By: Grant Morrison (writer), Chris Burnham (artist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist)

The Story: No matter where you go, you can always count on your Bat-family.

The Review: Early issues of Batman Inc. made out this series as a world-hopping, adventure extravaganza—which it still is.  But recently, Morrison revealed an even bigger scope to Batman’s mission, as he prepares for a threat guaranteed to have lasting, sweeping consequences.  This issue transitions from the fun-and-games we’ve had into typical Morrison expansiveness.

Under Morrison’s pen, even a transition story can be fast-paced and high-action.  This issue flies by lightning quick, with scenes frequently cutting from panel to panel.  In record time Batman adds a couple more members into the fold (the Batman of Australia wears a rocket pack!), while the newly-joined are already hard at work, showing what kind of foe they’re up against in the process: Nightrunner stops a delivery of kidnapped children, but too late—they’ve already been indoctrinated to kill for Leviathan.

Batman also brings in members of his own inner circle as part of the Inc.  Some have obviously major roles in his big plan: while Red Robin takes lead of the Outsiders, Cassandra Cain makes an appreciable return as Blackbat, the Batman of Hong Kong.  It’s not clear where Dick, Damian, and Commissioner Gordon come in, devoted to Gotham as they are, but it’s great to see Bruce keeping them very much in the loop (although we the readers get kept out, obviously).

At the same time, Batman’s demonstrating how the logistics of this whole Inc. thing will work, with his civilian persona out in the open, prominently and publicly supporting the venture.  Not only does he bring in the Bat-bots (reminiscent of those in Kingdom Come) for high-tech back-up, he also uses the internet’s tireless rumor mill to build layers of conspiracy theories that “out” his true identity and hide it at the same time—very clever stuff.

And if you had doubts as to the necessity for this global network, you have only to look at the depiction of the enemy’s global reach.  Morrison places Dedalus and his Leviathan partner in full view of Earth, making it look as though they have the planet in their possession.  The constant scans across the world’s surface shows their nigh-omnipresent watch over it, and their dialogue implies they have a reach through time as well: “500 agents form the first battle formation.  The youngest and most zealous of these living weapons…is barely eighteen months old…”

This can all get disorienting, but you’ll have no problem getting your bearings, thanks to Joe Average and the Average Joes (greatest crime-gang concept ever), who serve not only to link all these scenes together, but are also part of the issue’s plot: to test Batman Inc.’s network, they plan a “flashcrime” event with mobs all over the world.  You can take a stab at how that goes.

Burnham’s under a lot of pressure to draw a lot of characters in a lot of places all at once, but he pulls it off admirably.  His Quitely influence gets really obvious in this issue, with great use of perspective and physics to promote the epic/action feel of the issue.  That said, he’s not a terrific drawer of faces (Bruce looks downright Asian a lot of the time—which I’m all for, honestly), and his bulgy style occasionally makes the men look steroid-pumped.

Conclusion: With all the material stuffed into this one issue, and with great treatment from both writer and artist, you’re getting a bargain at DC’s held-$2.99.

Grade: A-

-Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I have to say, “Alex DeLarge” is a pretty solid screen name—very reminiscent of the old “Al Cahaulic” or “Holden McGroyn” bits.