Monday, 23 December 2013

Batman Incorporated Volume 2: Gotham's Most Wanted Review (Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham)


Talia Al-Ghul’s Leviathan is taking over Gotham and only Bruce Wayne’s Batman Inc. can stop them! This is it, the final battle between good and evil, father and mother - and what happens when parents fight? The kids suffer. Gotham’s Most Wanted is a kitchen sink soap opera played out as high melodrama between superheroes. It’s also Grant Morrison’s final book in his seven year Batman run and it’s as amazing a finale as you’d hope. 

I highly recommend re-reading the first volume to remind yourself how it ended because the second volume picks up immediately after, mid-action sequence and barrels straight on through to the bitter end. The pacing in this story is insane as Morrison throws massive scenes at the reader, one after the other. Some members of Batman Inc. have already been killed by the Abomination – another of Talia’s experiments with Bruce’s DNA and hers, though this one turned out far more physically monstrous than Damian – while Gotham’s children have been brainwashed into becoming homicidal maniacs, fighting what remains of Batman Inc and the GCPD in the streets alongside Leviathan’s forces! 

This book has one of the year’s most talked about moments in comics: the death of Damian (and no it’s not a spoiler when it makes international headlines!). Morrison goes full circle from introducing Damian to readers in his first book, Batman and Son, to taking him away in his final one. You can see what a great writer Morrison is in the way he’s developed Damian over the years. Re-read those early books and you’ll notice how insanely evil Damian is when he first arrives. He nearly kills Tim and beats Alfred, refusing to listen to anything Bruce has to say, and even killing one of Gotham’s lesser costumed crooks. In this book Bruce knows Talia’s after Damian so tells him to stay behind in the Batcave – and he does! And when he sees the havoc Leviathan is unleashing and wants to help his friends, he looks to Alfred for permission to leave. Damian’s changed over the years, respecting his new family and changing his values from the ruthless to the compassionate. 

Damian’s character shows in other ways as his pet menagerie grows with the inclusion of Alfred the cat (who readers will remember seeing in those amazing alternate future Damian-as-Batman issues like Batman #666 and Batman Inc. #5), alongside his dog Titus and, of course, Batcow. He’s gone from unfeeling ninja assassin to an ordinary kid who loves animals. 

If Damian’s character has softened, his fighting abilities sure haven’t and he goes down in his fight against Abomination like the legend he is. I could write in depth about this scene but I’ll just say 1) his final farewell with Dick Grayson was awesome (Damian: We were the best, Richard, no matter what anyone thinks. Dick: Hey, we can’t help being great. Damian: Ready?), and 2) the way Chris Burnham draws the fight is phenomenal, at one point putting in 20 panels on one page and making each one count – that’s special. It was my favourite fight scene of the year, it’s so damn brutal and brilliant. 

Bruce meanwhile is the other half of what makes this book a masterpiece. Talia brilliantly puts him in a death-trap knowing he’ll escape but knowing that the time it takes for him to escape will make him unable to save Damian in time. She’s such an evil genius! Damian’s death is as shocking to Bruce as it is to us readers, and his reaction is crazy. Barefoot, barehands, stepping on broken glass, he goes to town on the armoured Abomination! Dick joins him in defeating him, though of course don’t kill him. It’s a very cathartic scene if you’re a Damian fan. Bruce saves his rage for Talia, turning himself into a one-man army in the process – double Batman (that’s deliberately cryptic, you’ll have to read this to see what that looks like)! I won’t talk about the final act because it’s full of surprises that I don’t even want to hint at – discover them for yourself. 

There are a couple of issues included that are non-sequiturs like Batman Inc #11 which is a Batman of Japan issue written by Chris Burnham and drawn by Jorge Lucas, and the Batman Inc Special which features the various members of Batman Inc in multiple short stories. The #11 issue was created partly because it enabled Burnham the time to draw every page in the final two issues – Jason Masters was the able fill-in artist for several issues in this arc – and partly because there’d be nowhere else to feature Jiro stories. This issue shows that Burnham’s not as accomplished a writer as he is an artist, but it’s a fun campy issue that feels Power Rangers-y and pays homage to kitschy Japanese culture. 

The Special, while taking place after the main story ends, isn’t at all related to it and shouldn’t be read as a coda but more of an extra for the fans. It features a number of standalone stories, my favourite of which is the silent Batcow issue because it’s so funny and who doesn’t love Batcow? I feel that, after Damian, he’s the breakout character in Morrison’s run (seriously!). Whatever, more Batcow please! 

Gotham’s Most Wanted is an amazing story written beautifully by Morrison and drawn unbelievably well by Chris Burnham. This is a terrific finale to the story and an incredible way to end Morrison’s run. This is Morrison bowing out big style. It’s simply one of the best books of the year and one of the finest Batman books ever written. Thank you for writing Batman, Grant Morrison.

Is Damian really dead? Is Leviathan? Or Batman Inc.? 

Moo! 

*

Of all the comics I’ve written about this year, I think this Batman Inc. series is the one I’ve written about the most, and was certainly one of the most enjoyable to write about. This review would be ridiculously long if I wrote about everything I loved about this book, so I’ll instead include links to reviews I wrote for another site on the individual issues as they came out, which you can read if you want to read more about me evangelizing about Batman Inc.! 

Batman Inc. Vol. 1 Review

Batman Inc. #9

Batman Inc. #10

Batman Inc. #12

Batman Inc. #13

Batman Inc. Special #1

Batman Incorporated Volume 2: Gotham's Most Wanted

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