Batman Inc. #1

Batman Inc. 1

A-

A new saga has begun for Batman. What once was an urban legend is now a franchise. Bruce Wayne coordinates a worldwide network of crimefighters under his employ. “Starting today, we fight ideas with better ideas. The idea of crime with the idea of Batman.” Such is the set-up for today’s excellent new release Batman, Inc. #1 by Grant Morrison and Yanick Pauqette.

Batman, Inc.‘s first arc takes us to Japan, where Bruce hopes to recruit the hero known as Mr. Unknown. His plans are dashed as quickly as the first page, though, when a creepy new villain called Lord Death Man tortures him to death (and pretty gruesomely, I might add). Yet Mr. Unknown’s protégé–later referred to cryptically as a “body double”–escapes, leading Lord Death Man to set his skeletally-costumed goons in hot pursuit. Meanwhile Batman and Selina Kyle stumble upon the crime scene and set off on a manhunt of their own to find Mr. Unknown’s mysterious killer.

To put it plainly, I really loved this issue. After five years of baby mamma drama, Black Gloves, evil gods and time-hopping, Batman really feels unburdened, and the result is this fast-paced adventure series that takes us to unexplored corners of the DC Universe to show us the heroes that live there. The issue moves briskly, with little time for the psychological turmoil that was a hallmark of previous Morrison Batman books. Any issue that features Batman in two battles and hooking up and can still devote time to its supporting cast clearly has its tone switch set to “straight-ahead action.”

In fact, Batman, Inc. #1 reminds me of last year’s Batman & Robin #1, by Morrison and Frank Quietly, which many correctly lauded as a mash-up of David Lynch and Adam West. The West elements mostly disappeared from that series as its sinister plot elements came to light, but as I’ve already mentioned, this series does not have the shadow hanging over its head that previous Morrison Bat-books did… namely, this time Bruce Wayne is alive, well and swashbuckling. That makes me think the West-style action is here to stay. Check out the way the last page breaks up its panels with the “to be continued narration”… can’t you just see the old TV show playing in your head?

None of this is to say that Batman, Inc. is just a dumb action comic. Although it’s a new beginning for Batman, Morrison already seems to be setting up some long-term plans and bad guys. Lord Death Man, for instance, is no pushover, and when you couple Batman, Inc. with this week’s Batman: The Return, you get the sense that Bruce has another major enemy lying in wait for him. This one may not be up to the level of Dr. Hurt or Darkseid, but if I had to guess, I’d say he has some connection to the Batman family, especially Damian….

Penciller Yanick Paquette has previously drawn Morrison’s The Return of Bruce Wayne #3 (the pirate issue) and the Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer mini-series, as well as a run of Marvel’s Young X-Men. His lighter touch keeps Batman, Inc.’s action moving along nicely (compare it to David Finch’s work in The Return) and I feel he’s got a keen handle on scene choreography. His drawings of Batman may take a little getting used to, but I’ll be perfectly happy as long as he and Morrison can meet a monthly deadline.

I won’t go so far as to say that Batman, Inc. is the anti-Morrison Bat-book. It’s got enough of what many readers love about Grant that it’s unmistakably his, most notably its sense of excitement. However, those who were confounded or even angered by Return of Bruce Wayne and other Morrison Bat-efforts may want to check out this issue anyway. I think you’ll be surprised at how fun and interesting this comic is. It even took a fan like me by surprise.

tags: batman, batman inc., grant morrison, yanick paquette

  • http://artscomicbookshop.info Arthur Fluegge

    I didn’t like this review and I need to correct this:

    “His plans are dashed as quickly as the first page, though, when a creepy new villain called Lord Death Man tortures him to death (and pretty gruesomely, I might add).”

    Lord Death Man is NOT a new villian. He is Death-Man from Batman 180. I have both comics and the characters look exactly the same. Batman Inc. Is a fantastic comic. I’m very happy with what DC Comics has published as far as Batman (Green Lanterm, Gotham City Sirens, Birds of Prey, and Superman have been excellent reads aswell). If I would have reveived this comic I would have given it an A+

  • http://nerdynothings.com Rebel Rikki

    Oops, my apologies! I stand corrected on Lord Death Man. Leave it to Morrison to pull out obscure characters from the back issue bins.

    As far as giving the book an A+, well, I try to reserve that for something that’s absolutely perfect, y’know? I don’t know if there’s more than one or two A+ comics that come along in a year if ever.

  • http://andrewstamm.com Andrew

    I really liked this issue, but I agree with Rikki… not quite A+ material… actually, I enjoyed Batman: The Return more than this issue and I still don’t think I’d give that one an A+… Batman & Robin #16 on the other hand, that was an A+ comic book

  • http://nerdynothings.com Rebel Rikki

    Andrew, that’s funny, I actually liked The Return a little less, but yeah, I totally agree with you about Batman & Robin #16. That and (I know this will get some hate) Blackest Night #8 were probably the only two A+ comics I read this year.

  • http://tomfoss.blogspot.com/ Tom Foss

    Arthur’s not quite right. The story from Batman #180 was adapted into manga form by Jiro Kuwata in the Japanese magazine “Shonen Ace” in 1966. Kuwata changed Death-Man’s name to “Lord Death Man” and expanded the story; it’s this character who was resurrected by Morrison, and not the original Kanigher version. Consequently, “Batman, Inc.” #1 represents Lord Death Man’s first appearance in the canonical DCU.

    Comics Alliance did a decent overview of the whole thing a couple of months back: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/09/20/lord-death-man-batman-inc/

    It reminds me more than anything of Morrison’s prior appropriation of French hero Fantômas for “New X-Men,” or his apparent semi-adaptation of the Dell Comics Frankenstein into the Frankenstein of “Seven Soldiers.”

    Regarding the actual book, I naturally quite enjoyed it, and I suspect that the people who dislike Morrison’s “weirder” work but enjoyed, say, “JLA,” will dig this issue. I mean, I can’t remember the last time I read a Grant Morrison comic that was this funny, on top of everything else. If I had one quibble, it’s that I dislike how much purring Catwoman does over the course of the issue. But if that’s the worst this series gets, then I’ll take it happily.

  • http://nerdynothings.com Rebel Rikki

    Hey, cool, I wasn’t totally wrong. Thanks for the info Tom!

  • http://andrewstamm.com Andrew

    Who’s to blame for scratchy artwork though? I’d tend to toss that at the feet of the inker, in the end he’s the one who’s interpreting the pencils and giving us the finished linework, right?

  • Mike M

    I really dug this issue.It really seems like this is the start of something huge for the Batman U.

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