“Batman Incorporated” #9, from Grant Morrison and artists Chris Burnham and Jason Masters opens with the depressing sight of Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and Alfred Pennyworth pall bearing the coffin of young Damian Wayne. A close-up of Bruce reveals the damage he has suffered, both physically and emotionally, Burnham powerfully depicting the weight of loss on Wayne’s troubled face.
From that establishing scene, the focus of this comic book flashes all over the place without aid of narration or caption box. One page kicks off the continuation of the battle that claimed Damian’s life, six pages later, we’re back graveside and the page after that is set in England, post-battle. The crazy thing is, it really doesn’t matter. This comic book is about the pain of loss and the will to move on. We see Beryl Hutchinson, the Squire, dust herself off and embrace the next role in her life. Alfred is forced to do the same, as is Talia and, for that matter, the entire city of Gotham.
Like individual chapters of an epic literary masterwork, single issues of “Batman Incorporated” are usually entertaining and frequently enjoyable, but taken on their own accord, they are often found wanting. “Batman Incorporated” #9 provides bits and pieces of plots, subplots and character development, but only bits and pieces. The depth of each of those aspects disappears when removed from the context of earlier installments of the story. This issue attempts to close the chapter on young Damian Wayne, but fails to do so in a satisfactory manner as the end of the issue comes much sooner than any resolution or adoption of action.
Morrison’s handle on Bruce Wayne’s coping with loss is stunning, heart-breaking and brilliantly adapted by the pair of artists assigned to this issue. Burnham’s work is rough and sketchy, appearing somewhat incomplete yet energetic. The action and the story are clear, but the scratchiness of the Burnham’s pages is uncomfortable in the way a wool sweater is. The thought of the sweater is nice, but it sure isn’t as pleasant as it would be if it weren’t so scratchy. By contrast, Masters’ linework is clean and crisp, stylistically close enough to Burnham to avoid adding bumps to the visuals of comic. And, as my twelve-year-old noted over my shoulder while I began my review, “There’s a lot of blood in that book,” which colorists Fairbairn and Hi-Fi make no attempt to conceal.
“Batman Incorporated” #9 ties up the startling ending from the previous issue and resets all of the players on the board, providing a lot of setup and detail work. There’s action in the fight between Batman and Heretic and emotional beats throughout, but it feels more like a calm after/before a storm than a satisfying read of its own.