I just stumbled upon one of those stories that can metaphorically blow your mind. I swear to all the Catholic saints that there are metaphorical chunks of my brain that are permanently stuck in the backseat of my father's car where I read this story in (a ride on the way to work where I'm now utterly distracted, struggling to type this review). I'm still reeling from it that badly, even after I read the next issue in the car too, which was #6. This goddamn story is all I can think about.
Entitling it as Asylum is an unjust decision because that generic label has been overdone so much that you'd think we haven't been saturated enough with it, but Morrison and Burnham's collaborative product for this story shows me and any other doubting Bat-fan that FUCK IT I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO FINISH THIS THOUGHT SO I'LL JUST CAPS-LOCK AND GO AHEAD AND ANNOUNCE THAT YOU CAN SAY WHAT YOU WANT ABOUT THIS ASSHOLE MORRISON--YOU CAN LOVE OR HATE HIS WRITING FOR BATMAN COMICS AS YOU PLEASE--BUT THE WORK HE HAS CONTRIBUTED IN BATMAN INCORPORATED FOR NEW 52 FOR ME HAS BEEN PHENOMENAL THOUGH SADLY UNDERVALUED because I do believe that getting into a Morrison Bat-book isn't a casual activity, especially when its content is not readily accessible or at times even newbie-friendly. Morrison has a reputation for being, uh, dick-ish, but the man seriously knows how to write comics that can be both deep and meaningful then wacky and entertaining--sometimes in a bundle.
I was actually pretty lucky that I enlisted his comic books as a priority back when I started this Batman diet in April this year. I made sure I read the first Bat-Inc and at least twelve of his Batman and Robin issues before I even got to this which I think are important stuff to read first.
When I say that Morrison's New 52 content for Batman Incorporated is not casual or accessible, I mean it. I pointed out in my review from the last issue that THIS ENTIRE SERIES SHOULDN'T HAVE BEEN CREDITED AS PART OF THE NEW 52 UNIVERSE AT ALL. Nuanced with callbacks and references from his own work and the old continuity, what Morrison has written here is a series of events steeped and layered with fundamental Bat-mythos, and this was even more apparent with this Asylum issue; we got a few hats-off to Frank Miller's own The Dark Knight Returns and even Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. You have to pay extra attention to the background or you might miss them. That's not to say that I got every little reference imbued in this issue; the references to other Morrison works I have yet to read (Batman R.I.P, Batman #666 and the Black Glove story arc) completely went out of my head. I had to research about them online as soon as I started typing this review, and I am definitely adding them to my third wave of Bat-comics to-read for 2015. This issue is getting a perfect rating for me in spite of the confounding elements that I didn't relate to either, and that's mostly because this was definitely the climactic and resonant issue of the series where every build-up since the 2010 series started has been leading up to--and it skyrocketed in ways I never could believe. It was worth that slow-burn from the previous run. And can I just say once and for all that a great work will not be complete if it wasn't for the main artist who consistently produces quality illustrations? Just like how Greg Capullo for Snyder's Batman and Patrick Gleason for Tomasi's Batman and Robin elevate their respective writers' content through their gorgeous and dynamic art styles, so does Chris Burnham with his material for Batman Incorporated and this issue--I cannot stress enough how uncanny his visuals are!
I do believe that this will be deeply appreciated if you have been reading Bat-comics and Morrison's work for DC in general, but if you're a newbie or a casual reader of Batman material for New 52, this is a series you should watch out for. I suggest you pick up the 2010 run and catch up with this soon. Trust me, this is some of the finest things the medium can offer.