Every now and again, I’m reminded that I live during a time in which we have been able to enjoy wonderful people and experiences like David Bowie, Robin Williams, and Star Wars. There are so many things that I could add to that list, and while reading The Last Ronin, one of those items is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Maybe if I had been born in the ’20s and ’30s, I would have felt this way about Errol Flynn or Charlie Chaplin (who died a year before I was born and is one of my comedy and filmmaking idols), but during my youth, it was all about TMNT. As a kid, it was the indie comic (made more for adults). Then, as a pre-teen, it was the cartoon (made for kids), and as I became a teenager, it was the movie made for teenagers, and so on and so forth. I played every game. I had every poster hanging on my wall. I knew every lyric to every theme song (and still mostly do.)
Reading this third issue of The Last Ronin (and in reading all of the issues of the series), I’m taken both backward and forward. I’m taken back to the excitement I first felt upon discovering these four brothers, how they saturated every moment of my life. Let me tell you there are specifically a few moments in this issue, visual moments, that hit deep and hit hard. I emitted a single sob that built up from somewhere in my heart, a sob of loss and memory, but I move forward, as well. I move forward with the story, knowing that stories change, life changes, but that in the end, it’s always worth hoping for and fighting to live. The parallels between what we’ve collectively been through this past year and the trauma endured in this story, it feels far more meaningful.
How much have we lost? How much have we changed? How much trauma have we endured? To recognize this loss of the innocence with Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, April, Splinter, and Casey Jones and to see those that are still part of this story choosing to move forward—it means a lot, especially during times where I wondered what the worth of moving forward was. In the small ways, I’ve thought about stopping buying comics, and in the large ways, I’ve thought about not following my passions, no longer fighting forward. Maybe a lot of us have felt that.
Maybe it’s the wine that I’ve been drinking while reading this issue and while writing this, I guess you could call it a review, though it feels more like a journal entry that I’m sharing. I don’t think it’s the wine. I think it’s the story. I think it’s the power that characters have over our mental state, that these characters have over mine. I needed something to look to again, and I’m both surprised but at the same time not at all surprised to find it with the Turtles.
Like many people, I’m a mess. I’m sobbing as I write this, because that’s the power of story. It can unlock something, it can make vulnerable a wall you’ve built up. Maybe you needed that wall, maybe it was necessary for a time, but it’s not a fun thing to live behind forever. And I know there’s more catharsis than what I’m feeling right now. There’s more that needs to be released. That maybe this is simply opening me up to the next step forward away from the nightmare of the past year, and goddamit, if these childhood friends are the ones helping me, I accept. I hope we all find this thing that we need.
This series is so well done. Brilliance doesn’t begin right away, but slowly shows itself as the layers are added. With the first issue, the brilliance began to settle in when I realized which Turtle we’d been following. I remember thinking, “No. Not him. He shouldn’t be changed by trauma.” This book is about the loss of family and how it affects and changes us. The head of the Foot has lost, and we see in this issue how’s it changed him. The reality is, in some ways, we all have to change, but we all have to fight for who we were, for who we are. Giving in to defeat drives us to madness and worse. I don’t care how long it takes for the fourth issue to come out, I’ll be here to fight and live alongside the survivors.
Creative Team: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Tom Waltz (story), Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman (script), Kevin Eastman (layouts), Esau and Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, and Kevin Eastman (pencils/inks), Samuel Plata (color assistance), Luis Antonio Delgado (colors), Shawn Lee (letters), R.G Llarena (additional editorial coordination), Bobby Curnow (edits)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
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