Book O’ The Week: Batman Incorporated #4

Words: Grant Morrison, . Pictures: Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn.

There are times that I think team books are the epitome of the super-hero genre. You take a modern pantheon of humans, demi-gods (and sometimes Gods), and then you have them go on adventures. What can possibly go wrong? The problem is most often, depth – some writers cannot see past the archtypes, and the resulting stories are bland, cookie-cutter solutions to absurd problems. Grant Morrison goes the other way, the deep, psychological battlefield being just as big as the physical fisticuffs, but first let me show you an alluring cover.

Yeah, at this point I feel calling Nightwing “Wing Man” last week is just going to end up confusing things…

Grant Morrison is the Keyser Soze of comics. He probably doesn’t murder as many ne’erdowells, but he definitely has the same mastermind, many-insidious-creepy-fingers-in-many-interesting-pies, approach. Morrison has a track record of starting a story arc in tne place, with one particular set of ideas, and then along the way will tear these to shreds whilst revealing a far more complex architecture of elements beneath. In that way, Batman Incorporated is par for the Morrison course. From the initial concept of setting up a worldwide Batman franchise, we’ve gone from an exploration of how Bats has inspired others to take up the good fight, to a bigger, world-threatening plot. For an urban, fight-them-in-the-streets character like Batman, this should. Not. Work.

And yet somehow, it does.

From the opening issues, the big problem was Leviathan, a faceless, shapeless villain with world-spanning plans, and no clues as to who they/it were. Every issue offered another clue, or another reveal that peeled away a little more of the mystery, gradually exposing a massive underlying plan, and then…we learnt who Leviathan was, and why this was all going on. Who is it? Not telling you. Is this for suspense? NO. IT’S BECAUSE I’VE WORKED FOR IT, AND YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVEN’T.

Grrrr.

Reading Morrison’s books is hard work. As each issue comes out, you are not just compelled to do a “previously in…” to build excitement by re-reading the last few issues, but rather must do so simply for comprehension reasons. Without running back over the story that’s already unfolded, each new issue makes very little sense. A good example was Batman RIP – re-reading the entire arc for the finale, it was a great read, but before that it was almost obtuse. Similarly in Batman Inc, (and this might just be me) was the reveal of a particular Batman Inc’s alter ego. As soon as he took off his mask, you had a moment of “oh, of course you were!” But ONLY if you’d had the prescience to go back and re-read the previous year’s worth of story.

I understand the slow burn approach to a story twist, or development of characters and the arc, but doing so over such a long time with so little connecting fabric in between…that takes the punch out of it. So now I know who Wingman is, but I had to go back and read a year’s worth of comics to really draw narrative lines between the plot points. I did enjoy this process, don’t get me wrong, but it shouldn’t be necessary to get a simple level of enjoyment out of a new issue.

Anyway, grumbling about Morrison’s three-year-story-arc aside, the issue was good fun. We finally see the Batmen Of The World coming together in a stunning display of vigilante capability, taking on a group who most definitely deserve a righteous beating. The art is crisp, with many of the members receiving a moment to shine, before a finale that stands as being one of the most awkward scenes I’ve read in a Batman comic in a long, long, long time…

So go read a year-back of Batman Inc onwards, and THEN read Batman Inc. #4 (ignore the numbers). If you do so, you’ll enjoy the culmination of ideas a lot more.

RATING: 2 Black Gloves out of 5

Or…if you give yourself a Bat Inc. refresher…
RATING: 3 and a half Globe-Trotter Bats out of 5

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~ by nick on October 29, 2012.

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