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The Last Ronin (Armored)

TMNT: The Last Ronin
by yo go re

Welcome to the grim darkness of the far near future.

Who is the Last Ronin? In a future, battle-ravaged New Yorck City, a lone surviving Turtle embarks on a seemingly hopeless mission seeking justice for the family he lost. [...] What terrible events destroyed his family and left New York a crumbling, post-apocalyptic nightmare?

It's not really a mystery who the Last Ronin is. Like, the story doesn't immediately tell us, but it's not like they're trying to keep it from us or make us guess, either; his identity is revealed by the end of the first issue, by the first person he meets. So if you want to know, it's easy to find out; but if you don't want to know, we're not going to tell you in this review. Just know that it is either Roninardo, Roninaneglo, Ronitello, or Ronphael.

Part of the concealment is his mask: rather than his old color (or, even though this book reunites original TMNT creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the old "everybody wears red" [because that would hint Raphael]), "Hie-Ronin-ymus Bosch" here wears black - and so do the three ghosts who haunt him. [ah, Giftsmas Past, Present, and Future --ed.] No. [Phineas, Ezra, and Gus? --ed.] No! [Slimer, Stay-Puft, an] His brothers! Stop interrupting!

This is the Armored Last Ronin, so he's wearing his full outfit. (The Unarmored version has just begun showing up, as well, and it's looking pretty nice itself.) Traditionally, the Turtles have just worn belts, wristbands, and knee- and elbow-pads, but Ronny is kitted out in a thick jacket with heavy pads over the shoulders, metal bracers on the forearms, a belt with extra pouches for storage, round pads protecting the elbows, thick pants, a pad over the left knee and a rounded cap on the right, layered greaves that circle the entire shin, and flat sandals. Paul Harding did the sculpt, because he's one of the major artists in the industry right now, and of course everything looks wonderful.

Last Ronin is a dark comic, both in tone and in design. Geoff Trapp and Mike Puzzo's paint matches Luis Antonio Delgado's muted color palette from the book. Most of the clothes are a dark blue, but with shadows and highlights painted on to accenturate the sculpt - this is a comicbook figure, after all. Ronin's skin is a desaturated green, with the wrinkles given a dark black lining to somewhat suggest the book's inking. His bracers are dark grey, with flashes of silver to make it look like the finish has gotten scraped off during fights. This is by no means a colorful figure, but the paint is done excellently, and he absolutely looks like someone who could disappear into the shadows.

This is a very chunky figure, with broad, thick proportions, but it still moves nicely. Ron has swivel/hinge feet, swivels at the bottom of the shin, double-hinged knees, sivel thighs, balljointed hips, a balljoint waist, swivel/hinge wrists, double-swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/ hinge shoulders, and a barbell head. The pegs on the wrists are surprisingly thin for the size of the limbs, so you may want to be careful with that. The figure can either have fists, open hands, or hands to hold his accessories.

Helping obfuscate which Turtle this is, the Last Ronin honors his fallen brothers by carrying everyone's weapons: a katana from Leo, one of Michelangelo's nunchucks, a single sai from Raphael, and Dontello's bo staff. Because he's not stuck in the past, he's also got some sort of industrial-looking tonfa, a grappling hook with a real string, a round smoke bomb, and four ninja stars. Nice! The stars don't seem like he'd be able to really hold them, but they've just thick enough in the center to be gingerly pinched between his thumb and forefinger. The smoke bomb will fit into the palm of a gripping hand, as well. This is some really good stuff, all fabricated by Paul Harding as well.

It's hard to figure out how all the pieces are supposed to attach to the figure. None of NECA's stock photos show the figure from behind, and the art in the comic is inconsistent. It's easy enough to tell the sword's scabbard and the bo staff go into the ring he's got tied to his back, though that thing feels worryingly flimsy: like, it's already a bit flexible, which makes us fret about it snapping sometime when you're trying to jam the weapons in there (it's a very tight fit), and the fact it's only held onto the toy by two actual strings means if either of those should break, it's now useless. And why just two? The art shows four, which would feel much sturdier. It definitely seems like he keeps his sai on the front of his belt, but it's also shown in the back pretty regularly in the book (suggesting he in fact carries two of them, not just one). You can put the nunchucks into the larger loop in the center of the back, but then what's that smaller loop on the left for? The tonfa won't fit, the grappling hook won't fit, the shuriken won't fit, the smoke bomb won't fit... none of those get any storage on the toy, but there's an extra unused belt loop? Weird. Maybe you're supposed to painstakingly feed the grapnel's 17" cord through it?

The figure includes two heads: one with the mouth open, the other with the teeth gritted. The hood on the jacket is a separate piece, so you can have either head displayed either way you want. To keep it steady when you're turning the head, the hood actually plugs into the base of the skull the same place his mask's ties go. That's right, you don't have to worry about them being in the way! We get actually two ties to choose from, a long pair sticking straight back, and a shorter pair that can drape over the shoulder. Taking the heads off will make it easier to hang Ronin's goggles around his neck, which is how he's most often wearing them in the comic. You can fit them onto the toy, thanks to the elastic band, but the extra-round shape of the head and the lack of any way to "attach" them means they're liable to slip off. The trick? Put them under the peg that attaches the bandana ties or hood. (Yes, that means you'll have to take the head off if you want to have him wear the goggles and hood together.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has always been influenced by the work of Frank Miller, and The Last Ronin is its Dark Knight Returns: story set in the future, a thicker, heavier art style, etc. There are even a few specific shout-outs to let us know Eastman and Laird (and Tom Waltz) want us to make the comparison. It's a pretty good comic, and NECA has revealed we'll be getting more figures from it. No spoilers here, so don't look them up unless you want to know who's who. This is a really nice toy, with a few little oddities in the way it deals with its accessories, but still a lot of fun.

PS: the Last Ronin is secretly Casey Jones. Spoilers!

-- 01/26/23

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