Whoever had the idea to bring back a comic using the art of Batman: The Animated Series deserves a raise. The first issue of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, published jointly by DC Comics and IDW Publishing, is a nostalgic mash-up that must be read.
This limited series, “The Face of Two Worlds,” brings the animated worlds of Bruce Timm’s Batman and Nickelodeon’s CGI Turtles together. The story pits these heroes against the other’s villains.
Issue #1 sets everything up. A “Kraang Portal” opens up in Gotham City, allowing Two-Face, The Joker, Harley Quinn, Clayface, and a plethora of other psychos to escape Arkham Asylum. Bats investigates Two-Face’s cell and finds a triangle etched on the wall. A sample reveals an energy residue unlike any available on Earth. Batman tells Alfred to summon Robin before investigating further.
Meanwhile, the Turtles have discovered the presence of new Kraang Portals. They track the energy to an especially seedy pocket of the sewers. Once there, they battle a particularly pissed-off Clayface. Michelangelo dubs him “Mudbutt.” Glorious. Trouble is boiling; the Turtles just don’t know what it is. Yet.
The issue ends on a teaser. A team of Foot Soldiers find the sparking, dismantled remains of their comrades in an alleyway. And just who do you suppose decimated them? The Joker and Harley Quinn.
Writer (and fellow SVA alum) Matthew K. Manning captures the fun of the Turtles and, more importantly (to me, at least), the tone, humor, and brilliance of B:TAS. I’d even go so far as to say he captures the spirit of the cartoon’s comic book counterpart, The Batman Adventures, written by Kelley Puckett and pencilled by the late, great Mike Parobeck.
Manning understands the animated Batman. I could hear Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Richard Moll, Ron Perlman, and Mark Hamill reading Manning’s words. And that’s no easy task when the shadow of Paul Dini looms so heavily over this beloved property. The best exchange occurs between Batman and Alfred, though. The butler’s wit is just as good, if not better, than anything from the cartoon.
The art by Sommariva is astounding. He seamlessly alternates between two very different animated designs. While I can’t comment on the accuracy of Sommariva’s Turtles’ surroundings (I haven’t seen an episode of this version), I can happily say he gets everything right about the animated Batman.
Arkham is an exact mirror of its cartoon design, right down to the blood-red sky. As are the Batcave and Batmobile. Sommariva even sprinkles the Gotham skyline with GCPD blimps!
Two particular panels stand out. These panels prove that Sommariva is the most-qualified artist for this series outside of Bruce Timm himself. Check out the panels at the bottom of page five. Notice Batman’s cape. It’s shorter in the left panel and longer on the right.
Exactly in-step with Timm’s “cape theory” design sheet. Timm’s rule was the cape could be “cheated” longer than it actually was to achieve a more dramatic effect for Batman. Not a huge detail, but it’s one aspect that sets Timm’s Batman out from the rest. Sommariva is a fan of the details.
This crossover is destined to be a classic. Buy it monthly or buy the trade paperback when it’s released. Just buy it! Some of the best four bucks and change you’ll ever spend.
Hopefully this mini-series is so successful that it prompts DC Comics to relaunch The Batman Adventures monthly comic book. Only if Manning and Sommariva are available, though. Hell, let them bring their whole team: inker Sean Parsons, colorist Leonardo Ito, letterer Shawn Lee, and editor Bobby Curnow.
The comic book wouldn’t be half as good without them.