3 out of 5
Batman, Inc. was Grant Morrison’s Batman at his rootin’, tootin’ coolest. A billion years ago, Grant gave us the definitive uber-human version of Bruce Wayne in the pages of JLA, and then (much later) over the course of his years reworking the Bat mythology on the main title, and Batman and Robin, and Final Crisis, and etc., he put the character through a life and death and rebirth crucible, and now we’re here: the grand culmination; the “business” of Batman, as Wayne announces an international ring of protectors, all sporting some form of the Bat logo, standing up for people worldwide.
Of course, there’s also a behind-the-scenes plan of trying to foil whatever the globe-conquering Leviathan group is up to.
In the former case, watching Japan’s and Africa’s and British Batmen leaping about in teamups with the original, Batman Incorporated is so much fun. There’s a purposeful Brave and the Bold sense of team-up to the series, pairing a random hero (or anti-hero) with Batman for each book, foiling some particular Leviathan-tasked baddie’s plans, excellently arted by either Yanick Paquette or Chris Burnham, with our reborn Bats allowed to smile and snark and take charge the whole while.
In the latter case… the book is rather hollow. Leviathan is way in the background, and although we get some of the usual hint-dropping from Grant along the way, leading up to a pretty solid reveal in book 8, there’s a solid sense of buildup in the first four issues that then just gets dropped in book 5, diverting to other facets of Leviathan – Ouroboros; Dedalus – before confusingly wrapping back around to rather one-shotty guests-of-the-week issues. The ping-ponging between setup and standalone robs the book of a sense of purpose, unfortunately, despite it still being a very fun read on its own. Part of this, I’d say, was due to DCs unfortunate need to reset all of their books around this time, as well as some delays on the title itself, both likely requiring plot points to be rearranged and compressed; that the first volume ends on its most disappointing issue – I’m sorry, but digital art just does not appeal to me, so Scott Clark’s presentation of Oracle and Batman inside “Internet 3.0” in issue 8, despite some cool concepts, is a mess of stiff figures and unpurposefully funny express – doesn’t help “sell” Batman Incs first volume as a story.
Read in an omnibus form, altogether, it’s likely much more effective. Read month by month, just letting the background details pile up, was a hecka good time; still reading it today with that approach, it works. But at the same time, I have to sort of mindfully do that: the interruption of issue 5’s sudden deep dive into the Dedalus business makes you focus on the story stuff you’ve been ignoring, which doesn’t have the chance to shape up too strongly across these eight issues. So it ends up being a series that, on the surface, is great fun, but feels like it’s missing something… like the story that would be resolved in a later special and volume 2.