Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #56 (IDW)
Leatherhead has always been my favorite Ninja Turtles character. From the moment I saw his action figure hanging by itself at a Child's World toy store, I knew I needed him. I didn’t get to own him until 13 years later (that’s a story for a different day), but I still get excited when Leatherhead shows up in different TMNT projects. So you can imagine my excitement when the IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles writing team of Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz FINALLY started to tease the character, leading to his full debut in this week’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #56.
I was initially expecting Leatherhead to only be in a few panels, but much to my surprise he plays a pretty big role in this issue. It’s revealed that he was the one who helped restore Donatello to health, and in return, he wants to go to New York City with the Turtles to see more of the world. Naturally, the Turtles aren’t convinced that he’s telling the truth, despite their friend Fugitoid backing up Leatherhead’s claims.
Like all versions of classic TMNT characters, writers Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz update and modernize Leatherhead for this new “IDW verse”. This version of Leatherhead isn’t a former Australian outbacker who ran afoul of some ooze; instead he’s an ancient Alligator who had some ooze dropped on him from some pirates in the background of the Turtles in Time miniseries. Waltz and Eastman present this version of Leatherhead as a surprisingly intelligent and thoughtful creature, but there are definitely some hints to some darkness within him, as he mentions having to fight his animal tendencies.
Mateus Santolouco has been sorely missed from Ninja Turtles, but the icing on the Leatherhead cake is that he’s back on art duties for this issue. Santolouco’s easily the best artist in the IDW TMNT stable, and there are tons of awesome details in his pencils. His turtles are all fantastic with visibly distinct personalities, and I love his redesign for Leatherhead, who looks extremely imposing.
My bias for Leatherhead is probably affecting my thoughts on this issue (there’s tons of B plot stuff here from previous TMNT side miniseries that comes into play in this issue pretty awkwardly), but it’s undeniably cool to see a character that I’ve loved since I was 4 years old come back. The team of Eastman, Waltz, and Santolouco have the right idea when it comes to reintroducing classic characters from the cartoon in new and interesting ways, and I can’t wait to see what else they’ve got planned for Leatherhead.