Writer: Matthew K. Manning
Art: Jon Sommariva & Sean Parsons
Colors: Leonardo Ito & Matt Herms
Every now and then a limited series or one-shot appears on the shelves of your local comic-book store that just makes you smile. Recently we have had the superb Batman/Elmer Fudd, and two terrific – but very different – Batman TMNT crossovers.
Last month I was fortunate enough to have a terrific conversation with Matthew K. Manning, writer of the second limited-series. So here, as promised, is a spoiler free review of the excellent Batman TMNT Adventures: Collected Edition.
Anyone who’s ever read my work here at DKN, knows that I like Batman dark, brooding, grim and gritty. This is the most common, popular, and accepted version of the character. Over his almost 80 years of publication though, everyone’s favorite Dark Knight has proven to be nothing, if not versatile. A shadow in darkness, a gargoyle on a rooftop, an avenger, a crusader, a hero. He’s gone from pulp noir to 60’s camp and survived it all.
One of the greatest ever interpretations of our hero, was the one we saw in the superlative Batman: The Animated Series of the 1990s. This show meshed every element of the character into one, cohesive whole. There was darkness, there were scares, and thrills… but there was laughter, there was satire and there was fun!
Mr. Manning and his collaborators; Jon Sommariva, Sean Parsons, Leonardo Ito and Matt Herms have taken that recipe, thrown in some heroes in a half-shell and earned the comics equivalent of a Michelin Star. Mmm, MMM… this is one tasty dish!
Yes, this book is fun. I think I described it as six issues of pure joy, on its initial release. The characters are 100% true to their origins, consistent with all their previous portrayals, and interact in hilarious ways. It’s very clear that Mathhew K. Manning is a fan of both the Batman and the Turtles. This book balances the darkness of the character that I love, the innocence and fighting spirit of his co-stars, and the tone and feel of the 90’s TV show perfectly.
We see Batman the detective, the crime fighter, the vigilante, the parent and the mentor in this mini-series, in ways that some of the ongoing bat-titles don’t show. The beautiful art of Jon Sommariva and Sean Parsons evokes the animated series, yet is still fresh and new, highlighting their own styles and personalities too. Great fun to read, and lovely to look at.
The team that created this book are clearly fans. Sometimes having the characters that we love in the hands of fans can create the worst kinds of pretentious or childish fanfic. Other times it can put on the page ideas we’ve always wanted to see, and surpass our expectations. Batman TMNT Adventures is everything I want in comics… and then some.
Scary Monsters And Super Freaks
I love the villains! We see many of the all-time classic Bat-Baddies, released into the New York of the Turtle’s Earth. Joker, Harley, Two-Face, Scarecrow… all of these and more cause chaos, mischief and mayhem in this story. We also get Shredder, The Foot Clan and The Kraang. The best part is that they all fit! None of the characters is extraneous, they all forward the plot, and do not feel shoe-horned in or come across as cameos. Mr. Manning elegantly uses every single one to forward the story. It can’t have been an easy task, to write or to draw! A good job, and firm pat on the back to all involved.
In my interview with Matthew Manning, we discussed that the story was originally meant to run for just five issues, but sales and fan response led to a sixth. I know that this kind of last minute change must have been a real headache for the creators, but they knocked it out of the park.
The final chapter not only fits with the main narrative, it does something else too. There were many changes between the original Batman: The Animated Series and the follow up show Batman: The New Adventures. Many were answered in the hard to find Batman Adventures: The Lost Years comic… but not all. The style is different, the costumes change, Dick Grayson is Nightwing, and Tim Drake the new Robin.
The final page of chapter/issue #5 of Batman TMNT Adventures not only sets the stage for the finale, it also shows us the evolution of the Scarecrow between the two incarnations of the TV show. Nice.
Comic Capers And Caped Crusaders
Some other highlights I recommend looking out for: The first two pages, the initial meeting between the Dark Knight and the Turtles, Bud & Lou, and a double page spread in chapter 5. This book both impressed me with its spot on characterizations, and made me laugh out loud with its visuals and dialogue. Seeing Michaelangelo’s hero worship of Batman, Dick’s camaraderie with the Turtles and Tim’s utter disbelief are all priceless. Look out for Babs boogeying and two consummate martial artists, both realising that they shouldn’t be fighting each other at all.
This book collects all six issues of Batman TMNT Adventures and the very best of all the alternative covers. It boasts action, superheroics and laughter in equal measure, without being cheesey or hokey in any way. It’s a marriage of words and pictures, and a love letter to a legendary TV series. I defy any Batfan not to enjoy it, and the nostalgia it evokes.