DC Comics, along with writer Grant Morrison and artist Chris Burnham, were wise to bring the Batman Incorporated idea into the fold of the new 52 revamp. Batman Incorporated #1 picks up where Morrison left off with the one-off, transitional special Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes.
Over the years, Morrison has constantly tinkered with his approach towards non-linear storytelling, sometimes making that non-linear feel somewhat meta-non-linear in feel. What I mean by that is that the reader tends to become just as confused as the characters are with how the flow of the story is purposely disjointed like in Leviathan Strikes.
Part of the fun of Leviathan Strikes was re-reading it like the puzzle that it deservedly was. Morrison loves to challenge his readers with engaging concepts. While he continues his mind-bending, lack of linearity in this issue, the story remains fairly straightforward.
Straight away, Bruce Wayne finds himself in some serious trouble as Gotham’s finest have him surrounded at what appears to be the graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne as he tells Alfred to the tell the others (Batman Incorporated) that it’s over. What exactly is over is the question left for the reader to answer over the rest of the issue.
Morrison knows every trick in the book when it comes to hooking readers because he knows how to create a particular sense of expectation and then turn it on its head. He cuts from the cemetery to the killing room floor of a slaughterhouse. A longtime advocate of animal rights, Morrison creatively inserts one of his pet causes (no pun intended) by offering a germane possibility of how meat could be weaponized.
Escalating the action, Morrison sets the reader up for something entirely unexpected by twisting the plot further – someone has targeted Robin for assassination. As they get to the bottom of that business, Morrison shifts the scenery to one of his favorite locales by setting up the Batcave West in a fetish shop basement located in San Francisco.
There, the Hood, Batwing, El Gaucho, and the Knight begin the plan to take on the mysterious Leviathan organization. This is a very short interlude, but also sets up a measure of expectation that will fuel future issues. This quirky scene mixes the strange and typical, while the interactions between characters, setting, and potential plot are something straight from the therapist’s couch.
From here, the plot thickens as issue #1 ends with what appears to be Robin shot dead by a marksman assassin. If you’re not paying attention, you may not realize that this is relayed second-hand by the assassin to Leviathan with the assistance of his smart phone. Morrison pulls out the oldest trick in modern literature by forcing the reader to question the reliability of a narrator that is shady to begin with.
Chris Burnham’s artwork reminds me quite a bit of the great Frank Quitely, a Morrison regular. It has a particular style that works well with the colors of Nathan Fairbairn. The actions sequences are rendered well and the layouts are creative.
Overall, I grade the writing a solid B. Morrison doesn’t disappoint, but it is getting tougher for him to top some of the fine work he’s done in the past. Also, I grade the artwork a solid B. If you have a pull list at your local comic shop, I would add this to it. I’m sure this will shape up to be a great arc.