Friday, May 4, 2018


Written by Matthew K. Manning | Art by Jon Sommariva
Inks by Sean Parsons | Additional Inks by Serge LaPointe | Colors by Leonardo Ito
Additional Colors by Matt Herms, Jon Rauch, Zac Atkinson, and Sean Galloway
Letters by Shawn Lee | Edits by Bobby Curnow

The crossover you never imagined would exist, yet for some reason does! It's a Batman/Ninja Turtles story, but one that's set very specifically in the worlds of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and Nickelodeon's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES cartoon which ran from 2012 - 2017.

I've never watched that iteration of the Turtles; to tell the truth, I've never watched any TMNT cartoons since somewhere around year six or so of the original eighties run -- so I can't speak to the authenticity of that side of the crossover, other than to say that the Turtles are basically in-line, personality-wise, with their most common interpretations (Leonardo as the cool-headed leader, Raphael the hothead, Michelangelo the goofy jokester, and Donatello the brainiac). I can, however, note that the Batman side of the equation is a nicely faithful recreation of the heydey of THE ANIMATED SERIES. Jon Sommariva, while drawing in his own style (sort of "elastically cartoony", if that makes sense), mimics the character designs and backgrounds originally defined by Bruce Timm and his production team with terrific results. This isn't Timm's style, but it's still clearly his Batman, his Robin, his Arkham Asylum, etc.

The story finds dimensional portals popping up in both Gotham City and the Turtles' New York, allowing several of Batman's villains to escape Arkham Asylum to Turtle-Earth. Batman, Robin, and Batgirl pursue and team up with the Turtles, and while some villains -- such as Clayface and Poison Ivy -- prove relatively easy to dispatch, others -- like the Joker and the Scarecrow -- pose more of a challenge.

The turtles initially believe the dimensional doorways are the work of the Kraang, an alien race they'e encountered before, but while they were generated with Kraang technology, the portals themselves are eventually revealed to have been created by the Mad Hatter, whose ultimate goal is to take full mental control of Earth-Turtle. The Hatter is defeated, however, and things return to normal in both dimensions... until the final issue, which acts as an epilogue. It's hard to tell what's changed for the Turtles, but a few years have passed for Batman and friends, who are now in their NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES iterations, allowing Tim Drake to meet the Turtles when they come to Earth-Batman to help repel a Kraang invasion of Gotham City.

The whole dimension travel idea, while not inappropriate for the DC Animated Universe's later Batman, who would be a member of the Justice League, feels a little "out there" for this earlier incarnation, whether the pure original ANIMATED SERIES incarnation, or even the NEW ADVENTURES version who was known to pal around with the likes of Etrigan and Superman. Especially, the idea of the TAS version (or really any version) of the Mad Hatter perfecting a dimensional portal seems a little off.

But, if you can suspend disbelief enough to set those concerns aside, Matthew K. Manning has nice grasp on the characters themselves. His Batman is clearly the cartoon version; serious but able to crack a wry smile now and then. Robin is likewise in character with his animated counterpart. Batgirl seems maybe a bit off somehow, but it's hard to put my finger on how. She feels somehow less serious here than her animated version, but then, since Batgirl/Barbara Gordon only factored into about six of the eighty-five total BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES episodes, it's really hard to nail down what she "should" be like.

Manning's grasp of the ANIMATED SERIES continuity is generally right on as well, with reference made to the Gray Ghost, as well as a nifty tidbit explaining the Scarecrow's drastic character design between the original series and the NEW ADVENTURES era. And there's one point where Batman is affected by Scarecrow's fear gas, which results in a lovely half-page panel of his enemies confronting him, including such TAS-exclusives as Red Claw, the Sewer King, and Kyodai Ken, among others.

As noted above, I can't really speak too much to the Turtles' side of things. The quartet may match up with their regular depictions, but I was surprised to encounter a Shredder who is disfigured beneath his mask, a Rocksteady with some degree of intelligence (and even, apparently, a bit of honor?), and a martial artist April O'Neill able to hold her own in combat with the Foot clan.

Between the two sets of characters, we get some fun team-ups as well, like Batman and Leonardo as co-leaders of the overall group, Robin "babysitting" Michelangelo, and Donatello with a crush on Batgirl. About the only thing that feels like the series is missing in that respect is a one-on-one fight between Batman and Shredder. Not that this seems an essential thing to include, but simply because it would be really cool.

Like I said, this isn't really anything I ever expected to see or even thought I wanted to see, but it turns out it's a pretty enjoyable read, especially -- for me, at least -- on the Batman side of things. I'd kind of like to see a straight BATMAN ADVENTURES mini-series by Manning and Sommariva. I like a lot of what they did here, but I wouldn't mind seeing their expanded take on Gotham, including members of the supporting cast like Alfred (who does rate a cameo, but no more, in this series), Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Summer Gleeson, and so forth.

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