Batman Incorporated #10

"Batman Incorporated" #10 is clearly the beginning of the endgame for the series, as Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham (plus guest artists Jason Masters and Andrei Bressan) kick off the march towards the conclusion in issue #13. In doing so, they've mixed a series of elements together from Bat-history, and saying that things are picking up faster and faster is possibly an understatement.

Morrison's handpicked a series of objects from various Batman family titles for "Batman Incorporated" #10, and it's something that in general has followed his approach to the series. The items shift from the forgotten to the familiar -- something that Morrison has clearly loved when writing the character. They fit together surprisingly well, and it creates a little moment of joy for long-time "Batman" fans. For those who aren't quite as up to date on Batman minutia (considering at least one of the items comes from a character that I suspect most had assumed didn't exist in the re-launched DC Universe these days), Morrison is surprisingly forthcoming with the amount of information needed to understand their origins. Morrison's often played the appearance of strange concepts or characters from the past with an, "If you get it, that's great, but otherwise hold on and watch" attitude, so that's a little bit of a surprise there. I feel like Morrison understands, though, that without that dash of exposition the final page of "Batman Incorporated" #10 wouldn't have quite the same amount of heft. It's a good understanding of when exposition is not the enemy, but rather necessary.

And speaking of enemies, special note this month goes to Talia al Ghul, whose position as the leader of Leviathan has felt a little precarious in recent issues. It's nice here to see Morrison remind readers that this is an extremely formidable woman who created this empire under the nose of the rest of the world; her scene with the Heretic in particular is gripping because of the level of control that she once more wields. Talia can be ruthless when she needs to, and that's exactly what we're getting here.

Burnham's art is in about two-thirds of this issue, and it's as excellent as ever. It goes without saying at this point that Burnham's fine lines and extensive detail are always worth examining. Just looking at the first page with all the clippings and photos on the walls of the room will remind you of that; this isn't someone who views backgrounds as something to be dashed off lightly, but rather someone that builds an entire setting using them. A mass of scars on a character's back, likewise, isn't just a quick squiggle. It's a carefully rendered, intricate design -- that we see multiple times from different angles, but with which careful examining reveals is drawn exactly the same on each occasion. Getting every last little jagged edge and tendril in the right position over and over again, and in a manner where you couldn't simply cut and paste the image onto the page -- now that's precision.

As always, page layouts are also taken very seriously by Burnham. In the two page sequence where we see Talia visiting her captive, there's a chess game being played by the prisoner, with red and black pieces taking one another in moments that match the prisoner's assessment of Talia's plans. The reason why this stands out is what Burnham does when the black (or should that be dark?) knight takes the red queen; in that moment, the panels shift. Every panel border in the comic is either a square or rectangle, with the exception of when that moment hits. Suddenly it's a trapezoid with two of the panel borders at non-right angles. Those diagonal lines grab the attention of the reader; it's almost as if that prediction of what's to come has quietly and subtly broken Talia's world even as it briefly breaks all of the rules of the page set out up until this point. It shouldn't be a surprise, though; Burnham's become a master of the page. Just look at the image this month where Batman leaps out the window while being shot at by the police. Burnham does such a good job of having the bullets zooming out at the reader that it manages to mimic a 3-D effect better than comics specifically drawn and bundled with special glasses can manage.

Jason Masters and Andrei Bressan pitch in this month for four and two pages, respectively. Masters at this point is a known regular addition to "Batman Incorporated" and I feel like he once again acquits himself quite nicely. His art here is similar to Burnham's, with a little less detail but still the same overall style and approach to the page. Bressan's two pages, on the other hand, unfortunately don't fit the look of this comic at all. That's not to say they're bad -- I love the psychedelic red and black eyeball in the spider-web with the jagged rays beaming out of it, for instance -- but Bressan's style is a more cartoonish, less realistic manner than what the rest of the book is drawn in. I understand that deadlines being what they are beggars can't always be choosers, and on another title I'd have welcomed Bressan's contributions, but I feel like he wasn't the right choice for that brief interlude.

"Batman Incorporated" #10 is keeping the series rolling forward at a good pace. Everything's aligning in a manner that promises an explosive conclusion, and I was more excited by the end of this issue than I was at the beginning. And best of all, aside from (presumably) the destruction of Leviathan, I have no idea what's going to happen next. Morrison, Burnham, and Masters have once again given a thrilling issue of "Batman Incorporated." This series feels determined to go out with a bang, and I think we're going to get something just as explosive as its creators are hoping. Good stuff, once again.

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