How to explain the craziness of Batman, Inc. #11… Well, it’s a filler issue. I should say that first and foremost. It has nothing–absolutely nothing–to do with the story we’ve been following for the past 10 issues and could easily be skipped. It’s instead a comic that would’ve fit far better in the Pre-New 52 volume of this series, which focused more on the colorful agents of the international club. The New 52 series, however, gave up globetrotting to focus on Batman, Gotham, and really get down to brass tacks. It has pushed the story forward instead of having zany one-and-done adventures (Really, the New 52 Batman Inc. has felt a lot more like a second Batman & Robin title). Even in the original run of Batman Inc, the Batman himself would play a vital role, but in this particular comic book it’s all Batman Japan/Jiro/Mr. Unknown, whatever you want to call him. By the way, wasn’t Batman Inc. supposed to be disbanded by now? And why wouldn’t Batman Japan be helping out the rest of Inc. right now what with this being the big battle the whole organization was assembled to fight in the first place?
Our story takes place in Tokyo, where we see a colorful motorcycle gang causing havoc on the streets. It gets so bad that the police use the Bat Alarm to interrupt the Batman of Japan’s date with sidekick Canary, a 6 inch tall girl with wings and a sexy school girl outfit. Canary, like the well-known character Black Canary, is capable of delivering a sonic scream. Batman Japan and Canary suit up in their Bat Base, which is littered with trophies and dinosaurs of its own (even a case for a Robin costume for whatever reason) and head out to stop villainy in its tracks. From then on things get even more eccentric.
With only 2 chapters left in this story there really wasn’t a worse time to slip this filler in and I can’t help but wonder how this will fit into the eventual hardcover. I figured at first that slipping it into the very back or very front of the graphic novel would be the best way to go, but the comic is book-ended by a shot of Alfred the Cat at Damian’s grave and a shot of Man-Azrael-Mecha-Batman flying toward the roof where Heretic and Talia are standing. So… I don’t know. It’s clear that people involved in this book enjoyed working on it but it sure as hell isn’t what I wanted to read this month. Grant Morrison’s epic has been going on for like 6 years or more and I couldn’t care less about watching Jiro and his little bird sidekick fight some vulgar Power Rangers.
Speaking of Morrison, he sits this one out and our usual artist, Chris Burnham takes a crack at writing while Jorge Lucas assumes drawing duties. And what Burnham and Lucas have created is… well, it’s weird. Plain and simple: you’re either going to view Batman, Inc. #11 as wacky fun and a nice break from what you’ve seen in pretty much every comic lately OR you’re going to write it off as being dumb and a complete waste of your time. The whole thing has a manga meets silver age American comics vibe. I thought that Jorge Lucas did a terrific job of drawing it. I mean, his art and Ian Hannin’s colors really captured the campy tone of Chris Burnham’s writing perfectly with its blend of silver age and anime. It’s a world where that goofy ascot/handkerchief wearing Batman Japan costume can actually work! Oh, and I really dug the Batmobile.
Everything is silly, vibrant, and over-the-top, but there are occasional shifts from the wholesome Adam West-esque feel to something very crude that didn’t blend well with the atmosphere. Earlier in the review I mentioned vulgar Power Rangers, these characters interrupt lighter moments with tongue-ripping-out violence and a Doctor Who vagina joke among other remarks that reminded me of Kevin Smith/Seth Rogen-ish movies. And yes, I’m aware that that last sentence probably convinced a lot of you to buy this issue just because it sounds so ridiculous that it can’t be passed up.
Look, we’re all disappointed that we’re not getting the first half of Morrison’s Batman Inc. finale today. I think we can all agree on that. But would you rather have had a month long delay or something experimental like this? For the most part I think those who will hate it will know they’ll hate it just by taking a glance at the cover, but a good way to know if this is worth your time is if you enjoyed the pre-New 52 Batman Inc. run’s most campy stories. If you liked those episodes then you should buy this but if not or if you never read the pre-New 52 run, then you can skip it. Worry-free. It’s the very definition of filler. Personally, I thought it was well constructed with some really cool artwork, but it’s not something I’m ever going to re-read again and if it wasn’t for me doing the review I would’ve been a member of team skip-it.