Most of the attention directed at “Batman Incorporated” #3 will probably center around its month-long publication delay due to the shootings in Colorado at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” And that’s a shame, in part because a horrible person is getting more attention to his reprehensible actions (and that’s the last I’ll talk of him for that very reason), but also because of the tangential nature at best of “Batman Incorporated” #3 to those events. Would having a comic released that week with a teacher pointing a gun at students go over well? Absolutely not. But moving past that, what Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham bring readers is a disturbing story about a city that’s being taken over with no one even noticing.
From the very first page of “Batman Incorporated” #3, readers see how Leviathan works. Up until now they’ve performed all sorts of crazy, over-the-top events involving heroes and villains from around the world. I think that’s why “Batman Incorporated” #3 works so well, because this feels much more insidious. In three panels, someone’s been snatched off the street and replaced. In four more panels, the replacement working for Leviathan has begun the takeover of a school. Five panels after that, and parents who complained are instead arrested and their children handed over to members of Leviathan. With each turn of the page, you can hear the dominos click into place and fall. First the schools, then the police, then the judges, and bit by bit Gotham falls away and is replaced by members of Leviathan. All of this and it’s only page 3.
It’s this new, increasingly dangerous Gotham where the story kicks into high gear. From a damsel in distress to the return of Batman’s fake identity Matches Malone, this is a story where the heroes all seem to think they’re in charge of the situation, even as one by one they fall prey to their incorrect expectations. Morrison is having fun, playing to the reader’s assumptions of the sort of trap that Batman is trying to trigger, even as he lays clues out for what’s really going on. That’s rapidly become a hallmark of “Batman Incorporated,” with the shooting of Robin back in issue #1 addressed here in a way that isn’t point-blank explained but enough is given that you can understand the survival of a character that’s been running around in other books as well. From mind control drugs in the flesh of cows being turned into hamburger to sacrificial goats, they’re all part of Leviathan’s web that is helpfully mapped out for us partway through the issue.
Burnham’s art is amazing as ever. This is an artist who can fit 13-15 panels on a page, like with Redbird’s breaking into the House of Assassins, and make it seem easy. It’s a storytelling technique associated with artists like Frank Quitely, and at this point I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to say that Burnham’s going to get his name mentioned alongside them. The break-in scene here is exquisitely paced and mapped through, as Burnham controls the viewer’s eyes so that they can see just the edge of the action but still understand exactly what’s going on. A zoom-in on a stray tooth arcing through the air has never looked so good.
“Batman Incorporated” #3 was absolutely worth the wait. Morrison and Burnham work together like they’ve been doing this for years. Do they make this look easy? Why yes they do. “Batman Incorporated” #3 runs the risk of making everyone demand that their monthly comics are this good.