What has become one of DC Comics’ best selling comic books since last year as well as the what may be one of the best inter-company crossovers ever made reaches its penultimate issue. It’s writer, James Tynion IV, will continue writing Batman well into the near future as the upcoming writer of “Detective Comics” later this year. IDW Publishing continues to make smart moves with their licensed properties and delivers on managing to top the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ fun crossover with “the Ghostbusters” that wrapped last January. Although this issue serves as more of a connecting device to the finale more than a chapter unto itself, it still provides all of the things which has made this mini series such a pleasure. It has more terrific art by Freddie E. Williams II and colorist Jeremy Colwell. It furthers a plot which may be simple, but makes organic sense for both franchises. And above all, it features entertaining dialogue and sensible (and fascinating) interactions between the characters, some of whom fans may never have guessed would interact.
After a heart to heart talk with Raphael in “crime alley” last month, Batman, the Ninja Turtles, and their respective father figures (Alfred Pennyworth and Master Splinter) seem to have ironed out much of the tension between them and are working together more cohesively to rid Gotham City of the Shredder and return the Turtles to their home dimension. As much fun as Michelangelo and Donatello may have teaming up with Batman or exploiting his advanced technology (respectively), there is a lethal timetable behind them. The mutagen within their blood doesn’t naturally exist in the DC Universe, so the Turtles are in a race against time to return home before they devolve and then die. Casey Jones’ attempt to make a “hail Mary” pass with some fresh mutagen failed and has given the Shredder the last component he needed to take over Gotham City, regardless of Ra’s Al Ghul’s involvement with him. As Leonardo starts to succumb to their “mutagen deficiency”, the rest of the Turtles meet Damian Wayne, who is easily the most skilled (and hot tempered) Robin that Batman may have ever partnered with. The Turtles may have to choose between their honor and their lives at the same time that Batman and Robin are seeing first hand what a city run by the Shredder may look like when the villain decides that Arkham Asylum will be the home base for his new mutant army!
James Tynion IV has realized that as much as inter-company crossovers may thrive or fail based on action sequences, it is the interactions between the characters on such a rare meeting which truly makes the story worthwhile. 1976’s “Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man: the Battle of the Century” by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru (with Neal Adams and John Romita Sr.) isn’t a classic just because of the promised bout between the heroes, but due to the fun of seeing them (and their rogues and allies) interact with each other. “Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is no exception as it seems that every issue provides another opportunity for each franchise’s casts to mingle in interesting ways. The highlights of this issue are easily Commissioner Gordon’s weary meeting with two of the Ninja Turtles as well as the rest of the heroes in a half shell (and Casey Jones) throwing down with Robin. The dynamic between the mutants and Batman remains memorable as well. The Dark Knight’s experience with teenage sidekicks has allowed him to form working relationships with the Turtles, while with Splinter he very much respects his wisdom and advice. Splinter, for his part, sees Batman as someone who has higher mastery and experience than his sons, but also someone who still needs guidance now and then. Leonardo sees Batman as a peer with Raphael having recently learned to respect him, while both Donnie and Mikey (especially) consider him the coolest guy ever. The Shredder himself doesn’t appear, but the threat he poses is developed through key scenes with both Splinter and the Penguin. Despite being the Turtles’ main adversary, Batman seems to consider him more of a routine threat compared to all of the villains he has faced in his own rogues gallery (as well as others, such as with the Justice League). As the cliffhanger showcases, this may prove to be a dangerous misstep for Gotham’s champion. The Shredder, or at least IDW’s incarnation of him, is capable of both extensive martial arts skill and ruthlessness in addition to detailed planning and even manipulative strategy capable of even catching Ra’s off guard. To see him showcased to a wider audience as more than just a physical challenge has been one of many narrative pinnacles of this series.
It seems to be predictable to remark every issue, but Freddie E. Williams II and Jeremy Colwell seem to knock every issue out of the park in terms of art and colors. Even scenes which involve more talking and joking around than action (or horror) always look stunning. Gordon’s first large panel meeting with the Turtles alone is poster worthy, as are many of the splash pages throughout this series. Williams II’s redesign of Casey Jones’ usual attire actually works better than many of his outfits in the regular TMNT ongoing series at IDW do! Damian’s Robin costume is quite detailed compared to other Robin suits, but he is able to render that as easily as he’s rendered the Turtles or the Batcave. And the cliffhanger page depicting all of Batman’s major rogues as mutant animals seems to only be a peak at what awaits fans for the finale!
From cover to cover, page to page and issue to issue, “Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” has managed to be more than a sloppy crossover aimed at turning nostalgia into dollars. It is a well written mini series which takes the fans of both franchises seriously and is out to give them a story which offers more than Batarangs and martial arts, and treats all of its characters with respect. The fact that it’s graced by artwork which is so good that it is almost criminal is an added bonus. Next month’s finale should be epic, and one hopes that this series becomes a classic for a long time to come.