Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (#1 – 6) – Matthew K. Manning

3 out of 5

I have a pre-release poster advertising this series: it was slated for five issues.  And for five issues, it’s a heckuva lotta fun.  And then there was a sixth issue, which isn’t bad, but is called an epilogue and is very, very pointless, as most of what it does was done in the preceding parts of the series.  At five issues, add a star; at six, we’re lowered down to 3.

Bats / TMNT Adventures is the animated version of the titular characters, with the premise sort of (sort of) the flip-flop of the previous Bats / TMNT crossover: it’s Arkham Asylum comes to New York via Kraang portal technology, and after a thankfully brief scuffle-to-we’re-on-the-same-side meet-up for our primaries (Batgirl and Robin tagging along), Manning settles into an issue by issue takedown of the villains.  There’s really no other way to handle these company crossover events besides dimension swaps, so you know the score – someone’s behind it because something in the other world is appealing; only the powers of our heroes combined can stop it.  Just as he knew to move quickly past the set-up, Manning seems keenly aware of this plotting limitation, not going out of his way to overpower anyone (and interestingly keeping our main villains from the spotlight – first by sidelining Shredder and then by making someone besides Joker the guiding hand), instead focusing on logical team-ups – e.g. Snakeweed and Poison Ivy – and keeping the interactions light and fun.  And funny!  Manning’s writing in Amazing Adventures borders on eye-rolly, but I always assumed the confusing demographic for that book was tough for the writers to know at what level to pitch the material; here he shows a great sense for banter and personality, maintaining everyone’s individuality and principles but still cracking a smile.  Mikey, alas, suffers from idiot syndrome, but he still gets some good lines and moments.

On art, Jon Sommariva and Sean Parsons on inks (and mostly Leonardo Ito on color) do a knock-out job of mimicking each world’s look  The Gotham moments are especially a hoot for any fans of the older Bats animated series, using a different coloring and framing approach to mimic the classic Bruce Timm style.  Sommariva has been a consistent cover artist for the TMNT animated books; it’s pretty fantastic to see his energy fully unleashed on interiors.  His sense of timing seems geared more toward animation – a couple visual jokes don’t quite land – but in general his page flow is great.

And then that sixth issue.  It’s truly bizarre.  Yes, it wraps up something of a loose end involving the Kraang – but not really – and it oddly jumps ahead several… years? for no discernible reason.  It really seems like everyone just loved the few Gotham moments we had (most of the book takes place in the Turtles’ universe), and suddenly there was time / money for a sixth book that took place solely in the Batman world.  Completely on its own, it might seem better, but again, many of the same beats were already hit in the main issues; seeing them in a Gotham context doesn’t suddenly make them brand new.