Upon setting aside my hatred for the Batman Incorporated concept, I actually enjoyed this book. It’s fun. Some parts are smart, some parts are outright dumb, the art is almost always beautiful, and none of it is predictable.
My Thoughts on Batman Incorporated
You can skip this section if you want.
Recognizing the looming threat of a new terrorist organization named Leviathan, Batman has decided to up the ante in his war on crime by establishing a network of heroes around the world. I’m fine with that. The whole costumed vigilante thing hasn’t worked out too well in Gotham, so it seems kind of odd to spread a failed system but I’m fine with the idea of Batman wanting to set up a few allies in other cities. Whatever. If this were a closed off narrative like, say, the Nolan universe where there are no other super heroes– only Batman– this would seem like something Batman would do in this stage of his career. But in a connected DC universe it feels horribly redundant. There are already too many superheroes all over the world and they’re all willing to fight for Batman whenever he asks. He has plenty of allies. And as far as having a collected ensemble of super heroes to help him protect the innocent, there’s already a Justice League. And if that’s not international enough for you ,there’s also a Justice League International. It’s silly, but I can look past it. What I totally cannot forgive–what I totally disagree with is the Tony Stark move of announcing that Bruce Wayne has always been funding Batman’s actions and that he’s going to be spending even more money to put a Batman in every city. Not only does this make Bruce Wayne a knock-off Tony Stark, but it makes Batman an employee. Batman should not be an employee. This has lead to lines in comics like “Batman: The Dark Knight” in which Gordon tells Batman to inform his “boss” and other scenes in which Gordon calls Bruce Wayne to complain about things that Batman is or isn’t doing. Quite simply: it makes Batman less cool because now he has a superior or worse, a sugar-daddy. Turning Batman into a brand and claiming ownership of a vigilante should lead to lawsuits galore and that’s never been addressed either, but that’s just me being nitpicky and looking at the situation as if it took place in a more realistic world…ya know, like a Batman reader might do. The other big problem with this concept, one that’s not really been addressed, is from the villain’s end. One of the oldest, tried and true strategies of war is CUT THE SUPPLY LINE. Batman only ever came out at night, nobody ever knew where he came from, and nobody ever knew how he got his toys. Now the bad guys know where he’s getting his stuff and the thing they have to destroy to stop him from getting said stuff is vulnerable day and night and they know exactly where it is. Bruce Wayne should be under constant attack from assassins. Lucius Fox should be threatened at all times. Every employee of Wayne Enterprises, Wayne Industries, Wayne Tech, Wayne Whatever should be running for their lives right now. The offices, the research facilities, and Wayne manor should be razed to the ground.
A realistic view of Batman Incorporated is riddled with flaws that put Bruce/Batman and everyone close to him at risk and it makes Batman less threatening and less cool.
BUT author Grant Morrison doesn’t approach the material that way. He ignores those faults and instead runs with the material to see where it goes. What happens if you stop worrying about the consequences in a real-world situation and instead just think of it as an escapist comic book? To quote him from his documentary “Talking with Gods”, Morrison’s approach to Batman is to “Throw out all that stupid dark stuff and the realism of it.”
So if you can set aside your hatred for the idea of Batman Inc. being a reasonable future for the character and just free your mind and have fun with the material like I did, you could really enjoy it. It’s an over-the-top book that’s meant to be fun and it is. I don’t believe it’s the right direction for the character but this 10-issue book as its own story is exciting and surprising.
This hard cover contains the entire first arc of “Batman Incorporated” which is great because if you like it and you want to get a friend involved in comics, you can let them borrow it and they’ll have all they need to enjoy a full story and get excited about what’s to come. It’s also a story that reads much, much better in graphic novel form especially when you consider that the single-issue readers had to suffer through a 4 month long delay to get the finale.
Typically, I don’t like it when a graphic novel features multiple artists or is broken up by a single fill-in artist, but the episodic nature of “Batman Inc.” lends itself perfectly to multiple interpretations. With all the globe trotting and unique cast of characters, it’s appropriate for the art style to change as much as it does. It’s even more effective when the art is as breathtaking as it is. These 10 issues (8 plus the 2-part “Leviathan Strikes!” issue) showcase the likes of Yanick Paquette (who is currently drawing a grotesque and spellbinding “Swamp-Thing”–one of the best books on shelves), Cameron Stewart, and (one of my favorites) Chris Burnham. Every chapter looks amazing and is worth checking out for the art alone…except one, but I’ll get to that later.
Now, I usually do these reviews with short little blurbs that allude to my full reviews, but “Batman Inc. Vol.1” came about before I ever did comic reviews. The final two chapters did (and I reviewed those), but not the initial 8 issue run. So I’m just going to talk about this as a whole which I’m sure you won’t have a problem with seeing as how the review is running a bit long already.
The book is loaded with interesting nods to older comics and while it’s a fun little homage at times, other times it gets a bit distracting and feels like it was done just for the sake of making nerdy fanboys do some detective work of their own to find out what issue so-and-so first appeared in, etc. There are also quite a few moments in the book that make me groan and go “That doesn’t feel very Batman…” but as I said in the preface of this interview, you need to shake that off if you want to enjoy it. At its heart, “Batman Inc.” is staying very, very true to the Batman mythology. A bit too true. Morrison, throughout his run beginning with “Batman & Son”, has tried to unite all of the Batman’s 70+ years of history. He’s mixing together Adam West, Christopher Nolan, Silver Age comics featuring aliens and monsters, the overly dark stuff from the late 80s and early 90s, and so on all in one big pot and then pouring it out on the pages of this book. So often times the book comes off as an experiment rather than a coherent story. You have exploding blue scorpions and an evil parrot in one chapter and then Gordon in a junkyard full of corpses in the next chapter. The tone never stays the same. It kept me interested, but it also felt very scatterbrained like watching someone else channel surf.
It’s odd, it’s cool, it’s ridiculous, it’s dark, it’s creepy, it dabbles in a little bit of everything really. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t. Some of it feels like classic Batman and some of it feels like Morrison missed the mark entirely like Batman’s plan to go on various online message boards and spread rumors about who Batman is to throw people of the scent of Bruce Wayne…which is one of the most laughable moments of the book. But the worst is chapter #8 which takes place in Bruce Wayne’s “Internet 3.0” a new invention that’s going to make Wayne Enterprises a ton of money. Not only was the CG art by Scott Clark painful to look at (it’s a bit like those stiff CG animated shows of the 90s like “Reboot” or a poorly made N64 or PS2 game). The story about a terrorist attack inside a new kind of internet and a computerized Batman needing to save the digital day didn’t fit in with the rest of the globe trotting atmosphere of this book. It didn’t make sense, I didn’t care about what was happening, and I hated looking at it. This tron-like chapter is so bad that I would’ve definitely given this book a lower score as a result, but the price is too good to pass up and all of the other chapters are interesting enough that it makes up for it. As much as I feel like Batman Inc. isn’t what I want to see from a standard Batman comic, it did keep me on my toes and most importantly it spawns discussion. It gives the Batman community something to discuss and pick apart and that’s a good thing.
As I said, I did review “Leviathan Strikes!” when this it was first published but I split the score on it since it was made up of 2 separate chapters. Chapter Nine was given a 9.5/10 while the finale earned a 6.5/10.
Chapter breaks are made up of the original covers, the variant covers, and even some never-before-seen unpublished variant covers, but the real goodies are at the back of the book. WARNING: Do not flip back to the bonus material if you haven’t finished the story yet! If you flip to the back and see the final page, then the surprise ending will be ruined for you. We clear on that? Okay, well let me just say that there’s some good bonus material here. Better than in many of the graphic novels I’ve reviewed so far. Not only is it filled with 18 pages of preliminary cover art and sketches by all of the book’s many artists, but it also features informative annotations. This is something I’ve been complaining about in almost all of the New 52 graphic novels: no insight. Here you’ll actually get a short blurb about the heroes and villains that made up Batman Inc. and where the ideas for them originated. Every character gets attention and it makes for some satisfying supplemental material that you won’t just glance through in a few apathetic page flips. This is good stuff.
It costs $29.99 if you buy it for full price and even that’s a pretty fair deal for all this content. It’s not a quick read. Morrison’s work is dense and you often want to stop and meditate on what you just read when a chapter is complete and you’ll even find yourself flipping back quite often to reference something you may have missed. You’re also getting it in that attractive DELUXE size with some nice, annotated bonus material that takes up about 18 pages. $30 bucks isn’t a bad price BUT if you take a gander over at Amazon (as I always do) you’ll see that it’s going for $16.75! That’s 44% off. THAT is a great value.
It’s a very fun read with some of the most stunning Batman art of the past decade. Some chapters are definitely better than others and there are moments where things get too camp or too nonsensical (chapter 8 is horrendous and can be skipped entirely), but in the end this was a satisfying read and one that I’ll likely read through again one day. Those who haven’t already read the monthly issues or those who loved this series should definitely pick up this book. And at such an affordable price, it’s just too good of a deal to pass up.