Review by James Harvey:
Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles team up again for the first time (sort of) in Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, a fun crossover series which brings together the animated worlds of Batman: The Animated Series and Nickelodeon's 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Writer Matthew K. Manning and artist Jon Sommariva skillfully weave a fun story which finds Batman and the Ninja Turtles facing off against some of their biggest respective threats, including the likes of Shredder, The Joker, and a wealth of surprise foes that are better left unspoiled. With clever twists, brilliant homages, smart dialogue and some legitimate surprise appearances, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures is a terrific story that fans should pick up.
Please note this review will be as spoiler-free as possible to avoid ruining story beats, plot twists and surprise reveals.
In Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, villains start to mysteriously escape Arkham and Batman seeks to track them down. He discovers that they have actually left Gotham completely, and have ended up in the New York City of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! As a result, both Batman and the Ninja Turtles find themselves dealing with threats that might be too much for them to handle alone. The epic animated team-up unfolds over six issues, though really it's a five-part story with a single-issue epilogue.
In the second mini-series to bring the world of Batman and the Ninja Turtles together, the first being the excellent 2015 Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures mini-series, writer Matthew Manning dives deep into the respective worlds of our favorite heroes to give us a tale that, really, couldn't be done anywhere else. Manning comes up with a story that would would really only work in the animated setting, and as a result it avoids becoming a tired retread of what's come before. Yes, the story has to go through some of the same motions of reintroducing both sets of characters to each other, but it feels fresh and fun here. Part of that definitely comes from the novel idea of setting this story in these two established, fan-beloved worlds (easily the best animated iterations of these respective characters).
More importantly, Manning makes sure to have fun with the concept. While it could be easy just to whip together a cute story that's more style than substance, he takes a deep dive into both, giving us plenty of big blockbusters moments with a surprisingly layered story. In fact, the fun tone of the whole story masterfully hides just how skillfully thought out the story is. It's unpredictable and full of legitimate surprises, but all of it works for the story; it all makes sense. It's rewarding that there's little chance that someone could've predicted how the story would ended based on the first issue or two alone. Only re-reading the story can you really see how well Manning plotted, laid out and builds up the entire story. The clues are all there (read through the series a second time, you'll see them). Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures definitely holds ups in multiple reads.
It speaks to Manning's talent and knowledge of both the Batman and Ninja Turtle lore that the story found in Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures would perfectly be at home as a multi-episode arc for either Batman: The Animated Series or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, both in terms of continuity and tone. The characters stay true to their established worlds with one never really favored over the other. Granted, this tale could be seem as a little out-there for Batman: The Animated Series, but it actually works in terms of the progression of the character and his world in the DC Animated Universe. And for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Well, this would easily work as an episode for the series, especially in the later seasons.
Manning also makes sure to infuse the story with plenty of fun. The entire series is filled with great little gags, jokes and homages to Batman and Ninja Turtle respective vibrant histories (and offers up another reason to re-read this series). Plus it helps that the series' artist is completely game to show a little love to our favorite masked crime fighters. And, on that note, there's a genuine thrill to see Batman face off against some of the Ninja Turtles' biggest enemies, and vice versa. Plus, even the bad guys get in on the action and, on a couple occasions, come to fisticuffs with each other. It's a little unreal and an unexpected joy to this series.
Nicely paired with Matthew Manning is artist Jon Sommariva, who brings his fantastic eye for panel layout and fluid, expressive character work to all six issues. He brings a lot of energy to the series, giving fight scenes an extra zing and adding character to some of the quieter moments. His artwork really helps to sell some of the story's surprises and character beats, too. The fifth page in the second issue is a great example of Manning and Sommariva working hand-in-hand together to give us a very cool Joker moment (no spoilers - check it out for yourself), though the fourth page in Issue #4 is likely the standout moment in the series for a lot of Batman: The Animated Series fans.
Sommariva's art is fairly reminiscent of Dev Madan's work on The Batman Adventures. A little more of an exaggerated take on the established Batman: The Animated Series character models, yeah, but he gives them this added flare that works really well with the tone of the story. The only time his art slips is in the sixth issue, where his Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake are just a shade too off-model (but his take on the core The New Batman Adventures heroes are fantastic). But Sommariva not staying 100% on model is by no means a slight against his work. The artwork in this book is energetic and pitch-perfect for this project. He's able to convincingly bring these two very different animated styles together and absolutely sells it.
Another delightful aspect to this book is how truly all-ages friendly it is. The nostalgic nature of the series definitely plays to the older audience, as does a script that doesn't sugarcoat some of the more darker aspects of both franchises, but it also offers a fun entry point for young fans. It's a fun piece of work that feels akin to a young fan bringing his entire toy collection together and creating this big epic adventure. A bad description of the all-ages appeal, surely, but Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures definitely taps into what adult fans have always loved about these characters and the wish fulfillment of a young fan's favorite heroes teaming up together.
Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures is a great series that fans on both sides of the aisle will clearly get a kick out of. It's a fun story filled with great moments that remind us why these two properties are so fantastic. The heroes, the villains, the crazy ideas, all of that plays to the strength of these awesome characters. Plus, fans of Batman: The Animated Series get a new story set in the DC Animated Universe, while fans of the current (and best) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series gets a new adventure starting these four awesome teen heroes. Manning brings his wealth of knowledge to the page and completely delivers, with Sommariva superbly bringing to life this radical animated adventure. But, to boil it down, it's just a good time from start to finish that's definitely worth reading. Highly Recommended!