4 out of 5
Really, this is perfect – it brings back the bullet-trajectory momentum and focus of how Batman, Inc. kicked off, has Chris Burnham’s art fully coming into its prime – not to mention the great Cameron Stewart helming one of the series’ most fun issues (which is impressive, given how enjoyable most of the first volume as standalone reads are), and has a full-on summary of all the madness up to this point as bonus pages, which just underlines how much nonsense Grant crams inbetween panels, given that most DC series’ can be summed up in a paragraph and yet this takes several pages to just barely skim the surface of what’s happened.
I’m only knocking off a star here because of DCs bullshit with resetting their continuity. In the midst of Inc., there was news of ‘the new 52,’ requiring every series to start over with a 0 or 1 issue, and restarting their stories at the same time. Whether it was due to writing or art delays or Grant having to reconfigure his story around this reboot, I do think this affected Inc. – it seemed to change tone right in the middle and then sped up toward its “ending” – and undeniably required this stop-gap publishing measure of a “one-shot” special, which is actually just two issues of the regular series with an editor’s note saying it takes place before the new 52. Yes, the flip-side of publishing it in this format is that we got those summary pages, but I wish we could’ve seen how the series would’ve rightly progressed without interruption. Oh well.
We continue our team-up style with the Stewart-drawn Batgirl team-up in ‘part one’ of this special, which pits Bats and Bat-ette against an evil finishing school for ladies under Leviathan control. Great fights, a great sense of ‘mystery’ and build up, and a good ol’ knock-the-badguy-out final sequence. ‘Part two’ does a brilliant Prisoner riff, with Doctor Dedalus in the center of his mind-trip labyrinth and a countdown sequence ticking down Batman seemingly going crazy as he sees the same confrontation with his foe repeated again and again… Burnham’s work is incredibly confident and complex here: great page layouts; great interpretations of Grant’s twisty-turny writing that keeps things conceptually clear, building to a very satisfactory bit of triumph, and then some final moments of doubt as the real villain is revealed. …Setting up Batman Inc. volume 2.
All in all, a good deal for 6.99, especially with the helpful recap and reprintings of Inc’s variant covers up to that point.