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Batman Incorporated #11 – Review

BATMAN INCORPORATED #11

By: Chris Burnham (story), Jorge Lucas (art), Ian Hannin (colors)

The Story: Who will save Tokyo from the rampage of Power Rangers on motorcycles?

The Review: This title is certainly no stranger to scheduling weirdness.  Instead of getting to join the other 52 titles that became part of DC’s relaunch, it released a giant-sized one-shot that made its place in current continuity even more questionable.  Months later, it finally returned to the stands as part of DC’s “Second Wave” of titles, only to be delayed early on out of respect to the allegedly Joker-inspired shootings in Aurora, Colorado.

You’d think that three-month delay would’ve given Grant Morrison and the rest of the creative team plenty of time to fully develop the series to its intended finish.  And yet, with the finale of Batman Inc. just a few months away, we get this bizarre filler issue written not by Morrison, but his artistic partner Burnham and interrupting what should be the climax of this entire series for an interlude with Jiro Osamu, the Batman of Japan, and the Super Young Team’s Shy Crazy Lolita Canary.  In the words of Liz Lemon, “What the what?”

Even if you can get over the inexplicable strangeness of this sudden flip in the story (indeed, it is portrayed in the issue as an interruption in “your regularly scheduled program”), the issue itself is defective on a critical number of levels.  If you ever saw the “Batman of Shanghai” shorts on Cartoon Network’s DC Nation block, you know there’s a huge amount of entertainment potential in an Asian-stylized Batman.  That same potential exists for Batman of Japan, but Burnham squanders it completely by making absolutely no effort to bring in any kind of Japanese culture.

Nowhere is that more clear than in the issue’s dialogue, where Burnham doesn’t even attempt to deviate from the typical American snark.  Consider the back-and-forth insults between Canary and the motorcycle-riding lady villains (who remain nameless throughout, even as a group): “Pft.  Who are you?  The Pink Ranger’s silicone sisters?”

“All natural.”

“Probably cuz you’re pregnant with your forty-year-old boyfriend’s babies.”

“Better than being built like a twelve-year-old boy.”

From that sample, you can also deduce for yourself that in addition to have no cultural credibility, the dialogue is also hopelessly immature in both tone and substance, lending credence to the notion that artists as writers are a generally bad idea.  Burnham never manages to give any kind of depth to the characters, hero or villain, and as a result, there is no redemption for his graphic (“That is it!  I’m gonna beat you to death with this kid’s skull!”) and tasteless (“I hear [Canary is] like the TARDIS.  Bigger on the ins—”) choices of lines.

The final nail on the coffin for this issue is, sadly, the art.  I’m pretty sure the only reason why Lucas’ art would be chosen for such a high-profile title like this is he can turn it around quickly with little notice.  It certainly looks that way: cartoony and sloppy, there’s little beauty or storytelling strength to be had here.  Important moments get minimized (e.g. one of the motorcycling villains healing her sliced head) while pointless moments get more space and attention (e.g. Jiro and Canary trapped in riot foam).  Hannin’s glossy colors would add a little more sophistication to the art, except he applies it uniformly, making our human characters look more like plastic than flesh and blood.

Conclusion: Besides being mostly a waste of time and an unforgivable and wholly unconnected interruption to an important storyline, it is also occasionally crass.  Burnham’s enthusiasm is apparent, but it’s improperly channeled.

Grade: D-

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - “Lady Tiger Fist.”  Oh, boy.  Unless China Miéville is writing her in Dial H, I don’t think any writer can really make that character work.

- For some reason, I did kind of enjoy Jiro and Canary crying out their hero-names, Hawk-and-Dove style, before they transformed into their costumes.  There’s a bit of anime campiness there which makes that moment work, I think.

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8 Responses

  1. I have to wonder. Do you not think that the issue was deliberately campy?

    To me it looks as if Burnham has intentionally thrown a crazy book of fun into an otherwise very bleak and gothic storyline.

    And more to the point! Where the colours in this book not a vast improvement on those seen in recent DC books?

    • Oh, it was most certainly intended to be campy that notion was not lost on me as I was reading it. But campiness in itself is not a virtue. It almost never works except in parody of something or within context of a very specific period of genre fiction. That is not the case here. At any rate, intentional campiness, where it is cheap or offensive, is perhaps worse than when it’s unintentional.

      I wouldn’t mind a fun interlude to a from storyline if I felt it was still somehow relevant to the ongoing storyline, or at least a smooth transition to it. This was sudden, inexplicable, and completely immaterial to what was going on last issue and what will go on next issue. No improvement in the coloring will make up for that.

  2. Actually, I smiled at a lot of the Kirby references, as the artist was obviously mainlining Jack Kirby’s 70s DC work especially Mike Royer’s glossy inking style. I saw a couple of homages to Kirby’s “Demon” book as well. I even remember seeing some Kirby Krackle and “Devil Dinosaur.” So, for me it was fun…

    • I’m afraid that for those of us who are not so familiar with Kirby, those references were pretty much lost on us. I’m not sure that kind of homage makes up for the issue’s larger failings either.

      • I love this book for it’s giant yen in the bat cave, it’s shout-outs to Sailor Moon and Power Rangers, it’s jokes that are actually funny, and it’s all over Kirbified sheen. Mostly I love it for it’s high energy, free-wheeling attitude, and irreverent glee. B+ all day.

      • p.s.: it’s o.k that you don’t know about Kirby; I write reviews for a guitar magazine, and I don’t know anything about Jimi Hendrix!

        • Gasp! Shocking, shocking–a most absurd outrage. But then again, so is not knowing a lot about Kirby in the comics business.

          Well, I’m glad that you enjoyed the issue. Someone ought to.

  3. Great review! My mouth was agape reading this thing. Holy cow, what a bad comic. I’m glad you picked out that example of dialogue, too. I shook my head in solemnity on that Pink Ranger line.

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