The calendar switched to December and suddenly we have been inundated by so much TMNT awesomeness. Like, my entire “Best of” list for 2020 has been turned on its ear due to all of the cool new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles releases. Bebops and Baxters and Krangs, and Mutagen Mans, oh my! Today, we continue our focus on Super7’s TMNT ULTIMATES! series two with a look at Leonardo and Shredder.
The TMNT area in my collection space is quickly becoming one of the biggest and most awesome displays I have. If you are a TMNT fan, it is such an amazing time to be a collector because your cartoon, video game, movie, comic, and vintage toy updates are all getting focus from various companies, and if you are like me, you need them ALL. The vintage Playmates line was my intro and first love when it comes to the property, so the work that Super7 and the Four Horsemen as doing with their ULTIMATES! line gives me all the feels. TMNT, along with Masters of the Universe and ThunderCats, is one of the most important, if not THE most important, toy lines from my youth, so the fact that they are all getting a common and amazing treatment is pretty bonkers to me.
The line kicked off strong last summer with SERIES 1, but as far as I am concerned, all cylinders have been locked in and are firing with the release of this second wave. I looked at Bebop and Mutagen Man last week, and while they are the toppings of the pizza that is this series, Leonardo and Shredder are the tasty crust that is the foundation of this assortment, Okay, so that is bad analogy, but Shredder and Leonardo are two of the most important characters to the entire TMNT mythos, so getting them together in this wave is a treat, even if Bobop and Shredder are flashier. Sure, I am sitting here waiting on series four so I can get my Donatello, but the field leader and cooperative foil to Raphael is most certainly needed and welcome this early in the line.
From a personal perspective, getting Bebop and Leo in the save wave is also fun for me due my own history with the characters. TMNT, like MOTU, was a line that collected with my younger brother. With He-Man, I got the bad guys, and he got the heroes, and we flipped that script for TMNT. That said, we each had a couple of figures from “the other side” just to keep things honest, and it just so happens that Bebop was my main bad guy, and Leonardo was most certainly my brother’s Turtle. This happy coincidence of release brings back a lot of memories, so the nostalgia is running high right now, but I am happy to say that, like Bebop, Super7 did a great job with Leonardo.
Way back at Toy Fair 2019 when Super7 quietly announced this line via a place card in their display booth, my mind started racing with he possibilities. We had no idea at the time of just what the line would be and how it would look, but I am one to always default to character line-ups when it comes to speculation, so I got really wide-eyed with what could be. I knew the line would follow what they had established with their MOTU offerings, so I kind of expected that the Turtles themselves would be teased out a bit within the line as whole. So, my mind automatically went to Leo when I was thinking about who was likely going to be the first of the Turtle boys, and like most of my guesses, that was proven completely wrong, and that right quick with the announcement of Raphael.
Luckily for fans of Leo, and leaders in general, we did not have to wait long to get the oldest of the Turtle brothers, and he is now ready to learn from Splinter, argue with Raph, and slash up all of your Foot Soldier figures in short order. As expected, and as appropriate, Leo is built on the same base as Raphael, so even though he is the figure we have seen the most of previously, Super7 has done a good job of embellishing the things about the figure that are distinctly Leonardo, so this line is already leading things in terms of diversity of design within the Turtles themselves. That has some to do with the riffs on the vintage designs, but the details and intricacies of yore are what made those original offerings so great, and it continues to be amplified here.
As far as I can tell, everything from Raph’s base body, aside from the heads, of course, has been carried over to Leonardo. We will get to things like those heads, and belts, and weapons in a moment, but if you are fan of that original base body, you are going to like what you get here. I do like it quite a bit as it balances an increase of articulation with staying true to the aesthetic sensibilities, and it looks even better to me with Leonardo’s darker shade of green. Now, I still wish there was bit more range of movement in the elbow and abs, and some manner of butterfly shoulders would do wonders for the Turtles, but the scheme fits the ULTIMATES! pattern well, and nothing is astoundingly lacking.
The hip joint pieces remain the same as before, and this was a spot for improvement I was hoping they would take. So, the cross bar is still pretty thin, but I have to say that the joints themselves seem tighter on my Leo than my Raph, so for my particular figures, that is a slight improvement. I would still like to see some re-engineering here for Mikey and Don, so I am mentioning it, even though it is still okay overall. Leonardo does get all of the same swappable hands as Raph (open, up and down grip, side to side grip), but he also gets fists, which is cool. But now I want fists for Raph, especially since they seem most appropriate for him. I know, I am needy.
Like Raph, Leo comes with two heads: his classic toy look and a newly-imagined portrait by the Four Horsemen. Again, both of these are excellent, and while I default to those vintage toy looks for my main display, the new looks are good enough to get me to buy two of each figure so I can display them both way. No matter your preference, or even your desire to mix and match, you cannot go wrong with these. Leo’s eye shape on the vintage head has remained the same, but it is almost like they have been flipped from before and rounded off. The eyes were inverted compared to the other Turtles in the vintage line, so he looked more worried than threatening. That is such an odd quibble with the old figure, but they stayed true to the feel here, but made it so he doesn’t look as concerned and more focused, just as he should be. This is a vintage departure to be sure, but either way, I like the effect.
Leo’s belt is obviously different from Raph’s as well, as that was the case in the vintage line, and the design is needed from a practical standpoint. The swords fit in the sheaths perfectly, so they provide their function without issue. Now, Leo and Don have the cross straps for their larger weapons, and that is the case here, but I kind of wish the straps were not statically sculpted and could be adjusted. This comes from the fact that we always had Don’s criss-crossed but Leo’s both to one side (like the movie) to give more variety. That is a paltry nitpick, but something I would have preferred. Leo also gets some silver embellishments near his belt buckle, and I have to say, I like this touch quite a lot, but I wish the silvers from Raph to Leo matched. Again, this is not a huge deal, but if Mikey and Don are going to continue this trend (they likely will) it is my hope that at least three of them will match, and then I can use a bit of paint to bring the fourth in-line. If I had my druthers, I probably like the more subtle gun metal grey used with Raph than the silver here, but either is fine, so long as it is consistent.
For accessories, Leo gets his unpainted sprue that includes all of the vintage weapons, as well as painted version of them, too. These are all nicely conceived, and for the most part, are faithful to vintage stylings, just with enhanced paint detail. Where this strays is with Leo’s signature weapons: his swords. Where the vintage figure had straight swords, these new versions are curved. I honestly don’t mind it one way or the other, but it is a change that was made, but I am not sure what the motivation was, I will have to ask why. I am not one to become hyper-focused on every specific detail of these swords, so I think they look cool (they are also really long), but I wonder if we will get a chance to see the straight swords down the line.
Also present are the pizza slice and two Turtle comms, one open and one closed. The pizza slice has wash this time giving it a slightly overdone look compared to the one included with Raphael. Again, this scheme is fine, but I wonder how Mikey’s slice and full pizza will be handled in terms of continuity. I REALLY like how all of the Turtles communicators are customized to each Turtle thus far, and while Raph’s was decided “Raphael” in terms of scheme, Leo’s skews more standard to me. There are not as many paint applications this time, so it is not as visually interesting, but this one is a great representation of what defaults in my mind when I picture the comms.
Overall, if I was forced to choose, I would say I probably like Leo *slightly* more than Raph when it comes to these figures. That might be a bit of recency bias, but I like the colors weaponry a bit more here, but both figures are pretty damned awesome. It is gonna be a hell of thing once Donatello (saving the BEST for last) is released and we have all four Turtles together, they will make for quite the mini-collection all on their own.
Okay, so I have to admit, while I was looking forward to this figure, I have also been a bit apprehensive about it, too. It is not that I was worried about it or anything, just that, well, the vintage toy Shredder has always been my least favorite representation of the character, at least with the versions I am most familiar with. I don’t think I am alone when I say I always thought the old toy Shredder was really, really weird, and that I always defaulted to the cartoon version of the character in terms of my preference. So that said, I was not sure how I would feel about this figure since it is ostensibly a modern update of the Playmates figure, and to be honest, I am still not completely sure where I stand.
Don’t get me wrong, for being the least visually exciting figure in the assortment, this Shredder is really well executed. In fact, some of the oddness that plagued the old version has been improved vastly here. But still, the design and color notes from the OG Shredder would be, and are, present here, so approaching this figure without some of the baggage I had coming into this would be tough. However, I have to admit that this IS the version of Shredder that I wanted for this collection because any major departure would feel very out of place, so I am having all kinds of weird feelings here, but I am going to just take it as aligned with the theme of 2020 and just go for it.
First and foremost, the increase an in articulation has expectedly fixed one of the biggest qualms of the vintage figure, the stance. I mean, how weird was that, right? I get that they probably did that to fit the figure into the vintage packaging, but the weird kicked out leg crouch was terrible for balancing, and still confounds me in terms of a reasonable way to stand for anyone, even evil ninja masters. As you would imagine, Shredder most closely resembles the Foot Soldier in terms of points and scheme, but I find the range of movement to be better here than with the soldiers. Like Bebop, I do miss an ab joint here, but it is not killing me as I am just glad I can make Shredder look natural in his stance. The wrists are a highlight here in that they can help Shredder hold his sword with two hands despite not having double elbows or butterfly joints.
Shredder’s vintage toy get-up is also odd, or at least a pretty strong departure from just about any other look he has ever had. I admittedly default to his original cartoon look as my favorite, but that held commonality with the comic and movie outfits in that he wore silver metal for his armor and mask, and he uh, also wore a shirt. This Shredder copies that unique look with blue armor (it has a cool metallic quality to the paint) on his shin guards, gauntlets, helmet, and shoulder pads that are apparently graphed directly to his skin. This is complimented by the purple face mask (seemingly cloth) and cape. We are fortunate that, like the ULTIMATES! Mumm-Ra, Shredder gets a soft goods cape and belt as well as plastic version. The soft goods is more accurate to the vintage toy, and it has a great wire frame that serves for posing needs, but I would be lying if said I wasn’t going with he plastic version. It looks great as it hangs naturally and works with my preference for sculpted work, but the soft goods version is also great, so you can’t really go wrong.
Now, let’s talk about the heads, as this figure has two of them, and I am really glad it does. So, one of them I would say straightforward and looks great and will absolutely be the head I display. The other is what I call the actual vintage head because like that one, Super7 recreated the Playmates paint error of having the front lip of the helmet mis-painted with the flesh tone, and added the eyebrows as prominently as they have ever been. Needless to say, it looks just weird as you remember, but I completely understand why they did it. However, I think this one tests the limits of the nostalgia or vintage accuracy. If this is the head you have always wanted, I am really glad it was included, but I am even more glad we got two heads so the option is there.
For accessories, Shredder gets his weapons rack, as well as the painted versions of his sword (itself, a repaint of Leo’s weapon) as well as the same standard rack weapons included with the Turtles. The Leo sword actually works better here to me as since Shredder is so much taller than Leo, the sword doesn’t look quite a giant in his hand. Shredder also get the aforementioned extra head and plastic cape, as well as hand grips, open hands, and fists. The extra head and cape are most certainly the highlights, but the hands to add a lot of options for expressive posing, and that left splayed hand is essential for the full vintage recreation.
TMNT ULTIMATES! series two closes strong with Leonardo and Shredder as two of the most essential characters to the mythos. These are both lovely vintage recreations, but a lot more than that, so even though they might not be as exciting as Bebop and Mutagen Man (to me, anyway), they very well executed. I like Leo as a figure more than Raphael, and Shredder makes that old design much better than it has any right to be. I WILL say I hope that Super7 tees up a store exclusive or something to get us the “Toon” replant from the vintage line for ULTIMATES! because it is very straightforward and will give most people a closer design to what they have classically associated with old Shred Head.
Hopefully you did not sleep on pre-ordering there, but if you did, you can still order the set from BBTS. The agonizing wait for Michelangelo, April, Metal Head, and Rocksteady in series 3 is on now, and I cannot wait to see what we will be served for series five when those pre-orders open up. I am so into this line, and Super7 has done a great job, so hopefully we will be getting the entire vintage unique roster in ULTIMATES!