Batman Incorporated Review [Spoilers]

Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Managing Editor

Photo courtesy of DC Entertainment.
Photo courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Grant Morrison began writing for Batman with Batman #655 back in 2006. Almost seven years later, Morrison has written Batman, JLA, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, and many other well received titles that have fleshed out the DC Universe. Morrison’s approach to Batman has always been a bit different. In his run on JLA, many fans dubbed Morrison’s take on the character as “Batgod,” where Batman would always be at least two steps ahead of everyone else and resulted in him overcoming exceedingly overwhelming odds. More recently, that take on the character has all but evaporated.

Batman Incorporated #13 hit comic book stores today, finishing Morrison’s controversial run on the title. With everything said and done, readers can’t help but feel that Morrison skewed his own characters to fit a story that doesn’t fit within The New 52.

The highlight of the issue is the artwork. Although Chris Burnham’s art didn’t strike me when I first experienced it, after talking with him about his thought process and work, the merits of his style began to shine through. His attention to detail is nothing short of amazing. His work on Bruce’s face after the battle clearly shows the damage done to him by Talia and the double page spread of the Ouroboros is simply amazing. Even better is his expertise with drawing bodies—with Batman’s dynamic fighting, it’s hard for some artists to keep proportions in check, make the fighting fluid, and make the art look real. Burham succeeds in that endeavor.

The fault of this run, however, is in the writing. The issue hastily tied together loose ends, especially concerning Kathy Kane, leaving the reader with an anti-climactic and uninspiring ending. Kathy Kane is used as a dues ex machina, coming into the Batcave—how does she even know how to get in, anyway?—and removes Bruce’s ability to deal with the problem himself. By killing Talia, Bruce doesn’t have find a way to stop what’s happening and still stay true to his morals, really robbing him of any sense of closure, as he should have been the one to end the fiasco. Kathy Kane tells him to stop fighting crime and never chase her down. Bruce accepts, essentially rolling over.

Photo courtesy of DC Entertainment.
Photo courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Some writers have quit DC, reportedly because of too much editorial oversight and their inability to let writers tell their stories. George Perez and Rob Smith are two notable examples—Andy Diggle resigned from Action Comics with only one issue written. In Batman Incorporated’s case, it seems like Editorial gave Morrison too much free reign.

The most noticeable fault in the run is its relationship with The New 52 continuity. Batman Incorporated started before The New 52, but was allowed to continue even after the reboot. According to Batman Annual #1, Bruce returned from his training trip around the world six years ago. How is it, then, that in those six years, Bruce has evolved enough to do in six years what took pre-52 Bruce his entire career? My point is that pre-52 Bruce Wayne was at a different point in his life and accomplished so much more than The New 52 Bruce Wayne—it seems impossible that this story could even happen in The New 52.

Damian’s birth and age could be explained by Bruce impressing Talia and Ra’s Al Ghul during his training trip. Damian could have been conceived before Bruce returned to Gotham and started his career. Both of those statements have “could” in them, because we’re not entirely sure, and there’s no way for us to know.

What can’t be explained is how Bruce has gone through three Robins, Kathy Kane, grown enough as a character to trust other heroes and create Batman Incorporated, and be able to carry on pre-52 Bruce’s story after only five to six years of vigilante activity.

The above only reflects the story’s inability to exist in the continuity—Morrison’s run has also caused other continuity issues to happen. Newsarama did an interview with Chris Burnham, where he said, “I read the outline for the series before we started, and I’m still surprised! The spirit and general direction remained the same, but as far as the plot details and contents of each issue are concerned, the outline went out the window with issue #2!”

The outline “went out the window,” presumably under Editorial’s blessings. This leads us to believe that Morrison was writing as he went, to a degree, with the specifics of his plot changing and evolving along the way. In Red Hood and the Outlaws #17, Jason and Damian talk about partnering up during the events of Batman Inc. This isn’t possible because Damian died the only night they worked together. Either Scott Lobdell wasn’t aware of Morrison’s changes, or he had a lapse in communication on his part.

It’s Editorial’s job to coordinate between writers and ensure that everything makes sense. Their decision to allow Batman Incorporated to continue was their first mistake, and their inability to delineate a clear, detailed, and transparent continuity only made things worse.

Photo courtesy of DC Entertainment.
Photo courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Overlooking the technical errors, Morrison’s portrayal of these characters widely contradicts their normal personalities. In my previous articles, I talked about Talia and Damian’s misrepresentation in these issues:

“Damian is no longer a clever, intellectual boy, skilled in tactics as shown in Batman and Son and Batman and Robin (2009), both of which were written by Morrison himself. Morrison reduced him to a naïve, child-like character. In reality, through his training as both an assassin and Robin, one would think Damian should have had more sense than to attack an opponent who’s both physically larger and is potentially as or more skilled head on in front of about fifteen snipers. No one would do that. In his last moments, Damian does not exert any control, use any tactics, or exemplify any of the many skills he’s accumulated over his career. Morrison’s definition of a “heroic death” does not fit the standards of what the general public would consider it to be.

“Morrison “threw in elements of his own parents’ divorce” which colored Talia Al Ghul’s character. Pre-52, she legitimately cared about her son, now, however, she sees him only as expendable. He needed Talia to move away from her maternal qualities to justify her actions towards Damian. This makes the reader lose all faith in Talia as a mother, which turns the reader completely against her. Although this may be what Morrison wants, her actions go against the fundamental core of her character. There is no redemption for Talia, there is no remorse. Her tears and “moment of weakness” at the end of Batman Incorporated #8 are out of character with Morrison’s initial out of character portrayal of her character in his own book.”

This treatment has extended to Ra’s Al Ghul and Bruce as well. In the final page of Batman Incorporated #13, Ra’s says, “I will hound you unto the grave, Detective. I will give you no rest. I will have my revenge.” Ra’s is a very intelligent man, especially when it comes to matters concerning the Batfamily. He has also show the ability to be objective and calm in his approach towards Batman. However, Morrison depicts him slightly deranged, placing the blame solely on Batman’s shoulders for what happened.

The actual Ra’s al Ghul would recognize that this all stemmed from Talia’s mistakes. Her inability to control her creation led to Damian’s death and her inability to follow through with her plan would have made Ra’s indifferent to the ordeal. I would imagine him saying, “My daughter has failed. The price for failure, in the League of Assassins, is death and that is punishment enough for her.”

Not to say that Bruce is without sin in Ra’s eyes–for Bruce, I would have imagined Ra’s to deem him a failure as well for not saving his son. While still Talia’s ultimate fault, Bruce would have failed as well in Ra’s eyes. Wouldn’t the appropriate punishment for failure be to bring Damian back to life and warp him against his father?

Even more unsettling is Bruce’s attitude towards his son. “We had a son. Bad seed. Bad blood. I did my best to rescue the boy from his mother’s influence,” is what h tells Jim Gordon on page 3. Saying “Bad seed. Bad blood” ultimately reflects on Bruce as well—he’s calling himself and his legacy, his parents, the bad seed. Furthermore, by calling Damian “the boy,” Bruce distances himself from Damian and reinforces the idea that Damian is “his mother’s” child. In a way, Bruce has absolved himself of accountability and placing the majority of the blame on Talia. Bruce knows that he’s as much to blame as Talia for raising Damian and distancing himself like that goes against his character.

Batman Inc 3
Photo courtesy of DC Entertainment

The only characters that seem to have been given the proper treatment is Alfred and Jason. Alfred refused to leave when Bruce told him to, acting like the faithful father figure he is, and Jason stayed loyal to Batman while deceiving Talia. Those two moments in Batman Incorporated #13 were refreshing, to say the least.

The issue ends with an opportunity for the storyline to continue, with Ra’s cultivating clones of Damian and harvesting “Lazarus Blood.” Whatever happened to the Lazarus Pits, anyway? I’m sure I missed the explanation of that somewhere in The New 52, so any comments illuminating that problem would be appreciated!

Beyond all of that, beyond all of the misuse of characters, of the continuity errors and confusion, there’s still one crucial aspect of the story that no one seems to dwell upon. The New 52 was an editorial move by DC Comics to reinvigorate the franchise and to move it towards the future in a new direction. Why, then, after all the effort to move away from what they were doing and start again, why would they continue a series from pre-52? Why would they let Morrison “take Batman back to the very beginning”? Doesn’t that contradict what they were trying to do in the first place?

Morrison critiques the comic book culture through this story, as well. When Talia says, “I know you like the rules to be cartoonish and the stakes to be clear,” she’s implicitly referring to what’s usually done in the comics. The Ourobos could also be seen as a symbol of comics continually revisiting the same plots, tropes, and characters. All of this really makes the run that much more hollow, because if Morrison actively commented on these tropes, why doesn’t he write something that stands above it? As far as I’m concerned, he lost the right to critique comic book’s “cartoonish” rules when he created Bat-Cow, whose level of ridiculousness can only be compared to the Bat Credit Card from Batman and Robin.

All in all, the run of Batman Incorporated was uninspiring and unfitting of The New 52. I’ll look forward to Damian’s appearance in Batman and Son the animated adaptation, and the new storyline Damian: Son of Batman.

Overall, this run gets a 2/5.

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  1. The enjoyment of the Batman Incorporated portion of Morrison’s Bat-Epic shouldn’t be judged based on how well it ties into the rest of the New 52 and it’s impossible continuity. From the beginning, Morrison was the one writer to say of Batman’s long history, “Every story counts”. Outer space, time travel, Adam West, Bat-manga, whatever. As a fan of almost all incarnations of Batman, I’m thankful DC allowed the series to continue to completion! It was fun at times, it was deep at times, and it included the Dick Grayson/Damien Wayne Batman & Robin series that was a blast! The Pre-52 Batman, Inc was okay, but I really enjoyed the New52 Batman Incorporated and I think this issue was a fitting end.

  2. I thought this was an excellent end to Morrison’s saga. He managed to take everything back to where he started. His overarching points: Batman doesn’t kill and he needs Jim Gordon, both as an ally and as a friend, were brilliantly highlighted throughout his 7 year run and fittingly they were the main points of his grand finale.

  3. New 52 was meant to be a means to make DC more accessible to the younger audience, and to straighten out the convoluted continuity, which Troy blatantly states has failed miserably.

    Batman Inc. is an appalling bastardisation of characters in an already bastardised redoing of the canon continuity.

    Batman Inc and Morrison’s writing is a disgrace to comic books, and to the Batman universe, their fans, and to fictional writing in general.

  4. Whoa, Z! Sounds like we’re simpatico on the New52, but certainly not on Batman Incorporated!
    The thing about a character that has been in continous publication across multiple titles since before WWII, it makes it kind of hard to consider him under 40 years old, much less whatever age the New52 editorial mandate has him.
    It would have been best if Morrison’s story could have been completed before the New52, but it was not to be. ranked Morrison’s Batman as the best run of the decade and while Batman Incorporated was diminished by the changes of the New52, it was still a great series.
    While it wasn’t the conclusion Morrison’sBatman deserved, it was the one the New52 needed.

    1. No I agree with Z on this one; this is an insult to all comic books, to the characters of DC, to Batman, and to the readers. This is the worst comic book I have ever read, more than Battle of the cowl (which was good, just quite a few out of character moments, specifically for Damian and Jason) and Batman and Robin 5, where Jason became a crazy Red Head and… just, a bunch of bad stuff happened… (but still, had some really funny moments so I can read it again).

      THIS however, I feel ashamed of the few minutes I spent reading it. This story, made me feel bad, for the trees, that had to dye for it and then have the SHAME of having this printed on them, so even in death, they will never rest in peace.
      This story is so bad, when I read it, it made me feel physically ill.
      The characters are COMPLETELY mutilated, surpassing simple “out of character” moments or interpretations, the story is horrible, the ending repulsive, and even the middle and the dialogue, makes me want to scratch the characters eyes out.

      Talia was destroyed. There was no glory moments, all of this was made to make her a villain, worse make her her father! It was so bad that for the longest time, I suspected she had been under mind control by her father, similar to in “Batman Beyond” where Ra’s Al Gual had taken over Talia’s body in order to save himself. That at the time, was the only answer for her sudden coldness, when before in her life, the most important things to her was her love for Bruce, and her love for their son. Morrison even bastardized he original love making seen where Bruce and Talia willingly consented to each other, into suddenly a “drug scheme: where Talia raped him, so not even that sacred union was left untarnished.

      They also repeatedly made her and Damian white, although we can blame the coloring staff for that. (she’s suppose to be an Arabic beauty, with maybe Chinese origins as well).

      Then there was Bruce’s roll in this comic, calling his son a “bad seed” and all those other things, KISSING the woman who MURDERED HIS SON! THAT was horrendous. Why not make him kiss the Joker than after freshly carving Jason up with a crowbar, or go on a date with Blackmask after he finished torturing Stephany Brown? I don’t CARE if they had a history, or what they were before, once you kill someone’s baby, someone’s CHILD, it is NOT the same as a divorce course. You will NEVER see you’re child again. He felt the HEAT o Damian’s body, fall out onto his hands, and the blood stain his suit! Once that happens, all the gloves are off, and all that’s left is murdering rage, that can NEVER be undone.What he called Damian I also hate, and how he treated him was also horrible, but that can be contributed to Bruce being in shock. THIS KISSING SCENE, never. What Morrison compares a divorce scene too is like comparing genocide to a broken ankle. It is NOT the same, and how dare he treat it and DOWN play it in such a way.

      And that’s another thing; he killed a Robin. That’s three dead Robins if you count Stephanie Brown in preboot, and in Reboot, two out of three Robins have died, as Tim was “never a Robin.” Everything about this is wrong, and I don’t believe that little “slip up” that happened in RHATO was indeed a slip up. I believe it was one last shot to try and make Batman Inc its own Universe, to save Damian in the rest of Reboot. None of the other authors agreed with the decision, and none of the fans are happy either. By killing this Robin, what happens? Bruce angst’s, and moves one. That’s all. there’s stuff that will happen in between, he’ll distance himself and be an ass make his family angry, but guess we have seen this before! We saw it with Jason Todd, the death that STILL haunts him, as he and Jason, despite getting better (until Batman and RedHood #20 but that’s a whole other story), he still blames himself for his son’s death, and the fact that he wasn’t there to save him until this time. In fact I will write a list of similarities between the two deaths and Robins.

      1.) Both written by authors that wanted to kill them off.
      2.) Considered “Bad boys” or “Bad Robins.”
      3.) Had a tough background growing up that lead them to be angry and impulsive
      4.) mother betrayed them, lead to their deaths.
      5.) beaten profusely before death
      6.) were ambushed by hit men/goons during/ before fight of their lives.
      7.) both died trying to save someone.
      8.) Batman too late to save them

      See a pattern? Not only that, but with Jason, we were warned WEEKS before hand about the death, and even had a poll that could have (should have) saved his life (it was tipped though by the same guy sending in 300 votes) where Morrison, ADVERTISED his death, before the issue came out THREE DAYS BEFORE so there was NOTHING no one could do. He advertised a TEN YEAR OLD’S DEATH, for sales. That’s it. He was hoping by killing a robin, that his book could be more “edgy” and therefore get more readers, and more money. THAT was the point of Damian’s death. It wasn’t about divorce, it wasn’t about making a statement, it wasn’t even about disliking the Robin. It was so he could generate more money. And I’m glad it didn’t work.

      Damian doesn’t generate or contribute by being dead! Him being alive was what was interesting! He made Batman care, it FORCED Bruce to be fatherly, to learn, to interact and be with his son. To test his patience, to have fun, to get a partner, who didn’t agree with him, who needed lots of attention and love, and for him to learn to give it. He could no longer use the excuse he used with Tim or Dick where they were adopted/ older/ didn’t need him/ didn’t want another father (though by legal means he did adopt Tim and call him son, Jason wasn’t included also because he was too fatherly to Jason, more than to any of the other Robins originally), this was his pure born, blood related, can’t ignore son! His interactions with this boy, is what made the series good, and in Reboot Batman and Robin (by Peter J. Tomasi), it was ten times more interesting than Morrison’s books, because of the way the two interacted. People cared because the writer put effort in making them interact and care for each other. People cared because although Damian frustrated Bruce to know end, and made him mad, he also made him smile. people would not have cared for Damian as much if i wasn’t for Tomasi.

      Finally, there was the ending. It was horrible. Its treatment of Talia, the way Kate just showed up and killed Talia, all of it was bad an lazy. The decision to kill Talia angered me to the core. Morrison had lead up, to making this all powerful villian out of her. Made her someone who could not only defeat Batman, but bring him to his knees, and destroy everything he holds dear. She killed her son, which I do not agree with for what she should be, but if he made her do this so she could REALLY be a villain among villains, I could eventually forgive. i saw Talia as a world leader, I saw her facing down the Justice League and making them trembled, I saw her ruining the life of Bruce more, I could see her being the next Ra’s Al Gual and someone who everyone would come to fear.

      Instead, they shot her in the head…

      He had the GULL, to make this INCREDIBLE villain, with no heart, and a should made of black, with a cunning brilliance only tripped at the last moment by Jason Todd, who “betrayed her” to save the world, Gotham, and Bruce, and he decided to just kill her off! Had that been Two-face, the Joker and Bane; people would be shitting their pants in rage! Worse he used her death as an excuse to get a VERY out of character response so HE could get revenge?! This is BEYOND horrible, this is misogyny AND crap COMBINED! Had Talia been a man, they would have never considered killing her like that, but because she was a powerful woman, in charge, strong, fierce, who could defeat Batman; she had to go! We can’t have a good evil female role model, that would be too much! We can’t have a female leader look how good she is!

      Worse though, it wasn’t even Batman who did it! But a random, player who came in at the last second, despite before having NO IDEA where the Batcave was beforehand, and literally, just showed up to do Batman’s dirty work. That means no closure, Batman gets a “get out of free from feeling” card, and honestly, he should have felt MURDEROUS RAGE at her for that, at one of them. When Joker killed Jason. Bruce ran into a helicopter that was on fire and EXPLODING to try and kill him. Are you telling me Damian doesn’t deserve the same feeling of rage? Of emotion?! This was all Bullcrap the New 52 does not need.

      The only good parts as said, were Jason Todd (which is odd as Morrison made the most bastardized version of him pre-reboot) and Alfred, who can really do no wrong (or at the very least, his bad moments are FAR and in between) and they’re not enough to save the story. Even my love for Jason could not save this, because Morrison did not use any of his freedom to his advantage. Morrison could have made this AMAZING story, he could have used characters like Colin Wilkes to add to Damian’s character, or his friendship with Superman, or use the EXTREME advantage, of having Jason Todd in reboot, as he said it takes place, to make his team Starfire and Roy, come in and help save the day. He could made this giant rift, and save the day, create characters and even have Talia moments where she snapped back to herself, they could have made her mind controlled to explain her sudden extreme change in behavior, or give her some humanity at least. All he did was kill characters, destroy 10 year old boys and take away old characterizations for bad writing.

      He doesn’t deserve a pen anymore after this. He should be fired, or forced to retire, and someone should bring back Robin. Not a new one either; Batman needs Damian Wayne, and Robin, and he doesn’t deserve another.

      Once three children die under you’re watch, you don’t deserve anymore. End of story.

  5. This comic was so bad, I was feeling sorry for the pages of paper that it was printed on. I couldn’t believe we sacrificed trees for something so horrendously bad, and figured it would have been nicer to make it into toilet paper. At least then I could have wiped my ass on it.

    But yes. Story; awful. Characterization; worse. Ending; deplorable.

    No effort, no originality, and full of shit, -1000/5, four thumbs down, and recommended as emergency toilet paper, or fire kindle.

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