Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman Incorporated 10, originally released April 25th, 2013.
Drew: One of the defining characteristics of Batman is his relative plausibility. Fictional technology aside, he’s basically an extremely wealthy, extremely determined individual — no alien DNA, no radioactive animal bites, no magic. Writers will vary in just how plausible they want their version of Batman to be, but most respect that believability as one of the character’s biggest draws. Every so often, writers will break that rule — Jason will be resurrected via magic, or Bruce might call in a favor from Superman — to show you just how big the stakes are. In this issue, the situation is so dire, Bruce turns to not one, but several such outlandish solutions, tapping into every corner of Batman-exess he can.
The issue opens with Bruce approaching Michael Lane — the world’s second most famous Azrael — hoping to borrow his magic shirt. He also borrows a Batman exo-suit from Lucius and the Man-Bat serum from Kirk Langstrom, turning himself into a magic-shirted, eco-skeletonized, Bat-monster headed straight for Talia’s stronghold. Meanwhile, the remaining members of Batman Incorporated are preoccupied with either rescuing Jason or helping Bruce, while Ra’s al Ghul teases Talia with a hint that there may be a crack in her plan.
That’s really my favorite scene of the issue. It’s almost endearing how desperately all of the al Ghuls want to impress their parents, until you remember that they get that attention by killing massive amounts of people. The symbolism of the black night taking out the red queen is obvious, but the red/black prisoner/captor dynamic recalls the prologue to Batman R.I.P. from DC Universe Presents #0, where Batman visits the Joker in prison, and is dealt the dead man’s hand. Actually, between these two scenes and the dominoes scene from Batman and Robin, it sure seems like Morrison has a thing for conversations with prisoners over symbolically-charged parlor games. It’s interesting how increasingly complex the games get — a pretty clear analogy to the complexity of the story. It’s not clear if Ra’s really sees a fault in Talia’s plan, or if he’s just fucking with her, but he certainly succeeds in upsetting her — upon leaving, she accelerates her timeline, insisting that Bruce turn himself in that night.
But of course, Bruce has pulled out all of the stops on his mission to take Talia down. Altering his body seems like the boldest move, but it actually might have been harder to convince DC to allow Morrison to bring Azrael into the New 52. Whatever the case may be, normal solutions obviously aren’t going to cut it. Bruce needs to avenge his son. Also, maybe the fate of Gotham hangs in the balance. Also, maybe the world. I’m not entirely sure what to make of Azrael’s quoting of Nostradamus — it fits as well as any obscure reference you’d might expect from Morrison, but is pretty selectively excerpted. I know that’s the way those things are often interpreted by people who really want them to fit, but I also can’t help but wonder if the resolution might lie in those excised bits — it seems like the specific kind of wankery Morrison loves. I’m afraid I don’t have the time to track those down, but I reserve the right to say “I knew it” (or, at least “I suspected it,”) if it turns out to be true.
As for the bit about Jason — I’m not entirely sure who the Hood, Headmistress, et al. are working for, or why we should trust them. My best guess is Ra’s has their true loyalties, but that’s a pretty wild stab. Either way, it was cathartic to see Beryl don the Knight mask, even if it wasn’t drawn by Chris Burnham.
Andrei Bressan provides art for that scene, joining Jason Masters in providing supplements to Burnham’s work. Colorist Nathan Fairbairn does an admirable job of keeping the tone consistent between the artist changes, but they were still quite jarring — particularly to and from Bressan’s passage. All artists share a penchant for exaggerated expressions and postures, but Bressan does so in the exact opposite way, opting for grotesque where Burnham and Masters hew closer to cuteness.
Patrick, we often struggle to unpack the symbolism of this series, but this issue was relatively straightforward — aside from those isolated moments I already mentioned. Am I missing something? Also, which is sadder: Bruce pretending that Damian is “out of the country,” or the Heretic’s desperate pleas for mercy?
Patrick: “Which Is Sadder?” is one of my favorite games! I’m going to go ahead and say Bruce’s half-hearted denial of Damian’s death is sadder because it is so profoundly unnecessary – Lucius already knows what’s up. Heretic’s pleas don’t move me at all: Talia is only responding to his matricidal tendencies. Also, Azrael’s insistence that the character’s proper name is Leviathan is just another strike against the fucker. If we want to keep piling on, it’s maybe worth pointing out that he was just murdering henchmen that had only shot at Damain (as they were ordered) AND he manages to skate by with a mere spinal electrocution for punishment. No, my sympathies are with Bruce.
But to address your question about whether or not you’re missing something: I think this is just one of those straightforward issues. Actually, that seems to be Morrison’s MO lately – the last three or issues have all passed without me having to look up a zen parable or use a sextant. It’s almost like the intellectual portion of the story is through and all we have left is the emotional resolution. Which is totally fine by me. I have grown to love Morrison’s mastery of cranking up the cognitive tension, but this recent string of releases have been soaked in pathos. There’s nothing intellectually challenging about Batman’s quest for those three special weapons, it’s just fun. Even the inclusion of a fairly obscure character — Azrael, making his New 52 debut — is decidedly un-Morrison-y in that the character’s identity is clearly stated and explained, as is the utility of his magic armor.
In fact, we get one of the fist-bumpingest moments we’ve ever seen in this series near the end of this issue. As Bruce prepares to outfit himself with this trinity of unholy weapons, the voice-over invokes the sacred text of Year One:
This is the bit that ends “I will become a bat.” In its original context, this is spoken/thought by a beaten and bloodied Bruce Wayne, who slumps in his chair before deciding to become Batman. Still slumped over in his chair, this is now Batman deciding that he needs to be a bigger, badder, scarier thing. And given Talia’s reaction, it looks like it’s going to work.
There’s one part of all of this that we haven’t touched on, and that’s the future of Batman Incorporated. We know that Batman Incorporated — the series — is only around for another three months, but the network put in place by the concept of Batman, Inc. has formalized the Bat-family and have figured heavily into a bunch of other character’s stories. Take a look at Batwoman – a series that largely minds its own business. Batwoman is currently dealing with her family’s disbelief that she wouldn’t have joined the ranks of Batman Inc., but if the organization is no more (or outlawed), then what is there to disagree about? Or like Batwing. How does Batwing exist without Wayne Corp money? The idea of Bruce Wayne financially supporting an international band of vigilantes hasn’t always been the easiest pill to swallow, but I sorta feel like we’ve taken the medicine at this point. If we lose that organization, there will be fallout throughout the DCU.
In the more immediate future, the GCPD is trying to blame everything on Batman. Look, I don’t care how many times I see it, a hero on a wanted poster is fucking awesome.
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?