LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD for Last Ronin #1
The Last Ronin is a landmark story for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It feels like the start of a new direction and has the possibility of fresh opportunities. This is strange, though, as the concept was laid out in 1987. Luckily for us, the old idea was dug up and is being modernized and presented now. The book’s format is a larger size with bigger panels and a longer length for a more cinematic experience that makes the book stand out. To top it all off, though, and really connect the dots on the story and whole idea, a director’s cut of the first issue was released this week. The timing on this feels pretty good between the second and third issues as it spoils a few things slightly and confirms a few others while leaving you still more excited for what’s to come. Although there is TMNT lore within the story, anyone can jump into The Last Ronin and start with the director’s cut.
Issue #1 Summary
The first issue follows a single turtle on a mission in a desolate-looking future. The turtle’s identity isn’t revealed. Although he talks with the other turtles on the mission, they aren’t explicitly named either. The lone turtle looks larger, ragged, and is more gritty than any version we have seen before. This is in part due to all the armor and weapons he is carrying. He storms a particularly fortress-looking tower in the middle of a visionary but familiar city. We learn that the turtle is out for revenge at any cost against The Shredder’s grandson Oroku Hiroto. Hiroto, who has taken over the Foot and made some advancements in their technology, is surprised there are any living turtles left. The book ends with us learning who the sole remaining turtle is and learning that he has a few friends still out there.
Issue #1 Review
This first issue is a lot of fun. It’s both action-packed and mysterious. I engaged in the action but equally interested in finding out more about the turtles’ story in this timeline. We get to see a well-armed, hardened warrior execute an attack plan with ninja style. We also get glimpses of the future and advancements in technology within society, primarily amongst the villains who lead the oppressive upper class. The pacing and scenes feel cinematic, and my only regret is that the story doesn’t continue at the end of the last page. TMNT based comic or not, it’s well thought out and entertaining without giving it all away quite yet. I will say, though, that I enjoyed it more after going through the director’s cut notes and rereading the issue.
The director’s cut adds about 24 pages of creative content and notes at the end of the issue. So you get the entire original issue #1 plus the added material afterward. The additional content does add $2 to the retail price making the comic a whopping $10.99. Despite the price, I think the insider look into the initial planning and the creative steps to make this comic are worthwhile. I would say go straight for the director’s cut if you have the option to choose. The only reason you would need both is to make side-by-side comparisons of the concepts and visualizations in the director’s cut to the final product(which I did do). Otherwise, you could easily read the first issue, go through the concepts, notes, and storyboards one by one and then flip back to the book’s final product.
What’s In It?
The director’s cut comes with a letter from February 2021 from Tom Waltz. He helped with the story for this project and worked with Eastman on previous, ongoing TMNT books. The letter explains his role in the whole process and somewhat how the book came to fruition.
There are two pages of meeting notes about the story and concept from original creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1987. These pages have additional handwritten notes around the type and notation from Eastman from 2019. I thought these pages were fascinating, as they mention different parts of the story and hint at what could have been and what may still come to be.
There are 10 pages of page layouts by Eastman that are almost identical to the final product. These have written notes around them with extra details and things to consider. These were a lot of fun to compare. It’s neat to see noticeable beats captured and later reproduced, including some initial script lines. There are about 10 pages of character designs. These vary from detailed notes to what looks like possible variant covers or future issue covers. Here the breakdown of the last turtle’s armor and weapons really shines. Everything is completely separated, described, and laid out. This may be the most enlightening and meaty piece of content in the director’s cut for those who are detail-oriented and fans of the creative process.
My Thoughts on the Director’s Cut
I can’t recall a director’s cut of a comic that I’ve experienced and enjoyed like this one. It provided insight and depth to the world, characters, and tone of the story. Perhaps that’s because this is an ongoing tale, and I’m anxious for more content. Either way, this insider look seems to connect to the original TMNT creative spirit. Some of the hints at possible future plot points within the meeting notes and some of the designs got me excited. Hopefully, they won’t completely ruin my reaction to them if they appear later.
Overall I think the delivery of The Last Ronin #1 Director’s Cut is a success. It’s timely, informative, and full of content that I enjoyed that I otherwise would never have seen. Seeing the thought process and notes on things that didn’t end up in the final product actually help me better grasp the comic and what the creators are trying to do. I recommend the director’s cut to fans of TMNT, creators of any kind, and anyone who wants to jump into the series properly.