Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III #5 review

Last month, I lamented that Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III felt like it was spinning its wheels.  Pieces were moved around the proverbial chessboard to prepare for the final conflict, but not much actually happened.  This month, there’s a whole lot more positioning of characters and set up for the inevitable final battle, but holy crap is it awesome.

Tynion sidesteps most of the problems that plagued him in the previous issue, which had a bit too much exposition and not enough actually going on to make things interesting.  This time, he throws pretty much everything he can at this book, completely unafraid of going too big or too insane.

After all, this is Batman and the Ninja Turtles.  More than that, this is Batman and the Ninja Turtles taking part in their own Crisis on Infinite Earths, so why not just go all out and get crazy?

To be fair, there’s about as much story here as there was in the previous issue.  It can be summed up in just a few sentences: “Batman and the Turtles prepare for the final battle against the Krang, with the fate of the Multiverse in the balance.  Batman strikes off on his own, leaving the Turtles to rally troops and unite with the Shredder to take down a common foe.  With the Turtles ready to take on Krang, Batman reveals that he had a trick up his sleeve the whole time, as he calls on his own allies to join the fight.”

So, pretty much, the good guys get ready to punch the bad guys.

What made this series an improvement over its immediate predecessor, though, was how surprising it was.  Really, who among us didn’t let out an “oh snap!” when the Mirage Turtles appeared?  It was an element that caught me off guard in the best way, and made me genuinely excited about where this series could actually go.

If things have kind of mellowed out over the past few issues– what with Batman seeking to unravel the unnatural “mashup” nature of this false reality– the penultimate issue of the series here pulls more toys out of the toybox, simply because it can and because it’s cool.

More than that, Tynion manages to hit on some pretty strong thematic depth.  Batman is often seen as a loner, both on the printed page and among fans.  And, sure, there is some credence to that, in part: Batman can work as a solo figure, and he works well when he’s by himself.

But he’s never truly been alone.  Right from the start, in Detective Comics #27, he was joined in his crusade by Commissioner Gordon.  Robin debuted less than a year after Batman himself, and while Alfred took a few more years to be introduced– and longer still to develop into the character we recognize– there’s hardly a Batman story out there where the faithful butler isn’t at least mentioned.  That’s to say nothing of the various other sidekicks and partners he’s worked with over the years, his tenure on various superhero teams, and his fairly new found status as a father.  “Batman has never been alone,” and he never will be either.

Given Tynion’s professed affinity for Robin, it’s not surprising that he would make this point, but it’s welcome just the same.  Especially when Freddie Williams illustrates Batman and his allies so incredibly well, against the absolute bananas insanity of the Technodrome looming in the background.  This is what comics are all about, friends.

Williams isn’t just great at big show-stopping moments, though, even though he’s more than proven his skill in that area.  He’s a remarkable storyteller, with his page layouts driving the narrative just as much as Tynion’s words.  Take the scene where Bruce flashes back to the death of Jason.  It could have very well been laid out in a group of panels, the first showing Batman’s realization that the Joker had taken his ward’s life, and each successive panel progressing through his memories.  This would have been a fine, traditional take, and it would have worked.  Instead, Williams opts for a splash page, with the Batman of the present hovering over his fallen foe’s body in the foreground, all while flashes of that great tragedy display in the background.  Williams’ pencils and Colwell’s colors work wonderfully together, especially with all of the reds and links that are used throughout.  I love the faded look of that flashback, and the way Colwell depicts abstract light and energy with lightning and portals.  Truly, this is the best looking Batman/Turtles book to date.

Eastman is also back to illustrate his signature Turtles, which look just as great next to Williams’ figures as the solo Raph did earlier in the series.  Tom Napolitano really helps sell the contrasting styles too, using different fonts for different characters, and throwing in some pretty cool stylized effects here and there as well.  The “regular” Turtles, for instance, have pretty standard text when they speak, whereas the Mirage Turtles’ lettering is a bit “rougher,” in a good way.  Their words are a little bit looser, with the top line of an ‘E’ extending just a bit further than it should, or an ‘A’ looking a little more hastily scribbled than those of the other characters.  It’s these creative touches that show that a lot of care went into the making of this book, as they’re details that not everyone will notice, but someone will.

While I don’t know what will transpire in the final issue of this series, all signs are pointing to a huge battle with the fate of the Multiverse in the balance. Too many stories like that can get exhausting, true, but this is Batman and the Ninja Turtles.  It’s everything that every young nerd wanted to see in a comic book, and the type of story that we’d act out with our action figures.  The fact that there’s a lot of heart to go with Krang reenacting the plot of Crisis on Infinite Earths is just a bonus, and a welcome one at that.

Recommended if:

  • Once again, you like Batman.
  • And the Ninja Turtles.
  • And the extended Batfamily.

Overall: While it’s kind of thin on story, this issue more than makes up for it with great character work and an undeniable sense of forward momentum.  This is just insanely fun comic book storytelling that seeks first and foremost to entertain, which is precisely what a team-up between Batman, his family, and multiple versions of the Ninja Turtles should be.  That there are some genuinely touching moments and astute observations about Batman’s perceived status as a loner?  Well that’s just icing on the cake… or pepperoni on the pizza, dudes.

SCORE: 8.5/10