Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing the Batman Incorporated 7, originally released January 30th, 2013.
Patrick: If the last issue of Batman Incorporated was a little heavy on the heady themes and explicit symbolism (it was), then issue 7 is the antidote. The issue starts with Batman in free fall, then zips ably through surprise reveals, heartwrenching goodbyes, booby-traps and betrayals. As Talia calls the members of Leviathan into action — be they security guards or children — it’s immediately clear that The Plan is in motion, and Damian is uniquely positioned to put a stop to his mother’s attacks and save his father.
From inside the Batcave, Damian observes as all the pieces of Talia’s plan fall into place. With Batman in custody, and Batman Incorporated barely pulling itself together following the explosion at their rendezvous point. Traktir and Spidra discover the “birthplace of the Beast” which is code for the rotting whale carcass that horrible Batman-esque solider sprung forth from. Y’see, that’s a Damian back-up — when Talia was making heirs to the Wayne-Al Guhl empires, she made a duplicate of Damian and stuck him inside the belly of a whale. As the rest of the Bat-family scuttles around the city, generally falling into Talia’s traps, Damian patiently tames his cat, has a quiet dinner with Alfred and then SPRINGS INTO ACTION. Good thing too — Batman’s been put in safe and thrown into a swimming pool. Classic cliffhanger. (Also, what Batman wouldn’t give to be Calvin Rose at this point, amirite?)
I wanna start with the awesome reveal that the muscle-bound baddie they’ve been losing to is actually Damian’s souped-up twin brother, birthed from a whale. First of all, that’s an impressively gross image. But most importantly, it let’s Damian firmly pick a side in this whole duality-of-Damian thing. There’s always a back-and-forth with him about what he values and how he operates — usually boiled down to the simple “to kill or not to kill?” question. But now that there’s effectively and Evil Damian running around, it’s like our Less-Evil Damian can really step up and just be a straight hero. There’s also something incredibly cool about leaving the rest of the Bat-family out of Damian’s plans — you’ll notice that Damian doesn’t even want to deal with Wing Man:
“You deal with Todd.” I love it. Again this is such a strong example of Damian embracing his own brand of heroism. Yes, he’s going to go out dressed in the Robin costume, but he’s not going to be flying Bat colors — he’s representing his own values. That’s positively thrilling to see.
Another panel that represents this idea pretty clearly is a magical marriage of text and an image that seem unrelated on the surface. As Damian explains to Alfred that there’s no way that conventional Bat-tactics will be able to defeat Talia, we get a quiet image of Damian’s menagerie.
Damian’s language here is perfect: “My mother is far more dangerous than Catwoman or the Joker or any of those idiots.” Now, never mind that we’ve seen Damian eat his words after under valuing the threat presented by Joker, he’s got a totally valid point. Talia may be able to hold Bruce’s nuts in a vice by threatening Gotham City, but Damian knows the whole fucking world is at stake here, so he can take different steps in order to foil her. So what’s with the animals? Why, they’re the other thing that Damian uniquely values. There’s nothing of Bruce in those creatures and Damian’s ability to tame these animals seem to be inherent — I’m guessing neither the League of Assassins or Batman have very comprehensive “How to train your cats” courses.
Chris Burnham’s art continues to be phenomenal in this issue. I tell ya what, when we started reading this series, I thought that it was quirky art, not without its charms, but also not without its flaws. But now I’m aboslutely enamored with the way he draws this world – particularly the surely expression he always slaps on Damian’s face. Also, Burnham sees fit to show us the Damian Twin popping out of the whale and it is somehow every bit as gross as I was imagining.
Anyway, I am very excited to see this thing kick into high, purposeful gear. This must be that legendary Morrison-payoff I’ve been hearing so much about. Drew, as my spirit guide through the end of the Great Batman Epic, are you relieved to see some of the rubber bands break in a flurry of snappin’ action? Also, I totally neglected to mention poor, poor Squire. Knight’s death might not have had the emotional impact on me that I know it would have if I’d been reading this from the beginning, but there’s no denying the power of that sequence. And then Gordon’s just got to go about his business, telling his officers they’re going to have to “alert the authorities in England.” That’s cold, Jim. Cold but efficient.
Drew: It’s funny just how cold Gordon is there. Like, sure, his city is coming down around him, but you know he would be an absolute mess if it was Batman who had died. Cyril and Beryl have always been the most up-beat members of Batman Incorporated, essentially a manifestation of Batman’s silver-age optimism, so it’s especially hard to watch that end. I know it means more to someone who knows them well, but I think Burnham does a bang-up job making that devastation clear to everyone.
It’s just brutal. On the bright side, Beryl’s recovery has the potential to be very exciting. On the one hand, it could be an opportunity for Morrison to deliver on the relationship with Ranger he implied in the zero issue (and she could really use the emotional support right about now), and on the other, we may see her don the Knight armor before long. Cyril himself served as Squire to his father’s Knight, and I can think of no better way to honor his legacy than to have Beryl continue that tradition.
The other bits of this narrative are falling into place in surprising, yet somehow inevitable, ways. My favorite development has to be Hood’s betrayal. That character is essentially an amalgamation of every spy cliche ever, so it only makes sense that he would be a double agent. Moreover, the fact that Jason would be betrayed by a man in a red hood with fluid allegiances is very fitting. Jason has been much more of a villian in Morrison’s epic that he’s been treated in the New 52 (to the point that I’m not sure Damian is just being dismissive when he doesn’t want to talk to him — Jason did try to kill him a few times), so it may make sense for him to get some comeuppance here. I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but like I said, things somehow feel inevitable.
Another great example is the Damian clone development. This series (and epic in general) have all been about Batman replicas, from the members of Batman Incorporated to the man bat ninjas Talia has used as henchmen since the beginning to the very buildings of Gotham:
We’ve long known that Talia’s number 1 goon looks like a Batman clone, but learning that he is quite literally a Damian clone is a twist I didn’t see coming (even if Morrison laid out all the clues for us ahead of time). I think there’s room for some good debate as to whether Damian himself represents a Bruce replica, but I think we can all agree that Damian fighting his own clone is an exciting prospect.
The return of the whale carcass and Damian’s flight suit from Leviathan Strikes! gives this issue the sense that we’re starting to close this chapter rather authoritatively, but Morisson is just starting to hint at coming full circle on earlier developments. We’ve spent so much time thinking about Otto Netz and the oroboro , it’s easy to forget that much of the epic passed without any mention of such things. For me, it was fun to see the return of simple motifs like the red and black checkerboard.
Juxtaposed with the image of Bruce slowly running out of air in a confined space, I can’t help but be reminded of Batman R.I.P.
It was an exciting, propulsive issue, and seems to be setting the stage for truly bringing this epic full-circle. I have no idea how that might look, but I have every bit of faith in Morrison to make it satisfying. That can be a tall order for a story that has spanned so many years, but with all the parts in motion, it’s clear we’re headed for something BIG. This is going to be good!
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?