Every single issue of this inter company crossover between DC Comics and IDW Publishing has not only been a top seller, it has also put to shame many of the larger “event” style crossovers that DC Comics (and Marvel Comics) usually print. Through executing a basic plot with exceptional skill, depth and top caliber artwork, James Tynion IV and Freddie E. Williams II (with Jeremy Colwell on colors) have turned what could have simply been a throwaway series done for a lark into a genuinely fascinating, enjoyable, and action packed affair in which both titular franchises intermingle. This issue in particular showcases the strengths of this creative team on the series so far, as it’s an issue in which the actual plot progresses very little. It is, in fact, all about the characters interacting both with each other and the situation at hand.
In the last issue, Batman, Splinter, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had united against the Shredder and Penguin’s attempt to recreate the device which transported all of the strangers to Gotham City from another dimension. Unfortunately, the Shredder proved to be more ambitiously brutal than even Batman could have anticipated, and he managed to both escape and destroy the portal device his Foot Clan had worked so hard to assemble (via thefts and murder). While the Shredder is willing to bide his time and figure out how to conquer both Gotham City and “his” New York City, the mutants are on a much more unforgiving timetable. Since the intergalactic mutagen ooze which created them has no counterpart in the DC Universe, their bodies will eventually revert back to their original forms within a short period of time away from their own world. This means that the Turtles have weeks at best, or days at worst, to both stop Shredder and figure out a way home. Without any obvious leads, the Turtles have taken to capitalizing on living within the Batcave under Wayne Manor, much to the chagrin of Alfred Pennyworth. Ever the emotional and impatient of the clan, Raphael considers Batman a fraud and storms off, threatening their cooperative efforts. As the Dark Knight pursues him, the Shredder has formed an alliance of his own with Ra’s Al Ghul to plot a new strategy to destroy Gotham.
At best, this issue merely moves some pieces around the board for the climax in terms of the pace of the plot. Thankfully, such a fact hardly matters as the focus of the issue is on the characters themselves, along with offering more fun moments for fans without insulting their intelligence. From Michelangelo’s interactions with Alfred to Splinter assisting in both Leonardo and Batman’s training to Donatello’s near worship of the Bat-Computer, readers who love one or both franchises are offered a feast of great dialogue with well written characters playing off each other in natural ways. On the flip side, the Shredder’s adaptability is presented in a simple yet effective way. When dealing with the Penguin, a rather small time gangster, he was able to utilize force in numbers to have the portly villain at his mercy. Yet with Al Ghul, especially coming off losing most of his Foot Clan in his escape, Shredder is nowhere near as threatening or abrasive – treating Ra’s as an equal even if he privately considers himself superior. The scene in Crime Alley between Batman and Raphael, however, is easily the high point of the issue. Through what could have been a simple recap of one of the most well known origins in all of pop culture ends up becoming a defining monologue for Batman both as a character and a concept. As good as Tynion IV is at presenting the Turtles and Splinter as distinct characters, he also nails Batman as being more than a brooding superhero detective, but as a formerly broken man who has a big enough heart beyond the cape to be able to relate to someone who is essentially a trouble teenager undergoing a family crisis with a shell. It is a moment which few people envisioning this series could have imagined, and it is a scene which showcases the level of care that is being put into it. Yet Tynion IV is hardly shy about offering some fan-friendly cameos, such as the long awaited appearance of the Joker and everyone’s favorite low rent vigilante, Casey Jones. All that’s left is having April O’Neil meet Barbara Gordon.
Once again, Williams II and Colwell provide a treat for the eyes in terms of artwork. None of the characters within have ever looked better (not even Jones). A sparring session between Batman and Leonardo flows with great aplomb, and the rain soaked streets of Gotham City itself have never looked drearier. From the Turtles to Batman to Casey to Shredder, everyone’s design is spot on, yet presented in a distinct and new way compared to many of their previous artists.
So far, this has been a more entertaining and genuinely terrifically written and drawn comic book series than it had any right to be. If the cliffhanger is executed even half as well as has been implied, the subsequent climax should be both insane and gloriously epic. Readers clearly have been responding, as this series has become the 4th best selling comic DC Comics is currently publishing. It would be the animated epic of the decade if only Warner Brothers and Viacom were willing to collaborate on an adaptation. As it is, it is easily one of the best crossovers in years and is worthy of adulation beyond providing “geek moments”. It has become a stunning example of how to make what could have been a blunt cash grab and present it as something genuinely special.
Below are some marvelous honorable mentions of three Marvel Comics. All of them are top notch, and one even has ninjas in it, but none are quite as awesome as the above crossover.
Ms. Marvel #5: Behind all of the fun trappings such as fast replicating doppelgangers and Canadian ninja teams, writer G. Willow Wilson, guest artist Nico Leon, and regular colorist Ian Herring have presented a simple yet effective narrative about the dangers of choosing between one’s professional and personal life too rigidly. Seeing herself being run ragged by being a local super-heroine, an Avenger, a high school student and a sponsor of her older brother’s traditional Muslim marriage, Kamala capitalized on one of Bruno’s experiments to create clones of herself to do all of the things she doesn’t have time for. Unfortunately, things are rarely as simple as they seem and soon her carbon copies are multiplying and overrunning her school and family gatherings! Dealing with classes and family may have seemed like distractions to her career as Ms. Marvel, but Kamala gets a fresh lesson at how crucial they can be. The theme of this story is quite simple and on the verge of obvious – Kamala even acknowledged that Bruno had called this moral in the previous issue. Yet what sells it is the incredible execution by Wilson and Leon and the mixture of high comedy with subtle horror at the situation. It is also fun seeing how adaptable the staff and students of Kamala’s school are with dealing with over the top threats (especially as most civilians in New York City tend to be written as being shocked or outraged every time someone sees spandex). In addition, the care taken to build Khan’s ever extending supporting cast pays off in spades, with virtually every member getting some key lines or scenes within this high spirited affair. Despite having super powers and fantastic adventures, Kamala Khan’s stories ultimately rely on universal and highly relatable themes and dynamics. It is one of few comics published by Marvel Comics which seems to strongly embrace the themes of what makes their superhero comics differ from rivals at its core in recent memory. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the few which has seemed to have been embraced by peers and readers so strongly. Month in and month out, Ms. Marvel remains an essential comic book read.
Spider-Man 2099 #8: Not only has this series double shipped, it’s the second issue within the last two weeks! It also is easily one of the best issues of this volume crafted by longtime writer Peter David, artist Will Sliney, and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg. When Miguel O’Hara’s recuperating co-worker Jasmine spots his seemingly dead lover Tempest is very much alive and being secretly hidden in a hospital by her own mother. Unfortunately, Tempest’s family seems to have its share of secrets, as the super strong mafia thug Man Mountain Marko is brought in to protect her from any interlopers – even fiances. What follows is an enjoyable action issue with the usual spot on (and often cynical) narration of Miguel as the backdrop. Free from predictable vengeance angst or needless Inhuman tie-ins, this easily was the most grounded and effective issue of the series in nearly a year. The dialogue is engaging and the art is crisp; the entire issue works in a way which too few of them have lately.
The Vision #5: Easily the best issue yet of this completely unpredictable and subtly creepy take at giving the titular robot hero a full family for the first time. Writer Tom King approaches the series from a position of slow building horror, with Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire bringing his layered script to life in jaw dropping artistic detail. Things continue to get worse for the Visions, who are quickly seeing their attempt at “the American dream” in a Washington, D.C. suburb quickly becoming a nightmare. Virginia’s attempts to efficiently “fix” the dilemmas in their life while her husband is at work (being an Avenger) have escalated in more than one death, which has now caught the attention of detective Matthew Lin of the Arlington Police Department. A fight against the U-Foes almost seems like a pleasure cruise next to the grilling that Vision faces at the police station. As his wife is having a robotic version of a nervous break down, Vin has related to Shakespeare in a new way while Viv’s unable to handle the loss of the only person in school who treated her as something different than a freak, at least once. Throughout it all, Tom King displays a deep knowledge of both classical literature and Marvel Comics, bending both to his whims to make his ongoing tragic tale even stronger. In fact, the comparison to Shakespeare is quite apt, as most of his great works were epic tragedies involving tormented families trying to hold things together with lies and murder. On the whole, besides being a rare Marvel comic which appears completely unpredictable, it also seems to be examining the myth of “typical suburban life” with a razor’s precision. Things such as a house, a spouse, two kids and a picket fence have long been treated as the ideal to strive for in America, yet it can quickly become an opera of misery for anyone who happens to differ in any way from their peers and neighbors. Robots are the extreme metaphor for other things like culture, race, or orientation of an ostracized minority within any community – even ones with rosy exteriors. A shame that the Avengers spend so much time fighting the X-Men, that there was no time to learn from them about the perils of bigotry from the very people one tries to save. This certainly is one of the most thought provoking, as well as scary, launches of the “all new, all different” Marvel line.