Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (#1 – 6) – James Tynion IV

5 out of 5

I didn’t know I wanted it until I had it.  AND NOW I WANT IT ALL.

Okay, so, I’m going to pish-posh on years of talented folks’ efforts, but this might be the best version of the Turtles ever written, save the first movie.  The TMNT as most of us know them was, for better or worse, informed by the Fred Wolf cartoon, which ended up doing something of a back-and-forth with the Mirage comic to establish personalities.  While the original issues absolutely established so much of the conceptual canon and set up the basic templates (and the space-faring Triceraton saga is still one of my favorite storylines), Pete and Kev’s plotting was always a little hinky and the boys’ personalities overlapped quite a bit.  And the various incarnations have gotten a lot of things right – and as admitted above, the original ‘toon undeniably solidified the leader / rebel / geek / goofball format – but there’s almost always one bit that doesn’t match “my” definition of TMNT.  Or issues or episodes will nail it, but on the whole: no.  (Maybe also placing me in the minority is that I think the 2003 cartoon did a pretty great job until they Flashed Forward.)  That’s my biggest guff with the IDW Turts: for all the fan service, it’s not really written that well most of the time, and the dramatics are like a goddamned CW show.  Tynion’s Turtles, meanwhile, finally find the right mark on the silly / serious continuum to prevent me from rolling my eyes.  Leo feels like a leader; Raph feels like a dangerous rogue; Donnie feels like a scientist; Mikey is actually funny; but most importantly, all of this is accomplished without sacrificing the ‘team’ element, and making each Turtle seem integral to that team.  It’s, like, the first appreciably ‘adult’ – as in mature, action-wise, the dialogue, and humor – take on the Turtles.  Dang skippy.

Anyhoo, despite the massive popularity, the Turtles have somewhat remained isolated in their world.  With that isolation sorta established as fact, I never would’ve thought to want a DC or Marvel crossover.  It never felt like it was necessary, in a way.

Which is maybe why Tynion’s approach was able to make this so much fun.

The setup is pretty typical: the boys dimension-warp and land in Gotham; there are “who’s a good guy?” fisticuffs before Bats and the boys team-up to beat a collabo of both their enemies.  The ante-upper (there has to be one in these scenarios) is that mutagen doesn’t exist in Gotham, so our greensome have to get home before they un-evolve back into unmutated turtles.  In the “necessary” approach to crossover stories, you just pit like vs. like, because it’s what the fans talk about in the comic book shops.  So issues become showcases for fights, and there’s no plot.  While we do get a Shredder / Batman showdown, the combo here is so out of left field that it frees Tynion to take time with the bits I think we all enjoy more than the final showdowns: the meetcute stuff.  Mikey with Alfred.  Raph and Bats bonding.  Even on the enemy side, Shredder sidling up to Bats’ rogues is adorable, and whaddya know, with the extra time spent establishing an actual vibe and tone for the book instead of just Biff Bang Pow, it makes the splash page stuff that much more enjoyable.

Speaking of: between Freddie E. Williams lustrous art and Jeremy Colwell’s painted-looking colors, there’s not a page that makes you suspect this book got anything except an A-list crew.  Williams’ draws the boys (and Bats) a little big and bulky, but that’s where Colwell’s colors manage to “lift” the scenes and characters and make them move, with some especially wonderfully applied background washes.  Tom Napolitano complements this with his lettering, with tight bubbles and a floaty fontset and sense of spacing that allows the words to have the same energy as the action.

I would wish for more of this title, but I almost don’t want to ruin the perfectness of this oneshot.  However this crossover came to be, though, blessed are we for getting to experience it.  It is the first Turtles book I can recommend without having to preface it in some way.