The Last Ronin is setting new standards for acceptable violence in our Turtle stories. And it has a surprisingly prominent message.

Warning: Contains spoilers for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin # 2

It’s always hard to watch childhood heroes fall, and in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin the public is not spared an iota of visceral horror. Set in a dystopian future, each issue features the once fearless brothers engaged in bloody and fatal combat that often ends in brutal loss. This formula was pushed to the limit in the second issue (appropriately titled “First to Fall”), as Raphael met an ignominious end at the hands of the Shredder’s daughter, Karai. The last Ronin is a comment on the useless nature of violence despite its prominent place in our culture, spectacular as it may be. And how this violence is usually directed at those who least understand it: children.

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Though it may surprise some to hear, TMNT didn’t start out as a family-friendly, kid-oriented franchise. In the original comic, published by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird under their own Mirage imprint, the series walked a slightly more self-conscious and satirical line. There was always a bit of nonsense, how could there not be when the stories centered on a band of human-sized turtles teaching the ways of the shinobi through a giant talking rat? But, more often than one might think, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird would drift into more violent and desperate territory with the Turtle brothers, which is why it is so surprising that the main vehicle behind their franchise’s fame, the 1987 cartoon television series, it was such a child-centered affair. Many of those who grew up watching the series or playing with the popular line of toys produced by Playmates Toys Ltd. are now adults and that is why, most poignantly, The last Ronin The philosophical comment on violence seems to be more geared towards them.

Related: TMNT Last Ronin: Michelangelo’s Tragic Transformation Revealed

At the climax of TMNT: The Last Ronin # 2, written by Eastman, Laird, and Tom Waltz, Raphael literally plows his way through hordes of foot soldiers, a litany of deep cuts, cuts, stab wounds, and arrows piercing his body as the pages literally swirl. with blood. in an eerily unbalanced way. After he finally makes his way through this small army to Karai, she manages to take a kunai from his custom turtle armor and shove it straight into his brain at the same time as he puts a sai on his back. This incredible image, overwhelming in its heartbreaking detail in its own right (thanks to Eastman, Ben Bishop, and Esau & Isaac Escorza), is then reflected in an unexpectedly powerful place to elicit its incisive reaction: the reader’s own memory of playing with toys. of these characters as a child.

TMNT Last Ronin Raphael Vs Karai 2

For those who never had the privilege, Playmates Ltd. toys were incredibly popular during that time and came with a wide variety of weapons that the Turtles could use. Aimed primarily at 3- to 7-year-olds, the toys, while promoting the franchise as a whole, also encourage mock battles between the characters, some of them armed with all manner of bladed weapons. Battles that, with a child’s imagination, might resemble the kind of bloody carnage that takes place in The last Ronin.

Even with the cartoon’s effervescent and lively tone, it was impossible to deny that the Turtles and their associated characters were geared toward violent conflict, and this was the main selling point of the toys themselves. And while it may have seemed innocent enough at the time, in the hands-off culture of the ’80s /’ 90s, looking back there is a certain hoax to it – a hoax that its original creators, Eastman and Laird, are now subtly criticizing. your own participation in.

What haunting philosophical dilemmas TMNT: The Last Ronin enter the next? Issue 2 is on sale now, wherever the comics are sold.

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