Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #56

First things first: OH THANK GOD MATEUS SANTOLOUCO IS BACK!

This is not even remotely a knock against the previous few issues' artwork, but is instead a testament to how damn good Santolouco is, and how integral his work is to this book. 

The man draws basically the best-looking anthropomorphic animals this side of Ben Dewey, and his design of not just the Turtles, but his improvements on the entire cast of characters in their universe has made this book one of the very best on the shelves today. And he's back, thank the Great Burning Eye. 

This issue not only sees the return of Santolouco (one of the most, if not THE most, underrated artists working today), but also the return of a prodigal son, the return to an epic battle scene, and the return of a character some of us have been waiting for since IDW put out issue #1. 

Michelangelo returns to the Fab Four after a brief tangent with the Mighty Mutanimals, and his presence is immediately appreciated by the Turtles AND the reader - he injects the levity that is sorely missed in his absence. 

The gang return to Burnow Island, where they last battled General Krang and his Utrom henchmen in their quest to conquer this dimension. The island has been terraformed since the battle, with the Technodrome affecting the composition of the island and its mysterious inhabitants. One of those inhabitants happens to be....

Leatherhead!

This marks the giant gator's first appearance in the IDW realm, and Eastman & Waltz & Curnow weave a new origin for him that vastly deviates from his appearances in the Archie and Mirage series: in this he was a simple alligator who encountered some of the Utrom's mutagen sometime in the 18th century, and has spent his many years since mutating on Burnow Island and avoiding contact with the various occupants. Once the island was infected by the Technodrome and turned deadly, he made a deal with the Fugitoid and the Turtles to escape his now-tainted home.

Since this is the start of a new arc, we only get snippets of future dread, like how the mysterious silhouettes on the island will interact with the good guys, or how Splinter has assigned someone to stand guard at Shredder's tomb. And yet there is so much damn good in this issue that waiting for the next one will be an exquisite torture.

Also: SANTOLOUCO IS BACK! 

LOWDOWN: 9 out of 10 pelvic thrusts. Love the new arc, love the mystery, and fucking LURVE Santolouco's triumphant resuming of artistic duties.