There’s a phrase that I’ve caught myself using lately to describe the books I cover: “a really good time,” or some derivation thereof. At the end of the day, that’s really all I want. Sure, I love great continuity-heavy stories, intricate plots, and an experience that rewards making a true investment in the story. You know what else I love? Cartoons and stupid jokes.
Truly I am a man of refined, diverse tastes.
Batman/TMNT Adventures trades on nostalgia, there’s no denying that. The largest draws of the book are the fact that it joins two incredibly popular properties, and the opportunity to see an Animated Series-style Batman once again. To those ends it has delivered, though the product itself hasn’t been truly stellar. With its third installment, though, I’m happy to report this series has finally found its footing. It’s funny, much more confident, and yes, a good time.
Picking up right where the previous issue left off, Batman, Robin, Batgirl and the Turtles face off against Snakeweed. Thanks to the machinations of Poison Ivy, the plant-insect-villain-thingy is more formidable than the Turtles had experienced in the past, to the point that it begins adapting to the heroes’ attacks and strategies. The fight itself is illustrated really well, which is good considering it goes on for quite a while. Credit to colorists Ito, Rauch, Atkinson and Galloway for making so much green look so good: there’s a lot of the verdant hue here and everything could have easily bled together, but the disparate tones chosen mostly keep the characters and backgrounds distinguishable from each other.
This fight takes up a good half of the book, so it’s a good thing it’s as entertaining as it is. The visual aspects are great (even if it’s just against a plant monster, it’s good to see the Turtles actually use their weapons), and Jon Sommariva’s exaggerated style is nice and fluid with a lot of curved lines to emulate movement. While the book certainly looks great, and it does look great, the real joy is in the character interactions. Matthew Manning has been a little uneven so far, doing one group well while falling flat with another, but he’s finally found his voice. Barring one stinker of a joke I really felt he nailed the personalities of the large cast of characters, and even then that stinker came from Mikey so it’s par for the course.
Manning particularly shines with argumentative banter, particularly between Raphael and Robin. It’s not particularly funny and they don’t actually “sting” as insults, but there’s some pretty solid chemistry between the two. They have a great adversarial thing going on, and it’s better than Donatello fawning over Batgirl. I thought it was weird when he acted that way toward April, and it’s weird when he acts that way toward Barbara. And Donnie’s always been my favorite, so it pains me to say that.
It’s the way the characters react to the new and different worlds they find themselves in that gives the story a good comedic foundation. Sure, seeing a five-foot-tall rat makes Batgirl do a double-take. Anyone would. Considering she’d been hanging out with a group of talking turtles for the past hour, and her mentor is best friends with an alien, an Amazon, and a dude who can talk to fish, that’s really not too far out of the norm. I like the almost nonchalant attitude everyone has toward the situation. The turtles are even characterized a bit differently than in the earlier miniseries, taking charge more than submitting to the “coolness” of Batman. It’s a nice change, and one that makes sense considering he’s just another guy to them. They don’t know Batman’s reputation or how cool he is or how he fights a crocodile-man on a semi-regular basis. To the Turtles, Batman is just another hero like their own Wingnut.
The latter whom gets his own song.
That Batgirl jams out to.
Yes, it’s “Ninja Rap”. But “Wingnut Rap”.
Manning also finally finds the proper voice for Joker, walking the fine line between goofy clown and anarchist that makes this version so memorable. This Joker (who it is impossible to read without hearing Mark Hamill’s voice) makes silly comments and acts recklessly, prodding the Shredder to the point of anger. His silly nature has a menacing subtext, though, and that unpredictability is what makes the character truly terrifying. I know there are those who like the Joker as a menacing killer or an unstoppable force of chaos, and that can work. They’re not wrong. To me, though, what makes the character work best is when he’s just as likely to throw a pie in your face as he is to throw a pie… that then explodes. It’s all a gag to him, you never know when he’s “just making a joke” and when he’s truly wanting to harm someone, and that’s what makes him a formidable adversary. We can’t predict him, Batman can’t predict him, and that’s the joke.
But I digress.
Even if this trades on nostalgia, at least it’s entertaining and a good read. It’s pretty much a tour through the worlds of both Batman and the Ninja Turtles with villains appearing just as quickly as they leave, and that’s all it needs to be. And who knows: maybe if this sells well (which I can’t imagine it won’t) we’ll get another Animated Series-style Batman book in the future.
- You love Batman.
- You love the Ninja Turtles.
- You were born between 1975 and 1990, especially.
- You want to see some more animated-style Batman, as I’m sure most of us do.
Overall: Rock-solid entertainment, and a fun nostalgic trip. The writing is getting more confident, the characters are pretty much spot-on, and the art style is simply fantastic. Batman/TMNT Adventures is a solid book that, if nothing else, offers one more adventure in the Batman universe so many of us grew up with. That the Ninja Turtles are also here is just an added bonus.