Worth the wait? Yes.
As I said in the Upcoming Comics article, I love the idea of Matches Malone. I think he’s the most underused weapon in Batman’s arsenal. I wish Batman would infiltrate the mob and sniff around Gotham’s underworld more often in this alter ego or any disguise, really. It’s just cool to see yet another way the Batman can operate. The funny thing is, while I was reading this issue….well, you may have noticed I’ve been bringing up the whole “Whose voice do you hear when you read this character?” discussion a lot lately. I find it an interesting subject. When I read Batman I hear Kevin Conroy’s voice. No matter what. I’ve tried to make myself hear Bale’s Batman voice from the Nolan films and it never sticks. However, when I read Matches Malone in this issue right here, I didn’t hear Kevin Conroy’s Matches Malone. I heard Christian Bale’s Dicky Eklund. Funny how the mind works.
Anyway, as you can tell by the cover, Matches Malone is back and I’m happy to say he isn’t just used in a couple panels then tossed aside. Most of the book is Bruce as Matches Malone with very little Batman action whatsoever. It’s a quieter issue, but an interesting one. Bruce wants to know what Leviathan, the secret organization lead by Talia Al Ghul, is up to and he’s digging around in Gotham’s underworld to find out. He’s even talking to Goatboy, the man who believes he killed Robin back in issue #1. But while we watch Bruce’s alter ego pry his way into Leviathan the hard way, we as readers get a front row seat at how the whole operation works thanks to a subplot that explains everything! Something that always bugged me about the Court of Owls saga was that we kept getting beaten over the head with how the Owls were everywhere and yet never got any proof of that. They were supposed to be the most powerful people in Gotham but we never saw who they were and what sort of power they wielded (besides the undead assassins, of course). With Leviathan, thanks to this issue, we can see exactly how they’ve crept into Gotham’s institutions and what exactly these operatives are capable of and that’s pretty refreshing.
Now all of this espionage might sound kind of heavy, but it really isn’t. Although things are definitely getting darker in Batman Inc., there are plenty of fun scenes for you to enjoy. Great character moments between Bruce and Dick, Dick and Damian, and you’ll even get to see a much loved character from issue #1 make a brief but amusing cameo (and there are a few other heroes making cameos as well if you pay close attention). My only real complaint about the issue is when the dark and campy elements collide in a final scene involving some villains. That moment felt too over the top and I couldn’t take it seriously. It might read better after I see how it plays out in the next chapter (which we won’t get until October due to ZERO MONTH) but for now that page doesn’t sit well with me.
As for the artwork, it’s still top notch. I love Burnham’s work. It’s so expressive, so lively, so, so detailed. And I’m always impressed with how many panels he can squeeze into a page without things getting cluttered. These pages are attractive enough that I can see people buying this book for the art alone.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed issue #3 but didn’t find it quite as exciting as the previous two installments or as re-readable. That said, it’s still the best Batman comic of the month! (And yes, I know we still have one more week left, but I’m willing to bet that nothing next week will top this)