Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Collected Edition
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Last year, we reviewed the first issue of DC/IDW’s intercompany crossover Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). This review covers the just-released hardcover collection which contains the other five issues. We told you that the first part of the story was just “ok,” so how’s the rest of the story when it’s complied into a complete story?
As we recapped last year, Batman/TMNT brings the properties together through an as-expected interdimensional mishap that brings the Turtles, Splinter, Shredder and the Foot Clan to the DC Universe and specifically Gotham City. The Shredder sees new territory to conquer; the Turtles just want to get themselves home (though Donatello is fascinated by the interdimensional differences, and to Michaelangelo, Gotham is one giant playground). Batman, of course, just wants to keep his city under control, leading to the inevitable heroes-fight-and-then-figure-out-they-should-be-allies misunderstanding which frequents these crossovers. As we said in the earlier review: this is fairly pedestrian stuff with a plot, a misunderstanding, an alliance, and a resolution.
Batman/TMNT isn’t a bad crossover by any means, and Tynion takes the opportunity to combine both franchises’ weirder aspects and just run with them. The Turtles are sewer-dwelling reptiles, so of course they encounter Killer Croc. Shredder commands a legion of ninjas, so his eventual alliance with Ra’s Al Ghul is as obvious as it is unexpected. And the recurring plot of the Turtles is people and animals being exposed to radioactive mutagen, so Tynion and Williams go all-out crazy at the story’s climax by having the inmates at Arkham Asylum transformed into TMNT-style mutant monsters. (Harley Quinn’s transformation is a delightful surprise, although some of the others are a little goofy.)
That said, what Batman/TMNT suffers from is bloat. The two prior DC/IDW collaborations (Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes and Star Trek/Green Lantern) were also six-issue series, so it’s likely that the six-issue decompressed story is the norm for these things. The problem is that a specified story length requires that the story just keeps going between point A (the Turtles are stuck in Gotham City) and point B (the Turtles go home). There’s a very obvious conclusion point towards the middle that just doesn’t happen, which necessitates that the story keep going with a new, more elaborate plot thread for another three issues’ worth of material. There’s also an undercurrent plot related to the anniversary of the murder of Batman’s parents which is present throughout the story. Because the overall comic is so long, that undercurrent doesn’t really weave through the story so much as bob its head to the surface for as needed. And lastly, there’s a threat to the Turtles which will kill them if they stay in the wrong dimension too long–but despite being mentioned over and over, it really doesn’t manifest until very late in the story, to the point where you’re almost going to wonder if it’ll ever happen. These flaws could have been avoided if the story had gone, say, four issues instead of six.
Freddie Williams’ art isn’t bad either, and the overall art team sets a nice tone for a Gotham City sci-fi story. However, my opinion is unchanged that he draws Batman too damn large for an acrobatic crimefighter, and it looks almost comical at times. It’s a shame, because the rest of the art chores are pretty decent and make for a mostly readable tale. Williams really cuts loose in coming up with clever Arkham/mutant mashups at the story’s climax which does make for a fun opportunity here.
Still, we’re decades past the period where intercompany crossovers were a rare treat. Batman/TMNT is competent, though perhaps not the greatest Batman/whoever teamup in history. Turtles fans may enjoy this as a bizarre, once-in-a-lifetime team-up; Batman readers may see it as just another of the Dark Knight’s many crossovers.
Rating: Three manholes out of five.