The final two issues of Batman Incorporated are finally here after months of waiting. Was it worth the wait? Yes. Did DC handle the publishing of these two issues well? Absolutely not. And that’s “Leviathan Strikes” biggest failing. It’s not the art and it’s not the writing, it’s the publishers fault. The hiatus between terrible issue #8 and this was very frustrating, and the relaunch of the New DC Universe makes the story taking place in this book almost irrelevant. Which is a damn shame because it’s the most fun Batman entry in months. The Batgirl we see is no longer Batgirl in the New 52 and we don’t know why. Characters that live and breathe in the New 52 are dead by the end of “Leviathan Strikes!” as well which gives the whole thing a “what if” elseworlds tale kind of feel. Which I guess it is now, because DC said itself right on the page of this issue that “Leviathan Strikes!” takes place in the old DCU. And I think it’s more of a strength than a weakness. If anything this should give Grant Morrison free reign to go as crazy as he wants with his upcoming Leviathan series without having to worry about effecting canon. Giving a writer that sort of freedom could only lead to a story where Batman truly has no limits.
But back to the publication of this book, the bundling of the two chapters together is hardly cohesive. The mood shift is flat out jarring. The tone of Stephanie-centric chapter 9 couldn’t be more different than the convoluted James Bond acid-trip that is chapter 10. Also, by bundling the two stories together and using a thicker cover it makes it incredibly difficult to fully open the book and examine the beautiful art (Both Stewart and Burnham deliver some of their best work. Ever.) without bending the spine all out of whack. But the book’s biggest offense is the “Previously On…” recap. It’s been months since we’ve seen the last chapter of this book and even the most fanatic Grant Morrison supporter will agree that the man’s plotting is incredibly scatterbrained. A recap was a brilliant idea, especially for the uninitiated who would be confused as hell by this book. But someone…look, whoever thought putting the recap at the rear of this book should be shot. This entire story is leading up to a big final page reveal of the identity of Leviathan. Grant Morrison’s entire run has been leading up to this and if you go looking for the recap before reading these 2 chapters, your chances of having the big reveal completely spoiled for you are astronomical.
Now let’s review the actual content of the book. Since these are 2 very different stories co-existing under the same lime-green cover (and were meant to be their own individual comics to begin with), I’m going to give this book two scores: one for chapter 9 and one for chapter 10. But if you don’t feel like reading all of this and just want to know if I think it’s worth the $6.99, the short answer is yes.
CHAPTER 9 REVIEW
You might not know this, but there is an artist working in comics who can draw women and make them look attractive without shoving their enormous breasts and booty to the forefront of the panel. That artist’s name is Cameron Stewart. And it’s not just the girls that he draws well; everything looks brilliant. So much detail is infused into every backdrop, every character’s face, even the most minute movements. His art is so good, even Rihana, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry took time out of their busy schedules to be a part of it all.
Alright, time to get serious because I know if you’re reading this review and haven’t looked at the comic yet or read any Batman Inc., that image above might be a turn off. A bit too silly. Well, silly is what you get from Grant Morrison’s Batman. The guy tries to legitimize the Lord Death Mans and Bat Hombres of the Batman comics from the 50s and 60s and he pumps as much sci-fi and fantasy into the Batman mythology as he can. It’s fun for some, annoying for others. 90% of the time, the way he handles the Batman mythology annoys the crap out of me, but chapter 9 isn’t one of those convoluted tales that I hate so much. Instead, this is a really fun Stephanie Brown romp. The last one we’re going to get with her as Batgirl for a very long time. And, it’s better than anything Barbara has done in the first 4 issues since she returned under the cowl.
Sure, when I heard that this was going to be a story about Batgirl infiltrating a school for sexy future femme fatales that doubled as a mind control cult for Leviathan I figured it would be, well, stupid. It isn’t. It’s one of the best issues of Batman Inc. and one of the most well-drawn. Actually, it’s one of the best self-contained single issue stories I’ve seen in any comic in a long time.
My only problem with it? Son of Pyg! This character was incredibly unnecessary. Professor Pyg is probably the only villain Morrison has created in recent years that hasn’t felt horribly out of place in Gotham. Few artists create a poor-man’s knock-off of their own character…but that’s exactly what Morrison did with Pyg Jr. A replica of Professor Pyg, but with long hair and waffle iron scars on his pig mask. The character felt forced, but like I said, it was the only glaring problem with this adventure. It’s a great time and fans of Stephanie Brown couldn’t have asked for a better send-off to the blonde Batgirl.
CHAPTER 10 REVIEW
Man, oh man is the art terrific in this book. Not only did I love Cameron Stewart’s work, but Chris Burnham is one of my favorite artists so of course I loved the gritty details he added to every panel. Yeah, his style is rather similar to Frank Quietly, but I love his work, too. But as much as I enjoyed the look of every page, this is a return to the meandering, nonsensical sci-fi Batman Morrison writes that I hate. Did you like Batman: RIP? What about the whole Bruce Wayne being shot by omega eye rays and traveling through time as a caveman and then as a scraggily robot going on and on about an energy bomb arc? If you did, then you’re going to need a cigarette after this issue. If you didn’t, then you’re going to furrow your brow throughout this entire chapter because the parts that you’ll actually understand are pretty goofy. It’s one wild ride that’s zany and uses a child-like “Nuh, uh, you didn’t shoot me I’m wearing invisible wizard armor, ha-ha-ha!” sort of villain logic. It’s an energetic episode that’s like the worst Roger Moore James Bond movie, but more psychedelic. It doesn’t feel very Batman.
This features one of the most confusing death traps in any Batman story, the deaths of a few characters (one of which is very much alive in the New 52 universe), and most importantly it has the big reveal of who is behind Leviathan. I wasn’t surprised at all, but apparently I was in the minority.
Like I said if you’re a fan of Morrison’s wackiest Batman tales then you’re going to love this. He even uses the countdown clock trope he did in the Return of Bruce Wayne and that always makes for great page-turning fun in a comic.
I didn’t love this chapter, but I certainly didn’t hate it. Sure, it doesn’t feel like Batman at all to me. At least not the Batman stories that I enjoy, but it’s a very progressive idea and the whole things climactic energy really propelled me forward and made me want to know what would happen next even when I didn’t 100% understand what was going on in the previous page. And now that I’ve explained my stance a bit, let me post my arbitrary __ out of 10 score that’s probably gonna make a lot of people mad.