Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2: “Last Turtle Standing”

Written by James Tynion IV

Illustrated by Freddie E. Williams II

Colored by Jeremy Colwell

Lettered by Tom Napolitano

Comic books, though often seen as a medium for children, can still be used to tackle tough subjects and answer big questions.  Watchmen is the first example that comes to most reader’s minds, as it effectively deconstructed the superheroic myth along with exploring issues such as government control, self worth, and mental instability.  Marvel’s God Loves, Man Kills compares mutant plight and oppression to racial and social prejudice, and even The Dark Knight Returns explored the necessity of a character like Batman in his universe.

Asking big questions, exploring difficult subjects elevates the medium above simple entertainment to make it something more, something that will last.  James Tynion IV uses this platform to ask that age-old question, perhaps the biggest one of all:

Who would win in a fight?

Between Batman and the Ninja Turtles?

Everybody.

And fight they do.  We pick up right where the first issue left off, with Batman and the Turtles meeting face to face, and their altercation lasts for a good dozen pages or so.  The staging is done pretty well, with each Turtle trying their best as they go toe to toe with Batman.

Bats' thigh game is strong.
Bats’ thigh game is strong.

As they note later, Batman was studying them more than actually fighting, but seeing him use their own weapons and skills against them was pretty fun.  I get tired of the “Batman always wins” mentality, as it gets boring, but seeing him effortlessly deal with opponents that normally hold their own is enjoyable to see.

Plus, they set up this inevitable match up, which I feel safe in assuming we’re all looking forward to.

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What works the best, though, are the jokes and humor.  Tynion strikes an even tone between the two properties, not letting things get too light or too dark either way, and as such he and Williams present some pretty funny moments.  Most of those revolve around Michaelangelo, of course, and true to form he can’t resist taking a swipe at anchovies.

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At least, I think it’s a knock against anchovies?  Who knows anymore.

Humor aside, some more plot elements are introduced, and there are a few added dimensions (ha HA!) that made for some interesting little developments.  As expected, the Turtles and Shredder want to get back to their own dimension, and they’re each trying to build a portal to get there.  Adding to their desperation is the fact that the dimensional irregularities that exist between their world and Batman’s makes anything that’s present in them that doesn’t exist in this world slowly fade away.

Simply put: the mutagen in their bloodstream is disappearing, and they’ll eventually revert back to being simple, humble turtles.

And a rat.  Because Splinter.

Tense, to be sure, and I like that idea of there being differences between the two worlds.  Donatello mentions that there are different countries along with the different elements that exist in the DC Universe, which is a great callback to a similar situation in JLA/Avengers: the DC Earth is slightly larger than Marvel’s Earth, since Marvel supposedly exists in the “real Earth” and DC has dozens of extra cities, islands, and countries.  Intentional or not, I thought that was a nice detail.

That extra detail there actually got me invested in this story a little more, which is always good.  I’m enjoying the nostalgia, don’t get me wrong, but the “ticking clock” element adds a sense of urgency that’s more effective than “we need to do this before Shredder or else we’re stuck here.”  I mean, that would suck for them, but having the Turtles be a part of the regular DC(Yo)U?  Don’t tell me you wouldn’t read fifty issues of Raphael and Orion trying to one-up each other on the jerk scale.  I’d write that.

Speaking of, Tynion writes Batman well, and he has a good handle on each of the Turtles’ personalities, but I wish he’d focus on each of them more.  Mikey gets the lion’s share of attention, and while Raphael grunts out a few terse “tough guy” statements and Donnie plays the part of Basil Exposition, Leonardo is almost a non-entity.  That’s a disappointment, but there are great scenes that also include Lucius Fox, Splinter, Shredder, and the Penguin, so it’s not a total waste.

My main issue is the art, which is at least a bit better than last time.  Some of Williams’ proportions are weird, and that Batmobile is still a mess, but the lack of color makes things drab.  Other than the Turtles and the Penguin (who shows up in a pretty memorable scene with Shredder), everything is varying shades of gray, brown, and black.  Thankfully, the proportions and sense of depth are better this time around, allowing for some genuinely great fights and full page splashes.

Straight up METAL. I want that on my wall.
Straight up METAL. I want that on my wall.

For an issue that was mostly a fight with a little bit of development, quite a bit of ground was covered.  The delicate tonal balance Tynion has struck cannot be overstated, as even the slightest misstep could have made this book crash and burn, so the fact that it works is a credit to his skill.  Williams’ style is getting more confident, if not still a little shaky, but he gave us this handy guide to Batman’s awesomeness:

And showed that Mikey clearly doesn't know how Venn diagrams work.
And showed that Mikey clearly doesn’t know how Venn diagrams work.

And that, friends, is in itself awesome.

BONUS: Like last month, there’s a cool variant cover from the Turtles’ co-creator, Kevin Eastman.  I like this one just as much, if not a little more.

Spoiler
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Recommended if:

  • Nostalgia is your thing.
  • You like Batman.
  • You like the Turtles.
  • You want to see who would win in a fight between Bats and the Turtles.
  • Hint: I… already told you.

Overall: A solid second entry, it does what the sophomore installment should do: brings everything together and furthers the plot while introducing new aspects and elements that up the intrigue.  The tone is solid, and the personalities of the characters are on point, but while the art is still a little rough it isn’t a deal breaker.  This, along with Batman’s adventures with U.N.C.L.E., are some of the stronger offerings to come along in the miniseries format recently, and if they can keep this level of quality we’ve got some good Batman comics in the coming months.

SCORE: 7.5/10