80 Years Of The Bat: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1

by Ben Martin

80 Years of The Bat is a column created to celebrate the 80th anniversary of one of the most beloved characters ever created, Batman. Since his creation in 1939, Batman has managed to transcend his native medium of comic books. Eight decades later, the character has a presence in every area of entertainment. Over that time, Batman has garnered generations of fans; thus, always remaining relevant.  Throughout the remainder of 2019, 80 Years of The Bat will examine decades worth of Batman material from every medium. This time around, I’m going to look at one of The Dark Knight’s most successful crossover titles thus far. The DC Comics and IDW Publishing collaboration,  Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1!

I can easily say that two comic book properties have influenced my life more than any others: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman, respectively. Granted, my first exposure to any of these characters was through their respective big screen adaptations; the comics and cartoons came a little later. Still, those movies were all it took for me to fall in love with everything Turtles and Bats at the age of 4. To this day, I’m still about those characters. Even so, something kept me away from the recent rash of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover from books from DC Comics and IDW Publishing until recently.

Frankly, I’ve been very hit-and-miss with comic book crossovers in my time. I remember reading a couple of the DC/Marvel crossovers back in the 90s when I was a kid. Despite being fresh to comic book medium at that point, I vividly recall finding them silly, which didn’t work for me. For better or worse,  that initial crossover experience with the big two publishers made me subconsciously weary. (Which thoroughly explains the unread Batman/Aliens trade paperback I have stowed away in one of my long boxes.) More to the point, though, I was admittedly fearful that the two great tastes of Batman and TMNT might not mix.

However, over the last few years, this pairing of animalistic heroes has garnered praise. Not to mention, there’s an animated adaptation of this trade paperback in review (and possibly its sequels) coming down the pike shortly. Therefore, I decided to go ahead and set aside my hesitation. How bad could a comic involving some of my favorite fictional folks be anyway? Let’s get into Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1! (2015-2016)

The head writer for the current run of Detective Comics, James Tynion IV, pens this six-issue crossover tale of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1, which  tells a quick and simple story. Following a conflict in their alternate dimension, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael, along with their father, Master Splinter get transported to our dimension at the hands of Krang. Unfortunately for our heroes in a half-shell, The Shredder and members of The Foot Clan have followed. All of these characters end up in Gotham City where they soon cross paths with Batman. Per usual, The Caped Crusader assumes that the ninja turtles are a threat. However, The Bat and the turtles soon realize that they must combine forces to defeat their respective enemies in order for the turtles to make it back to their dimension.

Providing the illustrations for this crossover of capes and shells is Eisner Award-winning artist Freddie E. Williams II (Seven Soldiers). Now, I must admit to finding Williams’ artwork a little jarring at first. His work is quite jagged, and I prefer art, that’s a little more classical and smooth in its style. But, to my surprise, my slight dissatisfaction with these illustrations did not last long. By the time I hit Issue #2 of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1, my opinion on this art had changed. The fact is that Williams’ illustrations not only fits this narrative perfectly; it also harkens back to the artwork of the original run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I’m also happy to say that I found that the crossover story worked perfectly for me! This narrative moves fast and tells a simple story- one that’s both fun and poignant. In my estimation, the DC universe of Batman and the IDW world of the TMNT are perfectly blended here. Tynion manages to capture the voice of all the principal characters perfectly, all the while balancing the stakes of a crossover. The single complaint I have about this story is its inclusion of Robin/Damian Wayne, whose presence I felt was pointless to the narrative. Then again, Tynion’s all-in on the Bat Family, so I’m not surprised by Damian’s showing up either.

Aside from that small gripe, I find  Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 to be an incredibly enjoyable read. One which I would recommend to anyone who cares for these characters. Honestly, this book has made me rethink my stance on crossover titles. While still being quite selective about such titles, I plan to be much more open to them in the future.  In the meantime, I look forward to reading Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. II (2017-2018) and the currently running  Vol. III. I’ll also most certainly on watching the upcoming animated feature, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 TPB Can Purchased At Your Local Comic Shop or Preferred Online Retailer

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