TMNT: The Last Ronin – Lost Years Introduces a New Generation of Turtles

TMNT: The Last Ronin – Lost Years Introduces a New Generation of Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin was a big deal for the franchise. Not only was it the first collaboration in many years between TMNT creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the series also made headlines by revealing the twisted future of the TMNT universe. In this Dark Knight Returns-style series, Michelangelo is the sole surviving member of the Turtle family, a lone warrior hellbent on killing the grandson of Shredder.

Despite that grim premise, The Last Ronin ends on a surprisingly uplifting note. Even as Mikey dies a victorious death, a new quartet of mutant turtles are being raised under the watchful eye of April O’Neil and her daughter, Casey. The series definitely left room for a sequel, and that’s where TMNT: The Last Ronin – Lost Years comes in.

IGN was lucky enough to be the first outlet to speak with writer Tom Waltz about Lost Years and its ties to the original series. Read on to learn more about this continuation and how it aims to introduce a new generation of Ninja Turtles.

TMNT: The Last Ronin – The Lost Years Preview Gallery

The Impact of The Last Ronin

It’s no stretch to say The Last Ronin is one of the most successful releases in the IDW era of the franchise. Issue #2 is actually IDW’s most heavily printed single issue ever. But fans may not know that the origins of the series go back several decades, when Eastman and Laird developed their original pitch back in 1987. The Last Ronin is a story almost as old as TMNT itself.

“Kevin and I started discussing the evergreen potential of The Last Ronin from the very start, but neither of us ever expected the kind of reaction/connection the story has made with so many folks across such a wide demographical swath. To say we were (and continue to be) surprised is the understatement of the century,” Waltz tells IGN. “Personally, I could see how strong the foundational concept was from my first reading of Kevin and Peter’s amazing outline from 1987 — but knowing and doing are two very different things, and Kevin and I had our work cut out for us when it came to adapting/adjusting a 35-year-old outline into a tale that would still work for a modern audience.”

Waltz continues, “Luckily for us — and despite what the publishing delays we experienced might’ve indicated otherwise — molding The Last Ronin into a cohesive (and commercially and critically acclaimed) comic-book adventure came naturally to us. From the very start, what we now call the Roninverse began to clearly reveal itself, and Kevin and I knew we weren’t just doing something old… we were actually doing something new based on a timeless idea. And once we realized Ronin was its own thing — a new TMNT iteration — a lot of self-imposed canonical constraints fell away and we just started telling the best story we knew how to and hoped our fellow TMNT fans would fall in love with it like we were as we created it.”

“Kevin and I had our work cut out for us when it came to adapting/adjusting a 35-year-old outline into a tale that would still work for a modern audience.”

Given that success, it’s little wonder IDW greenlit a folllow-up comic. The final issue of The Last Ronin even directly sets the stage for a sequel. Even as Michelangelo perishes following his final battle with Oroku Hiroto, April and her daughter prepare to raise four baby turtles the same way Splinter once mentored his sons. Waltz tells IGN that this sad yet hopeful ending was always the one he and Eastman had in mind, even if the journey may have shifted along the way toward that destination.

“Michelangelo’s passing at the end of The Last Ronin #5 was always part of the plan,” Waltz says. “There was never any temptation to change the plan, but I will say that how we got to that point in the final issue was most definitely a fluid process. Much of The Last Ronin was plotted on the fly, meaning we let the characters and the concept actively guide us…literally from panel to panel sometimes.”

How Lost Years Connects to The Last Ronin

Lost Years is both a prequel and a sequel to The Last Ronin. As the title suggests, this book is partly devoted to fleshing out those 16 missing years between the deaths of Mikey’s brothers and the events of the original comic. We’ll see how the former jokester of the family became the battle-scarred, hardened warrior he is in the present.

The other half of the series, however, looks ahead after the events of The Last Ronin and the saga of the new Turtles. Each chapter in this five-issue series (along with a one-shot tie-in special called The Last Ronin: Lost Day) will jump forward in time, tracing these characters as they grow from infants to full-fledged Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their own right.

Lost Years is again plotted and written by Waltz and Eastman. Artist Ben Bishop and colorist Antonio Delgado are also returning, this time rendering the flash-forward sequences featuring the young Turtles. The flashbacks, meanwhile, will be illustrated by SL Gallant and inked by Maria Keane. The creative team also includes letterer Shawn Lee.

“In the five issues of Lost Years, we’ll be covering approximately 16 years, both past (Mikey’s adventures in Asia and Europe) and present/future (basically highlighting the new turtles as they grow from age 3 to age 16),” Waltz teases. “We’ll be filling in important plot/character details during those time periods…while also (hopefully) opening the doors for future tales to be told during the timeframe covered that we’re not able to get to in Lost Years (and/or Lost Day). In other words, we’re just getting started!”

Meet the New Ninja Turtles

Unsurprisingly, Waltz isn’t able to reveal much about the new family of Turtles at this early stage. Even their names and colors are being kept under wraps. However, IDW did provide IGN with an early look at Bishop’s character designs for the four characters. This is how he new Turtles will appear in Lost Years #5, once they reach teenage status:

As you can see, the new characters are quite a bit different from their predecessors, more reptilian in look and much more phsyically distinctive from one another.

“I will only say that every aspect of the new turtles has been actively/carefully discussed, debated, and agreed upon by all the collaborators involved,” Waltz says. “Each turtle will be an individual, with their own name and personality. What those names and personalities are…well, stick around! We’ve got some cool stuff to share with everyone!”

Waltz continues, “I will admit — it was terrifying at first, creating new turtles like this. But from the very first bit of new TMNT dialogue I typed into my trusty ol’ word processor, I knew in my heart and gut that this is something special…and that the time is right for it. The babies came alive at my fingertips…and even more so when Ben’s first designs started rolling in. They are very real and important to all of us working on the book…and I’m confident they will become that way to old and new TMNT fans alike when they are finally revealed to the world. And…bonus! We don’t have to lose our old turtles in the process. The family’s just getting bigger is all…and it’s been a true honor (and privilege) to be part of the expansion.”

With Lost Years ending just as the new Turtles reach maturity, it’s not exactly a stretch to assuem that IDW already has further sequels planned in the so-called Roninverse. Waltz couldn’t confirm whetehr or not another sequel is in the works, but it certainly sounds like a distinct possibility.

“I can’t say anything specifically, but it’s definitely not too soon to answer that we’d absolutely love The Last Ronin to be a long-term endeavor. We’d love that very much. Very, very much.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin – Lost Years #1 is available in stores now. Be sure to brush up on all the biggest comic books of 2023.

Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.

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