Everyone knows Batman’s origin story. It’s ingrained within the pop culture lexicon and we’ve seen poor Thomas and Martha Wayne die in multiple mediums for generations. Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III puts a new twist on it as the DC Universe is merged with that of the Ninja Turtles, creating an alternate history. Although the characters now know that this is not real, it doesn’t make the memories any less painful.
I love the idea of alternate reality stories like this, merging different worlds to create new and interesting takes on characters, however I’ve come to realize they all follow a pretty similar formula. You’re dazzled by the new looks of these mash-ups, someone wakes up to the truth that this isn’t right, then proceeds to open the eyes of others until the big bad can be stopped and all is corrected. We’re squarely in the second phase of this process now as everyone is starting to realize that this world is not real.
The fascinating part of this process is how someone deals with the knowledge that everything they’ve ever known is a lie. Artist Freddie E. Williams II captures this look of disbelief, particularly on Batman’s face. He knows what he went through as he’s been constantly reliving the worst night of his life over and over again. That has to be real, right?
We get these great close-ups of a young Bruce in a flashback, experiencing this trauma and then fast forward to the present as he’s grown up in his armored costume, with a similar expression shown on his face. You can see the concern through the cowl as he struggles to comprehend what’s going on and what he must do next. If setting things right means erasing this world, is that a price he’s willing to pay?
A similar situation is playing out with the Turtles, who are all mixed up with the Robins. They have identities as part of the Bat Family, but now the original Raphael is showing them the truth and they’re having just as hard a time coming to grips with it as the Dark Knight. As a quick aside, artist Kevin Eastman handles the old school Raph and he looks so awesome in the mix with the other characters.
One mash-up that really stands out in Batman / TMNT III is Shredder and the Joker. Both characters are intimidating enough on their own, but combined they make for a menacing villain. Letterer Tom Napolitano adds just the right touch to the character’s speech with italicized font that brings to mind a lilting speech, like he’s toying with his victims.
The cracks are starting to show in this reality, appearing as violent red lightning in the sky. Colorist Jeremy Colwell amplifies the underlying sense of urgency at the mission of Batman and the Turtles. They have a limited time to figure all this out before Krang and the Anti-Monitor destroy everything.
As everyone starts to put the pieces together as to what’s real and what’s fake within their own minds, I have to wonder if we’ll see other versions of both universes as this series enters its second half. I’d love to see what writer James Tynion IV would do with some of the other iterations of Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For now, we’re preparing for the big fight as unlikely alliances are created and plans are being drawn up to take the fight to the monster behind this crisis-level terror.