By Mike Perry
Note: This review contains extensive spoilers. We recommend that you read the storyline first if you don’t want any surprises ruined. For a more concise, brief review in audio form, check out Episode 12 of the Adult Podcast for Kids (coming Friday, May 13, 2016)! If you enjoy this review, check out all of our past podcasts and blog posts, or give us a follow on Twitter or Facebook.
Issue six in the six part DC Comics Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles miniseries was released on May 11, wrapping up the monthly that debuted in December. For anybody in their late twenties or early thirties, the meeting between the Heroes in a Half Shell and the Caped Crusader was definitely a dream come true. I grew up on the original TMNT cartoon, and the older I got, the more I noticed similarities between the gritty, underground tones in the Batman universe. I came to love both franchises, although eventually, I grew up and was not able to keep up with the myriad different spin-offs, variants, and story arcs for the characters.
Thanks to the brilliance of James Tynion IV and the awesome artwork of Freddie Williams II, none of that matters. Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a perfect, standalone indulgence of my childhood nostalgia with just enough tying it to the key lore of both franchises to keep it believable within the realm of my suspension of comic disbelief. This is a wonderful series.
The story starts with a shadowy group of ninjas stealing seemingly random parts from various research facilities. Batman sets out a dragnet, as the Dark Knight Detective typically does, hoping to catch the crooks in his own backyard, Wayne Enterprises. Meanwhile, Killer Croc hatches a plot to steal the Batmobile and sell it for parts.
As Batman sets up his trap, Croc, who had chosen the sewers as a covert way to get to the Batmobile, discovers what looks like the bedroom on a teenager. Pizza boxes are strewn about and there are video games everywhere. Of course, the Turtles, waiting in the shadows, make quick work of him. They rise to street level only to be completely awed as they see the Batmobile. Batman introduces himself briefly, setting up the first awesome brawl in the series.
Issue #2 opens with said brawl, as Batman easily dispatches each of the Turtles one by one, but not before Michelangelo stops for a pizza break. There’s brilliant interplay between the two worlds from the moment they meet. Mike is distracted by frivolous teenage pursuits like pizza and games. Donatello is completely fascinated with the surroundings in his new world. Raphael is his typical paranoid, moody self. His cynicality about Batman is almost immediate, as Batman steals his sai. “So,” Raph remarks, “he’s a nut in a Dracula costume who punches clowns? What’s the big deal?” Meanwhile, Leonardo keenly notes that Batman could’ve killed them and didn’t. He was simply feeling them out, like a detective would.
Meanwhile, Bruce has Lucius Fox run some analysis on Raph’s weapon. He notes high levels of mutagen in both the metal it was fabricated from as well as a blood sample. We find out that eventually, in Batman’s world, the Turtle’s mutagen would degrade, causing anything affected by the mutagen to eventually revert to its normal state, meaning certain doom for the Turtles. Lucius also explains to Bruce that the random parts being stolen from research warehouses appear to be components in an interdimensional portal of some kind. The only piece missing was a resonance engine, developed by Wayne Enterprises. In fact, one had gone missing six months ago, according to the Defense Department.
We quickly learn that Penguin is trying to sell the device to Shredder on the black market. Shredder and the Foot Clan quickly turn their back on him, though, establishing their power and dominance over a major villain in the Batman universe. Penguin is now just a pawn in Shredder’s game. Subsequently, Splinter tracks Batman back to the Batcave, covertly
discovering for himself about the mutagen. He determines that if the Turtles are to return to their world, they will need some help.
Issue #3 opens with an absolutely maniacal Shredder speaking to Penguin, who tells him that the portal is almost done and that he’ll be returning home soon. Shredder explains that he has other plans; he’s going to rule two cities in two different dimensions. He says he’s going to use Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge as the home base for his interdimensional reign of terror.
Foot soldiers summon Dr. Khan, who has been kidnapped and forced to build the machine (not unlike Pavel from “The Dark Knight Rises”) against his will, to begin the process of opening the portal. Before he can do so, Batman arrives to save him. From here, we see a flashback to a couple of hours earlier.
There’s another neat reference to the Zero Year storyline as Bruce prepares. We see that the power grid has been completely sucked dry, and that Gotham has spilled over to the secondary power grid put in place to prevent another crippling centralized attack on the city. This was an excellent little touch. Bruce goes to the cave to mobilize for battle, only to find the Turtles already there. Mike is partying with pizza and a dinosaur. Don is orgasmically enamored with all of Batman’s high tech toys. Raph continues to be his miserable, cynical self, completely distrusting Batman. Leonardo tries to reason with him.
Batman demands an explanation for what is going on, still not fully trusting of the Turtles. Splinter explains very briefly the entire backstory of their universe. He says that Krang sent them through an interdimensional portal so they would stop interfering with his plans for world domination. Meanwhile, in a hilarious aside, Mike mistakes Alfred for a robot. After some brief tension, the Turtles and Batman agree to team up.
We time travel back to the impending fight, and the Turtles kick the Foot Clan’s ass pretty easily, causing an angry Shredder to blow up the entire portal generator device. Batman says that as long as Dr. Khan is safe, things will be fine. Unfortunately, he was killed by Shredder with a subdermal bomb. Raphael loses his cool and attempts to attack Shredder. Raph is seriously wounded in the attempt, and the team regroups to the Batcave. Shredder escapes to a waiting helicopter, only to realize that Ra’s Al Ghul and his League of Assassins have commandeered the chopper. He declares himself Shredder’s new partner to end issue #3.
At the start of issue #4, the nameless, faceless soldiers of the Foot Clan are starting to trickle into Arkham Asylum. Dr. Mahreen Zaheer is taunted by The Joker for information, and she advises an orderly to double his medication.
Back at Wayne Manor, Raph recuperates while Leo trains for combat with Batman and Don reviews previous surveillance information. He confirms the previous theory about the mutagen wearing off, and reveals that they need to get home unless they want to turn into Batman’s pets. As they reorganize, Batman joins the Turtles for a brief pizza party, which further infuriates Raphael, who says they’re wasting their time eating pizza when they should be working to save their own lives. Raph says that Bruce is nothing but a spoiled, selfish rich kid who is seeking thrills by crime fighting with his expensive toys. He explains that the Turtles had no choice in the matter, they must fight for survival. He storms out, as Shredder and Ra’s Al Ghul intercept an interdimensional signal that ultimately brings Casey Jones through a portal. Casey dispatches the Foot Soldiers easily and takes on Ra’s Al Ghul.
In a brilliant piece of exposition and the kind of thing that should have been used as a plot device in Batman v. Superman without the cringe-worthy attempt at humor that it was, Batman finds Raph and explains his origin. His family was ripped apart by criminals, and he sees the same thing happening to the Ninja Turtles. Raph acquiesces, and rejoins the team.
The Turtles, meanwhile, hit the city to investigate the major energy spike caused by Casey crossing over through the portal. They find him injured, and he explains that he’d brought five canisters of mutagen to help sustain his friends, but that Shredder had stolen them. He also mentions that he heard Ra’s Al Ghul and Shredder mention something about Arkham.
The penultimate issue #5 kicks off with Penguin meeting up with Batman and Commissioner Gordon. Penguin says that Shredder has gone too far and that he’s there to help. Leo doesn’t trust him, but Penguin insists that Ra’s Al Ghul teaming with Shredder is bad news, even for him. Gordon tells Batman that the Gotham City PD has Arkham surrounded and that he needs Batman’s help getting inside.
Leonardo, feeling the effects of the waning mutagen levels in his blood, passes out. Casey, in the meantime, hangs out while Don and Mike fool around in the Batcave. Robin (Damian Wayne, the son of Batman and Talia Al Ghul) shows up, mistaking the Turtles for thieves. After a brief fight, they explain the situation to him. Batman returns with the weakened Leo. Casey explains that he’s got a way home, but that the Turtles have to leave immediately and only get one shot at it. Batman and Robin plan to fight Shredder and Ra’s Al Ghul at Arkham on their own, stating they’ve seen worse. Splinter warns Batman not to underestimate his opponent.
On the way to the showdown, they encounter Penguin, who has been mutated into a humanoid bird, foreshadowing what quickly escalates into a war with an entire Rogue’s Gallery of mutants. At the start of issue #6, Batman and Robin fight off mutant versions of Bane and Harley Quinn fairly easily, before Poison Ivy traps Batman in some vines. Mr. Freeze then freezes him. Back at the Batcave, the Turtles realize what danger Batman is in and decide to abandon their plan after Raph relates the story that Batman shared with him about helping families like theirs. Again, the Turtles miss the opportunity to go back home, as they sprint out to help Batman at Arkham.
The tension reaching a fever pitch, Batman sends Robin out to take care of the Assassins outside. Just as Shredder is about to dispatch his Foot Soldiers to begin their assault on Gotham, the Turtles show up. Michelangelo fights Mr. Freeze, causing him to accidentally encapsulate Ivy in ice. The rest of the Turtles give Batman his intimidation suit, which he puts on and fights Shredder while the Turtles take on Ra’s Al Ghul. Ultimately, the team subdues the two evil leaders. Ra’s calls on his men, but Damian walks in and explains to his grandfather that he has already disarmed them and that GCPD was in the process of arresting them. Ra’s retreats and the Turtles apprehend Shredder after Raph has a brief internal crisis over whether or not to kill him, which is quickly quelled by Batman.
The Turtles say their goodbyes as Gordon debriefs Batman. He notes that all of the Rogues will be back to “normal” soon, as the mutagen was already starting to wear off. Damian notes that it’s the anniversary of Bruce’s parents’ deaths, and that he wants to leave him alone to reflect. Bruce has other ideas, though, as he invites Damian to spend the day with him. They agree to spend the day working on improvements for the intimidation suit.
This was a brilliant, easy to read arc that brought out the best in both of these franchises. The juxtaposition of the morality of a family of teenagers versus Batman’s years of struggle for justice after his own trauma creates a strong contrast. On the surface, this pairing makes absolutely no sense. Because of the strength of the writing and vast source material that it draws from, it does. We’ve got two magnetically opposite forces that, placed in stereo, attract and create an incredibly fun dynamic. From the duality between the realities of the Turtles’ New York and Batman’s Gotham to the fluid usage of lore from both in order to facilitate the story itself, this was a brilliantly written, well-illustrated miniseries that was a pleasure to enjoy.