At long last, Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated finally returns! This time the team is no longer under Bruce Wayne’s benevolent oversight, and is now led by Batman’s infamous rival Ghost-Maker. However, the new regime hasn’t made any believers out of its members nor the readers yet. To make matter’s worse, a highly-skilled killer targets Batman’s old teachers with Ghost-Maker set to take the fall.
First introduced in Batman #100, career assassin Minhkhoa Khan was one of the few to follow Bruce Wayne’s journey. In a divisive retcon, Ghost-Maker had also been the first potential recruit for Batman Inc. Unfortunately, their intense rivalry prevented them from ever seeing eye to eye. In the modern day, Khan choose to follow Bruce’s example or at the very least one up him. This includes taking on the also reformed Bo “Clownhunter” Pham as his first ward.
Ghost-Maker’s first order of business is to scrub Batman Inc. clean of Lex Luthor’s failures. Before long, someone directly taunts him as he chases Luthor’s trail. Ed Brisson seems to be most interested in Khoa’s ego as a focus, but the book features a welcome team dynamic. Seeing Sybil make the Knight her own, Jiro bonding with Gray Wolf, and subsequently trying to find his own identity are the best bits. Despite Batman trusting him with the team, Ghost-Maker panics under pressure. As a result, his unstable behavior foreshadows a fracture in the group sooner than later.
El Gaucho Incorporated
Ghost-Maker is still a relatively new character and has made enemies on and off the page. His biggest “fan” by far is the Batman of Argentina. El Gaucho was originally one of Batman Inc. and The Club of Heroes’ founding members. Although typically depicted as mildly duplicitous, Gaucho insists that his seniority puts him in line to lead. His characterization always reminds me of Watchmen‘s The Comedian, despite dressing like a red masked Zorro. Gaucho’s early dissent makes him the perfect foil to watch when the team begins to turn in on itself.
In addition, Issue #1 introduces several new characters like the Russian “Grey Wolf.” While Luthor’s metahuman with a heart of gold is new to being a hero, he seems to fit in well with the others. On an interesting note, the last Russian on Batman Inc. was also not only a tank, but the first victim of Nobody. I’ll bring this back up later. Secondly, The Knight scouts the “Batman of Dublin” named Black Mist. Mist seems intuitive and wears a high collared black jumpsuit with mysterious cybernetic enhancements. If John Timms was going for “Celtic ninja,” the bright lights on her legs are an odd design choice. Least of all, the newly caped Clownhunter continues to dress like a Fortnite skin.
No More Teachers
We know very little about Bruce and Khoa’s journey to become Batman and Ghost-Maker. With what little we do know, Brisson is seemingly expanding where he can. Each time Batman Inc. finds a benefactor, a killer with a grudge emerges. First it was Leviathan, then the son of Morgan Ducard, and finally Abyss targeting Lex Luthor. This killer not only knows the exact teachings Batman had, but can also best his instructors in their own disciplines. Naturally, all fingers slowly implicate Minhkhoa Khan as the most likely suspect. A good detective would ask “why now,” but Batman Inc. should ask “who else could it be?”
Batman has only shared his sacred quest with select students. Notably, Tim Drake himself has taken the Bat-hajj on his own volition. A literal note says the culprit is a former student. Yet, my keen writing senses tell me to ask “whose student?” It could be related to Morgan Ducard again. His father was a teacher of Bruce Wayne’s and Morgan vowed to avenge him as Nobody. The second Nobody Maya Ducard took the mantle to avenge her father as well, but I doubt she had the training to take on their masters.
Furthermore, the teachers recognize the perp before their death. Meaning they have a direct connection with the masters they kill. Brisson lays out not so subtle breadcrumbs like a sloppy chain of evidence for readers to follow. When Sybil instantly believes the death of Batman #100’s Tommy Tivane was personal, I knew who my prime suspect was going to be. In the issues to follow, Ghost-Maker will look worse and worse as he builds up an ensemble of masters as fellow suspects. I won’t speak on it yet, but the killer is definitely not the most hated guy on the page.
Read To Filth
John Timms does a number on the cover and internal line art. The stylized figures have chunky fingers, underwhelming faces with spaced apart eyes, and thin limbs. It’s a look that doesn’t always work, but when it does it feels big and kinetic. The element of jet-setting in the book helps keep a colorful palette of international locations to showcase. Each location invites tonal shifts from violent European crime scenes to tropical street races, or futuristic cityscapes. In terms of costume, the team varies in quality. Clownhunter is still the worst, but even Tommy Tivane’s plain jacket and cargo pants look more practical than the very loud gang of heroes.
- You have been waiting for the return of a Batman Inc. solo title.
- In need of a good who-dun-it every now and then.
- Ghost-Maker is growing on you.
- You hate Ghost-Maker and want a front row seat to his failure.
The point of Batman Incorporated is to tell the kind of international stories that historically exclude Batman. The idea should never be about making them look less than Batman, but to build them up in their own right. Ghost-Maker has a long way to go as a leader, but that’s enough space on the runway for your story to go to some good places. However, for those of us who hold the journey of Bruce Wayne in high regard, there better be a justified culprit behind it all. Even though the artwork and characters haven’t won me over completely, the mystery is genuinely intriguing and has potential. So far, so good.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.