2 out of 5
An interlude during an ongoing series can be used as a smart break between sections of the story to take a side trek which possibly informs the main tale, or links one section to another. Or, used improperly, it can be a fill-in which wholly interrupts your series’ flow and adds nothing to the other issues. If you want to go for broke, you can choose a tone which goes against the main book as well.
And so: Batman Inc. #11, which comes hijacks the buildup to the Talia showdown Grant Morrison has been writing in the ten issues prior – like hijacks hijacks, given that the issues following this are the two-part conclusion to that buildup – and moves artist Chris Burnham to the writer’s role, telling a tale about Jiro, the Batman of Japan, and his pint-sized companion / girlfriend, Canary, battling some Leviathan offshoots. Beyond featuring a Batman Inc. character and Leviathan-related bad guys, there’s literally no connection to Grant’s work, and the interlude is wedged in to things via a channel switch wipe – the first and last panels are from moments around issue #10, then an announcement of “we interrupt your broadcast…” Yup. It’s a lazy method. But, sure, we’ve seen Burnham taking on fewer pages in the preceding books, so maybe he needed more time for arting the conclusion, and they had this material waiting in the wings for just such a scheduling need. So setting aside the poor timing, how does it fare on its own?
Okay. And not so great.
It’s okay in the sense that it reads like a monthly book, and Burnham is trying to tap in to the same kookiness that informed the first half of Batman Inc’s first volume and mostly gets there in spirit. It’s got pseudo-science talk; it introduces a weird group of villains; it’s got banter and last minute escapes. But, unfortunately, Burnham’s amateur status as a writer is a bit too clear: he relies on crassness for his humor; the pseudo-science is very pseudo (like of a CSI variety); and his dialogue has a very forced quirkiness to it – it’s not a natural voice. As such, Jiro and Canary hardly come across as real characters, and the villains aren’t defined enough to make good on their kook. Artist Jorge Lucas has a rounded style moderately reminiscent of Cameron Stewart, but I can’t find too much work under his belt and his style is rather flat, here. Like Burnham, he does the job, but only just.
The bad timing of this fill-in issue makes for a poor first impression, and the content doesn’t do enough to dissuade that, unfortunately.