STORY: Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham
ART: Frazer Irving
I’ve been pretty on-the-fence with Batman Incorporated since it started back in May. Before the ‘New 52’, the idea of soliciting out the Batman name seemed absolutely ridiculous – even Grant Morrison’s name attached to it couldn’t persuade me to believe that a character as dark, brooding, and shadowy as Batman would ever think about turning himself into a brand. The concept, to me, seemed like an idea that came from a lack of ideas. What else is there to do with Batman now except make him go global? I felt like it conveyed a lack of creativity and inability to make new stories for a character that literally died and came back to life just a year or two prior. Batman Incorporated – as I mentioned earlier, to me – represents the epitome of what DC was trying to change with the ‘New 52’ – overly complex stories, convoluted continuity, and a lack of direction. Sure, Grant Morrison is one of the industry’s biggest and best writers, but even he is prone to slipping up every once in a while.
The clear exception to this trend is Batman Incorporated #0, an issue that lightly and interestingly gives readers the early days of Batman’s quest to expand his brand across the entire planet. With the threat of the vague and seemingly omni-evil Leviathan constantly looming, Batman is actually getting paranoid. In true Morrison style, the narrative flow for this issue is pretty frantic, jumping back and forth between locales, setting up multiple characters while giving more insight to Bruce Wayne’s thought processes. We get to follow Squire and Knight, El Gaucho, Nightrunner, and others as they all vie for a spot on the most exclusive and prestigious club on the planet. And while I recognize how fun of an issue Morrison has crafted, Batman Incorporated #0 still feels a bit empty.
Morrison’s grand plan for Batman has been nearly six years in the making. Starting with “Batman & Son”, which introduced Damian Wayne into the fold, Morrison then moved on to launching Batman and Robin, which explored the father/son relationship between Batman and his new Robin. Eventually, Morrison moved on to the first (pre-‘New 52’) volume of Batman Incorporated, the third act whose name had a double meaning: ‘Incorporated’ because of the literal business venture’s namesake, and also because the series begins to incorporate all the previous elements of story Morrison had spent years laying out. That’s why the premise of BI is a bit flimsy, and that’s why crafting an effective “Issue Zero” would have been damn near impossible. Had Morrison given up any more information than he did this month, major events would have been spoiled. Obviously, the threat of Leviathan is going to come directly to Batman, and maybe not so much to the Batman Inc members. If you need proof, Morrison is stepping off Batman Incorporated after issue 12, which means he’ll have to wrap up the current arc with Leviathan, or DC will just cancel the title altogether.
It’s becoming more and more clear that Batman’s international army may not be essential to the story, acting more as lieutenants in this ‘behind the scenes’ war against the very essence of evil. In this sense, Batman Incorporated #0 is a letdown and a success. It let me down by offering very little in the way of story advancement – or even really any information about it at all – and with the staccato nature of the narrative. It was a success because Morrison does an amazing job focusing on the characters he’s presenting, giving them developed, clear-cut personalities even if they only get a few panels of page time. So even though they probably aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of Morrison’s plans, the origins of Batman’s soliders around the world is captivating, nuanced, and drawn incredibly well.