Review: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Best of Leonardo’ Puts Spotlight On The Turtles Stalwart Leader
by Scott Redmond
IDW Publishing’s newest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle anthology series moves its focus onto the team’s long-time leader with three tales spanning various eras of TMNT history.
If most were asked to describe Leonardo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, their minds would go instantly to him being the leader of the group. It is his role in the foursome and is even mentioned in the cartoon theme songs. Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael cool but rude and Michelangelo is a party dude.
That’s not all that one can use as a way to describe him though. Leonardo is steadfast and loyal, cool under pressure but takes the weight of the world upon his shoulders, cares deeply for his family, and will never back down from a fight.
All of that is on display as the blue masked Turtle is the focus of IDW’s latest anthology issue Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Best of Leonardo. The book is an anthology in the sense that it gathers three Leonardo focused issues, giving almost 100 pages of content, with one from the original Mirage era of TMNT and two entries from the more modern IDW era.
“TMNT: Leonardo Micro-Series” is a Mirage era tale from TMNT creators Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird with Steve Bissette, Michael Dooney, Ryan Brown and Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios along for the ride. It is a silent tale of Leonardo taking on swarms of Foot Soldiers across the streets and rooftops of New York City, not a single word bubble filling those pages, butted up against a not silent tale of April, Splinter and the other Turtles preparing for the Christmas holidays. It fully showcases many of the aforementioned qualities of Leonardo as he stands against an overwhelming threat till the very end when the two stories literally come crashing together.
The art is beautifully colorful and rendered, amazing in the simplicity at times as there is no need to fill in backgrounds as the colors and the action do the work. There is a dynamic sense of energy flowing through it, much like many of the more recent TMNT series have attempted and succeeded at capturing in their own way.
Since the IDW TMNT world is a modernizing and remixing of the Mirage and other eras (with Eastman involved in the new world from the beginning to the present) the second story in the issue is also a “TMNT: Leonardo Micro-Series” one that is a riff on the first story. Brian Lynch, Sophie Campbell, Jay Fotos, and Shawn Lee tell their own tale of Leonardo against the Foot Clan as the Turtles leader is on the hunt through the city for their missing father, Splinter. There is quite a bit more talking from this Leonardo vs the Foot story, but it’s still effective as he’s a younger, somewhat brasher version of himself. The battles between the issues end similarly but unlike the first where Leo is left broken and harmed, this Leo emerges from defeat determined and focused.
As with the previous issue, the art does most of the heavy lifting as the frantic nature of the constant fight spills across each page culminating in a rain-soaked final battle. Campbell’s art stands tall, fitting since she recently became the head writer and often artist of the main book, especially the use of the flashbacks within a shape reminiscent of looking through the eye hole of Leonardo’s mask.
Lastly in the issue comes “TMNT: Leonardo Macro Series” with Campbell handling both writing and art, a short while before she moved over to the main series, with Brittany Peer on colors and Shawn Lee again on letters. While the focus of the first two issues was Leonardo deep in battle across the whole thing, this one focuses on some action, but more on a contemplative and frustrated Leonardo. A young man trying to find his standing with his family, and what he truly wants in this world and is meant to do.
Campbell’s issues are always gorgeous to look at, this one especially with Peer’s great coloring work, because there is so much emotion and story told with just a look at the Turtles. Each of the Turtles (and all other characters) comes off as distinct beyond their mask colors and weapon choices. Their eyes are different colors and stand out, they hold themselves differently, body language is unique, and much more.
The issue really takes a turn into the surreal, gorgeous realms during any scene where the astral projection comes into play and some of the mystical energies that surround Leo and Koya, one of the Foot characters featured heavily in the issue.
Story-wise, the issue ties much more into current, at the time it came out, events of the TMNT world than the other two did (they stood alone just a bit more) but at the same time it’s more of a character study piece. It’s not just a study of Leonardo though, but also Koya and Foot Leader wannabe Karai and even the other Turtles in a small part.
Overall, the entire issue is well worth the $5.99 for three solid Leonardo focused issues. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Best of Leonardo is now on sale from IDW Publishing at local comic shops or digitally on ComiXology.