Review: BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III #1
[Editor’s Note: This Review May Contain Spoilers]
Writer: James T. Tynion IV
Artists: Freddie Williams II and Kevin Eastman
Colors: Jeremy Colwell
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
Krang, off-camera, is informed of an escape. In Gotham City, under a stormy red sky, Batman complains of a persistent dream to an unknown individual on his com before resolving to capture the “Smile Clan.” Elsewhere, a shadowy figure emerges from a random lightning strike and convinces a homeless derelict to give him his trench coat and hat. The Smile Clan, led by Harley Quinn, crash a gala. Their target: An extradimensional meteorite. Commissioner Gordon engages the felons only to be disarmed by “The Laughing Man”, whose costume blends elements of The Joker and The Shredder. Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arrive to join the fight. The Turtles are dressed like Robin, Red Robin, Nightwing, and The Red Hood. Batman corners the Laughing Man, whose contact with the meteorite triggers a strange reaction. For a moment, Batman recognizes and says the Joker’s name. The Laughing Man uses the moment to order Harley and the others to withdraw.
Later, at Wayne Enterprises, a janitor drops four fresh pizzas down the trash shoot to the Bat-Lair below. While the boys dig in, Bruce attempts to clear his mind of his earlier vision through meditation and fails. Master Splinter, in butler attire, comforts his “son” and reminds him of their history since his parents’ murder. Bruce had stumbled upon Splinter after wandering into the sewers as a boy and found refuge and a new path. He and the others remind Bruce that he has a family. At that moment, the shadowy figure from the lightning strike reveals himself to be the 1984 version of Raphael. He claims the world they are living in is wrong and will get worse. Elsewhere, in Dimension X, Krang is informed that Raphael made it to New Earth Prime. Wearing armor resembling the Anti-Monitor, Krang vows they all will learn the rules of his multiverse. TO BE CONTINUED…
I’m reminded of a book years back that resulted from the Marvel vs. DC Comics joint publication. It was an amalgamation of the characters from both companies. While Tynion is not drawing on that story for reference, seeing the DC Universe and the Eastman Universe blended in such a way is deliberately off-putting. It serves to engage the reader in asking questions as to why things are as they are. Bruce Wayne is a disciple of Master Splinter? And an honorary “turtle?” And Splinter is the new Alfred, right down to the tux? And how did Krang gain the abilities of the Anti-Monitor? The choice of title – “Crisis In a Half-Shell” – makes it obvious where the storyline is going if this is the final time we’ll see these characters together. The blended origin of Batman and TMNT seems seamless yet strange. It’s both worlds turned on their ear; as opposed to their superior, Batman is now an equal amongst his new family. There is also a noticeable difference in temperament; Bruce seems just as balanced, but there’s a softer side to him. You notice a bit of a smirk in that first shot of him firing off his grapple gun. He’s no longer alone, as he’s learned ninjitsu from the age of 9 and trained alongside the turtles as the older sibling. The arrival of the 1984 Eastman and Laird version of Raphael, right down to the different font in his caption, is a great use of the multiverse. Brilliant decision to bring cocreator Kevin Eastman’s art into this book; no one could draw 1980s TMNT Raphael except him. That made the cameo all the more special and give fans something to look forward to in this series.
Freddie Williams III’s art never fails to disappoint. IDW better take note because this man was born to do a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles title. Kudos on bringing him back for this final chapter to the Bat-TMNT crossover. His design of the lair playful fun at some classic Batman elements, such as the Triceratops instead of the giant T-Rex. In TMNT lore, the alien race known as the Triceratons were some of their most persistent adversaries. It answers the question of what Donnie could do if he had the resources to back up his technological advances? His redesign of Batman is visually striking. It’s basically ninja garb with trademark Dark Knight elements. In some ways it’s reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s designs in Gotham By Gaslight. It is fascinating how he blended Rocksteady with Clayface. These two don’t go together any more than Croc and Bebop do, nor Deadshot and Azrael. Still it gives an artist a challenge to marry these two together in a way that is visually striking and not appear reaching. I’d have to say that Freddie hit the mark on Deadshot, as well as the amount of Bat-family garb he chose to adorn the Turtles with. Tynion was smart in selecting which sidekick fits a Turtle. I like the callback to the 80s cartoon with the belt buckles. I think that the final installment would’ve felt cheap if any other artist had finished off this crossover. It remains to be seen what other facets of the DC Universe Tynion and Williams will play with.
I don’t grasp the threat of The Smiling Man. The design feels like a throwback to the 80s Shredder, right down to the purple cape. You don’t really take him as a legitimate threat. Also, even though the confusion is necessary to give a major impact on the reader, I think inserting a prologue would have provided some balance. Every comic book is everyone’s first; with that mentality, it would’ve been best to open with a 2-page background on the shared history between Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles up to this point. And while some composites work, others feel either forced or too absurd. And the million dollar question is where is Alfred Pennyworth in any of this? If Splinter took care of Bruce then what became of his real guardian/best friend? And what is the status of Bruce Wayne in society?
It’s always great to see the TMNT interact with the Dark Knight given how alike they are. That is always how the Turtles work best; they make up four facets of one person, and each goes into Batman equally. Tynion and Williams are an amazing team and they are aiming at going out on top. They’ve brought out the best in both properties because they acknowledge the source material in equal parts. I look forward to get answers next week and find out what exactly is going on.