By: Grant Morrison (writer), David Finch (penciller), Batt and Ryan Winn (inker), Peter Steigerwald (colorist)
The Story: Bruce Wayne is back in Gotham and giving orders. It might be best to say that General Wayne is back, because he’s got a small army of people he can draw on for his new vision of crime-fighting.
The Review: This book wowed me pretty much from cover to cover. The production (paper and thickness) felt satisfying to sit back and open. David Finch’s art, ably interpreted by Batt, Winn and Steigerwald, was awesome. There were a few gratuitous poses here and there, but the evocative settings and dynamism of even the heroes standing about made the whole story seem to be in motion. As an example, take a look at some of the non-standard chores the art team really knocked out of the park. First, the three-page opening with the wounded bat, especially the background of the library. Then, check out the batcave in Batman’s first briefing. The level of detail in the backgrounds and in the characters (unfortunately posing like they came out of the 90s) was eye-catching. And, check out the overview of Yemen. Great stuff. Money’s worth it for the art.
On writing, Morrison was nearly tone-perfect. He caught all the characters at their best (with one exception that I’ll get to in a sec). Morrison writes a good Damian. He’s a hateful, spiteful little bastard you’d just like to shake some so he gets his head on straight, if you thought he wouldn’t bite you. His growth under Morrison (via Dick Grayson) was genuine and Dick earned Damian’s respect. Damian’s insecurities here under Bruce completely transform Damian’s axis of aggression as he realizes that Dick is his only hope to keep on being Robin and growing into what he and his father want of him. It was really fun to watch. At the same time, I loved the role Bruce carved out for Dick. It is appropriate, logical (given Bruce’s new vision), and promises to keep my favorite member of the Bat-family at the front of things for a while yet. The quiet moments between Alfred and Bruce were also great to watch. And finally, as a reader of Batgirl, I also like the direction here that will play out in a book that needed a shot in the arm.
On the exception, and partly plot-wise, I had to jump a bit to keep up with the changes in Bruce and the expansion of the scope of his crime-fighting vision. My big thing was, where was this new vision coming from? It didn’t come from before his “death”. It wasn’t developed during the Return of Bruce Wayne miniseries. So, as a reader, I was left to fill in the drivers for this visionary change that is going to take Batman Incorporated far beyond Gotham. Luckily, I can buy the theory that a guy with an obsession (crime-fighting) having a near-death experience (job not done) redoubles his efforts when he gets better. Now, will Batman Incorporated fit within the Batman concept (revenge-seeking vigilante who operates at street level within a psychotic city)? Maybe. Is it going to be interesting? Yes. What about the bad guys? We’re getting into sophisticated spies and industrial crime-fighting and most of them look like they’ll be metas. And looking through some of Bruce’s new kit, it looked more like a trip through an Iron Man book that a Gotham one. This is a clear signal (as if we needed another) that Morrison has a different vision of Batman than the one we’re used to.
Conclusion: This book was very entertaining, and DC obviously threw their A-list creators at it. I’m very comfortable giving it a grade that will put it among the best comics of the year. Go pick it up.