We’ve reached the halfway point of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, and what a ride it’s been. This story is just barreling along, with a pace that’s surprisingly fast considering how potentially big it could get. A lot of that comes from the crazy mashups and surprising characters who’ve made appearances, both of which cover pretty admirably for a plot that is– let’s face it– pretty standard. Not “bad,” by any means, and certainly not boring, but less daring than the inclusion of the original Ninja Turtles would lead you to believe.
After two issues of pretty much nonstop forward momentum, I suppose it’s to be expected that the third installment of the series pulls back a bit to fill in some narrative gaps. And by “narrative gaps” I mean “smooshing Bruce Wayne and the Turtles’ back stories together,” which ends up being… mildly clever.
Not to sound derisive or anything, but we’ve seen both of these origins before. A lot. So you kind of have to do something pretty fresh and creative to warrant yet another retelling, and James Tynion IV tries his best.
His morbid, horrifying best.
No word on whether Matt Murdock was involved in this accident or not. Too much to ask? Probably. Am I still going to? Definitely.
Yes, instead of being gunned down in an alley, Thomas and Martha Wayne are killed by a speeding vehicle. Bonus points for the driver’s name being Joe Chill.
Forgive me if I sound pithy, or even sarcastic, as that’s not my intent. Tynion and (especially) Williams do a pretty great job of retelling and combining familiar stories with a fresh angle.
Even though I’ve read enough versions of the Wayne murders to last me a lifetime, there’s some interesting stuff here. The way that Tynion weaves the Turtles into it works pretty well, and while the “runaway truck” element is… a little contrived, it works to give this wacky mashup universe a sense of history.
It’s not all flashbacks, though, as Bruce heads out on his own to the dilapidated Wayne Manor, and the Turtles go in search of a girl who may be able to answer the questions they have.
I’ll give you two guesses as to who it is.
Much as I’ve been enjoying this crossover, the nature of the characters is curious and doesn’t have a lot of consistency. Where each of the Turtles have characteristics of different Robins and several villains are amalgamations of different characters, Batman seems to be wholly Bruce Wayne, just with altered memories. We also find out that Splinter, the Joker, and a few other characters are not, in fact, combined with anyone from the opposite worlds, so… what’s the logic? I may be looking too far into it, and it could easily be hand-waved away with a simple explanation of “this combined world is unstable” or something along those lines. Still, even if the story is following its own rules, I want to know what those rules are, you know?
Then again, I’m down for goofy weirdness when it’s done well, so it’s not that big a deal.
Odd as it may seem, based on how I’ve been going on about retreading Batman and the Turtles’ origins, the most effective scene in the issue is another instance of the Wayne murders. He goes back to his childhood home, looking for answers to his questions about the Multiverse, and runs into an old friend. From there, his true memories come flooding back to him.
Williams says so much in that single page that it’s astounding. They’re all familiar images, and while they aren’t really presented in a way that we’ve never seen before, the simplicity of his composition is akin to the opening page in All-Star Superman. I love the large image of Bruce looming over his newfound memories, and there’s just something about that white streak trailing out of his eye that’s just stunning. “Crime, loss, vow, bat.” This says all you need to know about Batman’s beginning without a single word.
Every other thread in this issue is mainly to set up plot elements going forward, so it’s hard to judge them on their own terms. It’s written well, to be sure, and there were a few surprises that I genuinely was not expecting, so the story still keeps you on your toes. This may be the… well, I won’t say “weakest,” because it’s still effective in its own way, but after two issues that kept the momentum going at a pretty solid clip, a more scattered and less focused issue was a bit of a letdown, if not an inevitability. Still, I’m enjoying this series quite a bit, and can’t wait to see where it goes next.
- You like Batman.
- You like the Ninja Turtles.
- You’re down for some fresh takes on their origins.
- You love great visual storytelling.
Overall: Less focused and more expository than the previous two issues, this is still a pretty solid installment of an overall really good series. While the retelling and combining of Batman and the Turtles’ origins won’t reinvent the wheel, they’re still presented in a way that never feels entirely derivative. With some clever twists and welcome appearances from some beloved characters, this issue is setting up some pretty interesting storytelling opportunities for the second half of the series. While I may have just liked this issue, I’m still kind of loving the series as a whole.