I was only compelled to buy three of the many comics that went on sale today. Two of them are Batman titles. This comes as no personal surprise because I'm a rabid Bat-fan. Moreover, I've been closely following Grant Morrison's sprawling Bat-Odyssey every step of the way. Last week saw the final installment of The Return or Bruce Wayne, which was also the final chapter on a much larger over-arching story. Exciting times!
While you can argue that Morrison's run on his numerous bat-titles haven't been perfect, there's no denying that his meticulously plotted stories have been a challenging and compelling read that not only breathed new life into long forgotten cannon, but also reinvigorated the Bat-Mythos for future stories. I believe for every reader of Batman--or any major character otherwise--there are passages in the characters history they'd prefer not to acknowledge. As we build our collections we pick and choose what events mattered and which we turn a blind eye to. With Morrison's run, however, I was tasked as a reader to delve into earlier eras of Batman's long continuity to uncover the roots of stories like Batman and Son, or R.I.P., and even Return of Bruce Wayne. Stuff I wouldn't normally have enjoyed or been aware of became significant in a contemporary fashion. It was an immersive experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
Now a new chapter begins within the pages of Batman: The Return (a one-shot) and Batman Incorporated (new on-going series), both of which I was at first skeptical of. Undoubtedly the new direction seemed like a bold one (a Batman in every country), but like so many long-time readers I was wary of change. First of all, the title Batman Inc. sounded a little tacky. The concept is not a completely original one, although it has not be thoroughly explored, and so I wondered how Incorporated would fit alongside everything that has come before it. With Return I was cagey about David Finch's art. Finch is a legitimate superstar in comics and for good reason. His heavy, gritty style has elements of a 90's Todd Mcfarlane and carries--in this issue particularly--a similar moody and horrific quality as Bernie Wrightson. My problems with Finch's artwork fall with his proportions and his tendency to make his characters too weathered and grisled. Fortunately both titles surpassed my expectations.
BATMAN: The Return
In Return, Finch's art proved a fine fit for the script. I was mesmerized by the opening pages where Morrison brilliantly gives a poignant back story to the Bat that inspired Bruce Wayne to become Batman. I have wondered before, "why would a large bat randomly crash through a window?" It's a small detail in the scheme of things but I loved it that it's been addressed. With the climax of The Return of Bruce Wayne still fresh in my mind, the issue follows Bruce on his curiously foreboding "to-do" list. Throughout the issue I was reminded of obscure future visions seen in Batman #'s 666 and 700, and the fact Bruce had a glimpse of things to come while at the outpost at the end of all time. Also in this one-shot there's a new ominous villain and allusions of their nefarious winner-take-all plan. With dark and terrible forces over the horizon, Bruce Wayne goes on the offensive and tirelessly takes steps to prepare himself and the Bat-Family, who are unaware of what's coming. Part of this plan involves recruiting a Batman in every major city on the planet. It is then he appoints Dick the Batman of Gotham and permits Damien to stay on as Robin. The book ends with the perfect lead into Batman Incorporated...
This title was a whole whack of fun. I truly do believe that artist Yanick Paquette made this book come together. His energetic, Kevin Nowlan inspired drawing style feels fresh and yet familiar in the world of Batman. After being blown away by his Pirate-Batman entry in The Return of Bruce Wayne, I very much wanted to see him on Batman and Robin. As fun as that sounded, his art in Incorporated is just so exciting. Grant Morrison revels in introducing new heroes from other parts of the globe, something he did incredibly well with the International Bat-men in his Black Glove arc earlier on. In this book we are brought to Japan as Batman looks to recruit Mr. Uknown. Little does Bats know, a ruthless villain by the name of Lord Death Man has sinister plans for the local Japanese hero. What I especially love about this first issue is Yanick's character designs for everyone in this book. Batman's suit is tactical, functional, reminiscent of the Christopher Nolan films. Lord Death Man, who steals the show along with his henchmen, are a celebration of the 60's Bat-Manga craze and all its camp. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, which in this book is fun, exciting and frothing with sexual tension which I am positive gets released somewhere in the gutter. This book takes on the tone of the successful Nolan films and the style of James Bond, which makes for a solid first issue and I cannot wait for more. Whatever Grant Morrison has in store for Batman and his readers, I'll be there with bells on.