In 2001, Grant Morrison turned Marvel’s X-Men comics into his own personal science fiction novel about evolution, technology, and youth. Nine years later, the writer is building a new narrative out of the extended DCU tale he has been telling ever since he started on “JLA,” long before “New X-Men,” and has just finished in his final issue of “Batman & Robin.” When his run on “New X-Men” wrapped, some parts of his stories were carried on by other writers (Joss Whedon, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender) and others were discarded by editorial or remolded into barely recognizable forms by other writers. “Batman Incorporated” (along with the flagship one-shot “Batman: The Return”) signals one of the first opportunities Morrison has had to really linger in the aftermath of one of his enormous storytelling enterprises and build something out of it.
If this first issue is any indication, it looks like it’s going to be something very interesting. Morrison’s run on “Batman & Robin” ended with Bruce Wayne publicly revealing he’s the financier behind Batman’s war on crime and that he was going to unleash that war on a global scale. “The Return” showed the beginnings and “Incorporated” continues, bringing the journey to Japan. Along with a small nod to his fantastic “Final Crisis” creations, The Super Young Team, Morrison relishes in the world of Japanese Crimefighters. Flimsy skull masks, giant robots, martial arts; watching Bruce Wayne’s Batman in this world is a delight. He is joined in his adventure by Catwoman, who is a great fit here. She also provides the context for one of the cleverest final pages I’ve read in maybe this entire decade. It is simultaneously a sly condemnation of the gender politics of the typical male comic book reader and a thrilling narrative denouement.
Also in top form are artists Yanick Pacquette and Michel Lacombe. Aside from adeptly handling the enormous volume of crazy stuff Morrison has written for them and drawing a pretty spectacular looking Selina Kyle, they never slouch on making Japan look like what Japan actually looks like. It’s an authentic depiction of the place, not just a bunch of non-descript buildings with Kanji photoshopped onto the walls. It bodes well for a book that is so focused on globe-trotting and really sells the sense that Bruce Wayne is on a journey and no longer on familiar ground.
Overall, the first issue of “Batman Incorporated” is a blast. As is typical with a Grant Morrison comic, it’s filled with all manner of new conceit. It also perfectly sells the idea introduced in “The Return” of a “Planet Gotham.” Bruce Wayne’s War On Crime is now being fought on unfamiliar territory, but that’s what makes it so interesting and fresh. A Grant Morrison Superhero Comic hasn’t felt this new and exciting since Cassandra Nova strolled through the rain forests with a kidnapped dentist. Here’s hoping the end results turn out just as exceptional.