Warning! Spoilers ahead for The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #2 by Tom Waltz, Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman, Esau Escorza and Isaac Escorza!
When compared to his brothers, it makes sense that IDW chose Michelangelo to become the lone surviving turtle in The Last Ronin because of how much more he would have to change from the fun-loving, goofy airhead in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to fit the role of the dark, brooding warrior. But the series would have benefited so much more if IDW selected the former-human-gone-mutant-turtle Jennika instead. Her past ties both with Shredder’s Foot Clan and the mother of its current leader would have made for a far more compelling read, especially since her growing popularity with fans recently forced IDW to launch a new sequel to her original solo series.
Mikey and his brothers might have been fighting the Foot Clan for longer than Jennika has even been a character in TMNT, but her connections with the clan run deeper. She once served as an assassin under Shredder. In fact, she was so intertwined with his clan that, when Splinter took over upon Shredder’s death, Jennika faced the rat in combat because she felt Splinter’s outright rejection of the Foot Clan’s kill-first-ask-questions-later methodology would lead to their destruction. The fact that she later came to both love and respect Splinter reveals an interesting dichotomy between her appreciation for the old ways and the rat who took that away from her. It also proves how much she’s willing to evolve to remain in service of a clan that’s clearly so important to her.
The complexity of Jennika’s relationship with Master Splinter and how deeply her identity is ensconced in the Foot Clan are crucial to realize when taking into account recent developments in The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #2 written by Tom Waltz, Peter Laird and artist Kevin Eastman with art by Esau Escorza and Isaac Escorza. The issue begins with a flashback of Splinter’s death at the hands of the Foot Clan, an atrocity that leads to Raphael dying in his effort to avenge his death. While Raphael’s passing is tragic, the battle would have been far more powerful if Jennika had been involved in some way, especially when taking into account the identity of Raphael’s killer: Karai, the new leader of the Foot Clan.
Jennika shares a rather unique past with Karai, who is indirectly responsible for Jennika’s mutant transformation from a human into a turtle. After falling out of favor with and defecting from the Foot Clan, Karai later tried to recruit Jennika into her new group, but when Karai’s attempt failed, she dealt a fatal blow to Jennika, an unfortunate occurrence that could only be remedied with a blood transfusion from Leonardo (hence her mutation). With such a shared pivotal moment, Jennika’s presence during Raphael’s battle with Karai would have undoubtedly caused additional tension and conflict during an already tense and conflict-filled situation.
Also important to note, Michelangelo’s main adversary in The Last Ronin is Karai’s son, Hiroto. Jennika having such a complicated history with Hiroto’s mother would have only made their confrontation more dramatic. In contrast, Michelangelo only perceives Hiroto as Shredder’s grandson, making the villain twice removed from Mikey’s main nemesis (Shredder), while Hiroto is only once removed from Jennika’s (Karai). Compounding what would have already been a more compelling rivalry, Jennika has been struggling with her former identity as Shredder’s assassin in IDW’s main Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Jennika wants to leave those days behind and believes that she has, but she perpetually finds herself in situations where she’s tempted to embrace her more violent ways once again. This not only frustrates her, but makes her more likely to succumb to these temptations as she oftentimes lashes out violently whenever she’s angry. As the Last Ronin, Jennika would have had to contend with this inner duality during the battle with Karai when Raphael dies and then later when she would have confronted her son Hiroto.