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Anarchy in the US
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After seven years of doing Batman (about six years if you consider the comic wasn't published the first few months of the New 52), Grant Morrison's run on the Caped Crusader comes to an end. What originally started out to be a seventeen issues worth up to R.I.P, has now turned into a sprawling epic of Dick Grayson becoming Batman with Damien Wayne as Robin, to Bruce Wayne hopping through time and space, to finally becoming Batman again and starting a world wide corporation of Bat-people against international criminal agency known as Leviathan. Batman Incorporated volume 2 ends it all on a big action and emotional climax, but the final conclusion might or might not leave you a bit disappointed.
BATMAN INCORPORATED VOL.2: GOTHAM'S MOST WANTED collects issues #7-13 and BATMAN INCORPORATED SPECIAL #1. Continuing from volume 1, Batman looks to have been beaten by Talia's bodyguard. Leviathan looks like it has Gotham and Batman Inc. on the ropes of defeat, but a member of the Bat-family steps up to save everyone with all their might to turn the tide of battle, which leads into this characters death. With little time to morn, the character's passing pushes Batman enough that he is dead set to end this war with Leviathan and Talia Al Ghul once and for all. Seeing as Talia will not stop unless she or Batman die, will Batman finally break his code of not killing to stop her?
Much like the previous volume, Morrison focuses on action and tying up loose ends of his run on Batman, and it turns out to be a pretty good straightforward read without any of Morrison's hidden messages or metaphors to confuse readers. So if you are completely up to date on Morrison's long epic, you'll know what is going on. There isn't much to say without giving things away but it's pretty much Batman Inc. vs. Leviathan conclusion. So I'll just leave it at that. Again, here is the reading order of Grant Morrison's run on Batman:
Batman and Son -
The Black Glove
Batman: Time and the Batman
The Return of Bruce Wayne
Batman & Robin (three volumes worth)
Batman, Incorporated Vol.1
Batman Incorporated Vol.1: Demon Star
Batman Incorporated Vol.2: Gotham's most Wanted - Conclusion
The big element in this volume beyond it being the finale of Morrison's Batman is the death of the Bat-family member. I know many probably know of who it is by now from either it be the internet or read it the select trades who have the requiem issue on said character, but I will still not spoil who it is. I will say the character goes out in a blaze of glory and it truly impacts the whole Bat family in the many other Bat-books (in their respective issue #18s and #10 for Worlds Finest). It's not some hack-eyed death folks. This is a whopper. It also serves as the final tipping point for Batman going all out himself in a focused rage you have to see to believe. Again, all the plots of Morrison's run comes to a close, and with the theme of ouroboros,it fits the theme quite well considering the writers history.
While Morrison writes issues #7-10 and #12-13, issues #11 and the Batman Annual Special are written by amalgamation of writers and artist within the comic industry similar to the Batman: Black & White, Legends of the Dark Knight, and Adventures of Superman series. They are essentially filler issues that have nothing to do with Batman, but Batman Inc. members. They do serve to be enjoyable in a way, if you are one who enjoyed the various Bat Inc. members.
Extras include the usual alternate covers, but there is a special closing statement from Morrison himself and looking back on his work for Batman. I love these farewell messages after a long series is concluded, so this always special for me. It is also nice because Morrison summarizes any questions readers might have about something. And best of all, there is a timeline showcasing all of Morrison's Batman with additional suggestions to other books like Year One, Batwoman: Elegy, and A Death in the Family if (not necessary mind you) you wish to know more.
Art duties are again mostly handled by Chris Burnham, who does his own Frank Quietly impressions to a fault. The art is detailed, uniquely designed narrative structure, and bolds well with Morrison's writing. Some occasion fill-in artist do a few pages here and there, but it doesn't detract from the story.
So what are the flaws here? First of all, since this is the last chapter of Morrison's Batman, in order to proper understand everything (including the ending twist, especially), you'd best know your Morrison work on Batman. It's not really a flaw, but you'll miss out on certain things if they are not cleared up. And although this is pretty straightforward read from Morrison, he does have a few times the narrative jumps, but it's only a loose hiccup. For example, the same page the Bat character dies, Batman is shown flying off the roof with someone in hand, then the same page, he's holding the dead body. It's slightly rough, but I think you'll know what's going on.
The real problems lie in the ending and death of said Bat character. With everything Morrison builds up upon, the ending might feel anti-climatic or underwhelming. I will say this without giving it away though: it does still fit the theme of ouroboros, the sense of something constantly re-creating itself; a constant circle. It's fitting of Morrison that works not only for Batman, but for Superheroes alike in that no matter who writes what, no matter what status quo happens, no matter how long it last, and even if a character finds a happy or sad ending...a comic character will always revert back to the original self and the cycle of stories that change the character will happen again. So you'll either love the idea or just be disappointed in it.
And the death of the Bat-family member might really upset people (as it still does in current comics!). This characters death literally impacts ALL other Bat books (aside from Batwing and Batwoman), which is odd considering Batman Inc. is supposed to be Morrison's storyline before the New 52 and shouldn't effect the other Bat-books, but it does. And some might see it as a cheap way to get attention. So it wouldn't surprise me if some readers get taken out of the story due to the incident.
Either way, BATMAN INCORPORATED VOL.2: GOTHAM'S MOST WANTED ends on an action packed and emotional ride, with a conclusion that I think fits right within Morrison's ideas. Most of the storylines get closed, the art is great, the fill-in issues #11 and the Annual Special are pretty good by themselves, and the extras at the end are welcomed. But the death of a major character and the conclusion might hate and despise Morrison or DC and make you feel cheated. And you might not really care for the stand alone Batman Inc. member issues. I'll give this book a 4 stars because I still enjoyed this book and what Morrison did for Batman. And yes, that it's all finally over for Morrison and Batman together. It was a fun ride and crazy ride.
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Talia Al-Ghul’s Leviathan is taking over Gotham and only Bruce Wayne’s Batman Inc. can stop them! This is it, the final battle between good and evil, father and mother - and what happens when parents fight? The kids suffer. Gotham’s Most Wanted is a kitchen sink soap opera played out as high melodrama between superheroes. It’s also Grant Morrison’s final book in his seven year Batman run and it’s as amazing a finale as you’d hope.
I highly recommend re-reading the first volume to remind yourself how it ended because the second volume picks up immediately after, mid-action sequence and barrels straight on through to the bitter end. The pacing in this story is insane as Morrison throws massive scenes at the reader, one after the other. Some members of Batman Inc. have already been killed by the Abomination – another of Talia’s experiments with Bruce’s DNA and hers, though this one turned out far more physically monstrous than Damian – while Gotham’s children have been brainwashed into becoming homicidal maniacs, fighting what remains of Batman Inc and the GCPD in the streets alongside Leviathan’s forces!
This book has one of the year’s most talked about moments in comics: the death of Damian (and no it’s not a spoiler when it makes international headlines!). Morrison goes full circle from introducing Damian to readers in his first book, Batman and Son, to taking him away in his final one. You can see what a great writer Morrison is in the way he’s developed Damian over the years. Re-read those early books and you’ll notice how insanely evil Damian is when he first arrives. He nearly kills Tim and beats Alfred, refusing to listen to anything Bruce has to say, and even killing one of Gotham’s lesser costumed crooks. In this book Bruce knows Talia’s after Damian so tells him to stay behind in the Batcave – and he does! And when he sees the havoc Leviathan is unleashing and wants to help his friends, he looks to Alfred for permission to leave. Damian’s changed over the years, respecting his new family and changing his values from the ruthless to the compassionate.
Damian’s character shows in other ways as his pet menagerie grows with the inclusion of Alfred the cat (who readers will remember seeing in those amazing alternate future Damian-as-Batman issues like Batman #666 and Batman Inc. #5), alongside his dog Titus and, of course, Batcow. He’s gone from unfeeling ninja assassin to an ordinary kid who loves animals.
If Damian’s character has softened, his fighting abilities sure haven’t and he goes down in his fight against Abomination like the legend he is. I could write in depth about this scene but I’ll just say 1) his final farewell with Dick Grayson was awesome (Damian: We were the best, Richard, no matter what anyone thinks. Dick: Hey, we can’t help being great. Damian: Ready?), and 2) the way Chris Burnham draws the fight is phenomenal, at one point putting in 20 panels on one page and making each one count – that’s special. It was my favourite fight scene of the year, it’s so damn brutal and brilliant.
Bruce meanwhile is the other half of what makes this book a masterpiece. Talia brilliantly puts him in a death-trap knowing he’ll escape but knowing that the time it takes for him to escape will make him unable to save Damian in time. She’s such an evil genius! Damian’s death is as shocking to Bruce as it is to us readers, and his reaction is crazy. Barefoot, barehands, stepping on broken glass, he goes to town on the armoured Abomination! Dick joins him in defeating him, though of course don’t kill him. It’s a very cathartic scene if you’re a Damian fan. Bruce saves his rage for Talia, turning himself into a one-man army in the process – double Batman (that’s deliberately cryptic, you’ll have to read this to see what that looks like)! I won’t talk about the final act because it’s full of surprises that I don’t even want to hint at – discover them for yourself.
There are a couple of issues included that are non-sequiturs like Batman Inc #11 which is a Batman of Japan issue written by Chris Burnham and drawn by Jorge Lucas, and the Batman Inc Special which features the various members of Batman Inc in multiple short stories. The #11 issue was created partly because it enabled Burnham the time to draw every page in the final two issues – Jason Masters was the able fill-in artist for several issues in this arc – and partly because there’d be nowhere else to feature Jiro stories. This issue shows that Burnham’s not as accomplished a writer as he is an artist, but it’s a fun campy issue that feels Power Rangers-y and pays homage to kitschy Japanese culture.
The Special, while taking place after the main story ends, isn’t at all related to it and shouldn’t be read as a coda but more of an extra for the fans. It features a number of standalone stories, my favourite of which is the silent Batcow issue because it’s so funny and who doesn’t love Batcow? I feel that, after Damian, he’s the breakout character in Morrison’s run (seriously!). Whatever, more Batcow please!
Gotham’s Most Wanted is an amazing story written beautifully by Morrison and drawn unbelievably well by Chris Burnham. This is a terrific finale to the story and an incredible way to end Morrison’s run. This is Morrison bowing out big style. It’s simply one of the best books of the year and one of the finest Batman books ever written. Thank you for writing Batman, Grant Morrison.
Is Damian really dead? Is Leviathan? Or Batman Inc.?