By: Grant Morrison (story), Chris Burnham (art), Nathan Fairbairn (colors)
The Story: Bat-Cow, greatest hero since Spider-Pig.
The Review: This title has had a troubled publishing history, hasn’t it? It had the unfortunate circumstance of getting put on hiatus when it was still enormously popular and when its storyline was only beginning to take epic shape. Then you had Leviathan Strikes, a commendable attempt to wrap up its first arc and put to rest its continuity from the former DCU. And here it returns to a brave new world, where detail it uses may be setting precedent for future storytellers.
This series has the distinction of being one of the few titles allowed to pick up where it left off in the previous universe, meaning we can assume that nearly every character or plot point it’s established up to this point still applies. For example, even though characters like Stephanie Brown, Wally West, and the whole of the Justice Society are nowhere to be seen—at least, on this Earth—it seems the Outsiders are alive and well, despite getting caught in an explosion in space last time we saw them. Even Freight Train is seen eating some deviled eggs in Batcave West. So this means the Outsiders not only exist, they remain a part of the Batman mythos.
I’m not sure any of this will tend to matter, though, as the events of Batman Inc. always seemed safely cordoned off from the rest of the DCU’s going-ons. How else can you explain Batwing claiming he “perished in the skies over Mtamba battling killer Man-Bats” yet blatantly showing his face to the public (on an global level, no less) in his ongoing series and with Justice League International? How else can we have a Batman and Robin what with the rather stunning conclusion of this issue?
That cliffhanger will show you how serious Leviathan is about this whole conquering-the-world thing, if you don’t get that sense from their attempts to mind-control the population through contaminated beef. Its plans go further than bad meat: “Leviathan feeds on cities like Gotham. We enter their foundations, infest their alleyways and schoolyards, and command their skies.” Its reach is what proves so dangerous, taxing even Batman’s resources.
This issue illustrates that very well. You have Batman and Robin, more than matches for any one foe, being forced to confront multiple enemies all around them. Yet because this is the Dynamic Duo we’re talking about, they consider this a good thing: “…it means [every assassin in the world are] all in Gotham. Right where we want them.” The emphasis on “Gotham” hints their confidence comes from their sense of ownership over the city, but they fail to realize others have as much intimacy with the city as they do, maybe even more so. It’s a theme that’s popped up before in this series: Batman, who always thinks he’s one step ahead of his opponent, realizing his opponent has gotten the run around on him.
Burnham’s art has the fleshy, organic quality of Frank Quitely’s aesthetic, which somehow goes with Morrison’s writing like no other. Yet Burnham’s work is even splashier and bolder, easier to look at, with just the right amount of comic overtone to bring out the Silver Age zaniness inherent in all of Morrison’s superhero work. Burnham also impresses with his storytelling choices, like depicting Batman and Robin’s swinging through Gotham on the sides of buildings
Conclusion: It’s very hard to pin down the appeal of this series, but I’d wager it has much to do with the anything-can-happen energy you get from the script and art. Morrison hasn’t lost a beat in the long hiatus; Batman Inc. is quite as entertaining as it was before.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – “Gotham means ‘Home of Goats’”? For realsies?
– Morrison’s randomness can be annoying at times, but they can also just be ridiculously winning. Robin: “As of now I’m a vegetarian. And this is Bat-Cow.”