The year escapes me, but I remember desperately wanting the Ninja Turtles sewer play set when I was a kid. Like, the original toys from the late Eighties.
I was probably five, six at the most, and my parents looked all over the place for it, to no avail. Finally, one day, we visited my grandparents in Louisiana and they had found it for me. I was so elated to finally have it that I spent hours upon hours playing with it, taking out the Shredder and his Foot Clan over and over again.
Reading this comic, about the heroes of my youth meeting one of my favorite characters as an adult, illicits those feelings and brings back those memories. Honestly, that’s all I need right now: a reminder of simple times with family, of fun with my favorite characters and the joy my family had in seeing me enjoy gifts they got me.
Nostalgia differs from person to person, too. It’s a fickle thing, in that there is no set standard for those feelings. When I see the Ninja Turtles team up with Batman, I’m taken back to a time where “rad” and “cowabunga” were used unironically, and to the weekend when I was sitting in the movie theater watching Batman Forever and truly falling in love with the character for the first time. Your experience is most likely different, and that’s as it should be: these characters mean different things to different people, belonging to everyone and no one in particular, and every situation and level of attachment is equally valid.
Either way, this is still a jam, right?
This month, we finally get to see at least one of the events the very nature of this series promised: the team-up between Batman and the Turtles. James Tynion IV strikes a great balance between the two properties, and that makes it a genuinely funny and enjoyable read. Batman isn’t overly broody, and the Turtles aren’t overly silly, so the joining of their forces feels organic rather than forced. Splinter has a great moment where he brings Batman down a notch, which is handled really well and satisfactorily: after seeing Bruce handily take down the four turtles, having him defer respect to another true master of martial arts is a nice show of humility. It’s handled evenly and with its own shades of humility, and for a comic featuring a vigilante and giant turtles fighting a guy covered in knives, that’s some nice welcome subtlety.
The Turtles serve as great stand-ins for the audience, each of them wide-eyed at this strange world and with varying views on Gotham’s vigilante. Tynion captures each of their personalities well (though Leonardo is still a bit of a non-entity for much of the book), and directly or not they give great insight into the nature of the Batman.
When you think of a meeting between two properties, you’d expect their biggest villains to be involved. Frankly, I’m glad the Joker hasn’t made an appearance (yet…), and instead the Penguin has represented the rogues gallery. It makes sense, as Shredder would need money, supplies, shelter, and firepower, all of which Cobblepot can provide. There’s a final page reveal that completely changed the game and alliances at hand, and while I wont outright spoil it is be remiss to share it because the layout of the page is so great.
Honestly, forget Batman vs. Shredder; this is the fight I want to see.
Shredder himself is particularly brutal, making a play that genuinely shocked me both in its content and how it was presented (though why Alfred was there to discover it felt weird). Not content to just get back home, he wants to see the Turtles and Splinter suffer and lose any hope of returning to their world. The outright venomous hatred he has toward the heroes gives him depth, and the ends he’ll go to just to make them lose are… well, not admirable, but remarkable.
The series’ weak point is still the visuals, though they are definitely improving. The fight scenes are staged really well, and some of the pages have an oil painting quality to them, evoking old scrolls or wall hangings.
Where I am right now, this month, at this moment in time, this is a book I needed. It isn’t perfect, and in a few years it may not even be memorable, but right now I personally need a reminder of why I fell in love with comics and heroes to begin with. The fact that the book is generally pretty good is icing on that cake, so enjoy it for what it is: fun.
Bonus: Like before, there’s a cool bonus cover from Kevin Eastman.
- You like Batman.
- You like the Ninja Turtles.
- Like me, you just need a fun, enjoyable comic book that is getting progressively better.
Overall: Typically, a crossover like this would be spinning its wheels by this point, trudging along waiting for the conclusion. Instead, the meeting between Batman and the Turtles has been a pretty favorable look at both franchises, with new elements and characters introduced organically and genuine surprises coming into play. Part of it is pure nostalgia, I’ll admit, but as long as it’s a quality product that’s all that matters.