Tuesday, December 23, 2014

[Best of Batman] Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 by Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison's epic saga Batman Incorporated was seven years in the making, going back as far as Batman and Son where he introduced Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul's love child Damian, and continuing on with his run for Batman and Robin where Damian becomes the new Robin to Dick Grayson's Batman, as well as touching upon other Morrison Bat-stories like Batman 666 and Batman R.I.P. Its scope was that far-reaching; an accumulation of years of careful planning that aimed to unify and tie up every plot thread that Morrison created separately in each of the Bat-stories aforementioned. What the readers were imparted with in the end was a comic book series that is rich, diverse and resonant in all the right places possible.

Divided into a 2010 run and a New 52 sequel, there were a total of twenty-two issues for this series which I individually reviewed as dutifully as I could manage this year. Most of them have been spectacular; decisive, creative and well-nuanced tales about extraordinary people caught up in high-stakes events; while a few (that were mostly present in this volume) could have been improved upon. Nonetheless, I can guarantee that Batman Incorporated remains as an enduring, respectable work that deserves a place in the Batman legacy.

The premise for Batman Incorporated was simple enough: in the aftermath of Bruce Wayne's return from the dead, he finances a franchise that would recruit aspiring and noble vigilantes across the globe and turn them into heroes that bore the brand of Batman. Consequently, a criminal organization known as the Leviathan has taken root for years, and has freely infested many countries in the world. An inevitable clash between these distinct forces will definitely occur at the most opportune time, and Morrison and co. built an impressive setting for Batman Incorporated that served as the perfect landscape for the espionage caped adventures of the Bat-Inc crusaders. Meanwhile, the set pieces established about the Leviathan as an encompassing criminal entity might as well be Morrison's own brand of conspiracy saga which he almost turned into an art form.

The 2010-2011 run composed of nine issues focused more on the Batman's search for these promising recruits as well as the side missions in between that take him and his new team closer to the Leviathan by cornering and unravelling their criminal activities scattered among continents. By the time New 52 rolled around, Morrison has produced thirteen issues that took us right at the heart of the beast, and this creature is known as the Demon Star and operates for a singular purpose. It was at this time that Batman Incorporated was turned into a beguiling and elegant family soap opera, cinematic in scale, where Bruce Wayne's main nemesis was the woman he loved long ago who bore him his son Damian (now the current Robin to his Batman).

The same woman is no other than Ra's al Ghul's daughter, the cunning and driven Talia who spent almost a decade creating and distributing an image and reputation for Leviathan. This was all prove to her father and her beloved detective and child that she is not to be underestimated. Heiress to an empire of blood and ashes, Talia will stop at nothing to convince Bruce that her son is meant to rule by her side. In a chilling confrontation, Talia asked Bruce to choose between his beloved city Gotham or Damian and whichever he chooses, the other one shall die.

This volume entitled Gotham's Most Wanted was the second and last part of the series. Comprised of issues #7-13 plus a special, this is where Morrison ends it all. To be honest, it wasn't the punchline I was looking for especially when I felt that this series as a whole deserved more. The conclusion was a bit underwhelming and incomprehensibly unsatisfying for me. All the wonderful build-up, symbolic, biblical and mythological references that were weaved into the narrative, plots and characters for Batman Incorporated led up to a resolution that barely justified or lived up to the journey itself. The destination just lacked something I still could not figure out even as I write this review. I also complained about the fact that this series never should have been labeled as a New 52 story because the general inconsistencies in details and timelines eventually became too hard to ignore as you go on, especially if you read this alongside other New 52 Bat-titles, so I advise that you don't, and treat this as its own breed of animal.

However, I think the real drawback for the later part of the series was when Damian Wayne finally dies in issue #8 which was truly the high critical point of everything this series stood for. Morrison has written Damian Wayne's character specifically and arguably only to die once Bat-Inc gets closer to its grand finish. It was the catalyst that will guarantee Talia and Batman's confrontation by the last issue. Unfortunately, it was after this show-stopping demise that also killed the momentum and excitement of the things that happened in its wake. The next issues (#9-#13) just didn't keep the ball rolling. I felt that they slowly became less engrossing as the series neared the thankful end. The story didn't deteriorate completely, of course. The said issues are still serviceable but quite average when you compare it to the grand scheme of Batman Incorporated, that's all.

I can look back at this series as a work that's relentlessly creative, oddly endearing and shockingly well-layered, however. It's a comic book series you should pick up if you ever dare call yourself a long-time and avid Batman fan. Grant Morrison has created something special here and perhaps in time and with age, I could re-read this series again and appreciate it better somewhere down the road. I suggest that you pick up Batman and Son, Batman 666, Batman R.I.P and Batman and Robin which were all penned by Morrison before you dig into this. Perhaps starting from where it all began would give you a more nuanced perspective of how this saga has evolved since. Though not always readily accessible to newbies, Batman Incorporated as an epic adventure and drama is enjoyable if you're patient enough to see it through. It has distinguished itself as yet another Grant Morrison work that earns a spot as a contemporary classic in the comic book medium.



  1. Hi what graphic novels do you recommend after finishing Year One, Knightfall 1, New 52 Vol.1, The Black Mirror, The Long Halloween, and The Dark Knight Returns?

    1. Hello. From your list, I could tell that you're mostly in the old continuity. I could recommend Grant Morrison's Batman and Son and Batman and Robin series as precursors to his Batman Incorporated 2010. I also recommend Judd Winick's Under the Red Hood, Darwyn Cooke's Ego as self-contained stories. As for New 52, Snyder's Batman is usually the best place to start but he did have this awesome story arc back in old continuity Detective Comics entitled The Black Mirror which is now released as a graphic novel. It follows the events right after Final Crisis, Battle for the Cowl and Batman R.I.P. I hope this helps. I'm posting a 2014 Yearend recap in this blog which will be a list of my favorite Bat-comics. You can aslo check that out if you want.

    2. Sorry, I saw you already read The Black Mirror. Most stuff I can recommend are ongoing New 52 titles. Like Tomasi's Batman and Robin, and then there's Batman Eternal.

    3. I see, thank you for a reply I can see where to go regarding batman now. By the way your blog is amazing, I can't believe the amount go details put in each post.

    4. Thanks very much for saying so! I hope you got to check out NY Yearend recap post! Happy reading Batman! Feel free to stop by again any time!