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Batman Inc. #8 Review: Damian and The Way We Were


Cue up Barbra Streisand singing, “The Way We Were,” to a montage of Batman and Robin images. Can you hold back the tears? Damian Wayne, what a beautiful creature, cut down at the tender age of 10.

How do you create such a lively new character, allow him to live and grow…and suddenly die? Well, the fascinating reign of Damian, Batman’s son, as Robin, came to and end in “Batman Inc. #8.” It was a highly sought after issue and a much talked about issue. Overnight, you had all these new readers curious about the latest Batman buzz outside of “Death of the Family,” the blood-splattered Joker murder marathon event. “Damian Wayne? Batman’s son?” And just as some Batman readers were pondering that concept, it is no longer on the table.

Damian Wayne, up for the fight. From #1

Damian Wayne, up for the fight. From #1

As much as Grant Morrison stretched the idea of Batman and what it means, the whole idea of Damian, as well as Batman Incorporated, never seemed to fully take hold with marketing concerns, even though it brought new life to the very thing, Batman, that requires new blood to remain viable and marketable in the first place! Well, there’s always Joker blood but still. Thankfully, Morrison has done his work and it will always be there for future writers to work with. In the end, DC Comics would appear to want to let such innovations rest for now. Maybe the problem was that DC Comics did not invest more on “Batman Inc.” Maybe “Batman Inc” just needed time and eventually an animated movie and a TV show on the WB. That could have happened but that’s a commitment and commitments can be scary.

Much commentary about this issue, oddly enough, has been made without having read it. Sadly, “Batman Incorporated” wasn’t considered a must-read by regular Batman fans until now and now we’re wrapping this puppy up in a few more issues of Batman wrath. And what’s better for a die-hard traditionalist than to add to Batman’s misery? His son, whoever he was, is dead! That makes for an even more intense Batman, right?

Damian Wayne in all "Kiss-Ass" splendor from the New 52 "Batman Inc. #3"

Damian Wayne in all “Kiss-Ass” splendor from the New 52 “Batman Inc. #3”

This is a good time to comment on the actual issue and “Batman Inc.” in general. Compare the first run of “Batman Inc.” with the relaunched “New 52” version. In the original batch, Grant Morrison was building up the concept of Batman assembling a global crime-fighting network and it was being done with style. At the time, back in November of 2010, that first issue of “Batman Inc.” was a big deal, with big names in the industry, like Chip Kidd, highly recommending it. That was for good reason. And, you know, sometimes high quality does not result in big profits, at least not right away. Okay, once “Batman Inc.” was relaunched, in May of 2012, it had lost momentum and was already on its way out since it did not fit within the “New 52” realignment. The thrust of the story was no longer a brand new game plan for Batman. Nope, now “Batman Inc.” was simply going to serve as Batman’s “army” against Leviathan, the army of his nemesis, Talia al Ghul, daughter of the supervillain Ra’s al Ghul and the mother to Bruce Wayne’s only child, Damian Wayne. This is not to say that this hasn’t been one hell of a story. It’s just that it seemed that Leviathan, as well as Batman Incorporated, were heading towards much bigger things. Consider that next time you see the Penguin, the Joker, and the Riddler.

The story told in the pages of “Batman Inc.” has been a great merging of the talents of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham. What became a psychological thriller, pitting the diabolical mother against the vengeful father and leaving the child caught in the middle, reached its climax in Issue 8.

Damian Wayne, ultimately is a little boy lost. He wants to honor both parents but they are coming at each other in a fight to the death. Damian is no match for what ensues. Repeatedly, he has been warned that his life is in danger. He can at least die a hero and he does.

Damian Wayne, Kid Power! From #8

Damian Wayne, Kid Power! From #8

At every opportunity, Morrison and Burnham express the innocence and bravery of Damian Wayne. This is truly “the boy wonder.” Every fiber of his being is engaged. He does battle in a way only children can fully understand.

His fight is uncompromising and pure. There is no middle ground for Damian. There isn’t any hesitation or brooding. What a contrast to his papa. Stop and think that over. Is the contrast of Batman and the Joker more compelling? Well, in this case, there would have been room for both of these to exist.

With all due respect, and in all fairness to DC Comics, it’s understandable that the father and son dynamic of Batman and Robin might have been too risky to pursue beyond a certain point. The whole point, a big point, to the New 52 was to open up a whole new page to a new generation of readers. The story of Batman did not start out as a father and son story so why go there now? Wouldn’t it take away from Batman anyway? Well, that’s very debatable. It would actually open up a whole new world of possibilities.

Look back, for instance, at all the great stories from “Batman Beyond,” which was set in a future with an elder Bruce Wayne mentoring a new Batman. That’s only one scenario. Batman and Bruce Wayne can remain as virile and empowered as ever while still having a son. That said, if Bruce Wayne was ever going to have a son, Grant Morrison gave him an excellent son with Damian Wayne.

“Batman Inc.” is not over yet although it basically is. Enjoy it through the final issue, #12, out June 26. After that, keep the faith. Maybe, years from now, maybe generations from now, “Batman Inc.” will rise again. For now, it’s gone, it’s over, it’s archived and placed in the vault. Visit our friends at DC Comics here.

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Filed under Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman Inc., Comics, Comics Reviews, Damian Wayne, DC Comics, Grant Morrison

NEW 52 – BATMAN INC. #6 Review

New 52 Batman Inc 6

“There has to be a way to end this.”

“What is it you want?”

Classic statements made in any custody dispute. This time by Batman. Compared to the average couple, it doesn’t get any easier for Batman in his struggle with Talia over their son, Damian. You may have multi-colored elephants flying out of the sky and volcanoes erupting in the background, it’s all the same in the end. Except, in this case, the fate of millions hangs in the balance. Talia understates it very nicely, “We’re not normal people. We’re special.”

There’s no denying how special “Batman Incorporated” and all the related works by Grant Morrison are. It’s a joy to read. Even in its most violent moments, it still registers as comics and not a CSI episode. Part of it has to do, of course, with the amazing artists that Mr. Morrison works with. Chris Burnham is as robust and engaging an artist as Cameron Stewart or Frank Quitely. It’s compelling stuff. And Grant Morrison is quite generous in his references, ideas, and motivations. You could take a dozen things from any issue and turn them into separate stories.

Issue 6 gives us a title cover of “For The Love Of Their Son!” and a story title of, “Garland of Skulls.” And, basically, that is what you find inside the pages. We go back and forth between a heated exchange between Batman and Talia and the war on the streets of Gotham. Batman Inc. troops are fighting tooth and nail against Leviathan troops. Batman robots and manbats are coming down from the skies. All the while, Talia is playing mind games. And, back at the bat cave, Damian and a slew of Batman operatives find themselves privy to the sordid conversation between the two alpha parents. Quite messy. Was this something that could have been avoided through counseling? Well, no, not in this case.

It is a beautiful chaos. Talia, in some respects, could be standing in for The Riddler in this story. Batman must go through a maze of puzzles and taunts with little hope of escape. Throughout, he must consider the parable of the goatherd and its ten stages of understanding. First, the goatherd pursues the goat up the Mountain of Enlightenment. But do you really think Talia is concerned with enlightenment? No, she’s about weaving her own beautiful chaos. Just when we think Damian is somehow fated to destroy Gotham, Talia suggests that may not be the case.

What a great piece of work. One thing is pretty clear, the whole idea of Batman Incorporated is headed for permanent acceptance. It will be, if it isn’t already, part of Batman lore, part of Batman canon. Who can really say otherwise? “Batman Inc.” is one of the best things going in comics today and that’s quite an understatement.

Stay tuned for “Batman Inc. #7,” due out January 30, 2013. Visit our friends at DC Comics.

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Filed under Batman, Batman Inc., Comics Reviews, DC Comics, Grant Morrison

A Milestone Comic: Review: Batman Inc. #1

Comics come and go so quickly it makes a regular observer’s head spin. So, when something this special comes along, it is a pleasure to share with all readers, those familiar with what I’m talking about and those without a clue. “Batman Inc” is a significant comic. So significant that it can truly be called a gateway comic for new readers.

Anyone who is into comics has been talking about this title since it was announced at this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego. Legendary designer Chip Kidd highly recommends it. Fans of the writer Grant Morrison, fans of comics in general, know this is where to be right now in comics.What is so amazing about this book is more than can be said in one review. Essentially, it is flawless. The artwork and the writing do a dance in your mind that will entrance you. It truly takes you away from your everyday routine and transports you to a happy place, a full comics experience.

Grant Morrison is known for his dark and multi-layered writing which brings in all manner of pop culture, history, myth and symbolism. That approach to writing has served Batman well as Morrison has navigated through a story, which has spanned a number of titles, that repositions Batman and Bruce Wayne after a long and tortured time when DC Comics had Bruce killed and it had looked like he’d stay dead. To bring Bruce back would need to be done with utmost care and so, presumably the best writing talent in the business, Mr. Morrison, has led the way to make this a truly special time in comics. For this current title, “Batman Inc,” we find Bruce in full command and running the show, the Batman part of his life, with the same vigor he runs his business empire.

Yanick Paquette (pencils) and Michel LaCombe (inks) provide spot on artwork, both beautiful, energetic and relevant. Not a missed note anywhere to be found. The colors too, by Nathan Fairbairn, are exquisite. We begin with Batman and Catwoman working together in Tokyo on the search for Mr. Unknown, who is supposed to figure prominently in Batman’s plans. But, oh wait a minute, actually, just before that, Mr. Unknown is killed by one very scary villain, Lord Death Man! And, yes, no matter how geeky that may sound, it is done with great elegance. This Lord Death Man looks like somebody from a Day of the Dead festival done up in a skeleton costume. But he looks fierce instead of festive and he means to kill without mercy just like the Grim Reaper himself. He comes upon Mr. Unknown and instantly takes away his hands. Mr. Unknown is in shock. He askes where his hands went. Lord Death Man says, “They are in hell! Awaiting the rest of you!”

This is just a little taste of the comic, with special consideration given to those of you out there who normally do not buy comics. I have to tell you, it will prove such an unexpected treat that I urge you to venture into your local comics shop and give it a try. You want to be in on the next big thing? This one will continue to reverberate for some time to come. It’s not exactly underground either. It’s DC Comics after all. But that’s the thing, so many of you just don’t know how good comics can be and this could be the first you hear of Grant Morrison, let alone “Batman Inc.” That said, do check it out.

And for those out there who already know the score. I love this line from Catwoman after she’s knocked out a bunch of Lord Death Man’s henchmen, all following a skeletal motif: “Bones don’t seem so scary when they’re broken in bits, do they?”

Batman, along with every comic book character around, keeps being revisited, tweaked, reborn, readjusted. This is a major shift. This is a new generation’s Batman.

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Filed under Batman, comic books, Comic-Con International: San Diego, Comics, DC Comics, Grant Morrison