Batman Incorporated vol. 2 (#1 – 10, 12 – 13) – Grant Morrison

4 out of 5

Most importantly: I love this series.  After seven years of revisionist history; mind-bending, wraparound, meta storylines; plotting starts and stops; artist changeups; tonal shifts; and editorial interruptions, as awesome as the journey through Grant’s Batman titles has been, it’s been equally challenging and, for me, only truly enjoyable with it all available to revisit as a whole.  So Batman Incorporated’s straight-forward, 13(-ish) part story of Batman (and his worldly crew) versus Leviathan, illustrated nigh-wholly by Chris Burnham (with some page supports by other capable artists), is a perfect cap to that, as both a roundup to a lot of the concepts explored during those seven years, and as a sort of reward for following along: here is that Big, Bad, Morrison Batman story you wanted.  It’s the style we kept getting teased with at the start of each chunk of Grant’s work on Bats – that first, Kubert-illustrated, pop-art introductory issue; J.H. Williams III’s cinematic Black Glove issues; Frank Quitely’s widescreen Batman and Robin theatrics; time-traveling antics in Return of Bruce Wayne; over-the-top Exclamation Point! kitsch in Batman Inc. vol. 1 – only to have it somewhat dialed back each time in various ways, and for various reasons.  But here, finally, for Grant’s concluding run, he just sticks to it, and gives his the showdowns and climactic moments without cutting away to Bat Mites or Final Crises.

I’ve come to appreciate all the Bat Mites and Final Crises, but I loved Inc. vol. 2 when I first read it, and rereading the run altogether, it’s still a ton of fun.

Somewhat inevitably, though, those same straight-forward qualities undermine it a bit.  Grant has killed and resurrected Bruce Wayne by this point.  He’s had him face off against Satan, and Darkseid.  He’s given us several unbeatable, impossible scenarios that Batman / -men have fought their way out of, and proclaimed, in variations, that Batman Is Forever.  Leviathan is more in the mold of Grant’s classic JLA villains: it’s not a ‘hole in things’ that affects all of Bruce Wayne’s / Batman’s history, it’s a comic book villain.  Which, again, is part of why the run is accessible and fun, and this isn’t to say we don’t still get a full dose of high concept Morrison writing that loops around and through its conflicts and resolutions in inventive ways.  That ‘Batman Is Forever’ concept even gets its best, and most affecting treatment here in issue #13, as an emotional, but simple, speech delivered by Jim Gordon (in what is, essentially, a very fitting farewell to the title).  But, yeah, there are no giant twists and turns, and some big story elements are kinda sorta rolled back in the grand tradition of setting the stage for the next writer.  It’s sort of like each section of Grant’s Bat run was a warm-up for the next one, shaving off all of the difficult artefacts from the character’s career and paring him (or his proxies) down, bit by bit, to this streamlined version we get to enjoy in Inc. 2.

And enjoy we did.