The gatefold cover of Batman Inc. #10 is one of the only ones I’ve seen that actually spoils the comic’s ending. I like the cover, but it really does take all the impact out of the story’s final pages so if you can somehow avoid seeing the fold-out reveal I recommend you do that.
Not a whole lot goes on in issue #10. It’s all set-up for what’s to come in the next issue and it plays out about the same way you might play an RPG before a big boss fight or dungeon raid. Batman knows that he can’t take on Talia, Heretic, Man-Bats, and all the soldiers of Leviathan at once so he spends the issue gathering up all the best weapons and throwing them all on his person with little regard to how ridiculous it might make him look. The first piece of armor we see him fetch is the Suit of Sorrows.
Now, I looked like a complete idiot the other day in the Upcoming Comics discussion when Jmk asked about Azrael and I said that DC probably wouldn’t let anyone use the character again and that he had likely been replaced by the very similar Talon. As it turns out, the preview for this particular comic had went online the same day and if anyone can get approval to use Azrael in the New 52 it’s Grant Morrison. Reader Paul Bueno was quick to point out my screwup and Azrael Michael Lane does indeed make his New 52 debut here so fans of the character can indeed rejoice. However, that celebration is short lived. Batman doesn’t necessarily need Lane’s help, he just wants the suit. Lane himself doesn’t seem to be that helpful anyway. I mean, there’s a war going on outside and where has he been? Sitting indoors praying while Batman’s son gets murdered on the frontlines. Perhaps he’s bitter that it’s taken this long for Batman to approach him about anything Batman Inc. related?
After Batman borrows the Suit of Sorrows is when I started having problems with the comic. At the end of Batman Inc. #9, Gotham City was given 8 hours to dissolve and outlaw Batman Incorporated and submit Bruce Wayne to the authorities. During this time, Batman was to prepare for battle and that’s all well and good, but it’s what all the other characters are shown doing that doesn’t quite fit the timeline and so the book’s pacing gets rather messy. On the following page we see that Talia has changed into black mourning attire and flown to Ra’s Al Ghul’s mountain prison, which I assume is somewhere in Asia. From there we go back to Gotham where Talia changes back into the very same red dress she had on before (the colorist should have probably fixed that) and Heratic still has blood on his helmet (which I had less of a problem with since he’s a scary monster and might leave that on there because it makes him all the more frightening). Then we see that Jason Todd is still tied up in that red/black spider-web room– has everyone just been standing around in there all day? The passage of time for Batman works, but Jason seems to be stuck in limbo and Talia is bouncing around all over the place.
And if you read Detective Comics #19 earlier this month, you saw the really bizarre change to New 52 Batman history where Batman meets Kirk Langstrom for the first time and it’s all post-Batman Inc. Well, author Grant Morrison totally ignores all of that here and we see that Batman and Kirk meet up during the battle for Gotham. So there’s a pretty big continuity conflict happening and it only took 3 weeks to get here.
As for the subplots, Dick and Tim’s story is only given a single page and Jason’s captivity has a mere page as well. While I’m sure that there’s going to be a point to the Wingman plotline, as of right now it just feels unnecessary and screws up the pacing of Batman’s revenge. And after seeing Dick and Tim scouring the city for info about Leviathan and looking back on the giant battle in the last issue I can’t help but wonder where Batgirl is? Azrael apparently still exists, but Barbara is nowhere to be found in all of this?
It’s an issue there to get us from Point A to Point B. We get a few reasons as to why Batman Inc. might fall apart in the future and plenty of setup for a massive conclusion in the coming issues but for the most part Batman Inc. #10 is just there to do the necessary groundwork. And when it comes to the art of this issue, I have to say that I think the series could benefit from being delayed. Here is yet another installment where Chris Burnham had to share pages with fill-in artists in order to meet the deadline. With such an important story and one that’s so near to its finale, it would be nice if there was more consistency in the illustrations. It’s clear that Chris Burnham’s linework isn’t as crisp, his page layouts aren’t as creative, and his backgrounds aren’t as richly detailed as they were in issues #1 and #2. And as a fan of his work, I’d much prefer to see a full issue done by him and done well rather than hurried and interrupted by artists with different styles. That’s not to say that there isn’t some cool imagery here. I rather liked Ra’s prison scene and the segment where the GCPD must break its ties with Batman was really well drawn. Of the two fill-in artists helping Burnham bear the load, Masters does the best at providing some consistency in the art style while Andrei Bressan gives us a very feminine-looking Tim Drake and a Nightwing with a really odd forehead.
Batman Inc. #10 is the quiet before the storm. There are some good scenes here and there with Gordon and the GCPD and then with Talia and her father, but for the most part we’re only here to see Batman prepare for his 1 vs. 100 fight against Leviathan and he’s not looking to outsmart them, but to out gun them. Fill-in artists disrupt the flow as does some odd pacing and the brief cut to Jason Todd’s as-yet-unexplained subplot, but for the most part issue #10 is an entertaining transition issue with some cool surprises to make you excited for the final confrontation to come.