Back in 2015, the first crossover between Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was announced. What could have easily been a series that phoned in its story and traded heavily on nostalgia was actually really good. Penned by James Tynion IV and illustrated by Freddie Williams II, the series had great character interactions and some inventive action scenes. Plus Bane got turned into an elephant and Mr. Freeze became a polar bear. A polar bear!
The following year, the animated style Batman and Turtles met in the equally entertaining Batman/TMNT Adventures, which didn’t have as cohesive of a plot as the previous series but was still great fun just the same. Plus, the trade features the first pull quote that Batman News has received to date, which is pretty cool. I geeked out pretty hard over that on the Comic-Con show floor, not going to lie.
I’m all about Batman, and I’m all about the Turtles, you could say. So when it was announced that Tynion and Williams would reunite for a follow-up to the original miniseries, I go pretty excited. This one would see Bane transported to the Turtles’ New York City to become a crime lord, which is kind of what Bane: Conquest is about. Except… Turtles.
Now that it’s here, I can tell you with full confidence that Batman/TMNT II is… pretty disappointing.
It’s hard to say this early in the game what isn’t working, and there’s plenty of time for this series to improve. As it stands, though, returning to this world was a disappointing affair.
It doesn’t start out that way, though: we open on a frantic man, running through the streets of New York. He’s talking about what the monstrous creature said to him, otherwise muttering unintelligibly.
That’s when we see… the Turtles, flying on some sweet hoverboards.
This scene is really fun, capturing the spirit of adventure and action that is emblematic of the Turtles. Unfortunately, it’s over far too soon, and the issue never regains that sense of fun.
It’s weird, too, because Tynion has proven that he knows how to write the Turtles really well, and there are sparks of life and creativity here, particularly when Michelangelo is involved.
Side note: pineapple on pizza can be delicious. I don’t get why this is such a point of contention. I mean, it’s better than olives. Yergh.
That there are signs of life with Mikey isn’t at all surprising. He is a party dude, after all. But by and large, none of the other Turtles are wet blankets either (except maybe Leonardo, but whatever), yet I was honestly bored through most of this issue. Tynion focuses a lot on Donatello and how he isn’t as great of a martial artist as his brothers. There could be some good drama mined from this, but it has yet to be realized. Instead, it’s just a lot of Donnie doubting himself almost passive-aggressively and everyone else dismissing him.
Donatello has always been my favorite, too, so I don’t know what wasn’t clicking here. The fact that Batman and Robin aren’t really in it doesn’t help matters, so it might be an issue of balance. There’s a lot of drama with the Turtles, and what amounts to an extended cameo from Batman. I counted, and Batman is on about seven pages of the book, which is a typical 21-22 pages itself. So, he’s in a third of the issue, but it feels like so much less. He and Damian investigate what ends up being a hidden Lazarus Pit underneath Gotham City, which is kind of a played out plot point right now. I love Ra’s and the Lazarus Pits, but Tynion himself has returned to the League of Assassins well so much in the past year that it feels played out. Batman gets top billing, yet because his story isn’t remarkably involving it feels as if he has less of a presence than he actually does.
Mind you, I don’t need Batman to be in every panel of every page, but I do need the story to be interesting. There’s potential, especially once Bane takes over in the Turtles’ universe, so here’s hoping the next issue is an improvement.
While the story has yet to grab me, I’m really impressed by Williams this go around. His style is great and nicely detailed, but I felt it took a few issues to get his proportions and perspectives in order in the previous series. His work here is great to look at from front to back: his Turtles all have unique characteristics that distinguish themselves from their brothers, and I particularly love his panel shapes. At times they even look like the segments of a turtle shell, which is a nice touch. It gives the issue and the action its own thematic identity, eschewing a typical straight line look in favor of rough edges and geometric shapes.
Jeremy Colwell does wonders with his colors, too, keeping the issue from becoming awash in muted colors. There are a lot of browns, grays, and even dark greens here, and coupled with Williams’ uniquely detailed style the images could have run together. Colowell does an admirable job of preventing that, however, with colors that complement each other without bleeding together. Dig too Tom Napolitano’s lettering style, from the clean and simple dialogue to flourishes like an exclamation of “Cowabunga!” His dialogue balloons are as pleasing to the eye as the artwork, and he makes good use of italics and bolded letters to drive points home.
I’m hoping that Tynion can get back into the groove he established in the previous series. Now that the worlds have been reestablished, no matter how ungracefully, I’m optimistic that Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can prove that their first outing wasn’t a fluke. With the second issue due in a mere two weeks, we don’t have long to wait and find out.
- You like the Ninja Turtles.
- You like Batman… cameos.
Overall: Largely humorless and, quite frankly, boring, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II is off to a rough start. Now that the re-introductions are out of the way, here’s hoping the story moves along at a better, faster clip. It still looks great, though, so even if the story doesn’t grab you the artwork surely will. The concept is interesting this time around, but with this first issue at least the magic hasn’t been recaptured.