly seriously? Here you go. It just took him losing his sense of humor and hallucinating the ghosts of his brothers to do it.
  • Big Bad: Oroku Hiroto, the grandson of the Shredder and the tyrant of New York.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mikey defeats Hiroto for good, at the cost of his own life. His assault also kills a large portion of Hiroto's army as well as his base, and in a fit of mania, Hiroto kills his own mother, which means the Oroku clan are gone for good. April and Casey Marie live to rebuild, with Mikey leaving Casey Splinter's journal and everything the turtles knew, changing the phrase "NO PEACE" at the end to "KNOW PEACE" by him, as Mikey dies with the knowledge that he's completed his mission. Mikey is reunited with his brothers, Splinter, and Casey Jones in the afterlife. In the very last scene, Casey is raising four turtles with the aid of some mutagen, planning to pass on Master Splinter’s and Michelangelo’s teachings to them.
  • Break the Cutie: Certainly applies to the Ronin himself, since Michelangelo is generally the most laid-back of the turtles, more interested in partying than training (described as "party dude" and "wise guy" respectively in past intros), and has now become a hardened warrior struggling to avenge his fallen family.
  • Citadel City: The Foot Clan-occupied Manhattan is surrounded by large walls and the Manhattan Bridge is destroyed. As the Last Ronin notes, it's more to keep citizens in than to keep anyone out.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Both Karai and her son Hiroto tricked the Hamato Clan into seeking peace with them only to kill them off once their guard was down.
  • Convenient Coma: After suffering critical injuries in her final battle against Raph, Karai is placed in a coma lasting close to three decades.
  • Crapsack World: Earth has been ravaged by climate change, and New York City has been cut off from the rest of the world and ruled by the Foot Clan.
  • Damned by Faint Praise:
    • As Mikey points out to Hiroto, as evil as Karai was, she did have some honor.
    • Earlier, when he sparred with Casey, he kept on taunting her, and briefly called her kick a white belt quality. When she shoved him in retaliation, he said that that one might be yellow belt quality.
  • Darker and Edgier: Besides the very premise, The Last Ronin is one of the most grim and violent entries in the franchise on par with the original Mirage Comics, with ninjas being slaughtered and the Ronin nearly committing seppuku out of shame for not being able to complete his mission, only failing due to blood loss. Also, Anyone Can Die, including all but one of the TMNT, as the Ronin is explicitly shown to be the last of the four brothers alive.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Ronin is dressed from head to toe in black but he still fights on the side of good and wants to avenge his family.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Casey Marie is named after her late father, Casey Jones.
  • Death of a Child: Downplayed. It's not explicitly stated how old the turtles are in the flashbacks, but it can be assumed that they're teenagers as per usual, meaning three of the four die before ever reaching adulthood.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: Inverted; to keep the identity of the Last Ronin a surprise in the first issue, the turtles are back to only being differentiated by their headbands and weapons—however, the Last Ronin wears a black mask and uses each of their weapons. When the other turtles appear as spirits or flashbacks, they either also wear dark masks or none at all. Restored starting with Issue #2, as the turtles are once again sporting their colored bandanas and different skin tones, because the end of the first issue reveals which of the four brothers that the Ronin is.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted. At the end of the first issue, the Last Ronin attempts to commit seppuku for failing to stop Hiroto, feeling it's the only way that he can regain his honor. However, injuries sustained in the attempt affect the Ronin too much for him to go through with it, as he passes out from bloodloss right before he can. When he wakes up, the Ronin makes a point to keep trying to stop Hiroto as his final mission instead of trying to go through with another suicide attempt, albeit with the implication that he doesn't intend to survive after the mission is over, one way or another.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: By the time the dust settles in the ending, April and Casey Marie are the only major characters left to stay alive as all the rest have been killed (including Mikey).
  • Experienced Protagonist: The Ronin is pushing 50 and has mastered all forms of martial arts. When he spars with the self trained Casey Marie in Issue 4, he easily counters all of her attacks while condescendingly criticizing her technique.
  • Family of Choice: In issue 5, Hiroto mocks the Last Ronin when he says that the Oroku clan killed his family, dismissing them as a "pretend family" that is not connected by blood. The Ronin retorts that the mutagen that brought them together made them a family. The notion is echoed in the ending with the reveal that Casey is also a mutant due to Casey Sr. and April's constant exposure to mutagen, as well as the Last Ronin leaving Splinter's journal to Casey. While the Oroku clan dies with their bloodline, Splinter's teachings will outlive him and the turtles.
  • First-Episode Twist: Issue 1 ends with the revelation of which of the four Hamato turtle brothers is the Last Ronin. In any case, the Ronin has made virtually unrecognizable with the passage of time, so it's still a surprise.
  • Foreshadowing: Right before the Ronin's identity is revealed, he has a vision of himself and his brothers back in the old sewer lair and two of his other brothers have the weapon belt across their torso, confirming that the ronin is neither Leonardo, nor Donatello, who, in many adaptations, sport similar weapons belts for their respective weapons, narrowing down his identity to Raphael and Michelangelo.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Many of Hiroto's issues stem from the fact that his mother fell into a coma while battling the Turtles when he was only six years old and he was left alone to take charge of the Foot's criminal empire, leading to him having both severe abandonment issues and a huge ego about everything he had accomplished without his family's help.
    • The Last Ronin Took a Level in Jerkass, becoming much more blunt, cynical, and doubtful about his mission. But considering that their father figure Splinter and three of his brothers are all dead, along with failing his mission to kill Hiroto in the first issue, it's clear how he's gotten cynical about the whole thing.
  • Grand Finale: In a weird way; it's not connected to any particular continuity, but some consider the story the final touch to Eastman and Laird's original collaboration.
  • The Hero Dies: Raphael, Leonardo, Casey Jones Senior, Master Splinter, and Donatello were all killed by the Foot Clan years earlier, and at the end of the final issue, Michelangelo, the last of the TMNT, dies, but not before ending Hiroto once and for all.
  • Hero Killer: Hiroto is responsible for the deaths of half the Turtles and Splinter and states his desire to finish the job once he comes face to face with Mikey.
    Hiroto: Blathering idiot— you actually believe I'd soil my own hands with your filth? I am master here. Still... I thought I'd killed off you pathetic mutants before— a mistake I will not make twice.
  • If I Can't Have You…: A non-romantic version. Stockman says this to Honeycutt before setting his mousers to self-destruct, destroying April's antique shop and killing Leonardo and Casey.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: The second issue has Oroku Hiroto training with some of the Foot Clan members, inciting them into fight him to death. When one member succeeds in striking him, Hiroto congratulates him but hits him and then slashes his throat with a knife, concluding the training session and asking his henchmen to remove the corpse.
  • The Last Dance: The last moments of the turtles besides the Last Ronin are captured in flashbacks.
    • Issue 2: In a rash assault on the Foot Clan, Raph attacks Karai. They throw themselves into the nearby river and bleed each other out, though the Foot were able to rescue her.
    • Issue 3: Leo and Casey are caught in an explosion by Stockman's Mousers in an attempt to kill Honeycutt.
    • Issue 4: Donnie and Master Splinter die due to Hiroto betraying them at the peace talks.
    • Issue 5: In the present day, Mikey and Hiroto fight to the death. At the end of his rope, Hiroto electrocutes them both, ending the feud for good.
  • Loose Canon: While the comic is published by IDW and deals with the head of the Foot Clan being the son of Karai, implying that it is part of the IDW universe, the series is not written to resemble any particular incarnation of the turtles. The fact that Splinter died in a completely different way from how he died in the IDW continuity means it doesn't even perfectly line up with the main IDW continuity anyway.
  • Made of Iron: The Ronin suffers a fall from a building that should have that should have turned him into paste, but manages to walk away and is back to fighting shape not too long after. It's mentioned that his mutant DNA has given him a minor Healing Factor, albeit one that can be overtaxed due to his age.
  • Matricide: Hiroto, before his final battle with Mikey, reveals that he hated his mother Karai for abandoning him as a child, and after she fell into a coma in the same fight that killed Raph, he only kept her alive out of spite. He then punches through the protective glass of her container, fatally exposing her to the outside air.
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: After the Last Ronin survives his seppuku attempt in the first issue, he makes a point to keep trying to stop Oroku Hiroto as his final mission instead of trying to go through with another seppuku attempt. He succeeds in killing Oroku Hiroto, and in a way that results in a Mutual Kill.
  • Monumental Damage: The Manhattan Bridge has been destroyed, helping Hiroto to keep Manhattan as a Citadel City.
  • Mutual Kill:
    • In the comic's backstory, Raphael dies attempting this on Karai. Though she survives, she is put into a coma.
    • In the comic's final issue, this is also how Mikey and Hiroto die, with Hiroto electrocuting them both. Mikey lives long enough to give some parting words to Casey.
  • Mythology Gag: Several to different incarnations of the franchise:
    • April's home and antique store, Second Time Around in issue 2 looks identical to its appearance in the 1990 movie.
    • In issue 2, as Raph rushes to kill Karai, one panel has him making the exact same pose as he made in the very first page of the second issue of the original Mirage comics, that introduced Baxter Stockman and April O'Neil.
    • During Casey Jones and Leo's Last Stand in issue 3, Casey partially quotes his 1990 movie self "The class is Pain 101 and your instructor is—" before getting cut off.
    • The robotic Foot soldiers Mike, Casey and Leo face right before the death of the latter two are an homage to the Foot soldiers from the 1987 animated series.
    • Casey Marie Jones briefly says to the Last Ronin "You wouldn't even be standin' here if it wasn't for us", similar to the 1990 movie version of her father who said a similar line to April in the farm. The Ronin even remarks that she reminds him of her father after hearing that.
    • Throughout the story, the internal monologue of the Last Ronin says the phrase "Same as it ever was" twice, which may be a reference to the episode "Same as it never Was", an episode from the 2003 animated series, which similarly dealt with a Bad Future where the Shredder was the ruler of New York, Casey and Splinter are dead, Donatello had disappeared and the remaining turtles went separate ways.
    • April unveils a tank like vehicle which she refers to in the final issue as the "Battle Wagon", a reference to the Battle Shell and the Party Wagon.
    • In the end, when Mike is reunited with his fallen family in a Nostalgia Heaven, the turtles all have slightly different skin tones, similar to their 2003 series counterparts and Splinter wears a pink kimono like his 1987 series counterpart.
    • In issue five, after Mikey dies Casey Jr. is shown wearing a yellow shirt with a white five on it, a clear reference to 2012 April's shirt.
  • Never Mess with Granny: April is now a much older woman and missing an arm and a leg, but she has prosthetics to replace her lost limbs, and is the still-badass leader of La Résistance, fighting alongside her daughter Casey Marie, Michelangelo, and the rest of the resistance to free New York from the Foot Clan. To make this trope more literal, she becomes a grandmother to the next generation of the Hamato Clan - Yi, Moja, Uno, and Odyn - in the sequel.
  • Nostalgia Heaven: The afterlife Mikey is in at the end of the final issue is shown to be New York City as it was when he and his brothers were teenagers, with Splinter and Casey right besides them.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: Exact ages are never given, but Hiroto assumed leadership of the Foot Clan at all of six years old, so he's definitely younger than the turtles (who were most likely teenagers at the time).
  • Pineapple Ruins Pizza: Leonardo and Casey Jones' Last Stand against Baxter Stockman's Mousers has them cracking a few jokes about pizzas as they face their foes and before meeting their ends.
    Casey: Your turn to buy the pizza when we're through.
    Leo: Yep. But I pick the toppings. Ham, pineapple, and jalapeño...
    Casey: What is wrong with you?!
  • Related Differently in the Adaptation: The sequel reveals that in this continuity, Oroku Nagi was Saki's father instead of older brother. Likewise, Karai is Saki's daughter, but this has been done in other continuities already.
  • The Remnant: The Last Ronin, as his name indicates, is the last of the Hamato Clan, and seeks to avenge his family by taking down Hiroto and ending the feud between the Hamato and Foot Clans once and for all.
  • Red Herring: The titular Ronin isn't identified for most of the first issue, notably wielding all four of the turtle's weapons and wearing a black mask. Going off the TMNT's usual personalities and the Ronin's general stoic ruthlessness, Raph would seem to be the obvious assumption, a darker Leo coming in second. It makes the reveal that he's none other than Mikey genuinely impactful, not much of the light-hearted, carefree jokester remaining in this dark future.
  • The Reveal:
    • At the end of Issue 1, the Last Ronin is addressed by an aged April O'Neil by name, revealing that the Last Ronin is Michelangelo, and thus that Leonardo, Raphael, and Donatello are all dead.
    • In Issue 4, it's revealed that Casey Marie has mutant abilities such as enhanced strength, speed and healing.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Both Raph and Splinter meet their ends this way, letting their anger over the deaths of their loved ones by the Foot Clan cloud their judgement, and they die needlessly.
  • Rōnin: Michelangelo, though not in the strictest sense of the word. In Feudal Japan, a ronin was a samurai without a master, generally due to the former master's death, individual samurai's disgrace, or the destruction of his master's clan. It was common for ronins to become ninjas. Mikey, on the other hand, was always a ninja, but he did lose his father and sensei Master Splinter and his brothers.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Raphael dies trying to Mutual Kill Karai under the belief that Splinter had died from her betrayal. Not only had Splinter survived the Foot attack, but Karai would also survive, though she would fall into a coma.
  • Seppuku: The Ronin attempts to do this with Leo's broken katana after failing to kill Hiroto, laying out the katana, Mikey's nunchucks, Raph's sai, and Donny's bo staff, and the four different-colored eye masks while he does it. But the Ronin passes out from the bloodloss of the wounds he's already sustained before he can do it. After being nursed back to consciousness by April, the Ronin decides to resume his mission to kill Hiroto again rather than make another attempt at seppuku, albeit with the expectation that he's not going to be alive once the mission is over.
  • Sequel Hook: As Mikey dies, he entrusts Casey with Splinter's journal. In the epilogue some time later, we see that Casey has adopted turtles of her own to make into mutants and teach them everything she knows.
  • Sole Survivor: The Last Ronin is the only surviving Ninja Turtle after Karai and Hiroto killed his brothers.
  • Spirit Advisor: The deceased turtles appear to the Last Ronin as spirits and give him advice, though it's not entirely clear whether they are truly their ghosts or hallucinations.
  • Stronger with Age: Implied to be the case with the Ronin and stated to be the case with Casey Marie.
  • Snow Means Death: Both Donatello and Splinter die on a snow covered battlefield in Japan. Subverted by the Ronin, he tries to commit suicide on a snow covered mountain but the voice of Master Splinter convinces him not to.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Hiroto and Baxter Stockman can't stand one another and each considers the other an annoying necessity for their schemes.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: It's not unjustified, given everything he's been through, but the bitter, somewhat condescending Ronin is a far cry from the cheerful, unflinchingly energetic Mikey.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The Ronin wields his brothers’ weapons and carries their masks.
  • The Unfettered: Hiroto. It's stated that his predecessors, despite being treacherous, still maintained some honorable tendencies while he has absolutely none.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Honeycutt says this as he attempts to self-destruct to destroy the mousers and keep himself out of Stockman's hands. He says it again to Stockman after being reactivated by April and while performing a Heroic Sacrifice.

Know peace.