Strange comic book crossovers have been around for decades. Archie and the Riverdale gang have met both the Punisher AND the Predator, and survived both encounters. With these absurdities in mind, it’s easier to swallow a crossover between two franchises that both center on street level martial arts masters. But being able to swallow it doesn’t mean it tastes great.
Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the latest crossover between publishing powerhouses, pairing DC Comics with IDW. It finds the Heroes in a Half Shell in Gotham City, teleported from their universe by as yet unknown circumstances. But, however they got there, the Foot Clan came along for the ride and are stealing expensive laboratory equipment from various Gotham R&D departments. Enter the Batman.
In typical crossover fashion, it looks like the heroes are going to be at odds before realizing they have a common enemy. However, outside of that cliché, this first issue sets up an interesting story. It starts off with a bang and doesn’t feel clunky supplying the necessary exposition. It doesn’t give away any answers as to how these worlds came together, or what the Foot Clan’s motivations are, which ultimately leaves the reader wanting to pick up the subsequent issues looking for answers. This intrigue is the highlight of the book, and its greatest strength.
Writer James Tynion IV is no stranger to Gotham; he got his start writing backup stories for Batman in the New 52, and has since gone on to write several of the annuals, and the two weekly series Batman Eternal and Batman and Robin Eternal. He continues to prove his worth here, mixing action with mystery, and wit with grit. Ironically, though despite his experience in this world, Tynion seems to write the Turtles better than even Batman. Their dialogue flows naturally and supplies humor to the book, whereas Batman’s can come off feeling cold, contrived, and expository. It doesn’t always feel this way, thankfully, but even when it does, it doesn’t take away from the book. Someone needs to be the voice of reason in this insanity, and obviously, it has to be Batman.
The art by Freddie Williams II is good, albeit also a bit inconsistent. The Turtles look great, and Gotham oozes the dark, gritty tone that it requires, especially with the work by colorist Jeremy Colwell. There’s an extended scene in the city’s sewer system, where Killer Croc runs into the visiting reptile brothers, and it’s brilliant. The action sequences and the slimy atmosphere is everything you would want in this crossover, especially coupled with Tynion’s witty banter among the Turtles.
The biggest drawback in terms of art is Batman, unfortunately. Williams aims to portray him as a large, menacing figure. Again, sometimes this works fantastically. Other times, Bruce comes off looking a little puffy (like most people do this time of year). Luckily, the good outweighs the bad in terms of penciling, and Williams’ art is going to be a big reason people pick up the remaining five issues.
This book is exactly what was expected: a fun read that brings a child’s action figure fantasies to life. It bleeds nostalgia, which makes up for its minor inconsistencies. It’s inviting to fans of either franchise, but especially to fans of both. Tynion finally gets to explore writing the witty banter that Batman usually denies him, and it’s clear that he should do more of it. His story is the strength of this book and leaves you wanting more.
Overall, the issue was worth its $3.99, which is really what it comes down to. When it’s good, it’s very good. But even when it’s bad, it’s not terrible. It’s an easy to swallow crossover, and, even though it doesn’t taste amazing, it’ll have readers going back for another bite.
Syncing up perfectly, the trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 also came out yesterday. Check out Monkeys Fighting Robots coverage of it here.