Oliver Davis reviews Batman, Incorporated #8…
[Holy spoilers, Batman!]
It’s the beginning of the end, and not just for Batman, Incorporated. Although the issue number reads ‘eight’, the true count is more around 16-18. This title has remained unaffected by that whole ’52’ business in all but its numbering. Before DC’s universe-wide revamp, Batman, Incorporated ran up to another issue eight. Then it was stalled. Then a special one-shot was released. And then the numbers began from number one again. But it’s not just the beginning of the end of that.
Grant Morrison’s run on Batman stretches back six years, from what was only originally meant to be a 15 issue run (on which he’s published a heartfelt post at DC Comics’ website). In that stint, he fundamentally changed the Batman mythos without betraying all that came before it. He introduced Damien, a character that now seems so interwoven in the Bat-verse that you question if there was ever a time he didn’t exist. But it’s not just the beginning of the end of that.
Echoing that Batman R.I.P. storyline, the cover of #8 has the ‘R’ styled in Robin’s insignia. The last issue concluded with Batman locked in an underwater safe by Talia (in one of those old-style cliff hangers at which Morrison is so adept), and Damien finally donning the guise of Robin after being confined to the Batcave for what feels like a whole series arc. Doing so makes his reappearance all the more exciting. He’s like one of those wind-up toy cars that has been held in place after being dragged back for miles. Pent up, and ready to burst.
And burst he does, right through Wayne Towers’ front window. The building has been taken over by Talia and her goons, with Batman trapped at its top. Before Robin’s entry, where Nightwing battles an assortment of henchmen, the pencils are defined and neat. But once he’s in, the outlines of characters are heavy and thick, almost as though sketched with a crayon. Chris Burnham, ladies and gentlemen. Perfectly combining character, storyline and art. Not a stroke or brush out of place.
The central joy of Morrison and Burnham’s partnership is their shared love of camp. Although much is at stake, the sense of fun is never lost. They manage to touch on every era of Batman throughout the issue (read the earlier linked blog of Morrison’s; he’s done his research), with even the 60s television incarnation receiving a nod. During a fight scene clouded by smoke bombs, the words ‘Pow! Biff! Bam! Oooof! Sok! Blap! Whap!’ stretch tautly across the billowing black air. ‘Whap’ is ridiculous, but joyous. Who else could write the line “if I were you, I’d get in the tank”?
But beneath the fun a serious story sits. The shattering motif continues in Burnham’s art, as it has done for the entire eight issues. Display cases shatter. Front windows shatter. The frames of the comic themselves fragment into shards. But the most significant, and a theme that I’ve somehow never noticed before now, is the shattering of a young boy’s life. Not of the death kind, although that does come. But of divorce. Of Bruce and Talia engaged in a bitter, horrid war with their son, Damien, caught in its crossfire. For at Morrison’s story’s most basic level, it is about a child watching his parents fight. And it’s heartbreaking.
This is the beginning of the end. Not just of Morrison’s Batman, Incorporated, but also of his run on Action Comics and his superb Happy mini-series for Image, which have all come in the last fortnight.
And of one of his greatest creations. Damien Wayne, Robin, the Boy Wonder, a future Batman no more.
Oliver Davis (@olidavis)