There is no denying that Grant Morrison is an idea guy. The very concept of “Batman Incorporated” fully justifies the existence of any number of Batman-centric titles, while the unlimited funds of Bruce Wayne can make new allies, new institutions, and new enemies. Sometimes, however, Morrison does push things too far: he might get too meta-textual, might have too many ideas jammed into a story, or might not fully divulge what the heck is going on in the story itself until much later. A colleague of mine holds onto the concept that comics with Morrison as the writer are never a consistently certain thing. That’s both a damning indictment of Morrison’s unpredictability and praise of the same.
In this case, Morrison makes it quite clear what is going on. Bruce Wayne is funding a global organization to fight crime and that crime-fighting is drawing attention on both sides of the battle. New characters are stepping into the fray, more familiar characters are returning and a few mysteries even have the opportunity to sprout forth.
In other words, this is a fun comic. Fun. Sure, some readers might find some of that fun to be more goofy or even annoying, but when the back cover of this issue is closed, it was still a fun read. This is a book where it appears as though Morrison is trying out some new ideas all the while playing fast and free to concepts that have been offered up previously. While reading this issue, admittedly my first of this series, I couldn’t help but reflect to “Kingdom Come” and the Batmen of Many Nations, a concept that predates “Kingdom Come” itself by forty years. Morrison even brings in the Bat-Knights, which you can see for yourself in the preview here on CBR.
The gathering of heroes appears to be setting up a showdown. Responding to the question of why he’s bringing this collection together, Bruce Wayne tells his former ward, “Why does one build an army?”
That army is only assembled in part on the cover, sensationally rendered by Chris Burnham. I’m not familiar with Burnham’s work prior to this issue, but I do recall seeing the striking image used on this cover appearing on a banner in Artist’s Alley at this year’s C2E2. Burnham’s work instantly had me thinking of Frank Quitely’s style, which makes it easy to presume how Burnham might have drawn Morrison’s attention. Burnham takes his work beyond simply aping that of Quitely. By the saddlestitch, I had cleared such comparisons from my mind. Burnham gives us a great looking book filled with wonderful personalities. Some of his expressions need a little polish, but on the whole, the art in this issue is worthy of checking out.
While standard size for DC’s $2.99 comics, this is a dynamically thick book with a great deal going on. It’s also wonderfully entertaining. And, for now, it’s the exciting, energizing writing of Grant Morrison. The story is clear in set-up and direction. The characters are inclined towards fun interactions, and the world of the Batmen continues to expand. Most importantly, at least to me in this instance, is the fact that this issue is completely welcoming of new readers. I knew of the general gist of the “Incorporated” concept before I even picked up this book, but reading this issue was quite satisfying.