There’s something wrong in Gotham City as writer James Tynion IV and artist Freddie Williams II launch the final volume of their epic Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover with a gorgeous lightning storm and a dream-torn Batman. The creative team is pulling out all the stops with this last adventure as a troubled Batman leaps into action at the Natural History Museum and calls in the Family to thwart the Smile Clan and its leader, Laughing Man.
Wait ... what?
The story is titled “Crisis in a Half Shell” for a reason. Its Gotham setting is actually a thoughtful combination of the two worlds we’ve seen in the previous volumes, as are all of its characters, giving this book a multiverse approach that is unique to the series and completely fascinating.
We first meet Harley Quinn/Karai, and your first thought is that Harley exchanging her baseball bat for a pair of ninja swords is a pretty great trade. The Joker/Shredder combination is appropriately menacing, and then we meet the Turtles. Raphael is Red Hood, Donatello is Red Robin, Michelangelo is Robin, and Leonardo is Nightwing. Tynion’s delightful combinations here highlight the personalities of each hero. Raphael’s self-awareness merges nicely with Red Hood’s impulsiveness, Donatello’s analytic nature complements Red Robin’s intelligence, Michelangelo’s charm tempers Damian’s ruthless precision, and Leonardo’s leadership is a natural fit with Nightwing’s sense of responsibility.
Tynion's script includes other mashed-up character surprises that are vital to propelling the story forward, as we learn that Batman and the Turtles grew up and trained together under the careful tutelage of Splinter. The series also includes all the set-up details that may make this the most compelling of the three crossover volumes, with plentiful Easter eggs for longtime TMNT fans and, as with the other volumes, a few elements of Batman: The Animated Series.
Williams’ bold art is a showcase of his detailed style that’s perfectly employed in bringing Tynion’s script to life, and it’s obvious that he had fun transforming the characters into their multiverse counterparts. The heroes and villains take on physical and personality traits of both worlds that have been crushed together. They look amazing and move through the story in ways familiar yet foreign, reinforcing the notion that something is wrong. Jeremy Colwell’s dark, muted colors reinforce the notion that this story takes place somewhere we’ve never seen before, giving Gotham an additional perception of peril. And as an added bonus, TMNT creator Kevin Eastman provides more than just the variant covers for this series, contributing to the interior art as well.
IDW has been publishing TMNT comics since 2011, and this crossover is the crown jewel in the publisher's very successful collaboration with DC Comics. You don’t need to have read the other two volumes to enjoy this one (though you really should) -- you just need to be a fan of well-crafted adventures with impeccable, dynamic art.