Review: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II

The Totally Awesome Team-Up, Take Two! (small spoilers)

The first encounter between the Dark Knight and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a rousing success, despite sounding like a crossover story dreamt up in some kid’s toy box.

So inevitably DC Comics and IDW Publishing decided to have their best-beloved comic-book characters encounter one another for the second time – this time with more dimension-hopping, more city-wide mayhem, and more epic fight scenes between a lot of people. “Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II’s” pacing is a little rushed, with some developments not taking as long as they rightly should have, but the unbridled awesomeness of the final issue almost makes up for that.

After a humiliating (and nearly fatal) defeat at the hands of Shredder’s Elite, Donatello laments that he isn’t as skilled a fighter as his brothers, and wishes that he could have both the intelligence and skill of Batman. To put his mind at ease, he attempts to use a dimensional teleporter to contact Batman – but accidentally switches himself with Bane, whom Batman had been about to fight. Now he’s in Gotham, and Bane is loose in New York.

After Batman and Donnie spend a week assembling a teleporter, they find that Bane has managed to take over the Foot Clan and is well on his way to conquering. Even worse, he’s got Baxter Stockman synthesizing Venom, so he can turn all his followers into roided-up monstrosities. The Turtles are badly outmatched even with Batman on their side – and when tragedy strikes, a guilt-ridden Donatello is driven to terrible lengths in an effort to stop Bane once and for all.

“Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II” aspires to be bigger and more explosive than the first adventure – the action consumes a whole city, armies of ninjas are involved, and the final issue is an outright battle royale. It’s also set primarily in the Turtles’ dimension this time, so it features a lot of supporting characters from their world, including Rocksteady, Bebop, Karai, the ever-unfortunate Baxter Stockman, and a certain helmeted ninja lord.

And for the most part, the story unfolds pretty well – there’s a good balance between action-packed fight scenes and the more emotional, low-key stuff, including a ceiling-collapsing battle between the Venom-enhanced Foot Clan and the Turtles/Batman team-up. There’s also a running subplot about Raphael getting into scraps with Damian Wayne, and the way the arrogant boy and the resident Turtle hothead manage to resolve their differences and come to a less violent way of interacting.

However, the miniseries is a little too short for its own good – things like the last-ditch effort to heal Splinter and Donnie taking Venom are far too brief and leave less of an impact than they should. But these flaws are almost compensated for by the final issue – a big, high-octane, splashy battle on Liberty Island with as many characters as possible. It also gives big sloppy affectionate kisses to the 1987 TV series in the form of many Easter egg homages. It’s just a delight to read, and you can tell the people who made it were having fun.

A lot of the character development in this particular miniseries revolves around Donatello, who is a technological genius but not quite the fighter his brothers are. His insecurity and feelings of inferiority are palpable and heart-wrenching, as is his rampant feelings of guilt when he sees what Bane has done to New York. Batman serves as an older, wiser presence who mentors him somewhat, reassuring him and helping talk him back from the brink when his grief and guilt get too out of control.

It’s also worth noting that Freddie Williams II does an excellent job with the art in this comic – it’s a good bridge between DC’s muscled, stocky style of artwork, and the more varied styles seen in IDW’s Turtles. The Turtles and Batman mesh together well artistically, and Williams does an excellent job with the emotions and turmoil in the characters’ faces.

“Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II” could have benefited from another issue or two, but is overall a pretty solid sequel to an excellent miniseries – lots of muscles, lots of emotions, and a grand finale that is loads of fun.

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