It's hard to imagine what might be in store for us here. A whole bunch of short stories telling us different tales of the International Club of Batmen is exactly what I always wanted this series to be. The concept seems ripe with potential, and this might be it's ultimate form. We might never get anything closer to the potential of Batman, Incorporated than what we find here, and that fills me with a little bit of happiness and a little bit of dread. It's nice to see the dream finally realized, but what if it is not as cool as I hoped? I guess there is only one way to find out if Batman, Incorporated lives up to my hopes, and that way is to read it.
Is Batman, Incorporated a great idea that was never given the chance to fulfill its potential or is it a title that should have never been shown the light of day?
In this issue, Batman reviews the case files of Batman, Incorporated.
The Never Ending Battle
The story is framed with Batman sitting at his Bat Computer, and it seems as if Bruce and DC are not quite ready to shut the doors of Batman, Incorporated for good. Everybody has been talking about how Batman, Incorporated has been disbanded, but Batman has been operating in secret for years. He could continue to fund Batman, Inc. in secret, right? Also, Katherine Kane threw around a lot of her weight at the end of Batman, Incorporated and cleared up a lot of the legal mess, so is there really any reason to keep the team disbanded? There are certainly routes to continue the series, and I suspect we will continue to see many of these characters and some sort of Batman, Incorporated team for many years to come though whether it will get another series will depend on the demand, and if forced to make a guess on that, I suspect half of those buying Batman, Incorporated were more loyal to Grant Morrison (former writer of Rebellion's 2000AD, Batman and Batman, Incorporated) then they were to the concept of Batman, Inc., so I'm not betting on a new Batman, Incorporated series anytime soon.
Speaking of Morrison, he wrote a nice little piece at the end of this issue which nicely summarized many of his themes. If you've read many of the interviews with Morrison on Batman, then you've probably heard most of it already, but it's still a nice little summary of Morrison's arc.
Now, since this issue consists of a bunch of short stories, let's take it one story at a time.
Chris Burnham (former artist of Batman, Incorporated and Batman and Robin and current writer and artist for Batman, Incorporated) wrote an earlier issue of Batman, Incorporated as a filler issue, and I was harsh on it because it seemed to lack any sort of substance, but he's gone a long way towards redeeming himself with this one. It's...not something you can really take seriously, but if you're willing to take it as a sort of bizzaro dark comedy, it's really hilarious.
The basic premise is that a group of Japanese kids find a hand in a vending machine and Mr. Unknown and Lolita Canary team up to track down the culprit. Now, I heard this in a solicit and thought, "Okay, that's a cool and quirky sort of setup for a mystery," but it didn't develop like I thought. The question is not how did a severed hand get in a vending machine but who stocked a vending machine full of black market body parts? I mean, the whole situation is ridiculous. How would people know what vending machine to use for body parts? Wouldn't people be suspicious if you crammed several hundred yen into a vending machine? If you really want to know who set it up, why not just wait around to see who comes to collect the money and stock the machine? On a practical level, it couldn't be a stupider idea, but it's really freaking hilarious if you have a dark sense of humor.
On that note, I do feel a little sorry for any mothers who might have picked up this issue thinking the bright colors on the color made it family friendly because we later see quite a lot of shelled out corpses and flying internal organs.
I could nitpick this thing to death, and honestly, it doesn't make sense even in the traditional DC universe, but it's just so funny that I'm willing to forget that, and if you cock your head to the side and keep in mind the "Only in Japan..." stereotype and multiply that by the extremes in the DC Universe, it's still a little far out, but not as extreme as it might seem at first glance.
Without You focuses on Beryl in the days after the original Knight's death. In the wake of Cyril's parting, Beryl is understandably depressed and seeks meaning in her day to day struggle. It's a simple story tracing a character arc you've seen many times, but it's well executed, and it has so much cool stuff jammed into it that you'd be hard pressed not get some enjoyment out of it. A large amount of credit goes to the art team of Emanuel Simeoni (former artist for IDW's Battle Beasts and current artist of Batman, Incorporated) and Brett Smith. (former colorist for Nightwing and IDW's Real American Hero and current colorist of Detective Comics and Batman, Incorporated) If this is the same level of quality Simeoni brings to Talon, we're in for a treat, and I hope Smith comes with him.
The personal angle on Beryl is simple but solid, but it's the world which brings the story true life. If you read the Knight and Squire miniseries, then you have a good idea of the whacky stuff in store for you. British villains are just odd. The last panel will blow you away in its insanity.
My only complaint is that this story annoys me with it's brief action scenes as Beryl does things which should have killed or at least maimed her. Also, there's a villain based on an old British legend that could have used at least a one sentence origin just so he's not this lingering question mark, but even so, this is a cool story without any significant blemishes
Brave is the weakest story in the issue. It's split between two separate scenes. In one, Raven Red chases down a criminal who is working his way up a constructed building. In the other, Raven Red talks to an old Native American who appears ready to commit suicide. There are several problems with this story, but the main one is that these two narratives never really connect. The old guy, Tom, ends up talking about how he was a "skywalker" a guy who worked the high steel in skyscraper construction, and that's as far as the connection really goes between these two arcs. I mean, the old man does talk about how it takes courage to climb the steel, and in a scene I presume is later we see Raven showing his bravery by running on steel, but it's really not a great show of courage in a comic book world where we see people do this sort of thing in every issue. Without a significant link between these two parts of the story, it holds no more significance than it would if we had a florist talking about her work with flowers as Batman beat up on Poison Ivy in a flower shop. It's a pretty useless thing.
Also, the writer seemed to be trying to make some statement on race, but I'll be darned if I understood it. The old man, Tom, says that he was credited as having amazing courage because of his race, but it wasn't true, and I suppose this is fine though an odd thing to include in the story, but then he talks about how he just did the job because he wanted to prove he was as good as any white man which is kind of weird. I mean, who told you were not as good as white man? The concept is so foreign to me, but I've heard other talk about how non-whites in the U.S. are made to feel like they have to prove themselves to white people. If so, stop it! That's no way to live. I'm a small government guy from the South, and I don't feel that way, and I don't no anybody who does. I'm sure there are racists out there, but who cares? If you're living your life worried about what they think, then you're letting them control you. You'll drive yourself crazy living your life by what you believe others think about you. Just do what you believe is right and let racists stew in their own rage.
As if this weird race message (which I very well might be misinterpreting. I'm just making a guess here) and the two disconnected thoughts were not enough, (Spoilers) Batman shows with a Batwing at the end of the issue which makes all Raven Red's work pretty much meaningless since Batman would have had the baddie even if he had jumped, so this just is just a mediocre story no matter how you cut it.
The Dangers of Le Muerte en Vida
This story features three heroes, Nightrunner, Dark Ranger and El Gaucho. It's kind of a shame that they crammed all three of these heroes in one issue because each of them deserve their own story. Instead of really getting a good idea of who they are or where they are going, we get a really brief glimpse of them working together, and it's fun, but you don't really feel like you learned much about these already poorly fleshed out characters, and again, it's a shame.
The story is that our three heroes were clubbing in Buenos Aires when most of the city went mad. The three try to track down the source and restore peace to the city, but Nightrunner falls victim to the same force that has taken over the citizens.
From what I can gather, the moral of this story is that El Gaucho is awesome since he totally carries the trio. El Gaucho is one of the most interesting fringe characters of Batman, Incorporated. He does not have class in the way he dresses at least by the typical standards, and he also looks like he has more than his fair share of nacho dip, yet he has this sort of charming gruff manner. It is kind of cool to see El Gaucho as a no hold barred butt kicker, but it was annoying to see Nightrunner and Dark Ranger amount to little more than Climby Boy and The Sacrificial Lamb. Also, the villain is just a prop.
It's a fun story but it just needed more pages to really stretch its legs.
Ending with the Batcow story that will shake the foundations of Batman's whole world, I have to admit to thoroughly enjoying myself with this one. To summarize the incredibly deep story line, Batcow is grazing in a field outside Wayne Manor when a police chase goes by and Batcow intervenes. It's pretty amazing.
I've mentioned that I think Batman '66 might actually be funnier with a hyper-realistic artist because it would heighten the fundamental humor of real life people acting like cartoons. That actually works here. The silliness of the story is actually made funnier by the fact that Ethan Van Sciver (former artist of Impulse, cover artist for The Fury of Firestorm, and penciler for Superman/Batman and current artist for Batman, Incorporated and cover artist for Superman Unchained) does the art in such a lifelike way.
Don't expect anything game changing in this story. If you didn't like the idea of Batcow getting her own tale, (heh, tail) then you wont like this, but if you don't mind a little whimsy in your Batman, this should hit the spot.
I really did not expect to like this issue very much, but I was pleasantly surprised. Brave and Le Muerte were both a little disappointing, but the other stories are great fun, and even when this issue is at its worst, it's never truly bad. If you like the idea of some light, fun filled stories about the members of Batman, Incorporated, then you owe it to yourself to pick up this book.