Review: ‘Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures’
Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures
Writer: Matthew K. Manning
Artists: Jon Sommariva and Sean Parsons
IDW Publishing; $19.99
Last year’s unlikely Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover series played it safe and straight, and was perhaps as earnest a story featuring such wildly divergent franchises as possible. That had the unfortunate side effect of making it a little dull and disappointing for a comic that should have felt more like an occasion. It was, after all, the first time the popular and seemingly infinitely adaptable comic book characters had met before.
This second cross-franchise team-up, following almost immediately on the heels of the first, is certainly more adventurous in its approach. Taking advantage of the fact that both Batman and the TMNT have dozens of different iterations, this pairing chooses two specific TV cartoon versions: The Batman of Batman: The Animated Series, which aired in various versions between 1992 and 1999, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the then-current Nickelodeon-produced series, which debuted in 2012 and is on its final season.
While those choices seem at first glance unusual, given how far they are separated in time and style, and that various other Batman and TMNT cartoons have overlapped (these two never did, obviously), they make sense along at least one criteria: Those are the best cartoon versions of each set of characters.
The different, even clashing, visual styles of the source material creates quite a challenge for pencil artist Jon Sommariva, who has previously drawn these particular Ninja Turtles for IDW’s based-on-the-cartoon comic. He has to draw the super-flat, rather simplified, Bruce Timm-designed Batman characters and their red-skied, blimp-patrolled art deco Gotham City and the three-dimensional Turtles and their slick, stylized and depopulated New York City and somehow make them look like they belong sharing the same panels.
I don’t think he quite makes it, particularly in approximating the visual tone and storytelling methods of the divergent source material, but he does a fine job of taking the pre-existing character designs and drawing them in his own style, without making it look terribly jarring to see that Batman next to those Turtles.
Writer Matthew K. Manning similarly does a good job of getting as many characters as possible from both cartoons into the story. Triangle-shaped portals open up in Arkham Asylum, allowing much of Batman’s rogues’ gallery to escape into another dimension, that of the Turtles. Batman and his allies Robin and Batgirl follow them through, and eventually they team up with the Turtle team to take on pairings of their villains.
Somewhat refreshingly, Manning eschews using the obvious villains as the culprits behind the madness—though The Joker and The Shredder both appear, they aren’t the ultimate enemy—and, in a rather weird move, the story wraps up at the end of the fifth of the six issues in this collection, with the entire last issue serving as a kind of epilogue. In that final chapter, the Turtles visit the Gotham City of the later, New Batman Adventures series, so they can meet the new, second animated series Robin and fight off a Kraang invsaion.
As with the original Batman/TMNT crossover, this one feels a lot more like a premise in search of a story than a story that needed to be told, but it manages several memorable moments—like Michaelangelo reenacting the Batman opening sequence, for example—and is probably the most ambitious and imaginative of the Batman/TMNT crossovers. Of which, of course, there are only two, but given how quickly the second one was greenlit and how fast it made it into print, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a third and fourth such series in the next few years.
Filed under: Reviews
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
SLJ Blog Network