This series has been a revelation to readers: it has hit nostalgic notes that people had long since forgotten, notes that resonated when kids would use team up their action figures for an afternoon of battle. Collectors have lost their minds over it, and casual readers have been caught hook, line, and sinker.
And this issue, brought to us from James Tynion IV, Freddie E Williams II, Jeremy Colwell, and Tom Paolitano seemed to be heading in a direction leading to "Best. Issue. Ever."-status, but the ending plopped so hard you'd think someone dropped a wet fish on the pavement.
Leading up to that point, it was a frenetic joyride - the mutagen had started to fail the turtles, with Leonardo succumbing first. It was tough to watch the turtles' leader struck down so hard, and even tougher still for his brothers to observe. Michaelangelo is still being written in such a pitch-perfect way by Tynion; he's unrelentingly optimistic, always searching for something to be happy about, and his interactions with Batman are always highlights.
We also got to see Commissioner Gordon interact with Leo and Raph (which was extremely surreal), and FINALLY saw Damian Wayne come into contact with them. Gang, it's downright joygasmic to see the snide sidekick take the turtles to task, and having him written again by notable Bat-disciple Tynion is wonderful.
Casey Jones transversed dimensions to help his best friends, and his presence is also a beacon of hope for the gang. In fact, he has with him a means to send them back to their home - and the turtles are glad to take it.... Except Leo, who urges them to stay and clean up the mess Shredder has made.
Williams and Colwell again give such energetic life to their subjects - every battle sequence is fluid and action-packed. The turtles look the best they ever have (save for Mateus Santoloucco's renditions, of course), and Batman & Robin look wonderful. And the cover! OH, the cover! It's probably the best of the series! Shredder opening the doors of Arkham Asylum, unleashing hell on Gotham City! Bane pulled that shit in Knightfall and IT WRECKED BATMAN! HOW CAN THIS ISSUE MUCK IT UP?!
Well, apparently Shredder uses the mutagen to turn the inmates into animal mutant things.
And they look forced, design-wise, as though the art team saw the notes and said, "Really? You want to turn them into different animals? Are you sure?" Shredder could have used the mutagen with them like how he used it on Hun; Casey Jones' dad was a beaten-down has been gang leader, and the mutagen pumped him up and made him a block of muscle. Why not do that? Why not give it to Bane to use instead of Venom? The potential for a hard, concise, satisfying conclusion has given way to something that seemed like a Michael Bay storyline.
Still, the thought of Batman versus Shredder has been the end game of this book, and it has to happen next issue. After they somehow undo the mess Shredder made of Arkham.
LOWDOWN: I'm giving this 6 out of 10 pelvic thrusts. This was honestly shaping up to be one of the best books in the series, but that ending, especially the dopey splash at the end, was more dissatisfying than a gut full of wet meat and onions. Here's hoping it concludes LIKE A BOSS.