(DC Comics, 2013)
Review by Shawn Warner
WRITTEN BY: Grant Morrison
ARTWORK BY: Chris Burnham
Writing this review is like saying good-bye to a beloved eccentric friend, one who would visit every month and share the most exciting, well thought out and innovative stories you have ever heard. Now sadly those visits must cease and with them ends a chapter in the Batman story that could have been written by no one else but Grant Morrison. Batman Inc. was never meant to be a part of the New 52, it was always bigger in scope than continuity could contain. Morrison transcends boundaries, labels and limits; he has indelibly and eternally left his mark on these characters, creating as well as destroying some of them.
This issue is not an epic conclusion in the traditional sense but you don’t become Grant Morrison by following traditions, you create them. The story begins with Bruce Wayne being arrested by his old friend Commissioner Gordon. Gordon hauls Wayne in and questions him in a scene that plays out very much like Kevin Spacey’s classic turn as Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects. Wayne unravels the story so far leaving out the fact that he is Batman of course. The entire narrative is told in this fashion giving the issue the feel of a re-cap even though we are getting a lot of new information. Morrison’s dialog is so razor sharp and his characterizations so spot on that this issue could easily serve as storyboards for an amazing Batman film. However there is no epic Earth shattering ending here but we have to assume that Morrison wanted it that way. The battle for Gotham almost feels like an afterthought when viewed through the narrow eyes of convention. Even the ultimate confrontation with the evil conniving Talia feels anti-climactic if you are looking for a standard “good triumphs over evil” paradigm. Morrison gives us so much more in giving us less. Some people complain of the esoteric nature of some of his stories like Final Crisis or even his All-Star Superman which was perfect but Morrison wants us to widen our vision and expand our understanding of the super-hero genre. There is so much more that can be accomplished simply by thinking outside the box, convention be damned. That is what he has done once again by not tying up Batman Inc. in a neat little package. This was a series that defied continuity but allowed the characters to grow and become more than the sum of their written bios and past adventures. Morrison provided that indefinable magic that made great characters greater and in so doing told a multi-layered, complex and organic story that really needs no ending.
Batman Inc. was equal parts history and future of the Dark Knight; it respected what has come before it and inspired what is to come. It was never set up or intended to be a traditional series with a very structured beginning, middle and end, it was always organic. So in that sense Grant Morrison has given us a Batman story that need never end.
As for the visuals of this book, Chris Burnham has turned in some of the best pages of his career. The book is gorgeous cover to cover. The emotive facial expressions of Bruce and Gordon convey a palpable sense of anguish, this book is steeped in pain and Burnham does an amazing job of capturing that pain. The kinetic style of his page layouts bring a sense of urgency that combines with Grant’s script to heighten the tense and anxious tone of the confrontation between Batman and Talia, some of the best pages of the issue, in my opinion. Nathan Fairbairn’s colors bring a cinematic dimension to Burnham’s incredible work giving every panel a vivacity and life.
Over all Morrison and Burnham deliver a memorable finale to an era of Batman history that can never be duplicated or equaled. Batman Inc. was that rare gem that once discovered you never wanted it to end. I hope that one day Grant Morrison returns to Batman if only for a one-shot or mini-series because nothing in life can match the alchemy created when your favorite writer writes your favorite character, that my friends is real comic book magic and that is what we have been so lucky to have witnessed here. Needless to say I unreservedly give this book my highest recommendation and rating of a perfect 5 out of 5. If you haven’t been reading Batman Inc. please do yourself a huge favor and pick up these 13 issues. So until next time, see you at the comic book store. Thanks for the great stories Grant. We are going to miss you around here.
Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter: @shawnwarner629