This truly is a special book. Acting as a last remnant of the pre-New 52 DC universe, featuring characters that are steeped in continuity and history, it feels wholly unlike its sister bat-books or any DC book in general. It’s a testament to Morrison as writer that this book continues to exist. It’s mind-boggling how poorly DC has handled Morrison’s sprawling Batman mega-story as it has suffered shipping delays, frustrating artistic shifts, and apparent editorial meddling for years. The nine month hiatus caused by the New 52 launch was a major blow to the story’s momentum, and might’ve been the proverbial last straw. Luckily, Morrison remains committed to finishing this fan favorite story, and has delivered some incredible work thus far.
However, the damage is done and the cracks in the foundation are beginning to show.
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Chris Burnham
– Bat-Robots versus Man-Bat armies as Leviathan takes control of Gotham City!
– Don’t miss the return of The Heretic!
As the middle of the final act of a story that’s literally years in the making, this isn’t a great starting point for the uninitiated. In fact, this issue’s plot boggles even one who has read Morrison’s Batman from the very start. Characters spout off vague lines of dialogue regarding mysterious zen parables that are shrugged away with little elaboration or explanation. Even Batman himself exclaims, “Can’t we just have a conversation like normal people?” Events occur frantically, and it feels as if the reader missed some information, as if part of the comic occurs off-panel, giving the issue a very scattered feel. While this is a common problem with Morrison’s complex and heavily referential writing style, this issue lacks the writer’s usual depth, coming off primarily as an action piece, albeit one with very high stakes. Furthermore, the “villain’s evil plan” is fairly generic, with only a few small flourishes thrown in.Continued below
Though the plot only inches along, there’s still quite a lot to enjoy about this issue. One terrific section shows the four Robins interacting, with Jason Todd acting uncharacteristically heroic. Another features a powerful moment between Knight and Squire, two characters that Morrison brought into the spotlight early on but who have since languished. Readers can also expect to find the typical zany concepts Morrison is known for, such as Bat-robots fighting Manbats in midair, and the return of fan favorite “Batcow.”
While the issue’s plot isn’t quite up to normal standards, Chris Burnham’s art remains as incredible as ever. Some might shrug Burnham off as a Quitely imitator, but he’s a more than capable artist in his own right. In the wake of the terrible destruction of last issue, Burnham depicts the heroes of “Batman Incorporated” on the brink of death, battered, bloodied, and desperate. Character faces border on caricaturization, brimming with emotion, yet still believable. The action scenes flow seamlessly as Batman burns through henchmen with ease, maintaining a constant sense of forward motion. Even the calmer scenes in the batcave a sight to behold, full of rich detail that begs to be examined. Coupled with Nathan Fairbairn’s bright and lively colors, Burnham’s work ranks among the best monthly comic art out there. Unfortunately, Burnham was unable to finish the issue on his own, requiring the use of a fill-in artist. Andres Guinaldo does a fair job on the pages he is given, but the jarring art shift detracts from the issue’s visual cohesion.
It’s becoming abundantly clear that a current day Morrison story is best read in its completed form, rather than the episodic nature of monthly comics. As seen in recent issues of “Action Comics,” every single issue he pens acts to build the overall story, no matter how uneventful or irrelevant it may seem on its own. While issue #6 of “Batman Incorporated” is likely a necessary piece of the complete puzzle, it doesn’t hold up well as a singular entity. The return of the Heretic (a character who bears striking similarities to Bane in The Dark Knight Rises) teases promising things to come as the stakes continue to raise to unbearable levels. However, with only six issues left, Morrison is going to have to give more than nods and teases for this saga to reach a satisfying conclusion.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – Enough of a carrot to keep the horse moving.