I’ve been a huge fan of Grant Morrison’s Batman run since the Batman R.I.P. arc. I know I’ve talked about it a lot in this blog, very recently in fact. The story was set to conclude in vol. 1 of Batman Inc., which launched back in 2010. The series was very good, but was plagued by delays. Ten issues were solicited, but only 8 were actually released before DC launched the New 52 and the book was put on hiatus. The last two issues were released as a single issue titled “Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes” late last year, wrapping up what Morrison called the “first season” of Batman Inc. Now, as a part of DC’s second wave of New 52 books, we have vol. 2 of Batman Incorporated. The big questions here is how is Morrison going to finish his multi-year long epic now that DC’s universe has been rebooted. How much of the original run still happened the way it was presented and how will this affect the conclusion of the story? Well, going off of this issue, the answer is not very much. Morrison comes back in full force with a first issue that rivals that of his own Batman and Robin #1.
Yo Scott Snyder, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish, but Grant Morrison had one of the best Batman runs of all time! One of the best Batman runs of all time!
That’s what I want to say after reading the first issue of this new volume of Batman Incorporated. Now I love Scott Snyder’s work on Batman as much as the next comic fan. While I do think Black Mirror was better, his Court of the Owls story he’s currently writing is fantastic and puts Bruce Wayne in a place he hasn’t been in a while, on the defensive. His work on Batman since the New 52 relaunch has earned it its place as the flagship Batman book. But, before the New 52, Grant Morrison was the premiere Batman writer, and he was in the middle of what was essentially the third and final act of his Batman magnum opus. Now, on the other side of the relaunch, the landscape has completely changed and Morrison is no longer in control of the ship called Batman. That’s kind of sad thought to me.
However, Morrison has never been one to be constrained by continuity, or even the wishes of others. He’s here to tell his story, and what a story it is. This issue opens up one month in the future, with Bruce and Alfred in a graveyard. Bruce announces that Batman is finished and his then promptly placed under arrest by a group of police officers. The story then jumps back to the present as Morrison establishes the status quo post relaunch. The story picks up soon after the events of the Leviathan Strikes one shot and surprisingly, not much has changed. This does not feel like a New 52 book and that’s perfectly all right. Morrison brings in characters who appeared to die in Leviathan strikes, like Batwing and the Hood, by explaining that their deaths were faked. Many characters, like the aforementioned Hood, make their first New 52 appearances in this issue. Morrison makes mention of the Outsiders, a team that hasn’t been mentioned since the reboot, and even notes that Element Man (also known as Metamorpho) once spent time on the Justice League. This seems to fly right in the face of what Geoff Johns has said about the League’s past in the main Justice League title. I appreciate Morrison being forthright and actually talking about past events of the New 52 universe, something other writers have shied away from. Morrison does throw in some ties to the New 52, like mentioning Nobody, the villain recently introduced by Peter Tomasi in Batman and Robin.
This issue is fun, bright, and kinetic, having much more in common with Morrison’s work on Batman and Robin than volume 1 of Batman Inc. While chasing an assassin in a goat mask through a slaughterhouse, Damian Wayne declares he is now a vegetarian and introduces us to the newest bat-family member, Bat-Cow. It’s all done tongue-in-cheek, but no one writes Damian like Morrison. Bruce and Damian’s dynamic as Batman and Robin isn’t quite as interesting as Dick Grayson and Damian’s was, but I do enjoy the father/son element. It is contrasted well with the book’s antagonist, an assassin named Goatboy who is trying to raise money to keep from losing his son. This all culminates in a shocking final page cliffhanger that I wont spoil here. While I’m positive it’s going to be a bait and switch it is still a powerful closing image for a strong debut issue.
This issue is drawn by Chris Burnham. Burnham began his partnership with Morrison back in Batman and Robin #16 and continued to draw issues #4,6,7, and what would have been #10 of the original Batman Inc. In my opinion he has grown even stronger as an artist since he was last seen. Burnham has a style that is extremely reminiscent of Frank Quitely, another frequent Morrison collaborator. The amount of extra detail he puts onto the page is extraordinary. I love the extra little panels depicting details like two character’s positions on a map. He also has an interesting page where the faded sides of buildings are used as story panels, which works really well. The New 52 has featured a lot of artists using innovative techniques to blend art and story and Burnham fits in well with them.
I was definitely a little nervous about how this issue would turn out, especially with the odds stacked against it. However, Morrison managed to defy all expectations and gave us a book that is greater than the sum of its already fantastic parts. I can’t wait to see Morrison blaze a trail into the New 52 and take his rightful place as the premiere Batman writer. You were a good steward Snyder, but the king has returned.