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Inside the TMNT rebirth - a spoiler-filled look at The Last Ronin II: Re-Evolution #1

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin II — Re-Evolution #1 spoilers ahead

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin II — Re-Evolution #1
Image credit: IDW Publishing

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If the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin series went back to the characters’ roots by pulling inspiration directly from Frank Miller’s '80s comic book work — the original TMNT was, in part, a Daredevil pastiche, and The Last Ronin owed no small debt to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns — then the new chapter in the saga, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin II — Re-Evolution seem set to look somewhere closer to home for its muse, feeling very much influenced by last year’s TMNT: Mutant Mayhem movie. It’s a shift that doesn’t simply work; it cements the series as feeling like the next generation of the canonical Turtles story.

For Turtles fans, it’s a chance to get a jump on a title that’s likely to follow the first series into best-selling phenomenon status; the collections of the first series were one of the top-selling comics of 2023, and have been issued in multiple editions, each of which have found an eager audience.

TMNT: The Last Ronin II — Re-Evolution #1 spoiler ahead; proceed at your own risk!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin II — Re-Evolution #1
Image credit: Esau Escorza/IDW Publishing

Re-Evolution is far from a retread of what’s previously worked as wa ssaid above — while the first book was the story of an aged Michelangelo fighting his final battle in an alternate future, and very much a story about endings and aging, this new series is a rebirth and renewal of much of the Turtles’ mythos, and the creation of new ways into the TMNT concept.

For example, there are four Turtle siblings at the center of the story, and they’re teenagers — but Odyn, Moja, Yi, and Uno are very different characters from their forerunners, all-too-aware of the legacy they have to live up to even as they try to forge their own identities, somewhat self-consciously and without pissing off their 'mom'… who is also their sensei, Casey Marie Jones — the daughter of the original Casey Jones and April O’Neil. (April’s still around, but Casey died in the first series.)

That sense of the Turtles as actual teenagers — at once awkward and self-serious, but unsure and looking to find themselves — is one of the influences of Mutant Mayhem that feels apparent in the first issue, but it’s far from the only thing: there’s a sense of possibility and potential in this first issue that matches the (very underrated) animated movie, as well as a playfulness that works as a counterpoint to the first series’ dark tone. If the first Last Ronin was a book, in part, about growing old, this new series feels young, with everything that brings with it. It’s a surprisingly fun direction for the series to take.

That’s not to say that everything that worked in that first series has been abandoned: the dystopian setting remains, and attempts to rebuild are clearly not going too well, as evidenced by rumors of a gang war that Casey Marie and the Turtles find first-hand evidence for in this first issue. Casey Marie and April’s weariness brings a necessary weight to the book, and a reminder that Michelangelo’s sacrifice in the previous series hasn’t been forgotten — and their presence as elder figures and mentors to the new team of Turtles adds a sense of continuity to prevent the series from feeling like a simple reboot of the property.

Ultimately, based on the first issue, Re-Evolution is a fitting title for this next generation of Turtles lore: it’s a new take on old ideas, but one that doesn’t seek to re-write or ignore what’s come before, in multiple different incarnations of the characters. It legitimately feels like a real sense of 'what’s next' for the Turtles not just as characters, but as a creative legacy moving forward. If this is the future, it’s one that a lot of people are going to be happy to live in.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin II — Re-Evolution #1 hits stores physically and digitally March 6.

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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