This issue is a mess. There are a number of really interesting things going on and really expressive artwork but it feels like it was written by someone with a severe case of attention deficit disorder. Page after page jumps around so abruptly that by the end of the comic I felt like I had been overwhelmed with new information and yet somehow the story had not progressed much at all. There are also a few twists that happen that don’t really enhance the story so much as they feel like they were done just to shock or make the tale seem more complex than it really is.
The last issue ended with Batman being thrown off a rooftop while on the street below Gordon was about to be overwhelmed by brainwashed children. Jason, Tim, and Dick were suiting up back at the cave and Damian was pleading with Alfred to let him leave and join the fight against Leviathan. It was a pretty exciting cliffhanger to say the least, but issue #7 totally didn’t deliver on that promise of excitement for me.
On page one of this comic Batman is still falling but is saved by one of the Man-Bats, the psychotic children are no longer on the street ready to shiv Gordon, but have been replaced by Jason, Tim, and Dick who have just arrived on the scene in time to see the man-bat abscond with the Dark Knight. Seeing elements of the great cliffhanger from issue #6 shuffled about like this was rather jarring since the previous book was fresh in my mind but if you haven’t read that comic recently these continuity issues can be overlooked.
From there we cut to a giant swimming pool where a four-armed woman and a caped mutant named Traktir are examining a whale carcass and relaying the info back to Batwing. Cut back to the street where everyone is crying over the loss of Knight whose dead body is being carried by the bat-robots. Cut back to the cave where Damian is feeding his pets, then we learn the story of The Heretic, then Jason Todd is attacked, then Tim is attacked, then the little kids finally rise up against the police like we were shown in the last comic. What happened to the bat robots? Those things would’ve been a big help and we saw like 3 of them just a page or so ago–cut to a Wayne building where Talia and Heretic are carrying a safe, and on and on and on.
First of all, I know quite a few of you who have posted in the comments have become fans of this series from Volume 2 alone. Well, now is the time when prior knowledge of Batman Inc. Volume 1 and especially Batman: The Return (published in 2010) comes in handy. Without reading The Return, you don’t know what this whale business is all about nor are you going to be that familiar with the fantastical Traktir and Spidra characters. And after all the buildup of who Heretic could possibly be his origin is delivered on a single page and then we never speak of it again which left me pretty underwhelmed.
Let me get into a few spoilers real quick and then I’ll wrap things up:
Burnham, as usual, does quite well with the book’s action scenes and the faces of these character which all show an incredible amount of emotion. My only complaints would be that Talia’s rather long body looked off and Damian seemed especially cherub like this time around. I mean, Damian looks like he’s maybe 5 or 6 years old here especially in terms of his height. Just like with the last issue we have a fill-in artist but the change-over wasn’t as noticeable since the setting of the story changed for those pages so it felt appropriate enough. I must say that I’m enjoying the colors quite a bit, it’s a great shade of blue/green for a stormy night and really adds to the foreboding quality of the storytelling.
It’s not the worst issue to come out of the New 52 Batman Inc. (that’s issue #0) but I definitely had a lot of problems with it and think it could’ve been better organized. Despite all of the revelations that occur in this issue the real highlight for me (besides the artwork) is Alfred. Alfred is written beautifully here and seeing him interact with Damian is a real treat. In fact, Batman never says a single line in this entire comic and it is the supporting cast that gets all of the attention. That’s wonderful! The focus of Batman Inc. really should be the organization itself rather than focusing primarily on Batman and I must say that up until this point the New 52 series has felt far more like Batman & Robin than Batman Inc. I just wish that we would have left the fantastical elements out of it, had some consistency between this issue and the last, not repeated the same twists as volume 1, and structured all of this information better so the story didn’t jump around so much. If you haven’t read Batman: The Return or Morrison’s original Batman Inc. Volume 1 then I think now is the time to do that. It looks like this series is about to dip back into its older continuity and get extra zany which will be rewarding to longtime fans but possibly a turn off for the new crowd.