I’m going to be real here: this is pretty much Fan Service: The Comic Book. As much as this series has built to a climax, it almost takes a back seat to a near-endless stream of jokes, references, and homages. In any other comic book this might annoy me, but here? Batman and the Ninja Turtles? I kind of love it.
Sure, there’s a final confrontation with the Mad Hatter, who was revealed to be the mastermind behind this whole portals nonsense at the end of the previous chapter. The opening few pages detail his plan and how long he’d been concocting it, along with its various trials and errors before he got it right. A week or two ago I asked about great Mad Hatter stories. Well, this probably won’t go down as one, but it’s fun regardless. I liked that, even in explaining just how and why everything was happening the way it was, it’s still pretty much brushed aside with technobabble. Matthew Manning realizes that it doesn’t matter why the Turtles are rubbing elbows with the Dynamic Duo, it just matters that they are.
Like I said, any other comic and the lack of explanation would have been maddening. This whole series has pretty much been nothing but forward momentum and cameo after cameo, though, so the fact that the finale doesn’t really answer many questions isn’t surprising. In fact, had they started caring now it would have stopped the narrative dead in its tracks. Does it really matter why Tetch wants to control the minds of people across two dimensions? He’s a bad guy. That’s what he does. I’ll contradict myself a bit and say that it would have been nice if the plot had been deeper, but I’m just glad they stuck to their guns the whole way through. There are worse things you can do than just have a stream of action scenes and Easter eggs over the course of five issues, and if that was the creative team’s intent, they delivered it in spades.
There’s so much going on visually in this issue that I want to talk about everything, but I don’t want to spoil anything either. Spoiler-free version: Jon Sommariva turns in some great work here, perfectly illustrating both animated-style Batman and Ninja Turtle characters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this guy needs to be on a Batman: The Animated Series ongoing yesterday, he’s so good at it. He’s stylistically different than the likes of Mike Parobeck and Bruce Timm, yet his character renderings keep in the same spirit as the previous Batman Adventures titles.
The high energy and frenetic pace of the visuals make the thin narrative fly by. They also make it forgivable, as there’s really only one motive with this series: have fun. What else are you supposed to do when Michelangelo and Robin team up to take down the Mad Hatter, while Batman and Batgirl join April and the other Turtles in their universe to face endless hordes of mind-controlled citizens? You just sit back and let your inner ten-year-old marvel at the fact that this book exists.
And then there are the homages.
I’m never really one for references or fan service for its own sake. Too often it comes across as cute or esoteric, confusing the uninformed and only pleasing those who “get it.” Constant in-jokes and homages can carry the air that the creators are just trying too hard, so it’s a fine line to walk. It’s completely subjective too, as one person may enjoy a joke while another can think it’s too twee. Personally, I like it when the jokes are subtle, like this:
That is, of course, a nod to the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film poster.
You know the one.
Then there’s a sequence that will make any Batman fan happy. I’ll post it in spoiler tags in case you want to see it for yourself as you read the issue. Let’s just say that the final issue of Batman ’66 did something similar and I loved it each time.
Play for full effect: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oQVC2zCC5qA
As a tribute that is pitch-perfect work from Sommariva, Parsons, and Ito. Some of those panels look like they’re lifted directly from the original animation cels, and those that don’t are still in keeping with the title sequence. Sommariva hinted at this sequence in Twitter, saying there’s something that would make you hum the theme music, and he wasn’t wrong.
I had fun with this book. I sincerely hope you did too. Maybe it will lead to more animated-style Batman books, or other fun crossovers with different characters. I mean, Bats still needs to fight the Shredder, right? Here’s hoping there’s more to come soon.
But what’s this?
definitely 6 issues. The 6th one is a total bonus adventure that ties into the first 5 :)
— Jon Sommariva (@JonSommariva) March 21, 2017
Well that was fast. I guess I’ll see you next month dudes and dudettes.
BONUS: Two pretty keen variant covers.
The first one is from Jeff Matsuda, who draws chins like nobody’s business:
The Subscription Cover is from Gabriel Rodriguez. It’s a nice image, even if Batman’s torso looks a little squat, but the Turtles look great. I dig this one.
- You like Batman.
- You like the Ninja Turtles.
- You want a fun, all-ages book that tickles the nostalgia bone.
Overall: This is a good time. Sometimes, that’s all you need. The plot may be fairly bare, but the jokes are fun, the visuals are spot-on, and the various nods to the histories of each franchise are fantastic. Batman/TMNT Adventures has left me wanting more stories in this style, as it’s a perfect complement to the Batman Adventures series. I already have shelf space set aside for the inevitable trade paperback. Really, what’s a better endorsement than that?