Now this is a bit more like it.
I was really excited about the prospect of a second meeting between Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While the debut issue of the miniseries was passably entertaining, there were enough storytelling problems to dampen my enthusiasm. Gone was the almost delirious joy of seeing two of my favorite childhood properties teaming up with each other and in its place was… boredom. That just should not be in a series where a dude dressed as Dracula does karate with talking turtles, but sadly it was.
Thankfully, the sophomore issue proves that proves it’s too early to call this a sophomore slump, as it improves on pretty much every aspect of the first issue.
A lot of that comes down to pacing, which is much better this go around. Now that the setup is out of the way the actual plot can go into effect, and what a plot it is. It’s so much better to actually see Bane taking over crime in New York City than just waiting for him to do it. Anticipation may have helped get through the rougher patches in the first installment, and seeing the promised threat has brought me back on board.
There’s a sense of present danger here that wasn’t even evident in the previous crossover. Not to slight Shredder and Ra’s (the latter of whom was barely realized anyway), but Bane is one of those unique villains who’s as much a mental threat as he is a physical one. Written correctly, he can be as cunning an opponent as he is an avatar of brute strength. Batman’s greatest assets are his mind and his body, and Bane can challenge both.
Despite the gravity of the situation, though, this issue is just plain fun. There are times when the writing is a little too telly and clunky, but it’s a much smoother, more enjoyable ride this time around. Robin and Donatello engage in an exhilarating chase sequence with Mr. Freeze, taking the best part of the previous issue and ramping it up to 11. Whereas before it was the Turtles flying hoverboards through the sewers of New York City (which is pretty amazing in itself), this scene sees Donnie and Damian gliding through the snow. It’s rather beautiful in its own way, with lots of white and soft blues to contrast the reds, blacks, and greens of our heroes. It’s just another example of Williams’ unique and stunning visual style working well with these properties.
Also: Mr. Freeze is driving an ice tank. Sometimes it’s the simple things, friends.
Besides being paced better, Tynion also introduces more characters from the respective worlds. Batgirl and Lucius Fox make an appearance as Donatello tries to make his way back home, and Bebop and Rocksteady play a surprisingly large role. It’s the latter two that brought me the most joy, as they’re perfect characters to serve as a P.O.V. for the audience in the face of the threat of Bane. Providing some much needed comic relief, the mutated warthog and rhino strut and grandstand in their first appearance before quickly cowering at the feet of the new crime boss. It’s a scene that’s balanced really well, both in playing for laughs and making Bane and his new Foot Clan army feel like a credible threat.
It’s a good thing that the humor lands there, too, because a few other lines… well…
They can’t all be winners.
I can’t stress enough how compelling Bane’s takeover is. Granted, it’s just starting and most of the action takes place off panel, but it all culminates in this:
The Foot Clan look like lucha libre. Amazing.
Looking back on it, there isn’t a lot of forward movement in the story here. Really, there are about as many big story beats as the first issue, but thanks to much better pacing and dialogue it’s far more enjoyable. It’s still not perfect and has a few narrative hiccups, but as a sheer entertainment you can do worse that Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II #2. It’s fun, so now that things are finally starting to move let’s see if it can become great.
- You like Batman.
- You like the Ninja Turtles.
- You were willing to give the title a chance even after a lackluster first chapter.
Overall: Tynion has found much more stable ground with his second issue. There’s still some shaky dialogue here and there, but the spirit of the first crossover is much more evident here. Bane’s influence in New York provides for some compelling drama, most of the jokes land the way they should, and bringing in different characters from both properties opens up new storytelling opportunities. I mean, if the idea of seeing Bebop and Rocksteady groveling at the feet of Bane as he’s surrounded by Foot Clan members whose masks bear a resemblance to his own doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what else will.