BatWatch Review: Batman, Incorporated Special #1

Batman Forever

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.

Rending Machine

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

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

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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.  

Cowardly Lot

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.

Conclusion 9/10

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.  

More Reviews:

Batman/Superman #3 - Split Screen 

Batman, Incorporated Special #1 

The Dark Knight #23 - Rampant 

Teen Titans #23 - Hello, I Must Be Going

Catwoman #23 - No Blood No Foul 

Talon #11 - True Strength

 

BatWatch Review: Batman, Incorporated #13

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The Dark Knight and the Devil's Daughter

It's hard to believe we are finally at the finishing line for Batman, Incorporated. From hovering Batmobiles, shuffling superhero idenities and the birth and death of a Robin, Morrison's (former writer of Rebellion's 2000AD and Batman and current writer of Batman, Incorporated) run on Batman has been wild. Though I've read it all, I read much of it in trades, and I have to imagine that reaching the conclusion to this journey is really surreal for those of you who have waited month to month for seven years just to see this through to the end.

Grant Morrison has said that he thinks Batman fans will hate this issue because it's depressing. Even if the issue is great, it's going to be a little sad just to know that Morrison, the guy who brought us so many interesting concepts, will no longer we writing the Bat. 

There is no doubt that Batman, Incorporated #13 will have some interesting concepts, but will it be interesting like a train wreck or interesting like a great work of literature?

In this issue, Batman faces off against Talia and has a little talk with Commissioner Gordon.

The Big Picture Vs. Small Details  

I'm not the best Batman expert. I've done what I believe to be an excellent job keeping up with Batman news for nearly a year now, I have some worthwhile skill at analysis and commentary, and I have loved Batman and followed comics loosely for over ten years, but until I founded BatWatch nearly a year ago, I did not read every issue as it came off the press but rather stuck to those stories I knew I enjoyed. Realizing I needed some background to comment on Morrison's complicated Batman arc, I went back and started reading some of his issues when I began to prep for BatWatch, and after reading just a few issues, I came to a simple conclusion that I believe fits this issue fits perfectly. Grant Morrison is great at coming up with cool, big picture ideas, but in the actual detailed execution of plot, he's not the best. 

This final chapter of Batman, Incorporated works really great as a meta analysis of Batman as a hero. We get a good idea of who he is, where he's been, where he's going, what he represents, but as a conclusion to this extremely long arc, it felt a little sloppy. The threat of Talia and Leviathan is dismissed in a Nolan-esque fashion, (you'll get it when you read it) characters pop in and pop out with the thinnest of justifications, the major battle between Batman, Incorporated and Leviathan that has built for nearly half a year is skimmed over, Batman and Talia kiss just to prove they can, and the Ouroboros device is given a major role yet never really explored.  

Bat Droppings  

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1. I liked that Commissioner Gordon got plenty of screen time in this particular issue. He's never been a huge focus in Batman, Incorporated, so it's nice to see his role in the fight for justice even if it is in preparing to press charges on Batman. However, Commissioner Gordon's inner monologue is spaced out so that it is a little difficult to figure out what which comment of Bruce Commissioner Gordon is thinking about at any given time considering the comment in question might be back several pages. This is not necessarily a fault since it only means you have to think a little harder about what you are reading, but it is not super intuitive for those expecting an easy read. Of course, those expecting an easy read should have been off the Morrison bandwagon a long time ago.  

2. The whole missing Damian and dead Robin situation coinciding should be a dead giveaway to anybody privy to this conversation between Bruce and Jim that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Perhaps Gordon kept anybody from observing or recording the session? 

3. Talia describes her organization as, "An empty, arbitrary suggestion of vague promises and unformed ideas." That's actually a pretty good description for the Batman, Incorporated series in general. Lots of promise, loosely formed ideas, and little else. I might be taking it wrong, but I think perhaps this is what Morrison was saying as well.

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4. Applying this statement to Batman, Incorporated might not be correct, but I have no doubt that Morrison was saying in this same statement that Batman, as a crusade, is as directionless, arbitrary and meaningless as Leviathan itself. After all, Talia's full quote was, "...vague promises and unformed ideas, like the Bat." I think Morrison draws an apt comparison here. Leviathan, in the end, is a nigh meaningless group with no real goal that came and went without much rhyme or reason. It was a vague promise of world domination...or something like that. Batman is the same way, in a sense. He is a vague promise of justice, but what does that really mean? I certainly have my idea of what it means to have justice, but does Batman truly strive for that end goal or is his crusade more sentiment than goal oriented? How does his crusade make much more of a difference than Talia's with the revolving doors of Arkham and Blackgate constantly spitting evil back on to the streets? Sure, it matters if you think of the toll in lives, but ignoring that, there in the large scale, they both appear to be fierce illusions with no real effect on the world.

5. Talia pretty much says in this issue that she already has control of the world in every way that matters to her. Leviathan, if anything, is just window dressing. Talia's whole goal, by her own admission, is just to make a point to Bruce, and that point is to deliver, it would seem, all the negative meta messages that Morrison has layered into the story. Batman is an aimless cause which is no better than Leviathan, and this perspective is a cool perspective, but what possible in universe reason does Talia have for wanting to do this? She's risking everything for the opportunity to make an elaborate lesson out of Gotham to Batman, a man she knows is far too stubborn to ever learn from her, before she kills him? It's completely meaningless. Again, the story makes sense in the realm of the high concept big idea world but fails to make sense in a rubber meets the road in universe mentality.  

6. I discussed it in more detail in my comments on this issue's preview, but why does Batman kiss Talia? Again, it works in a high concept thematic way to show that it is just a game between the two, but in in universe reality, Batman should be ready to beat Talia to a pulp, and he, as the character we know and love, would never kiss Talia unless it gave him strategic advantage.

7. Did the kidnapping of Red Hood by Spyral serve any purpose because from where I'm sitting the answer is, "No." 

8. Ouroboros, as best as I can tell, served no purpose in this story. Also, the existence of this device was just kind of rushed. Explain the significance if I missed it.  I really don't see the elimination of this entire narrative thread hurting a darn thing.

9. Way to go Bats. Let Talia poison you. There is no way she could possibly have changed her poison to something new just to throw you off. She probably doesn't even have a new type of poi- oh wait, yes, she does. Bye, Brucie, nice knowing you. 

10. Unless those swords were made out of glass, then they would not shatter. They might break, but they would not shatter.  

11. Talia was also poisoned by her blade, but she shows no ill effects of the poison.  

(Spoilers until Conclusion) 

12. I do like the way Bruce melts as he hallucinates. It looks very cool.

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13. I know Kathy Kane's return was predicted by many people, and though I'm not strictly against it, I didn't feel like it served much of a purpose. Oh look, it's her, and she executed Talia all Catwoman on Bane style. How...boring. Also, she says, "Some people actually do own the world," which just implies to me that she is with some more organization even more nefarious than Spyral, so...okay. Is this a good thing?

14. After Kathy Kane left, how did Batman get to a different part of the cave and where did Jason and Talia's body go?  

15. Kane clearing the legal matters for Bruce is rather convenient though plausible.

16. I believe Commissioner Gordon recollection of Bruce's words are the beginning of Morrison's final thoughts on Batman, and Morrison's thoughts continue throughout the end of the issue through Gordon's thoughts. However, I think this first thought is Grant's main thesis on Batman. Bruce speaks of the hole in his parents, in young Bruce, and in everything, and says, "I looked into that hole in things over and over again until it hurt, Jim, and you know what I found in there? Nothing...and a space big enough to hold everything." The moment Bruce witnessed the hole in everything, Batman was born, and these are Morrison's thoughts on the hole and thereby on Batman himself. Batman is a symbol, a notion, an archetype that contains nothing and a space big enough to hold everything. Batman is meaningless fluff in one sense, yet through years of interpretation and retelling what is in many ways the same story over and over again, we've seen that Batman is a concept that can contain everything in one story. He is a Bat shaped hole which contains much of who we, as people, are.

17. It's nice to see that Commissioner Gordon has his suspicions about Bruce Wayne being Batman. I know that was not said, but I think it is the clear implication, and it only make sense at this point.

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18. The issue leaves us with two big teases for future Batman writers to explore. First, two bodies are missing from the Wayne burial grounds. Presumably, these bodies belong to Bruce's parents, but there are no names on the gravestones, so it might be interesting to speculate on who else might be buried in the Wayne graveyard.. Obviously, this brings back memories of Jason Todd's resurrection when his body was dug up by Talia, but I really have no idea if that is what is happening here. I have some random speculation, but that is not even worth mentioning at the moment. I have no interest in seeing the Wayne come back to life. 

19. Second, we see Ra's bringing up an army of Damian clones, and I have even less interest in seeing the Sons of Batman come to fruition. The idea of Bruce having to fight the mirror images of his son is just sadistic.  

Conclusion 7/10

Thematically, this issue is great and works as a fitting close to Morrison's run on Batman, but as an actual story, this is far from great work. Characters are out of character, plots are underdeveloped, and everyone just happens to pop in at exactly the right moment. Honestly if the surface level were all there was to this comic, it would be fairly shoddy work. Thankfully, there is more under the surface.

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Some people feel strongly that a message should not be an excuse for a story. I don't necessarily agree, but I do think getting across a message should not be prioritized over telling a coherent story. In this particular issue, Morrison's exploration of the concept of Batman interfered with the telling of a Batman story which actually made sense without the subtext. That's a fairly big mistake in my book.

There is no way anybody who has been keeping up with this series will want to miss this issue, but this issue got a little to caught up in navel gazing to live up to its potential.

More Batman Reviews:

Batman, Incorporated #13 

Batman Annual #2 

Detective Comics Annual #2

 

BatWatch Review: Batman, Incorporated #12

My computer software is crap. I've tried to wipe it and put Linux on the machine, but after screwing with that for a while in the hopes I could actually do these reviews ideally, I've discovered that I will not have enough time to do both than and the comic book reviews today, so I'm going to do the best I can with malfunctioning hardware. I'm will have my computer expert friend help me out with  redoing this computer with a decent operating system Friday.

Fatherless

I think something is up with Batman, Incorporated. This is a theory I've been pondering for some time, and it seems to track to me. I would have floated it in my weekly rundown of upcoming comics, but since I did not get to it this week, I'll lay this out here.

I think something changed with the conclusion of this story. Why do I think that? There are many reasons.

For one thing, Batman, Incorporated laid things out to be amazingly epic at the end of issue #10 with Batman having taken a version of the Man-Bat serum, donned the Suit of Sorrows, and wearing a giant Bat-mech, but instead of continuing the story in issue #11, we get some weird backup tale which derailed from the main arc to explore the Batman of Japan. Not only was this a massive departure and tone shift at a critical juncture, the issue itself was uninspired and completely irrelevant. Sure, this series was supposedly about various Batmen around the world, and it is great, conceptually, to see that explored, but in all honestly, the time for Batmen has past. Morrison has made it perfectly clear that Batman is the central character and everybody else is just backup, so in the light of this reality, it still makes no sense for the Batman of Japan issue.

Obviously, the Batman of Japan issue delayed the main story a month, and then in addition to our one month extra wait, we had an extra week tagged on for no apparent reason. Also, there were rumors of an extra issue being added to Batman, Incorporated. Then, it was confirmed that there would be a Batman, Incorporated Special wrapping up various subplots from the series. Then most recently, I've heard rumor that Morrison (former writer of Rebellion's 2000AD and Batman and current writer of Batman, Incorporated) might be continuing the main Batman, Incorporated story in Batman, Incorporated #13, so I don't even know what to expect anymore, but I do have a theory.

I think Morrison, or perhaps the DC brass, decided that the end of the story needed to change. They added an extra issue in at #11 which had nothing to do with the main plot to give them time to redo the art on the next two issues. This would make for a very rushed job because pencils are usually done about four months out, so they'd be cutting it close. Hence, the extra week added to the extra month of prep time. I have heard something about Leviathan being unmasked in some solicits which is a completely new concept. I thought Leviathan had already been unmasked, so perhaps that is part of the change. However, it might make more sense that DC has decided to resurrect Damian Wayne in some form after seeing a larger than expected negative reaction to his death.  

On the other hand, maybe the delays were the plan all along. What do I know?  It's time for speculation to end and knowledge to begin.

When last we saw him, Batman was about to take down Talia's forces single-handedly, some unknown weirdos had Jason, and Bruce's other boys are trying to help him out even if he doesn't want it. Ready? Break!

Does Batman, Incorporated #12 live up to all the hype or is this issue a massive disappointment? 

In this issue, Batman goes head to head with The Heretic.

A Tragedy Tonight

Despite all the awesomeness that this issue contains, it left me feeling rather sad. In an issue I expected to be full of kick-butt action, I received just what I wanted, but it really feels more tragic than satisfying. Grant Morrison said one of his main concepts for this series was to try to present the warring factions of Batman and Talia Al Ghul as a bitter couple divorcing and trying to tear each other to pieces, and he's succeeded in that it is hard to even truly feel triumph for Batman's actions anymore. Both he and Talia are fueled by rage for the other, and there is nothing but crumpled bodies building up on either side.

None of this is meant to morally equate Batman with Talia. Batman is clearly in the right, and he is still abiding by his no kill policy even in these darkest of days. It just feels like this conflict is pointless. The action is so immeidate, intense and brutal that it makes you forget the bigger picture...at least temorarily.

The small picture of this issue is focused on The Heretic. Oddly, they stop calling him The Heretic in this and instead seem to insinuate that he is known as Leviathan or at least he is known as the figurehead of Leviathan. Hence, I suppose, we get the solicit saying Leviathan will be unmasked which was done up as a big deal, but didn't we already know his appearance? Even in the comic itself, the unmasking of Heretic is done up as if it is a shocking reveal, yet it turns out to be nothing other than what we were told the entire time. The Heretic is an adult clone of Damian, so he looks like Damian. I get that it would be painful to Batman, but he should have been expecting it.

If Batman and Talia are the divorcing couple and Robin was the child caught in the middle, The Heretic is the child manipulated by the mother into turning against the father. It's an odd dynamic because The Heretic is so childish in some ways. He has this loyalty to his mother, and though he appears willing to kill Batman, I don't really get the feeling that he turly hates the Dark Knight. Seeing the poor brutal killer get torn apart by his parents is rather tragic. He killed Damian so he sucks, but the poor kid never really had a chance.

A big reveal was set up for next time. Indeed, there is some mysterious woman at the head of the group that captured Jason, and she appears to be fighting for the angels. If not Talia, then who could she possibly be? Dick recognized her voice but did not recognize her face, so what does that mean? I truly have no idea who she could be other than the true Talia, and if it was her, then it would seem Dick should have recognized her.

Bat Droppings

 

1. Using the bats to carry an anti-man-bat toxin was pretty ingenius though I'm not sure how Bruce lured thebat into biting the man-bats. I'm going to guess that he could communicate with them in his half-bat form. It kind of tracks, right? Also, I don't know how well these man-bats will be doing once they hit the ground untransfoormed.

2. Bruce's mech is sweet! I especially like the way Burnham (former artist of Batman, Incorporated and Batman and Robin and current artist for Batman, Incorporated) drew it so that you could see the suit match the movement's of Bruce's actual arms and hands.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

3. If The Heretic could not heal his eye wound, how was he able to heal from the fatal wounds Damian inflicted during their battle?

4. It's odd that Wayne Tower was destroyed since I'm sure I've seen that building a few times more recently than this story which clearly all takes place within a couple days after the death of Robin.

Conclusion 9/10

This issue is a lot of fun with a big battle and lots of carnage all of which is creatively rendered. It will probably pull at your heart a little as DC continues to toy with us emotionally over the death of Damian. The plot is mostly solid. The only way I can see anybody being disappointed is if you expected all your questions to be answered with this issue. Sorry. Don't expect the next issue to answer them all either. Morrison seems to be a guy who enjoys bringing up questions more than he enjoys answering them.

BatWatch Review: Batman Incorporated #11

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A Bird in the Hand

Batman Incorporated has forgotten the epic battle it had staged at the end of the last issue and is now trying to make us believe a story of Mr. Unknown, the Batman of Japan, can be just as exciting. Like most people, I was annoyed when I realized I would have to wait another month to see how a crazed Bruce Wayne man-bat wearing a new prototype exoskeleton and the Suit of Sorrows would fair against Talia's army, but I soon found my anger abating as I realized that this was exactly what I've been asking of Batman, Incorporated this entire time. Don't get me wrong, Bruce's fight against Leviathan has been entertaining, high quality fun, but I always thought Batman, Incorporated should be less about Bruce and more about the international team of Batmen. It looks like we will finally get a taste of what this series would look like with a new Batman each week; it may be too late to see rotating Batmen become a monthly reality, but if I get to see a hint of this before the series is gone, I'm not going to complain. Besides, I suspect we might learn some important information relevant to the Leviathan plotline before this issue is finished.

Is Batman, Incorporated #12 a fun and necessary break before the epic finale or is this just an unnecessary and unappreciated filler issue?

In this issue, Mr. Unknown and Shy Crazy Lolita Canary track down some nanobot infused bikers.

How Goes the Great Experiment?

I was wondering how Batman, Incorporated would work as a series that focused on a rotating cast of Batmen. As far as this issue is concerned, I have to say it was not overly pretty.

This issue has some problems though it also has some strong points.

The preview made it clear that this issue had a different tone somewhat parodying anime television shows, so you should keep that in mind if you read this. Personally, I've never been a big fan of anime, but I do think that an issue or even a series exploring a Japanese take on the superhero with all Japan's many cultural idiosyncrasies could be a lot of fun. Sadly, it only partially works here.

On the positive front, I liked all the crazy visuals designs. The head villain of this issue has a really ridiculous yet fun design, and the look and function of Hiro's version of the Bat Cave has lots of echoes of the original Bat Cave even including variations of the giant penny and tyrannosaurus rex. There was also use of the all but forgotten Internet 3.0 concept in this issue. Lots of little things like this made me feel like I was truly seeing a Batman of a different culture.

The main problem is that this Batman and his story did not feel real to me for several reasons. The biker villains' motivation is ridiculous, and their visual design varies from generic to gross. There is a good bit of technobabble thrown in to cover convenient plot devices. Hiro is ridiculously nice as a hero to the point of being unconvincing as a combatant.

I wish the story was a tad more serious and had taken a little more time to develop the story because as is everything seems a bit half baked.

Bat Droppings

1. The issue starts off with an image of a cat looking at a grave before the bikers rush past. What's the point of this? If things were not set in Japan, I might think this was Damian's grave and Alfred the cat, but as is, it seems completely random. Edit: Burnham sent me a message and let me know that this was in fact Alfred the cat over Damian's grave, but then, the story was interrupted. Perhaps this will be the opening panel to Batman, Inc. #12, or was this in a past issue and I just forgot this scene?

2. The whole virtual reality scenario was cool as was the transmutation scene.

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3. Jorge Lucas (former artist of Invincible Iron Man and current artist for Batman, Incorporated) does the art for this issue, and it was not overly good. At the same time, it was not particularly bad, but it was definitely a step down from Chris Burnham. (former artist of Batman, Incorporated and Batman and Robin and current writer for Batman, Incorporated) My only solid complaint on Lucas is that he drops backgrounds out of the image too often, but other than that, I saw no major problems. I just was not impressed.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

4. I did love the visual design of Lady Tiger Fist. When she stood up to reveal Tiger robots with laser heads, I was in a pleasant state of shock. This was a very cute trick.

5. The line, “Wow! That was violent. I'm glad we rendered it in silhouette!” was also cute.

6. More than anything else, the final panel bugged me as we were told we were going, “Back to our regularly scheduled programing. Why did we leave it in the first place? I was willing to have a break from th main story, but I thought this would have some relevance. Nope, not really. The bad guys have thin ties to Leviathan, but other than that, there is no connection.

Conclusion 6/10

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I really wanted this issue to be good because I like the idea of Batman, Incorporated being s a series about a group of Batmen, but this issue does not deliver very well on the concept. If you are a big Batman, Incorporated fan, you will probably want this issue, but if you are just interested in the main story or are watching your budget, I would recommend letting this one pass. You will not be missing anything important.

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BatWatch Review: Batman, Incorporated #10

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Gotham's Most Wanted

When thinking about Batman, Incorporated, I find myself asking, “What's the point?” All the changes to the Batman universe brought forth by Morrison (former writer of Rebellion's 2000AD and Batman and current writer of Batman, Incorporated) are being reset by the very same writer, and according to the preview for this issue, Batman, Incorporated has now been dissolved, so we are essentially reading about a ghost team at this point. The last issue made it appear as if the boys (Batman and the ex-Robins) were going to take out Tallia's forces singlehandedly, and though that is no doubt awesome, it should really just be standard operating pattern for the Bat Clan, so I can't help but wonder what will set these next four issues apart from every other Batman story.

Then, I consider all the many things this series still has going for it. Morrison is a good writer whether or not he is reversing all his previous plot developments. The fight appears to be epic, and to quote every generic action movie, “This time it's personal,” as Batman has a Robin to avenge. There are still plenty of potential reveals lurking around the corner of the story. (Is The Heretic really who he appears? Is Talia really this evil or is something amiss with her? Will there be any long term fallout from this arc?) Azrael, (Michael Lane) for instance, is making a return this issue. What else could happen?

Does this issue prove that Batman, Incorporated still has what it takes to be a great Batman story or has the once great Morrison devolved into writing clichés?

In this issue, Batman prepares for war, Talia ties up loose ends, and the city turns against Batman.

Slowly...

Screenshot from 2013-04-24 16:01:03.png

Morrison is taking his time moving the plot forward which I must admit is a little bit frustrating. I'm ready to see the crap hit the fan, but instead, we still have a slow steady build. There is little in this issue to make it feel like a complete story. It feels, instead, merely like several small pieces of various intertwining narratives. Don't get me wrong, I understand that this is indeed the case, but I do like some type of arc to occur every issue, and this issue has very little that can be considered an arc. This series is beginning to feel as if it would work much better as a novel instead of as a comic series.

There is a lot of interesting things at work in this issue, but none of them really come together for one central narrative, and other than pointing out that there is no big picture in this issue, there is nothing to say on the grand scale, so let's break it down scene by scene Bat Droppings style.

Bat Droppings

1. I found myself extremely confused by many aspects of the Michael Lane story, and my confusion probably stems from a lack of familiarity with the character. Is he out of his mind because many of his responses seem only semi-coherent. Also, why is his back scarred? Was this established previously, or has he been flogging himself for spiritual purification which is the way of some ancient Catholic traditions. Did we get a tidy ending for Lane in the old continuity? Do we know what made him decide to go into retirement? Where exactly is this exchange taking place?

2. Michael makes reference to The Dark Night of the Soul which is an old sixteenth century poem literally about the journey of the soul to God after death and figuratively about the spiritual journey all Christians take in drawing closer to God. I am not familiar with the work other than what Wikipedia told me, but it did provide a very creepy/authentic sound to Michael's prophecies. I'm sure that the poet did not reference Joker and masks, so clearly things have been altered, but it made it sound really cool. If there is any foreshadowing in these “quotes,” then it is to obscure for me to decipher. Maybe this will make sense after the arc is completed.

3. It was cool how they trough in a poster referencing the cover to Batman #666 though I do wonder what this was supposed to be in universe.

4. I must finally admit because of the conversations of Batman, Talia and The Heretic that The Heretic appears to be a Damian clone. I'm still not completely convinced though.

5. In the scene with Talia and Ra's, I couldn't help but notice the chess match. From my limited skill at chess, it appears to me as if the red had the advantage. The black knight was threatening the king but had no way of closing the deal whereas the red pieces were placing the black pieces in immediate danger. I couldn't quite get a grasp on the layout of the pieces, but it appears to me that the queen did not take the obvious move of killing the rook. Instead, red took out a black pawn which kept the knight in a position to kill the queen. This could all be irrelevant, but I thought it was worth noting.

Screenshot from 2013-04-24 16:03:19.png

6. The last time I recall the police turning against Batman was during War Games, but it made sense for the police to be ticked at Batman during War Games because he screwed up big time. As best as I can tell, Batman didn't do anything wrong this time, so I find it hard to believe that the police would so willingly turn on him.

7. It's pretty hypocritical of Talia to kill the thugs who targeted Damian and not The Heretic.

8. I have no idea what is going on with Jason, but it is worth noting that the women holding him prisoner are wearing masks similar to that of Talia.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

9. Langstrom's role in this story is just a giant continuity black hole. Kirk was Man-Bat when we saw him earlier this very month. If this occurs before his transformation, then why did Bruce act as if he was just finding out about Kirk's existence in 'Tec #19? I guess it could be after Kirk transformed back to human, but if so, that was a quick save for old Kirk.

10. Talia really likes implanting things in her children's spines.

Screenshot from 2013-04-24 16:06:03.png

11. Batman does indeed become a half man-bat which is okay except for the whole, “What's the point?” angle. What advantage is it to be a man-bat? Batman is already awesome and becoming more feral with powers he does not really know how to use does not seem helpful. Not to mention, what happened to the team helping him out? It's interesting visually and thematically, but it makes little sense from a plot perspective.

Conclusion 8/10

Screenshot from 2013-04-24 16:09:38.png

Batman, Incorporated still has way too many cool concepts happening to give it a low score, but I can't say this issue really came together. At best, it's a transition issue between mourning to butt kicking which introduces some necessary plot points, but there is a real case to be made that Morrison has more subplots in this story then he can really handle. Regardless, this issue is still worth purchasing if you are a Morrison or Batman, Incorporated fan.

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Review: Batman Incorporated #9

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Fallen Son

What can be said in preparation of this issue that has not already been stated? We lost Damian which most in the Bat community feel to be a tragic loss of a beloved character. I count myself among that number, yet I'm willing to wait see where Morrison (former writer of Rebellion's 2000AD and Batman and current writer of Batman, Incorporated and Action Comics) and the other Bat writers plan to take the story before I cry foul. It's already led to some powerful stories of loss most notably from writer Peter J. Tomasi (former editor of Hitman and current writer for Batman and Robin and Green Lantern Corps) in Batman and Robin, but now we come to the architect of Batman, Incorporated and the murderer of Damian himself, Grant Morrison. What does he have planned for the rest of the series and in this issue in particular? The cover promises a solemn issue, but I have a difficult time picturing Morrison dwelling on Bruce's pain. In his own words, Morrison has promised that Batman will go after Talia like never before, and I'm curious in seeing how that will play out. Also adding to the mystery of this issue is the fact that I never saw a preview. Did I simply miss it, or is DC keeping things under wraps?

Does Batman, Incorporated #9 pay meaningful tribute to the death of Damian, or is this series more interested in the flash and bang of action than the slow burn of grief?

In this issue, Batman and Nightwing battle The Heretic, a funeral is held for Robin, and Squire becomes Knight.

Requiem for Batman, Incorporated

I would say that Batman, Incorporated probably has the best mourning for Damian apart from Batman and Robin. The highlight of the tragedy is the burial of Robin. We see Bruce, Alfred, Dick and Tim carrying the casket to the burial grounds in the rain, and the mood just strikes the right balance of tragic and somber. The way the scene is broken up by other relevant plot details is a bit chaotic, but it actually worked well to establish all the relevant consequences of Batman, Incorporated's recent battle with Leviathan. Bruce's speech over Damian's grave is a bit too stiff for my liking, but it is okay, and Tim's, “Amen,” was a nice touch. Damian's death also has some real interpersonal fallout as well which was well portrayed, and the book ends with yet another powerful scene in memoriam of Damian. If you have any interest seeing the consequences of the death of Damian, you will definitely want to buy this issue.

Bat Droppings

Usually, I like to break up my thoughts in more categorized sections when I have time, but due to the untraditional layout of this story, I would end up doing spoiler warnings at the end of every section, and that would just be awkward, so we are going to take this one Bat Droppings style.

1. Though I know I've already covered it, the first page is powerful in its simplicity.

2. I am delighted that they did indeed continue the fight from the end of the last issue. I was afraid the whole major conflict was going to be swept under the rug. It is nice to see what happened.

3. I missed it on my first read through because I was so stoked for the throwdown, but The Heretic's robes actually burn off at least partially. Was he on fire at the end of last issue, or did he specially rig an incendiary device just so he could rip off his clothes in a dramatic fashion? If it is the latter, that it is truly bizarre.

Screenshot from 2013-03-27 17:19:58.png

4. I've had this theory which I think I've mentioned in almost every review since issue #5 that The Heretic is Damian from the future, and though the story is clearly implying that The Heretic is Damian's cloned brother, I just cannot let my theory go. How does issue five make any sense otherwise? Also, how does The Heretic keep healing from such major wounds. I'm sticking to my theory until the end.

5. In case you missed it, Grant Morrison actually said that the sword used to kill Damian was the sword of Bruce Wayne's earliest known ancestor. I thought that was a nice touch.

6. Nice use of a blur effect at the top of page three.

7. We get some nice Nightwing action in this issue.

8. It was nice to see Squire and the death of Knight get some recognition in this issue too. This series has become so Batman centric that I had almost forgotten it is supposed to be about a team of Batmen, but Morrison has not forgotten. It's just a shame that the Batman aspects of the story take away so much time from the Batmen aspect. It was good seeing Cyril get a heroes funeral. Squire taking the mantle of Knight is not really surprising, but I guess it is cool that we finally have a female “Batman.”

9. I can't say I see the point of Beryl teaming up with Dark Ranger. (also, why is he Dark Ranger when is suit is so bright? I feel like maybe this was mentioned and I simply forgot) I mean, the entire Batman, Incorporated thing is already a team up, so this is a team in a team? Can't Knight stand on her own two feet? Also, whatever happened to that character Beryl was flirting with in zero issue? Was that Dark Ranger? It's been so long since the side characters have been the focus that I forgot all the subplots.

10. There is talk about Lazarus pits, so that is clearly leading to something, but I'm not going to bother venturing a guess at this point.

11. I liked how Bruce handled the situation with Alfred. As with the way Bruce has handled a lot of situations recently, it shows he has grown in some ways, but he still has weakness. He was basically saying, “I can't handle you being here right now, so leave before I say something I regret and can't take back.' Also, the closeup of Bruce drawn with rain is really cool.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

12. From an interview with Grant Morrison earlier in the week, I noticed that he was portraying the conflict between Batman and Talia as a battle, on one level, between capitalism and...well, he did not really say what made up the other half of that equation other than to say that Al Ghul sounded like a name from the Middle East, so I guess based on the average Middle Eastern nation, that would be capitalism vs. totalitarianism? Anyway, Morrison mentioned that he partially agreed with Talia which threw up a red flag in my mind regarding Morrison's apparent sympathies with anti-capitalist agendas, and that seems to be further echoed in this book. A reporter in this issue asks if Talia Al Ghul's riots are, “The end of the American Empire,” and that is generally meant by anti-capitalists as an accusation that America exploits other countries by trading with them therefore by buying their resources we are making them part of our empire. Talia also makes an announcement accusing Batman, Incorporated of being, “Provocative Capitalism Imperialism,” so Morrison is clearly playing with a theme here of capitalism vs. totalitarian dictatorship which would be fine except that Morrison says he is sympathetic to Talia. Personally, I'm unapologetically for economic freedom. Here is the interview that I've been referring to.

Screenshot from 2013-03-27 17:22:35.png

13. We see mutants on the streets of Gotham of the types as seen in the classic The Dark Knight Returns. Have we ever seen mutants in mainstream continuity before because I do not recall ever seeing it? It kind of raises the questions of why are they rising at this time and will we continue to see them in the future?

14. The tank scene, while fun, is stupid. Are we really saying that Batman kept a loaded tank in his downtown building museum and periodically filled it up with fuel (because fuel goes bad over time) just in case he ever needed it? I don't think so. Also, shooting people with a tank gun kills them. Didn't think that was a new concept, but yeah, big giant bullets often with explosives attached are going to destroy anything near the point of impact, yet we are supposed to believe the Leviathan thugs are just fine and dandy?

15. Though it's easy to miss in the chaos of the action in this issue, the fight scene with Heretic kind of just stops. You do see the Bat clan running from the building, but then that's it. The Bat Clan appeared to be winning, so why not at least finish subduing Heretic before leaving to regroup. Also, where is the rest of Batman, Incorporated?

Conclusion 9/10

It's a great issue with a lot of fun to be had. As is usually the case with a Morrison story, it creates as many questions as it answers, but that's what makes his stories so fun. The action, story, and emotional aspects of the issue are all well done, so if you are thinking about picking it up, go ahead.

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Review: Batman, Incorporated #8

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So, I'm super stoked about this issue. As most of you probably know, it promises big, big, horrible things, and I'm game. Perhaps Death of the Family and its aftermath has wet my appetite for a game changing event, and that is exactly what we are going to get here. (watch as I dodge spoilers. It's a delicate dance full of love for the BatWatch community and the purists who have worked so hard not to ruin the reveal) I have a lot of speculation and theories, but I cannot voice them without revealing the story, so let's move on to the meat and potatoes of this review. Is Batman, Incorporated #8 a staggeringly triumph or a devastatingly disappointment?

In this issue, Robin flies in to save his father, Nightwing follows Damian to keep him safe, and Red Robin takes on the forces of Leviathan.

The Death

(Spoilers for entire section) Let's address the main question on everybody's mind first. Does Damian die?

Yes, and he dies hard, painfully, and brutally. I have a feeling some Damian Wayne haters will probably frame some of these panels on their bedroom walls...which is kind of a disturbing thought now that I've typed it out, but given the level of vitriol I've heard for some, my comment stands.

There is so much to say about this scene that I find it difficult to know where to start.

In comic book deaths, you know that the death itself is practically meaningless. At most, it means a character might be out of circulation for about a decade. I can think of no modern deaths that have lasted longer than that, so the significance is less about the death itself and more about the purpose the death served. You want a hero's death to be both heroic and tragic, and in that sense, Damian's death hit the right notes though it focused more on the tragedy than the heroism since his death did not serve any greater purpose.

The scene starts off with Damian partnering up with Nightwing which was a move I did not even realize was needed, but Morrison obviously did, and it was a smart move. When you think about it, Damian actually spent more time as Dick's Robin than Bruce's Robin, so seeing the two partner up right before the slaughter was a touching nod to their past. Couple this with the knowledge that Dick possibly watched Damian's death and will definitely see the immediate aftermath, and you can certainly see why Dick will be feeling troubled in the next several months of his own series.

Screenshot from 2013-02-27 20:25:08.png

The issue did a great job of making The Heretic look like a major threat by allowing him to shrug off a simultaneous strike from Dick and Damian on The Heretic's jaw. Looking at this panel, I feel confidant that I have seen it previously. I think this is an homage to a knockout blow in a Dick and Damian issue of Batman and Robin, so having The Heretic withstand the blow was a nice way to set up the “boss fight” vibe. However, Grayson is knocked back into a glass case almost immediately after and disappears for the rest of the issue. I understand that in reality, this could be a very serious blow which could render him unconscious or severely wounded, but by comic book standards, that is a pretty casual way to put a superhero of Dick's caliber out of commission, so I wish they had done something bigger to dismiss Dick.

In the fight, The Heretic grabbed a sword, and I fully expected Damian to do the same since that is his favorite weapon and it would make for a nice symmetrical scene between Damian and his “brother,” (more on that later) but instead Damian grabbed a spear which seems like an odd choice. I feel like there is some sort of significance to this which I have not deciphered; it feels like a very intentional move, yet I've come up with nothing to explain it other than the obvious fact that it extends his reach against a larger opponent. Still, I feel like this has some symbolic significance.

There is kind of an odd moment where Damian says, “Just stop! Fighting! Father!” It kind of sounds like he is calling The Heretic his father, but that does not track, so I'm guessing these two thoughts, “Just stop! Fighting!” and “Father!” were meant to be taken separately, and Damian is calling out for help when he realizes he is outclassed.

Screenshot from 2013-02-27 20:29:14.png

Damian breaks his vow not to kill once more, (what is this? The fourth time?) yet The Heretic keeps on fighting after getting an arrow through his heart which leads me once more to the conclusion that The Heretic is Damian from the future. I know the story has implied strongly that he is Damian's genetically engineered twin brother, but I just don't buy it. Has there ever been an explanation for how Damian's “brother” would be able to heal from the fatal blow of an arrow through the heart or the likely fatal blow of a stone through the eye? Why have we not seen this brother's face? What was the significance of issue #5 if future Damian plays no role in the story? Is it a coincidence that The Heretic chose to fight with a sword when that is Damian's favorite weapon or that he makes the “TT” sound of scoffing that Damian uses so often? I know on these latter two that you could say that The Heretic being a twin might develop the same preferences and mannerisms, but I still think it is more likely that The Heretic is future Damian. The only thing that makes me think this might not be the case is that The Heretic never says anything particularly intelligent. He seems a bit like a blunt object while future Damian seemed to be fully capable of deeper thought.

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The final panel is of Bruce on his knees holding Damian which is very similar to Bruce's pose taking Jason from the wreckage after his death at the hands of Joker. I would have to reread the actual issues to be sure, but I think this one is actually a little different because Batman was not on his knees (I don't think) in Death in the Family, and he certainly did not look so upset. There are two different images I found for the famous Death in the Family pose. One has Bruce carrying Jason while walking out of the wreckage, and in that one, Bruce's face is simply resigned and sad. In the other image, Bruce is on his knees holding Jason's body and his face is in deep shadow, but I think this was just made for the cover of the trade. In terms of images in the actual comics, Bruce appears much more upset this time around, and he has fallen to his knees showing that this has lowered him even further than Jason's death.

Bad Fight Scene

Jason Masters (former artist for Legends of the Dark Knight and current artist for Batman, Incorporated) filled in for pages 6-9, and though I really enjoyed pages six and seven, I'm afraid he really messed up on pages 8-9.

As you guys probably know, I'm a huge pre-Flashpoint Tim Drake fan, so it was nice to see Red Robin actually look competent for a change as he takes on a group of Leviathan thugs. Granted, a mop was used in this scene as if it was an extremely sturdy object, and I personally think it would have cracked at first contact, but whatever. It still looked cool, and we got to see Tim fight with his bo staff in a manner of speaking. We also saw a really sick double kick move on page seven where Tim uses the mop to support himself, uses one leg to knock the guy in the back while using the other leg to smack him right in the nose. Really, really awesome.

Then Masters apparently smoked crack.

Okay, to be fair, these are not huge deals, but they totally took me out of the action and actually made me laugh, and in this otherwise great issue, these really hurt the book in my eyes.

First, Tim knocked somebody out by hitting them with the mop end of the mop at the top of page eight. I'm pretty sure you could hit someone about as hard as you want, and the soft cushy mop head would absorb most of the impact. After knocking this guy down a good three feet away from Tim, every Leviathan guard in the building decides to start shooting the dead body. I mean, I think the effect the artist wanted was that gunfire was going everywhere and some fire hit the body, but that is not what was rendered. Every single bullet hit directly on this body, so its as if all the other Leviathan guards were like, “Screw you for getting downed by a mop, dude!”

Tim then attaches a line to a museum plane overhead and swings out to kick a giant quarter into some stairs holding bad guys, and this move alone is really flawed. First, the amount that the quarter rotated before making contact with the stairs looks off to me, but that is a bit difficult to judge, so maybe I'm wrong. Second, Tim could have put enough force into his blow to cause the mass of the quarter to shatter the stairs. Third, while Tim is taking out eight thugs with this move, he exposed himself nearly point blank to another ten thugs.

Screenshot from 2013-02-27 20:36:24.png

The final travesty was the handling of the plane off which Tim was swinging. It is suspended in the air until something caused the line to snap. I do not buy that Tim's relatively insubstantial weight caused it to snap, and nobody was shown shooting at it, so what gives? Somehow, even though Tim was swinging beneath the plane, he is shown in the next panel as having stayed magically in the same place in the air as the plane crashes to the ground, and then in the next panel, Tim is shown to be trapped underneath the plane. How?!!?

Look, I've got that Libertarian thing going on, so I do not really care if you want to smoke crack as long as you do it away from anybody else who you might hurt with it, but I strongly suggest you don't try to sketch while smoking.

Just in case Masters reads this, I really like the look of these pages, and I loved your work in Haunted Arkham too, but...how does this scene make sense?

Bat Droppings

I'm just going to cover everything else in this issue as it pops into my head starting on page one and moving forward.

1. The Robin RIP cover looks really cool as do the different colored variants. I'm curious if this will become an iconic image of Batman comics like the Bruce/Jason pose.

2. The first page is really cool. Personally, it took me a second to figure out what was happening. My initial thought was that Batwing was flying in, but then I remembered Damian had the flight suit. Anyway, it was an interesting first page.

Screenshot from 2013-02-27 20:41:01.png

3. I read the scene on pages 2-3 in the preview for this issue, and I thought Damian was just speeding by over Nightwing and Commissioner Gordon's heads, but reading more slowly this time, I realized he hit a couple kids on the way by and dropped a lot of gas pellets. Nice work Damian, and he did not even have to break his stride. Also, a jet buzzing by this low causes a shell shock kind of effect on people underneath because of the surprise and sound pressure effect which can actually shatter glass and ear drums. The Air Force uses this in Afghanistan frequently.

4. The top of the Wayne building on page four is actually shaped like the Bat cowl.

Screenshot from 2013-02-27 20:44:03.png

5. I'm always glad to see real escape artist techniques used by Batman, but I've got to wonder, does Bruce swallow lock picks every time he goes into battle?

6. Red Robin uses some cool Frisbee sized discs though I do wonder where he stores them.

Spoilers Past Here Until Conclusion

7. Alfred is probably going to have some real guilt on this one having let Damian leave the Manor against orders.

8. It's cool to see Nightwing's escrima sticks double as a storage device. Also, the dialogue between Damian and Dick in this scene is pretty endearing.

9. Everybody has had some closure with Damian recently except for Tim. It really felt to me as if they needed a moment this issue, and I was disappointed to see they did not get one.

10. I though Damian's death was handled well, but I thought it would have possessed more emotional resonance if Talia had killed Damian directly. I mean, we really do not know anything about The Heretic, so in their battle, you really only have feelings on one side of the conflict. If Talia had done the deed, we would hate her even more.

11. At the same time, it was nice to see Talia is not completely without feeling.

Conclusion 8/10

Screenshot from 2013-02-27 20:47:24.png

This issue delivers some solid action, and the big event was handled pretty well. However, that one action scene with Red Robin literally made me bust out laughing, and in a comic that is supposed to be serious, that's a major failing. Considering that there is nothing really spectacular in this issue, I can't give it a huge endorsement, but for everybody who wants to see the big show and is considering buying it, go ahead and shell out the money. It is still a good comic thoughnot great, and obviously if you are interested in the series or already following it, pick it up and enjoy.

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Review: Batman Incorporated #7

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Belly of the Whale

Last month's Batman Inc. had tons of mystery and the death of Knight to keep fans on their toes. Does this week finally give us some answers to readers' burning questions, or are we left scratching our heads?

In this issue, Nightwing, Red Hood, Red Robin and Batwing try to clean up after last month's battle, Damian discovers the origin of The Heretic, and Talia plots over a captured Batman.

Too Many Irons

This is the first issue I've read that really made me feel like Morrison may have bit off more than he can chew. Much like Final Crisis, this story simply has too much happening to really give a satisfying narrative in such a compact package.

Essentially, this issue spends a couple pages on every character moving forward their part of the story, but by dividing up the comic into so many pieces, each part of the story only gets a tiny amount of development, and for me, it was not enough development to make me feel satisfied. Despite the small amount of progress the story made in this issue, it still felt like it was leaving out important scenes. Nightwing gets into a fight which takes place off panel, and he is somehow subdued by a force that really does not seem like it should be capable of taking down Dick Grayson. As another example of characters that needs more face time, Batman is barely seen in this issue.

The only character who really gets significant coverage is Damian as he “discovers” the origin on The Heretic, but this was also unsatisfying to me for Damian's discovery appears to be nothing more than pure speculation. Granted, Damian does sex together threads of the story that have occurred over the years in various titles, but Damian's theory seems only like a possibility to me, and Damian treats it as a certainty.

Furthermore, if The Heretic is Damian's clone as Damian believes, this does not sit well with me. For one thing, if Talia wanted a fully grown Damian, why didn't she do the magic aging process/indoctrination on the original Damian. For another, why does Talia use a whale? Perhaps this was explained in a previous issue and I forgot, but for now, it just seems bizarre. If The Heretic really is a clone, then what was the purpose of the flash forward featuring adult Damian?

Feel the Burn

Also, Chris Burnham's art is starting to bug me. I've often complained about his inability to draw sensible looking faces, but I guess my annoyance has begun to reach critical mass since lots of stuff bugged me this time around. Faces continue to look bad. Damian appears to be only three feet tall in some panels. Red Robin's landing after an explosion would have him with at least one broken arm and a badly scraped face, and he probably would have broken his neck too. Some random woman who sees a murder seems to have a look of happy surprise rather than horrified surprise. The art wasn't extremely bad, but there were lots of problems and no panels which were particularly impressive.

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Balancing the Equation

There were some good elements too. I'm glad Morrison took the time to explore the aftermath of last issues' destruction. Nightwing, Batwing, Squire, and Commissioner Gordon all have to deal with the fallout in a realistic and individual way, and Beryl's breakdown was quite gripping and hurt my heart. Though all the different story elements bogged down the speed of the narrative, I was simultaneously glad to see that all the Robins were active and well represented unlike last issue where they were put on hold and mostly off panel. You definitely get the feeling that Morrison and Talia are leading to something, but it is anybody's guess as to what that is.

Conclusion 8/10

Here I've gone and talked bad about the issue this entire time, and yet I give it a good grade. How does that work? Well, Morrison likes to tell long, complicated stories, and as such a writer, it does not seem quite right to knock him for having an issue that is slow in development. Morrison is telling a big story which might actually fit better as a novel than a comic book, so I can hardly fault him too much for failing to get his complex story to fit neatly into a twenty page a month format. In other words, I'm trusting that though this was not the most exciting of issues, Morrison is moving purposely in a necessary direction, and I am betting that this issue would read just find if it were inserted into a trade rather than a single issue. In reality, my biggest complaint about this issue is that there is not more of it, and in some ways, that is hardly a complaint at all.

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Review: Batman, Incorporated #6

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Garland of Skulls

I absolutely loved the last issue of Batman Incorporated. I think I am beginning to get a grasp on Morrison's unique writing style and long term story telling, and I love it. Granted, it would be nice if he would occasionally answer a few more questions rather than speed from one ambiguous revelation to another, but at the same time, his refusal to nail down every aspect of his story is what paves the way for so many theories in the present and revelations in the future. Ambiguity and perplexity are Morrison's allies in story telling, and making up theories is half the fun of reading and enjoying them. I have a theory that The Heretic is Damian from the future, and I am eager to see if this issue will reveal my prediction to be true. Does this issue reveal all we have been wondering, or just leave us scratching our heads in wonder?

In this issue, Batman rushes to the tower where many of his operatives fell prey to Talia's trap. There, he confronts Talia in spirit if not in body. Also, the Robins, both present and future, discuss things back at the cave.

The Frustration Which Is Morrison

It is extremely difficult for me to analyze an issue such as this because it does not really tell a complete story. Unlike the last issue where things were pretty well centered on future Damian and even that which took place in the present had a nice little arch, this issue felt like it only moved things forward by inches. Don't get me wrong, a lot happened and there is plenty to discuss, but it just didn't have the same sort of neat stopping point which makes it easier to evaluate as a single issue rather than as a piece of the whole arch.

Art Watch!

I heard a lot of fear about there being more than one penciler on this issue, but those fears were misplaced. Chris Burnham is the guy who usually takes care of all Batman Incorporated art, and he does his fair share here as well, but Andres Guinaldo also steps in and does a fair bit of the penciling. You can definitely tell a difference between Guinaldo rougher more realistic style and Brunham's smoother more exaggerated style, but they both look good, and they blend well together. If I had not been warned that multiple artists would be handling this issue, I don't know that I even would have noticed. Burnham does continue to draw Damian's face squinchy which I do not appreciate, but other than that, the art looks great.

The Zen Parable of the Goatherd

This was one of the most perplexing elements of this issue. When Batman arrives at the building, Talia has planted various symbols representative of the Zen Parable of the Goatherd or the Ten Bulls, and she narrates to Batman about them as he fights his way up the tower. I did a little research on it, but I have to admit that I am stills stumped.

The parable of the Goatherd represents the Zen Buddhists steps towards enlightenment with the goat, if I am understanding it correctly, representing enlightenment. I think the idea is that you have to search for enlightenment, follow whatever path takes you there, struggle with it, enjoy it, transcend the experience, and then return to society to share enlightenment. Typically, the herder pursues the goat or ox up the mountain, and Talia refers to the building as the mountain, yet Batman reaches the image for achievement of enlightenment before he reaches the top of the “mountain” where the goat would be found in the parable. Furthermore, Batman does not seem to have any moment of enlightenment. There is also the fact that Talia decided to go with with goats instead of the traditional oxen. She says, “the goat has so many layers” which is intriguing. The only thing I can think of as symbolic about the goat is its stubbornness and willingness to eat anything and neither of those aspects shed light on this issue.

It's clear that Talia and Morrison felt that this was important, but I am at a loss to understand it.

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The Boys

Batman asked the Robins to stay out of the fight which is odd. I do not see any particular reason for this, yet there is a lot going on in their two page scene. In addition to working out the relationship between the brothers, (and by the way, Tim telling Dick, Jason, and Damian to shut up is my favorite DCNU Tim moment) it also reestablished that Jason did go nuts after the “death” of Batman. It also gives us the introduction of Damian's cat, Alfred. Though this is sweet, it also serves as a bitter reminder that Damian is still in danger of his horrible future fate. Finally, it took me awhile to realize that Alfred gave Damian the cat to fill Damian's need for a pet. I suspect that Alfred will try to get Batcow out of the cave now that Damian has something more manageable upon which to bestow his affections.

Lights, Camera...Talia!

There was a lot of high quality action in this issue, yet at the same time, a lot of it was superfluous. Talia didn't really think she was going to kill Batman with any of her traps, so what was the point? Similarly, what was the point of The Heretic's actions?

All of this leads to one of the most interesting exchanges of the issue. I, along with many fans, feel that Talia has been incorrectly characterized as overly brutal in this story, and I took that as merely a mischaracterization or a reinterpretation by Morrison, but in this issue, Batman confronts Talia on the issue basically saying she is not acting like herself. This means that Talia has shifted for some reason, and I am curious why she has changed. The fact that Morrison brought this up makes me think there might be a revelation about this down the road.

Conclusion 9/10

This is another great issue of Batman Incorporated.

Review: Batman, Incorporated #5

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Asylum

Batman Incorporated has been a good series that seems to become better with every new twist, but at times, it seems to get a little lost in its own mythology. Morrison does not slow the pace of his story to brief the uninformed reader. Despite this arguable failing, Batman Inc.’s last issue delivered an amazingly action packed issue which both stalwart Morrison fans and relative noobs could appreciate. Unveiling several surprises, last issue showed us that Jason Todd had been working as a spy among Leviathan, and it was revealed that Damian plays an even bigger role in Talia’s plans than he or fans ever expected. Does this issue answer readers’ burning questions, or are fans left scratching their heads?

In this issue, Batman reveals that Damian will doom the world. After this, we get an extended look at the future of Gotham where future Batman, Damian, manages to escape a hoard of Joker zombies. It turns out that future Gotham is overrun by these Joker monstrosities, and Barbara Gordon, Damian, and the few uninfected citizens of Gotham are holed up in the remnants of Arkham Asylum as they search for a cure to the plague.

Bigger and Better

With every review, I do a brief summary of the first half of the issue, but as you can see above, I cannot even manage to do keep it short on this issue. Batman Inc. #6 is very dense and draws on years of Morrison’s previously established work along with other Batman lore. I consider myself fairly well versed in Batman comics, but Morrison left me scratching my heads on some things.

That being said, this issue is amazing. The post-apocalyptic theme seems to be in vogue these days, and Morrison paints as terrifying a vision of the future as the best of today’s’ doomsayer prophets. Morrison’s vision of the future is clearly not something he just threw together; he manages to connect lots of little details that speak to a much larger world. Little tidbits such as the name of Damian’s cats, Barbara Gordon’s altered physique and personality, Batman’s future enemies, and the occupancy of the oval office answer many questions that fans did not even know they should be asking, and yet the story still manages to sow plenty of seeds for future speculation.

I would not have believed it possible for Morrison to make this series even grander in scale, but that is exactly what he has accomplished.

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Damian the Heretic

I have floated this theory a few times, but I have never made a big issue about it, and I think it time to discuss if further. I wonder if The Heretic might be Damian from the future. We know that Damian is the central character of this story already, and we know Batman fears that Damian will grow up to be a somewhat corrupt Batman and a tool of Talia. Perhaps that is because Bruce has already encountered future Damian in the present.

I have no idea how the time travel element would occur, and I could be completely off base, but there are aspects of the story which support this. The Heretic is wearing a version of the Bat costume. The Heretic refers to himself as Talia’s son at the beginning of Batman Inc. #4. Future Damian seems to be speaking to Talia at the end of his arc in this issue. Could it be that this is Talia from the past come to reap the seeds she sowed in the past? Perhaps she took him to the past with her and convinced him that the only way he could prevent the apocalyptic future was to work against Batman?

It is all speculation, but I think it bears consideration.

Squinchy Face

I have often complained that artist Chris Burnham makes characters’ faces look odd. This issue is no exception. Adult Damian looks a little strange but not too bad. Barbara looks like she has been ran over by a truck, but that can be explained as years of rough living. However, I cannot explain away young Damian’s face. His facial features are all squished together as if somebody photoshopped his face and shrunk it by twenty percent while keeping the size of his head the same. It looks bad.

Other than that, the issue is quite the visual treat, but the face thing is beginning to become annoying.

I Admit My Ignorance

I am a tad embarrassed to admit my ignorance on some issues, and I am looking for feedback. I know there are previous issues that featured glimpses into this possible future, and I have read summaries of them, but I am still left with some questions.

1.       Why are two Batmen, Bruce and Dick by appearances, featured on page three?

2.       Is the boy Damian rescues supposed to be Terry McGinnis?

3.       Is the image of Damian standing over Batman’s body featured in one of the previous issues, and if so, what is the story that goes with it?

4.       If Bruce only dreamed of this future, how does he know it is real?

Conclusion 9/10

Despite my confusion and the awkward looking faces, Batman Inc. #5 still manages to be tremendously satisfying. Up until this point, I have actually been a little skeptical of Morrison’s greatness, but this issue has made a great case for the quality of his work. 

Review: Batman Inc. #4

Transient

Kill Box

I've enjoyed Batman Inc., but the series has often begged the question, “Where is this all going?” It purports to be a team book, but in the past two issues, we have seen nearly a complete absence of anybody but Batman (issue #3) and a helter-skelter issue containing lots of character but no real point. (issue #0). Does Morrison finally strike the right balance between Batman and company, or are readers left to scratch their heads once more?

In this issue, several operatives of Batman Inc. lead an attack on Talia’s League of Assassins.

Ho. Lee. Crap!

If you would like to see an army of Batmen take on the best in the League of Assassins, buy this issue because that is exactly what you get, and it is extremely satisfying. Whereas I was very confused as to why Morrison seemingly forgot that Batman Inc. is a team book in issue three, I now see he was holding back the tide so that the arrival of Batman’s backup would be even more powerful. The action in this issue was superb though I do admit to being briefly confused in a panel or two, but after a short reread, I figured out the flow of the movements. In the midst of the action, Morrison does give time to set up more character subplots such as the disagreements between Gaucho and Hood (I’m hoping this will not be revealed as sexual tension) which is good because as I have before mentioned, the series needs to have good character interactions if it is to continue as an ongoing comic. In short, this issue is an excellent thrill ride, and I could hardly ask for more from an action centered issue.

Transient

Things Missed or Things to Come?

There were many things which confused me in this issue, and I am not sure if they are plot lines which will be resolved in the future or plot lines which have already been explained in issues I have missed. Here are a few things that strike me as surprising.

1. Why is Talia wearing the weird skull mask? She has no secret identity in as far as I am aware. I thought she was an open villain. Has she been seen in the current timeline without the mask? Could Talia be someone else or somehow scarred? If anybody knows, please leave a comment letting me know. It seems out of character for her.

2. Who is the individual standing with Talia at the beginning of the issue? Is he a literal son or a figurative son? I would assume he is a figurative son since Talia does not seem particularly old to me, and the man is clearly at least in his upper teens.

(Spoiler)

3. Clearly, Jason Todd was acting as a spy under the name Wingman, but I do not recall seeing him in earlier issues. What role did he play in Leviathan. Regardless, it is nice to see Bruce acknowledge his wayward son. I have to say, it was a complete surprise to me.

(Spoiler)

4. At the end of the issue, we are supposedly left to believe that Bruce will turn Damian back over to Talia and give up on this war with Leviathan, but who is going to believe that? Ignoring all the many other reasons Batman will not do that, Bruce is just too stubborn. It seems obvious that Bruce is going to wait until Talia takes Damian and then follow a tracer to her hideout, but I have been wrong in some of my previous predictions, so who knows?

(Spoiler)

5. The last panels leaves readers with the numbers 666, a picture of Gotham burning, and a strange looking Batman. For those of you who do not know, this is obviously meant to refer to Batman #700 where a possible future Damian was shown who had inherited the mantle of Batman. He wore the same high collared costume as seen in this issue’s last panel. My first impression is that the issue was simply implying that Damian was going to be on the path of evil because he would be returned to Talia, but I have come up with a second theory. Perhaps the mysterious character at the beginning of this issue is Damian from this alternate future. This would explain Talia’s exchange with him at the beginning of the issue and partially explain why she might we willing to kill the young Damian. After all, one in the hand…

Conclusion 9/10

If you are at all interested in this series, then this issue is worth the purchase. Even if you do not care about Batman Inc., this would still be worth it for anybody who wants a good action fix. I look forward to next month.--

Review: Batman Incorporated #0

Brand Building

Batman Incorporated is a very interesting idea, and it has been dreamt up and written by the creator that many comic fans consider the pinnacle of Batman writers. I do not share this view, but I do find Morrison’s writing be very good though perhaps a little bit more scatterbrained than ideal. As a whole, Batman Incorporated has been pretty well executed, but the last issue frustrated me by focusing almost purely on Batman to the detriment of his supporting cast. Does Batman Incorporated #0 continue this problem, or does Morrison remember to include the supporting cast this time?

In this issue, we see the events which shaped Batman Incorporated ranging from Batman: Year One to just before the DCNU began.

Out of the Frying Pan…

Morrison definitely demonstrates through this issue that Batman Incorporated is still a team book. On page one of this issue, we get more interaction with Batman operatives than we encountered in the last issue. It is clear that Morrison has a deep understanding of all the characters involved, and he manages to set up plenty of subplots and character developments in this issue. Each scene is like a little window into the world of Batman Incorporated, and through these windows, we catch glimpses of the characters’ individual pains, motivations, struggles, and accomplishments. If Batman Incorporated is to remain an ongoing series beyond the Leviathan arc, then this is exactly what the series needs.

…Into the Fire

That being said, Morrison addresses my concerns about Batman Incorporated’s failing to be a team book by going to the opposite extreme. Whereas the last issue held one solid narrative which included almost no Batman operatives, this issue has lots of one page interactions which featured lots of Batman operatives, yet these individual strands of story never come together to form a real narrative cord. There is a sort of story arc in this issue, but it is very, very loose, and at the end of the issue, you really feel that this served as nothing more than as a filler issue for all of the little interactions Morrison wanted to include in previous issues. Though it is a strange comparison, I am reminded of the little four-page inserts which came with the Watchmen trade paperbacks which give little tidbits of information which do not directly fit into the main narrative. This entire issue is supplemental and consequently a little underwhelming.

Morrison’s stories have always been a bit confusing in my opinion, and I have never been able to figure out exactly why that is. While reading the pre-DCNU run of Batman Incorporated, I often found myself confused to the timeline of events or the location of a scene. Often, Morrison changes from a literal depiction of Batman’s situation to a symbolic one without any particular indication, and the same goes with his scene changes. Perhaps this is just Morrison’s style, but in this issue, I found myself wondering if Morrison was being rushed in his writing. It almost seems as if Morrison has ideas which he would like to develop, but he has to rush through things to meet a deadline.

Irving Art

Frazer Irving does an interesting job on the artwork, but I have difficulty deciding just what to make of it. On one hand, there are some beautiful panels in this issue, and the colorists deserve an awful lot of credit too giving nearly every page its own individual tone both in terms of color and the mood created by that color. On the other hand, Irving makes people’s heads look odd at times, and I am unsure if this is done intentionally or if Irving simply has trouble drawing the large caps which top the human body.

Conclusion 7/10

I find this issue does a good job of exploring the idea of having an army of Batmen, but it does so at the expense of forming a good cohesive story, and that is no small misstep. If you are particularly interested in this issue, check it out, but it is certainly not a must buy for any but the most steadfast Batman Incorporated of Morrison fans.

Batman Incorporated #3

The Hanged Man

I read all of the pre-Flashpoint issues of Batman Incorporated, and I enjoyed them though I did feel that they were a bit rushed in their delivery of the story. This is the first issue I’ve read of the new run, but I hav heard that Talia Al Ghul turned out to be the force behind Leviathan who had put a bounty on Damian’s head. Like many others, I do not approve of this decision, and I find it completely out of character for Talia.

In this issue, Bruce has sidelined Damian insisting that it is best if the world believes Robin to be dead. Bruce uses his persona as Matches Malone to get in with the Gotham underworld and attempts to dig up some leads on Leviathan.

The Good

Overall, I found this to be an interesting issue. It was nice to see Batman take a break from banging heads and do some actual detective work. Matches Malone is a fun persona, and I am glad Morrison brought him back because it makes sense in many ways for Bruce to have a daytime face. I thought the story was very well executed; unlike in the pre-Flashpoint run of Batman Incorporated, I was never left scratching my head trying to figure out what was going on or what had happened in between panels. The whole conspiracy of Leviathan is a bit on the huge scale and almost strains credulity, but the way Morrison laid out the operation convinced me that is was a plausible scenario for the DC universe.

The Bad

Unfortunately, not all was sunshine and roses with this issue. Though I enjoyed the story, I did find it to have strayed from the root idea of Batman Incorporated, Batman working with a network of operatives rather than as a solo act. In addition to Damian being sidelined, we really never see more than a cameo from any of Batman’s operatives. That would be okay if not for the fact it undermines the whole purpose of the book. Also, the art was inconsistent. At time it was very good, but at times things looked downright bizarre (I’m looking at you creepy judge/mannequin/mask?).

The Ugly

I also dislike the symbol used for Leviathan. Good symbols are simple but unique. Think of the McDonalds M or the Olympic Rings. They are simple but they stick with you. The Leviathan symbol looks like someone created a good symbol, then layered two more symbols on top of it. It is overly complicated, and though this is not a major issue, it bugged me.

Conclusion 8/10

In the end, I enjoyed the story and I especially appreciated Morrison’s more measured story telling speed. However Morrison created an interesting premise with Batman Incorporated, and It would be a shame if he did not explore that premise to the fullest and instead made this yet another book which simply stars Batman.