Leonardo (#1, Mirage, 1987) – Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman

5 out of 5

This is simply classic. Setting aside that it’s part of the original Eastman / Laird run of story-impactful issues, the Leonardo micro is one of those isolated story beats that’s familiar because its been recaptured across various TMNT iterations. Why? Because it’s a perfect balance of all of the title’s elements – its goofiness, its grittiness; family and vengeance – in one concise issue, giving each character some space for personality, while smartly relegating its generally most flat character, Leonardo, to the heavy-lifting of an extended action sequence, which is punctuated by the most badass of badass reveals. And that badass reveal – Shredder – is such a threat that we don’t even need to see the outcome of his battle with Leo: instead, just the aftermath, Leo tossed through a window and letting his family know… he’s back.

Yeah, fair ‘nough, objectively, there are things here that could be trimmed: the X-Mas decorating banter between April, the Turtles, and Splinter that runs across the bottom of each page doesn’t always serve a purpose except to fill that bottom panel, and similarly, Leo’s hunt across rooftops and streets of the Foot clan members that stalk him has a lot of ducking and dodging filler, but these are also just affects of choosing to go with the structure of the issue, and the structure is sound; the structure is grabbing – heavily duotoned, silent, beat-by-beat, tense, choreographed fight on top; silly yuks drawn with simple lines and minimal shading beneath. And again, I think what trumps it all is how well it captures everything the book (and its characters) is / can be about, as well as acting as an absolute showcase for the artistry, as the various locations and buildup of snow during Leonardo’s drawn out battle require ace execution, framing, and staging, nailed in every panel.