While the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books from IDW Publishing have gone down a grimdark path in recent times, The Last Ronin miniseries adheres to the darker storytelling of the original 1984 series. This is in no small part because creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's 20-page outline of a story set in post-apocalyptic New York City is the inspiration for it. Michelangelo is the last surviving turtle brother, still carrying on the good fight against the Foot Clan. In this techno-modern world ruled by Oroku Hiroto, grandson of Shredder, Michelangelo is still far from avenging the death of his family. That is until he meets Casey Marie Jones, leader of the resistance and daughter of April and Casey Jones. Written by Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, and Peter Laird with artwork from Esau Escorza, Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, Kevin Eastman, Luis Antonio Delgado, and Ronda Pattison, and lettering by Shawn Lee, TMNT: The Last Ronin finally comes to an end in Issue #5.
TMNT: The Last Ronin #5 is a gruesome revenge tale that culminates in a one-on-one brawl that takes readers everywhere, from the rooftops to the sewers of New York City, where it all began. The story opens with Michelangelo lamenting the loss of life during their last assault on Baxter Stockman's fortified island as the ghosts of his fallen brothers torment him. They rebuke him for not taking the initiative and launching a counterattack on Hiroto while the power outage continues. Hiroto himself is getting jumpy from his feeling of powerlessness as Michelangelo makes up his mind to go solo on this suicide mission, just like the first time he tried. Meanwhile, Casey finally confronts her mother about the mutagen in her.
After months of building suspense and laying down the groundwork for a final confrontation through flashbacks, TMNT: The Last Ronin #5 gets into the thick of the action, bringing the story full circle. For the second time, Michelangelo sets off to root out the evil that has taken hold of his life. There is a marked difference in his attitude now than at the start of the series. Michelangelo has found a family in the unlikeliest of places, and he is desperate to hold on to it, even if it means sacrificing himself. The plot branches out in multiple directions, following the characters as they face reality until all the narratives meet together for the final climax. Writer Tom Waltz packs the issue with stupefying action and relays information using The Dark Knight Returns-style first-person narration boxes that give a panel-by-panel breakdown of the martial arts choreography. With Michelangelo's sanity fracturing under the immense weight of his self-righteous journey, the fires of revenge are running on fumes.
Throughout the series, artists Esau and Isaac Escorza have remained faithful to the gritty, grim tone of Eastman's original illustrations. With the final issue, the duo brings their A-game, with bold inking and intricately detailed panels giving the book a raw aesthetic that matches the bloody nature of the tale. While the thin contour lines clash with the rough inking and some characters feature anatomical inaccuracies, the Escorzas design the stages like an effective boss battle, giving Hiroto a diabolical update. Meanwhile, Ben Bishop draws one of the most emotional moments in the entire arc, with colorists Luis Antonio Delgado and Ronda Pattison matching it with a warm, bright glow.
Despite a slow start and storylines that went nowhere, TMNT: The Last Ronin #5 hits like a freight train, rolling drama, suspense, and knuckle-dusting action into one contained narrative. The shadow of death has followed Michelangelo throughout his life, turning the once jovial turtle into a mean, green, killing machine. However, this time, he hesitates. If he hadn't found April or taken Casey under his tutelage, he would have never relearned the meaning of having a family. This time Michelangelo fights not only for his fallen brothers, dead friends, and late father but also for the family that is still living and breathing. TMNT: The Last Ronin #5 gives the characters the closure they deserve as the story ends with the hopes of a brighter future.