Batman/TMNT Adventures #4 review

Month in and month out, I’m loving these title pages.  It’s a strange thing to mention, but given that they’re the first thing you see after the cover it’s important to leave a good impression.  Batman/TMNT Adventures continues to impress with its title page, using stark colors and imagery to evoke the feeling of watching and old episode of Batman: The Animated Series.  They aren’t quite as stylized or noirish and cool, but these pages are well designed and certainly get you in the mood to read about a bat dude hanging out with giant karate turtles.  A strange aside, but that’s how muc I’m enjoying this series: even a page where nothing happens is a delight.

Title page aside, this issue is still a delight.  I’ve been enjoying this book on at least some level since the beginning, and it keeps getting better and better each month.  Last issue was strong, and this issue is even stronger, resulting in the best installment so far.

I’m not going to pretend that this is a really deep, involving read, exploring the psyches of each of the characters and tackling difficult themes.  No, this is an issue where Michaelangelo almost falls into a portal because he tries to catch a peanut in his mouth.

The heart wants what it wants, you know?

Nope, this is just a fun ride from beginning to end.  It barely takes any time to slow down, and there’s scarcely a page that isn’t short of entertaining.

At the end of the previous issue, Raphael and Leonardo had fallen into a trap laid by the Scarecrow.  With the streets of New York flooded with fear gas, Batman attempts to track Crane down, only to realize that his rebreather has a crack in it.  As he’ll succumb to the toxin anyway, Batman grits his teeth and tries to work through it.  Unfortunately for him, he fails.

Fortunately for us, it allows Jon Sommariva to let loose and draw as many of Bats’ rogues gallery as he wants.

Talia does seem really, really small and Red Claw looks gigantic, but whatever. Bats is tripping, and did you really think you’d be reading a comic with Red Claw standing beside Lock-Up today?

The usual suspects are there, but Baby-Doll?  Red Claw?  Kyodai Ken?  Those are some pleasant surprises.  Condiment King isn’t that surprising, as he’s such a goofy character that of course someone would make reference to him, but not once did I think this week would see me reviewing a comic with an appearance from the Sewer King.  Yet, here we are.  What a world.

It’s all a hallucination, of course, but it still allows for some fun cameos.  That’s a big part of what makes this series so enjoyable: it feels like a really big episode of a cartoon.  That makes me clamor for more stories with this style of Batman, and I say that each month.  Maybe if enough people say it with me it will come to be.  Who knows?

It’s not all fun references either, though; Matthew Manning handles the characters well and manages to balance several plots on top of that.  Each group of characters gets enough of a spotlight to matter to the narrative, yet none of the subplots drag or overstay their welcome.  Once Batman is thrown in prison with Raphael and Leo, we stay there long enough to get a handle on their situation before steps are taken to get them out of it.  When we’re dropped into a fight scene with Michelangelo, Batgirl, Robin, and April heading off a bunch of Foot Clan members, there’s enough action to keep them busy while Donatello investigates a mysterious chip he’s found. Shredder, in his brief appearance, proves that he’s dangerous, strong-willed, and a man of honor.

It’s a tight, solid script, and a great example of economic storytelling.

Strong as those other scenes are, my absolute favorite moments involve the Joker.  His portrayal early on was a tad disappointing, but Manning’s truly found the character’s voice.  He’s both silly and dangerous, and that unpredictability is what makes him terrifying.  Sommariva also proves his knack for visual comedy, as there are just as many laughs from the outlandish things the Joker does as there are the crazy things he says. I dare you to see the Joker wearing Shredder’s helmet and not laugh.  I’m not convinced it can be done.

Like the overall plot of the crossover, I don’t think the Joker’s endgame really matters.  Because of that, the fact that it’s pretty derivative of the other Batman/Turtles crossover doesn’t bother me.  It would have been nice if they had gone a direction other than “Joker gets a hold of some mutagen,” but once you see Harley’s hyenas dressed in tuxedos I think you’ll let it slide too.

At this point, this book is pretty much a string of action scenes and Batman villain cameos.  It may not be deep reading, but it’s solid fun, and for a book like this that’s all you need.

Recommended if:

  • You love Batman.
  • You love the Ninja Turtles.
  • You want a fun, easy read.
  • You’re any age whatsoever, as this is a great book for anyone young and old.
  • You like really awesome looking title cards.

Overall: A thrill ride from start to finish, Batman/TMNT Adventures has truly found solid footing.  Each month the creative team surprises me with the increasing quality of the character work and sheer entertainment of the story, and this is no exception.  With some great laughs, compelling storytelling, and surprising cameos, this is the best installment yet.  Let’s everyone buy this so that maybe, someday, we can get more animated-style Batman comics.  The world needs it now more than ever.

SCORE: 8.5/10