By: Grant Morrison (story), Chris Burnham & Jason Masters (art), Nathan Fairbairn (colors)

The Story: Talia adds yet another enemy to her list: Greenpeace.

The Review: Does anyone get the feeling that Morrison has gotten marginalized post-DC relaunch?  Less than two years ago, he was the unofficial mastermind of the Batman universe (and the secret architect of the DCU at large) and now Scott Snyder has taken over his helm in the Bat-family of books (with Geoff Johns the openly declared architect of the new DCU).  Maybe that’s why both Action Comics and especially Batman Inc. feel so out of place these days.

Here you have Snyder’s Death of the Family rampaging across the various Bat-titles, wreaking havoc and making changes wherever it goes.  The struggle with Leviathan in this series is no less major, and frequently feels even more threatening (more on that later), yet its impact is being felt in no other title, recognized by no one else.  If it weren’t for the updated costumes, you’d never know this story is even taking place in the present DCU.

It’s true that Joker has manipulated our heroes into some very tight corners in their respective titles, but somehow the pressure, the impossible odds, seems even more potent here.  Batman Inc. has practically imploded; a good chunk of the team is grievously out of commission and one has died.  The heart of the company, the various Robins, are scrambling to take any kind of desperate action.  Communications fail among the remaining heroes of Gotham, just as the virus of Leviathan activates, one the good guys can’t possibly counter (“They wouldn’t use kids.  We can’t.  We can’t shoot kids.”).  And the Dark Knight has been taken.

With all this, Talia has definitely made herself easy to hate, but one to respect.  Her meticulous attention to detail seems like a manifestation of her own obsessive conception of herself (in the pre-relaunch volume of Batman and Robin, she claims she’s too much of a “perfectionist” to accept anyone just as who they are—even her own son), but this goes beyond ego.  As someone who believes herself secret queen of the world, getting spurned by both her lover and son means she has to make it clear in turn that she’s too good for them anyway.  If Batman won’t recognize her as a woman, she’ll make him recognize her as his equal: “Oh, Bruce. Bruce.  If I’m especially evil, will I be your number one archenemy?”

She goes so far as to engage in some highly disgusting acts.  I don’t know what it is about the idea of an artificially grown child, born fully-grown from the womb of a whale and slaughtering it in the process, but it’s just creepy.  Or did I just answer my own query?  Weighty symbolism aside, this unstoppable killing machine Talia has produced is a clear challenge to Damian.  And you can bet that he rises to it.  All of a sudden, seeing Damian wade into the fray, showing complete control of the situation (and impressing even Alfred—“Remarkable”—in the process), makes you feel like the tide’s about to turn.  In fact, the kid seriously channels his dad in those last few pages.

Burnham doesn’t have much high-octane action, his specialty, to work with today, but he does just as well with the elements of horror the script gives him (the carcass of a whale floating in that tank is a pretty difficult image to forget).  He also proves surprisingly effective with the more emotional parts of the issue; Beryl’s sobbing grief feels real and pitiful, truly capturing heartbreak in that one moment.  Masters’ momentary fill-in work are easily distinguishable from Burnham’s art, but also easily forgettable, smoothed over by Fairbairn’s consistent colors.

Conclusion: Whether bound in continuity or not, it really feels like the end of days for Batman and all he cares about.  The brilliance of Snyder’s Batman notwithstanding, Morrison’s is very much worth a look as well.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – At the end of this story, there better be a panel of Talia with a bloody nose.  Least she deserves.

– After the Hood shuts down Jason Todd, declaring his loyalty to Spyral, a female figure enters the scene.  Now, who can that be, I wonder?  My bet’s on Kathy Kane.

– I don’t know who this “Ellie-bird” is (the Wayne employee who suddenly finds herself in the middle of a Leviathan takeover), but you know Morrison never makes such a prominent intro without some goal in mind.