Do you love Batman: The Animated Series?
What a silly question, of course you do.
Do you miss seeing the character designs gracing television and the printed page? And not the New Batman Adventures designs, or even the ones from the Justice League cartoon, but the classic blue highlights/yellow chest symbol Batman?
How about Nickelodeon’s excellent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? You know, the one with the voice talents of Samwise Gamgee, Beast Boy, the original Raphael, and
the guy from that one Woody Allen movie Scott Evil? It’s pretty great, I must say.
After the success of James Tynion IV and Freddie E. Williams’ Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it’s no surprise that DC and IDW would want to return to that well. Instead of a straight-up sequel, however, the spiritual follow-up is a little more… animated.
One of the great things about the earlier series was its refusal to solely trade on nostalgia. Even though seeing Batman and the Ninja Turtles teaming up to fight a bunch of ninjas is a pretty easy sell, Tynion still took the time to tell a real story. There was depth to the conversations and interactions between Batman and the Turtles, all of whom felt like real characters. That made the climax where Bane is turned into an elephant and Batman battles the Shredder while dressed in a turtle-bat-suit feel all the more genuine.
It’s a bit early in the game to tell if this series will rise to that level, but it’s at least a good start. The concept is different enough that it doesn’t feel like the same story with different visuals. Several different Batman villains make appearances as well, which makes the world that writer Matthew K. Manning is building feel bigger and more involved.
And yes, it helps that they look like they walked right off the TV screen.
The plot itself is pretty spare, serving as set-up and exposition more than anything. Simply put, there are dimensional “tears” that have appeared in both Batman and the Turtles’ worlds, causing crossover between the two. This leads Batman and the Turtles to investigate the tears in their own worlds, with Donatello picking up the anomalies through his tech and Batman discovering them through Harvey’s ramblings and, later, the disappearance of Clayface. One of the things that I’ve felt has been missing from Batman books as of late is Bruce’s deductive skills, and while the mystery he investigates here may not fully challenge him as the World’s Greatest Detective, it’s nice to see Batman actually trying to solve a mystery.
I also appreciate the fact that the characters aren’t really explained, just introduced. True, there will always be new readers to any character, and this may very well be somebody’s first comic book. The characters have small descriptors when they first appear, detailing their name and basic personality, but given that these are two of the biggest properties in the world, lengthy retellings of their backstory and motivations are unnecessary. You find out that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are exactly that, plus they like pizza, and Batman is a spooky detective who lives in a cave and has a sassy butler. In Clayface’s case, you pretty much know what you’re getting with that guy based on his name alone. It’s effective storytelling that doesn’t get bogged down in details, instead letting the reader know exactly what they need to so they can enjoy the story.
Manning is also pretty effective at balancing the tones of the respective universes, though his handling of Batman and his world is a little more confident and cohesive than the Turtles. That’s strange, because Manning regularly writes a Ninja Turtles comic. That’s not to say that his Turtles are bad, they just aren’t quite “there” for me. The characters have the appropriate voices and personalities, so they certainly feel like the Turtles, but some of the lines and jokes fall a bit flat.
The visual humor is spot-on, though, thanks to the mostly excellent pencils of Jon Sommariva, the colors of Leonard Ito, and the inks of Sean Parsons. I say “mostly” because there are a few iffy panels and some questionable faces here and there…
…but overall I love the visual aesthetic of the book. Besides the brilliant choice to use the classic Animated Series designs; the environments look unique and distinct: Gotham’s red-tinted skies; the graffiti-littered alleys of New York City; the cold, sterile hallways of Arkham Asylum; the muck-filled sewers.
This isn’t quite the home-run I was hoping for given my love of both cartoons, but it’s a strong enough start and more than worth a read. Even if you just want to see “Animated Batman” again it’s worth the price of admission.
- You love Batman.
- You love the Ninja Turtles.
- You especially love the animated takes on those characters.
Overall: I’ll say it again: if you like the animated Batman and Ninja Turtles series, this is the book for you. It’s great for all-ages, an easy introduction to both universes, and overall just a fun time. Even with a few minor setbacks, Batman/TMNT Adventures is a solid, entertaining debut chapter. Here’s hoping subsequent issues follow suit to deliver another excellent crossover between Batman and the Turtles.