[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: James Tynion IV (plot) and Ryan Ferrier (Dialogue)
Art: Freddie Williams II
With Bane, Bebop, Rocksteady and the entire Foot Clan pumped up on Venom, the odds are severely stacked against Batman and the Turtles. All looks lost until Master Splinter steps in—only to fall victim to the treacherous Bane! The heroes on the half-shell live to fight another day, but at what cost? Donnie thinks he has a plan for victory, but Batman warns against it.
As both a lifelong fan of both Batman and TMNT, this series hits the right balance. The combined might of Heroes in a Halfshell and The Dynamic Duo works in the sense that they don’t get along all the time and there are differences in methods and opinions. To counter that, we have the combined might of both The Turtles’ most consistent nemesis and Batman’s single most dangerous adversary solely for what he achieved in his first outing thirty years ago. Knightfall saw Bane wear Batman down through a massive breakout from Arkham Asylum, then broke into Wayne Manor and literally broke him. This was an antagonist that was both a physical threat as well as a strategist the near equal of Batman himself. Having Bane in the place of The Shredder from the last season as the main antagonist is a worthy substitute. Freddie’s design of Bane works in the sense that this is more than just a ‘roided out criminal. Bane looks and feels like an unconquerable monster; you can see why he overpowered the most skilled ninja army in Manhattan and their mutant minions. From the moment he waltzed in from issue 1, he steamrolled over The Foot, took them over, enhanced them with Venom, and now is in a brawl-for-all with the Turtles and The Dark Knight and son. Fanboys get a huge kick out of seeing the Turtles’ resident dog of war, Raphael, test his mettle against Bane. Where Raph fails in brute strength, we see Splinter’s wisdom and mastery easily overpower the villain through his evasiveness and open weak points – the Venom delivery hose – for the most part.
Freddie’s art suits this book perfectly; I’ve watched him on the Youtube Channel VSG put out inkwashes with the same quality as these pages and they are just as top notch as colored. His take on the Rebirth costumes on Batman and Robin is excellent, and he gets the proportions of the Turtles perfectly. The Fu Manchu mustache on Splinter works because it evokes a sense of authority in the group before you see him make a move. The equilibrium of agility and strength on the side of the protagonists versus the brutality and monstrous proportions of Bane and his mutant army makes for an awesome fight. The David-vs.-Goliath match between Bane and Raphael is easily conveyed with their first panel together long before you see Bane preparing to dish out his trademark backbreaker on him. The image is enhanced by both Splinter’s legitimate fear for his son and Bruce’s intimate knowledge of feeling his spine snapped by that monster. Further, on Batman’s side, for fans of the first series, you can also see the emotional bond he formed with Raph the first time they met. The figures’ build and weight are conveyed through pulse-pounding battle sequences that are worthy of the classic Eastman-Laird TMNT issues from the 80s. The coloring makes it feel very organic and rich. To convey that claustrophobic feel of that small space with so many combatants, Williams keeps the sequentials equally tight but still easy to follow.
In the case of writing, the combined efforts of Tynion IV and Ferrier do a good job by keeping the dialogue deep when it has to be and short and to the point in others. A good example is the handling of Donatello’s subplot. To feel important, he inadvertently unleashed this nightmare on both his city and his family and he is inconsolable. His father’s coma at the hands of the very monster he brought over from the DC-verse obviously makes it worse. Donatello has always been my favorite Turtle, and to see a character whose faith is in his brilliant mental acumen lose that faith and see brutality as a solution is unfathomable. It’s a breaking point that you’ve never seen Donnie hit before. Throughout the book thus far, his dilemma has been a very significant subplot and now it has manifested at the cliffhanger into a relevant problem for the group. Seeing Don give in to despair and embrace the very drug responsible for this evil is disheartening. The red eyes as he “Venoms” up gives off a good “Damn it, Donnie!” reaction. The chemistry between the combined teams perfectly contrasts the disorder and tyrannical rule within the Bane-Foot alliance. Batman seems to gel perfectly with two-thirds of the group – mainly Donnie, Leo, and Splinter – while Robin’s arrogant attitude clashes perfectly with the likes of Raph, Casey, and Mikey. Tynion IV and Ferrier as a writing duo hit it out of the ball park as much as Freddie imagined their vision.
What I dislike about crossovers most of the time are potential plot holes left behind, like the Batman/Spawn crossover event where Batman leaves a massive batarang in Spawn’s face and in the regular issue the wound is there but he’s barely mentioned. As to how that pertains to this issue, Baxter Stockman was mutated in the previous issue into his Baxter Fly form. What I’m left wondering is if the writing team will leave Baxter in this state or will there be a surprise reversal like the Arkham-mutated villains from the previous arc? What makes that different is that the mutagen was not native to DC-verse, whereas on TMNT it is and may have a permanent effect. That would leave a massive hole in the plot in the regular TMNT book. Also, the cover gives away too much of the cliffhanger. The last page should have been a big reveal, but it spoiled for shock value. A shot of Splinter’s being at the mercy of Bane or even Donatello holding the flask of Venom would have been just as engaging then the collage, no matter how awesome it looked.
There is little I can say that is bad about the writing and artwork, but the plothole and ending giveaway are instant points taken off. Overall I’m really enjoying this series and can’t wait to see the resolution to this story and what Donatello will do and how in control he can keep himself while on Venom.