There’s a wide variety of ideas you could implement when coming up with a meeting between DC’s iconic Caped Crusader and the Heroes in a Half-Shell, and IDW Publishing’s Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles uses a number of them, including some approaches I wasn’t expecting. With some strong writing by James Tynion IV and dynamic art by Freddie Williams III, it’s a fiercely entertaining six issues that features some fun interactions between these legendary characters.
Much like our previous two editions Crossover Clashes, our story is spearheaded by- wait for it- the villains hopping to another dimension. When the Turtles, Splinter, Shredder and his Foot Clan find themselves transported to Gotham City during a battle involving the alien warlord Krang, the scarred ninja decides to make the most of his unfortunate situation and- wait for it- conquer this new universe.
So there’s some typical crossover tropes in play, but Tynion’s Shredder is far from the incompetent bumbler he was in the 1987 Murakami-Wolf-Swenson cartoon. His level of ruthlessness and brutality against his enemies recalls the Shredder of the original Mirage comics, as he forms a tentative partnership with the Penguin and takes advantage of his underworld connections.
Pursued by an angry Killer Croc, the mean green machine and their master run afoul of Bruce Wayne while he’s on duty. Both Batman and the Turtles quickly launch into research on the strange individuals they encountered, and eventually they’re forced to align as Shredder continues to scheme, becoming more aware of how the mutagen chemical could affect the various crazies that make up Batman’s famous Rogues Gallery. The mutated Batvillains are given some pretty creative designs by Williams, my favorites being a venomous Joker and Mr. Freeze as a brutal polar bear.
One of my favorite aspects about Batman/TMNT is not only how varied the personalities of the Turtles are, but also how they each play off of Batman differently. Michelangelo is his usual fun loving self and comes to idolize Batman like a devoted fanboy. Donatello is fascinated by Wayne’s mind, and Leonardo comes to respect him as a fellow warrior who values honor. Ever the cynic, Raphael is chilly towards Batman to start, unable to relate to what he sees as just a rich kid playing dressup.
This leads into one of my favorite parts of the crossover, with Batman and Raph just carrying on a conversation about Bruce’s past. Tynion really emphasizes Batman’s heart and sense of compassion here, without undercutting his presence. Sometimes, Batman is handled by other writers as just an angry, angst ridden character and not much else beyond that. But as he gradually bonds with the Turtles and Splinter, this miniseries highlights a more noble side of Batman that I don’t think is seen often quite enough.
Alongside all of the emotion is plenty of visually impressive splash pages and fights, rendered well by Williams III. The models of his Turtles are hulking and imposing, but also extremely expressive- a nice mix of their original comic designs with some of the fluidness of their animated versions. His Batman/Bruce looks a bit overly muscular and wonky in a few panels, but overall he captures Batman’s essence well. The villains are where he especially shines, with his creepy looking Penguin and a sinister looking Shredder that combines the best elements of his various incarnations.
Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a great standalone series that highlights the best elements of these two popular franchises. There’s a suitable amount of grit, intensity and drama, but that’s counterbalanced with a ton of affection for the characters in the narrative, and a strong sense of fun. I’d be over the moon if Warner Bros. gave the green light to animating a movie adaption of this story! Easily recommended.