Inter-company crossovers, or any initial meeting between different heroes of different franchises, tend to operate under a certain formula which both writers and their audience seem to quietly accept. The first act will establish the reasoning for the meeting, the second act will have them meet under some misunderstanding before dueling, and the final act will see them unite against a common foe. This is more than acceptable so long as the execution is exciting and entertaining enough, which is something that writer James Tynion IV both acknowledges and delivers upon. Flanked by utterly gorgeous artwork by Freddie E. Williams II (with Jeremy Colwell on colors), the crossover nobody expected is quickly becoming one that shouldn’t be missed!
As detailed in the previous issue, the premise is kept simple yet logical. The four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, their father and “sensei” Splinter, as well as their arch nemesis the Shredder and his Foot Clan of ninja warriors, have found themselves inexplicably transported to a parallel universe. That universe is the DC Universe, and they find themselves in Gotham City, which is naturally defended by the dark knight detective, Batman. Investigating a series of hi-tech robberies at both his company and others, Bruce Wayne quickly figures out that new players are in the field and soon finds himself face-to-face with the shell-backs themselves! However, while Batman may find that the Turtles themselves still have a lot to learn about ninjutsu, Splinter isn’t called “master” for nothing. Meanwhile, the Shredder’s quest to steal a path towards getting home leads him to making an alliance with the Penguin and proving to be just as treacherous and violent in Gotham as he is in Manhattan. Yet with their very lives at stake, Splinter has realized that their only hope may be to extend a hand.
Hero versus hero battles are delicate things to execute. They rarely can end with any definitive winner, and if stretched too far or made too brutal, it diminishes the quality of the potential (and inevitable) third act of alliance. The six page showdown between the Turtles and Batman goes as one would expect; they may be skilled but they’re still teenagers learning their craft, while Batman has already mastered many styles. Splinter, on the other hand, is far older and more refined than even Batman, and their interactions have a different dynamic to them. Batman is often criticized for being too infallible or even too callous, but Tynion IV seems to handle him with the utmost balance. While eye witness testimony seems to imply that the Turtles are involved in the robberies, all Batman is sure of is that they were at the scene – and any good detective knows the folly of becoming deeply invested with the most immediate and obvious suspects, much less the “world’s greatest” detective. He also gets the banter of the four Turtles extremely well, from Raphael’s combativeness to Donatello’s curiosity and Mikey’s over eagerness. The Shredder, meanwhile, proves to be uniquely ruthless and gets a jaw dropping splash page courtesy of Williams II which deserves to be a poster on someone’s wall. The addition of a timetable to the Turtles’ health the longer they remain within Gotham is a wise plot detail which adds extra impetus to the series’ affairs.
Speaking of Freddie E. Williams II, the artwork for this series has been nothing less than amazing. Even if the story may seem to be very “safe” for some readers, the artwork alone makes it more than worth the cover price. From sewers to Batcaves to mutants to ninjas to Batman himself, all of it looks as gorgeous as possible. Even the covers have been exciting, which is usually something readers take for granted.
The response to the first issue of this crossover has been massive. ICv2 has noted that it sold over 134,000 copies in December, placing it within the top 5 best selling comics of the month. It outsold the regular issue of “Batman” by Scott Synder and was barely outsold by Marvel’s juggernaut of a “Star Wars” series. It has been far and away the best selling inter-company crossover not only between DC Comics and IDW Publishing, but perhaps within the industry itself in years. If only Warner Brothers and Viacom could agree to terms, this would likely make an amazing animated direct-to-video feature. With most “mainstream” crossovers usually being little more than advertising campaigns or editorial pushes, fun match-ups such as this are a breath of fresh air in an often cynical and mean spirited industry. Nobody will claim this is offering a story which is remaking the wheel or may win an Eisner award, but it is offering a solid one-two punch of Batarangs and nunchucks for the readers who want it.
Below is an honorable mention. It may be a perfectly entertaining romp, but it can’t match the cape and shell combo above.
All New All Different Avengers #3: The issue in which the rag tag team of superheroes who stumbled into each other finally defeat the random alien threat which united them. It has been a tried and true motivation to form a superhero team since the Justice League first united to fight Starro the evil alien starfish in 1960, although never before has such a simplistic sequence taken at least three issues (including an over sized debut) to come to its inevitable conclusion. Such decompression, as well as the utter generic nature of “Warbringer” the conquering Chitauri alien, are the only two flaws in what has otherwise been a satisfying kick off for Mark Waid’s latest team series at Marvel Comics. Adam Kubert and colorist Sonia Oback deliver on offering some pulse pounding action sequences, especially for a finale which involves giant portals in the sky as well as a zombies on the ground! The interaction between the characters has been fun, although one can easily say that Thor, Spider-Man (Miles Morales), and Vision have so far gotten the short end of the stick (with Nova and Ms. Marvel arguably getting the lion’s share). Mr. Gryphon is still the “obvious lurking villain” hiding in the background and there is a neat twist between the Vision and Nova in an epilogue. It merely is a shame that a three part intro as massive as this didn’t involve a threat which involved more than a generic rampaging alien and breaking some MacGuffins. The art is great and Waid, as always, has a great voice for his cast, and subsequent issues should surely improve from this satisfying (but generic) debut.