Sunday, January 15

Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! #1 (one-shot, Feb 2012)

I'm departing from my new method of writing up my DC Comics, described at the beginning of my just previous post as being a month at a time, mainly because this overly thick comic, more a thin trade paperback than floppy, does not fit in with what is currently being published by DC. Here we get, several months into the New 52, a continuation of the Old DCU – what would have been the next several issues (after #8), of Grant Morrison's tale of the world-wide franchising of the Batman crime-fighting “brand” in preparation for a looming confrontation with the threat of “Leviathan.” And there is more yet to come. Formally announced last week, the makeup of the New 52 is changing come the July-cover-dated issues published in May (at least as I count it). Among the six titles replacing an equal number of series that are ending with their June issues is a new Batman Incorporated, also by Morrison along with one of his artists here, Chris Burnham. Which is good, because this book ends on a major revelation/cliffhanger that I will avoid giving away. So it could be that vestiges of the Old DCU will be around a bit longer. It's hard to tell – the new Batman Incorporated seems to be solicited as a new ongoing title, not a miniseries, and I find it hard to believe a new ongoing will be set in the pre-Flashpoint era. That seems to be confirmed in a Comic Book Resources interview abstracted at the Gotham Knights website. But significant on-the-fly adjustments/retcons to the status quo of the years-long Morrison Batman saga which has all been leading up to this will have to be made if it's set in the DCnU. To tell the truth, I had hoped that that might be why the final issues of the “old” Batman Incorporated title were delayed and ultimately combined into this one volume, to give Morrison and company time to make those adjustments (e.g., maybe Stephanie Brown's most recent adventures were as Spoiler rather than Batgirl – hey, at least she'd still be in continuity). I did find the statement that “the 'Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes' one-shot, that project we should really treat as a bridge project,” intriguing, and went back and reread Leviathan Strikes yet again to see if there were some kind of discernable shift from beginning to end such that the beginning could be pre-Flashpoint while the ending could be post-Flashpoint. But as far as I can tell there is no such readjustment, nor any such shift (hey, it's Morrison – could've been!), and apparently the several months' wait since #8 was just Morrison getting behind again.

What about this book specifically? Well, it's Grant Morrison mind-bending at its best – well, that's a matter of opinion – one thing about Morrison is that I know I'll get a heck of a lot of reread value out of his comics. Some are pretty incomprehensible one first read. And second read. And third read. Ad infinitum. But each reread is rewarding with a slightly deeper understanding of what he's trying to do. And I'm sure that I'll be coming back to this time and again. I think it may help to read Morrison's Supergods, which I am currently. More immediately, I will suggest right off that reading through a short ten-twelve page illustrated recap of the previous Batman Incorporated issues that inexplicably follows the cliffhanger ending before reading this volume is a start toward pulling it all together. And the first part, equivalent to #9, is a bit more straightforward than the rest. There we see Stephanie Brown's long-anticipated adventures in the English girls'-school of evil. If this is indeed our last glimpse of this lately fan-favorite character, it's a good way to go out, especially her last bit of inner'logue – not actually her last pages because she does make a visual appearance a couple pages later, but our last real “interaction” with her. Surrounded by her fellow students, here are her last words: “I couldn't believe [Batman]'d left me on my own, then it struck me... Batman doesn't leave you behind unless you can handle it. … [T]hese girls were trained by some of the most dangerous men and women in the world. … Me? … I was trained by the actual most dangerous men and women in the world, and I didn't come here to learn... …I came to teach.

The rest, equivalent to #10 (ff?)? It's Morrison, complete with non-linear storytelling bouncing all around. Maybe the placement of the recap pages is not all that inexplicable. As far as a summary overall goes, I found a wonderful set of annotations for this volume online (warning:  spoilers) that begins with a couple of paragraphs abstract. I disagree a bit with the author in that, as indicated above, I would have liked to see some accommodation made to the new status quo here if the upcoming series is indeed going to be set in that new continuity, but that's a preference rather than a quibble. Of course,  would have had no real problem if Morrison were given carte blanche to finish out his six(?)-year saga without jumping continuities.  Of course, regardless of what the CBR interview says, Morrison may well just do his own thing.  It's not like DC's going to tell him no if it meant he couldn't tell the story at all.  Or, with Morrison, it's just as likely he'll work it into the story itself (which is kind of what I hope).  Whatever.  We'll see.  A final extra to this book, most likely just to fill out pages to one of DC's current standard page-length/price-points, is a gallery of alternate covers for Batman Incorporated #1-8.

This book does accomplish its most important task – it leaves me wanting more and waiting in great anticipation for the story to take back up in the new Batman Incorporated later this year.


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