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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Everything you need to know about breakout hit The Last Ronin

The alternate future version of the beloved franchise topped sales charts last year, and looks set to do the same thing this year

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin
Image credit: Esau Escorza & Issac Escorza/IDW Publishing

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The most popular western comic book in U.S. bookstores last year didn’t come from Marvel or DC, and it didn’t feature a reality-shaking menace that threatened to reveal that everything you knew was wrong (again). Instead, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin — a collected edition of a miniseries that launched in late 2020 — was a dark, thrilling ending to the TMNT canon as fans knew it… and the start of something new, as well.

The book’s success, outselling all-but-one manga title in the country (Damn you, Demon Slayer!), wasn’t a fluke, either; the first issue of the newly-launched sequel has already topped 140,000 orders, with the first issue already being rushed back to press.

All of this might come as a surprise to people unfamiliar with The Last Ronin. That’s where we come in, helping you get up to speed on what is undoubtedly the hottest thing in U.S. comics right now.

What is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin?

The Last Ronin started in 2020 as a five-issue comic book miniseries set in an alternate future version of TMNT canon; in that future, all but one Turtle is dead, and he works tirelessly to avenge their deaths by killing the grandson of the Shredder. That’s not merely a revenge thing, though; the Shredder’s grandson, Oromo Hiroto is the fascist leader of the Foot clan, which has taken over New York City using “synthetic ninjas” called Synjas. (Well, wouldn’t you?)

The miniseries was such a success that it didn’t just lead to more comic books — 2023’s five-issue Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin - Lost Years series, and 2024’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin II - Re-Evolution — but also a video game that was announced in late 2023.

Who is TMNT: The Last Ronin?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin
Image credit: Esau Escorza & Issac Escorza/IDW Publishing

As revealed in the original miniseries, only Michelangelo survived a brutal war between the Turtles and the Foot clan that broke an uneasy truce between the two. The conflict didn’t just kill the three other Turtles, but also Master Splinter and Casey Jones, the group’s human vigilante companion. As the Foot clan took over New York, Michelangelo left the city to live in solitude, before returning to finish fight that his brothers had started.

Spoilers for the original series follow. Be warned!

He is ultimately successful, thanks to the help of April O’Neill (now April Jones, having married the late Casey) and her daughter, Casie Marie Jones; unfortunately, his victory comes with a cost — while he doesn’t kill Hiroto — who dies because he electrocutes himself — he is mortally wounded in the battle, and he dies, joining his family in the afterlife. He leaves behind a special legacy, however: four baby mutant turtles.

Who are the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Introduced at the end of the original Last Ronin series, the four new Turtles are teenagers by the time The Last Ronin II begins, and have been trained in the ways of the ninja by Casey Marie Jones, who’s taken on the sensei role that Splinter played with the original group. The new group is made up of Odyn, Moja, Uno, and Yi — each named for the number one in different languages, if you’re trying to work out their naming structure — and, as the new series opens, they’re at the start of a career protecting the city, just like their forerunners. But this is a different kind of city now, with different kind of threats facing it…

You can read what we thought of the first issue right here.

What do I have to read to catch up with The Last Ronin?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin
Image credit: Esau Escorza & Issac Escorza/IDW Publishing

Thankfully, the Ronin-verse is still relatively new, and therefore newcomers to the story don’t have a lot to catch up on. These are the comics that make up the Last Ronin story for now:

For completists, there is also a Director’s Cut version of the first series, which features over 70 pages of behind-the-scenes material including designs, behind-the-scenes sketches, and the original incarnation of the idea from Turtles creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

Already, TMNT: The Last Ronin II #1 has become one of the most-reordered advance releases of 2024 — a sign that fans and retailers alike are ready for this new generation of the property.

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Graeme McMillan: Popverse Editor Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.
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