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I hope Zero month didn’t throw you off enough that  you can’t remember how issue #3 ended because this comic hits the ground running. It’s not so much an issue on its own as it is the conclusion to issue #3. Kill Box, as it is appropriately titled, is one big fight scene overloaded with cameos and followed up by a surprise twist that feels like it was (unfortunately) planned long before the New 52 came to be.

First of all, before I address what happens in this issue I need to get something off my chest:

Kevin Smith’s Batman: Bellicosity, the finale to his Widening Gyre/Cacophony saga, will be the last Batman story to take place in the Pre-New 52 Batman continuity. It shouldn’t be. This– Batman Incorporated should have been the final story to take place in the Pre-52 continuity and here are a few reasons why I think so.

  • Morrison worked for several years on this epic so he deserved to be the guy to cap off that timeline.
  • Setting it in the Pre-52 continuity would’ve allowed Morrison to truly do whatever he wanted and he could have taken that opportunity to give us yet another exciting conclusion to the Dark Knight legend this year
  • No other writers seem to care about mentioning the Batman Incorporated initiative (besides Batwing), it might as well have never happened in the New 52
  • Batman Inc. Vol. 2 doesn’t feel like it takes place in the New 52, note the lack of attention to the Death of the Family plot. Batman & Robin is the only book that acknowledges what happens in Batman Inc. Vol. 2 so they hardly feel like they take place in the same universe. Attempts to make them correspond with one another don’t make the New 52 richer, it makes Batman Inc. weaker by forcing it to explain why what happened in Vol. 1 can make sense in the retcons of New 52

Alright, now that I’ve got that out of the way let’s talk about what happens here. Does everyone remember how Bruce was disguised as Matches Malone and then captured in the last issue by a hangman and a puppet judge-thing? Well, he was about to be killed when suddenly Damian, dressed as Redbird, came to save the day. This issue starts where we left off but gives us a brief glimpse of Talia Al Ghul beforehand which leads me to the question: Why does Talia wear the zombie mask all the time? What’s the point of her wearing that thing? Is she insane now like most of Batman’s other villains or something?

From then on it’s all fighting. Fighting, fighting, fighting, as all the Batman Incorporated members show up from Batwing to Nightwing to Red Robin and El Gaucho. It feels like overkill honestly. The thugs they are fighting, other than Merlyn, don’t seem all that formidable and I think Batman and maybe one other ally could’ve handled it on their own. But whatever, it’s fun watching all the other heroes lend a hand. Most important of these allies is the character named Wingman who you see on the issue’s cover. Besides being one giant action scene in which Batman Inc. tries to bring down Leviathan in one fell swoop, the comic is also dedicated to answering the question that everyone has been…well, I definitely wasn’t asking it but I’m sure some longtime Inc. fans might have– who is Wingman?

Those who have been reading Morrison’s Batman run since the beginning will recall that the previous Wingman betrayed the team and had to be replaced. But who has been under the Wingman mask ever since then? You’ll find out when you read the comic. Or you can read the spoiler tags below because that was one of my major problems with the issue.

Other than that, the issue was alright. Like Batman: The Dark Knight this week, Incorporated was a very fast read only it felt brief for entirely different reasons. Whereas B:TDK was fast because it used a lot of splash pages with little to no text, this issue features little to no text because it’s almost entirely (as I’ve stated numerous times now) fighting. These fight scenes are all drawn quite well. Burnham is one of my favorite artists– however, I’ll say that his work didn’t look quite as smooth as it usually does. Somewhat scratchy and rather rushed looking in parts with pencil shading and poorly defined background characters, etc. Still, even though the illustrations looked more hurried than usual it’s better looking than most comic books you’ll read this month.

Why You Need to Ignore the New 52 to Enjoy Inc. to the Fullest

Spoiler
So not only do we have Batwing basically saying a line of dialogue that translates to “Good thing I totally didn’t die at the end of Batman Inc. Volume 1, huh?” but the true identity of Wingman is Jason Todd! Had this taken place outside of the New 52 I’m quite certain that Batwing and many of the others would still be dead. Also, having Jason Todd be Wingman would be far more shocking. The last time we saw Jason Todd pre-52 he was still an occasional villain. Morrison had been hinting for 2 years that Jason Todd would eventually find redemption, but his moment here lacks resonance when we’ve been seeing Todd as the heroic Red Hood in the New 52 for over a year now. Seeing him finally earn Bruce’s trust through being Wingman should have been rather significant. Damian fought him quite frequently pre-52 and hated him. Here in the New 52 the twist is just plain stupid and Damian’s reaction feels like the character has taken a major step back. After reading Batman & Robin‘s War of the Robins storyline it seemed like Jason and Damian had an understanding. Also, that story and the Night of the Owls showed that Batman already partially accepts Jason Todd AND Jason IS THE RED HOOD. So he’s been the Red Hood going out into space and having adventures with Starfire and Arsenal and also playing Wingman on the side? What’s the point? It’s a twist that is just plain dumb in a New 52 context. Also, if it wasn’t for the line saying that this character is Jason Todd, could anyone have recognized him otherwise? It’s just another square-jawed, dark haired guy with a large chin. I miss Todd having red hair. The family all look like clones with slightly varied hair length.

Overall

This was an alright issue. Definitely better than last month’s Zero issue, but not quite as good as issues #1-3 because it’s the conclusion, the payoff for having read part 3 and nothing more. It’ll read wonderfully in a TPB, but you definitely need issue #3 fresh in mind to fully enjoy it. The art is a bit more hurried than usual and the twist at the end was kind of stupid, but it’s an enjoyable albeit fast read and it sets up some interesting (but somewhat confusing for the time being since we won’t see those questions answered until next issue) elements for Batman Incorporated‘s future.

SCORE: 7.5/10

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