Wednesday, December 10, 2014

[New 52] Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison issue #4

I just noticed something weird about Batman Incorporated's timeline. This series has been around since the old continuity which means there are major details in its plot that can still be considered pre-New 52 and now this issue clearly demonstrates that anomaly. This shouldn't be a problem unless you're continuity-conscious. I'm one myself when these pesky finer details get in the way of the flow of the story.

For this issue entitled Kill Box, I think that everything is going along smoothly until the very last revelation, a surprise twist that seems underwhelming once you contextualize it with the fact that this is already New 52 so the impact that Morrison intended gets lost in translation. I will further discuss this at the later part of this review. But first let me touch upon what made Kill Box such an engaging piece. And that's no other than the indisputable fact that Chris Burnham is a master when it comes to the visual execution of dynamic fight scenes which this issue has plenty of. Page after page we are guaranteed the most exciting illustrations of heroes and villains just duking it out. There are also many appearances from the Bat. Inc group (El Groucho, Knight and Squire, Batwing to name a few), while Talia al Ghul is heard during a conversation with Batman which, again, was about that surprise twist. This is also Matches Malone's last appearance (sad) and Damian Wayne's debut appearance as Red Bird (hilarious). Kill Box just hits the entertainment mark splendidly!

While the previous issue was all exposition, this was the one that it builds up to and it definitely delivers an action-packed follow-up if you're the kind of comics reader who just revels on page-after-page fight, fight, fight scenes. Burnham's artwork makes every confrontation alive and well-paced and you will get your money's worth if this is your only concern. Since we're on this vein of discussion, I think it's also worth saying at this point that Batman Incorporated's first four issues for New 52 have been superior to the previous run (and I've read and reviewed those issues individually back in July so I know what I'm talking about). For the revamped series, Morrison has taken his time crafting his tales and laying the necessary groundwork which has been the essential flaw of the first four issues in the last cycle, actually. There is a brisk breathlessness to those predecessors that often alienated me but this time around my attention for this series never wavered. I think it's mostly because all the players are front and center at this point. In the last Bat-Inc run, we're still getting acquainted with the Leviathan (this criminal entity appeared at issue #9 and a special issue) and so the cohesiveness of the storytelling itself would jump back and forth from the major arc and the minor subplots that could get tiresome if you don't care about the other Bat-Inc pledgers. Now we're finally getting something more straightforward. The Leviathan is getting more page time and at the heart of it all we know that Talia al Ghul is the main arch-villainess. This means that there less confusion and "hiding in the shadows" effect, which then allows readers to keep up with the events unfolding since we can now put faces in the enemies our heroes are battling against.

However, as I've said at the beginning of this review, there is a surprise twist at the end of this issue that would have worked best if we are still back in the old continuity. But we're not, so the effect was diluted. Here's a recap: after that explosive confrontation with their Talia's league of assassins, she and Batman have a conversation regarding Wingman (this vigilante betrayed Batman and co. during one of the arcs in the old continuity; I can't remember which) and that it's not the same man under the cowl. Damian, who had by chance started fighting alongside Wingman since shit just got real for this issue and they need all the help they can get, forces Batman to tell him the truth about this new Wingman fellow. Wingman takes off his cowl and shows him that he is no other than JASON TODD, the third Robin. It's notable because, if you've read Morrison's Batman and Robin run with Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian as his sidekick Robin, they had this bloody and angsty confrontation with Jason when he was the avenging Red Hood. Simply put, history will tell you that Damian and Jason hated the fuck out of each other. They never got along. He also briefly became Talia's lover, by the way, so this guy slept with Damian's mom so that's yet another dosage of bad blood for Damian. If this was still during the old continuity, the fact that Jason took up the Wingman title to redeem himself from his past transgressions is a redemptive growth for his character.

BUT WE ARE NOW IN NEW 52 where Jason Todd has his own title series (Red Hood and the Outlaws) and he's already been considered as a part of the Bat-family again. This is why the revelation that he is the new Wingman holds less emotional weight when you already know he's going to be one of the good guys again (with an anti-hero streak). That seemingly inconsequential detail would have been more resonant if this run of Batman Incorporated has still distinguished itself as pre-New 52 content. BUT IT DIDN'T. So...yeah. I guess we're just going to have to politely ignore that anomaly and go on reading this series anyway...I guess.


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