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This Week's Comics Rock #3: Batman Incorporated #6

Batman Incorporated #6
Vital Stats:
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: 5-11-11
Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Colors: Nathan Fairbairn
Cover Artist: Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn
Cover Price: $2.99
Paul's Grade: A
The cover is nice. It's pretty straight-forward but it's a great collection of heroes from the Bat-o-verse and a lot of them are new. I saw this at C2E2 at the artist's booth and admit that I stopped to take it in for a moment. I like his style and think it's a good cover but I must say that I have enjoyed the earlier, more visually complex covers that have hitherto been a staple of this title.
Dark Avenger, Nightrunner, El Gaucho, Blackbat, Red Robin, Batman, Dark Ranger, and Batman (again)
Red Robin fighting the Voodoo villains in the ruins of Port-au-Prince is my favorite panel
First, please take a moment to look at that picture up close and personal (click for larger version). Look how the thugs make a continuous scene with Batman fighting them all across the world. Beautiful, right? Nyktomorph is the title of this tale and it's a nice little double-entendre. Nyktomorph means to transform the night or "the changing night". And with Batman's plan to go global with an army of Batmen will the night ever be the same again? The issue is about Batman expanding the ranks of Batman Incorporated. This splash page features a number of the new recruits as they wage their war on crime. I like that Batman (the original Bruce Wayne) is seen in two of the panels above because it enforces the theme of the issue: Batman is Everywhere.
For those who aren't up to date, Batman recently had an epiphany. He realized that though he has long been considered (even by himself) to be a loner, he has in fact always had help. Robin joined him early on but even before that he had the help of Commissioner Gordon. Even more prominent is Alfred Pennyworth who raised him and acts as tailor, medic, confidante, and assistant (in addition to a myriad of other responsibilities). With this in mind Batman decided to embrace the concept and recruit other Batmen across the globe. Bruce Wayne came out to the public that he has been secretly financing Batman for years and he founds Batman Inc in order to fund other deputized Batman similarly.
I love the way Nathan Fairbairn colors Bruce's clear mad blue eyes. Also the Kingdom Come-esque Robo Bats
Bruce holds a press conference (while foiling Emoticon Man with new Batmaned-out Jet-Suits) and lays out the central motif. While all this is going on he is also continuing his worldwide Bat-crusade. Batman is ranging far and wide to find new Batmen and to help his new associates in their battle against Leviathan (the big evil organization Morrison's been building up for the last six issues).
1st App: Blackbat
Blackbat is (to the best of my knowledge) a brand new character and the Bat(wo)man of Hong Kong. She looks awesome. Her mask is something like Nightshade's or Black Canary's but distinctly Batman. I like the open flowing hair and the Batgirl (Kassandra Kane) bat symbol but that's not what makes the look. The coolest aspect is her fluttering, almost tattered cape. It's an homage to the classic crenelated ending of Batman's cape while being something that I don't think I've ever seen in a cape before. Well done!
There's a three panel sequence of Batman and Dark Ranger chasing down a truck, then capturing the crooks who were driving it. It ends with a phenomenal panel of Batman delivering the oath.
The oath scene mimics the famous panel of Robin swearing his oath
The action is obvious, even cliche. That's why it only gets two panels. The whole of the scene is silent (the expository dialogue is from an outside narrator) because we all understand the events. This makes the Batman imagery that much more potent as well as giving the sense (to me at least) that this is becoming the routine for Batman and that this is one of many oaths he's given in the weeks since the founding of Batman Inc.
Here we see Nightrunner, the Batman of France (what happened to the Musketeer?!)
Also, the common crime that Batman Inc is cracking down on is human trafficking. The secret evil organization is stealing children and turning them into little murder machines who keep heiling "Leviathan!" (not the most subtle strategy). The sheer number of Batman featured in this book is great but it's also got Batman (Bruce Wayne) being cool on his own. He is thinking outside the box in a lot of ways, including keeping his identity safe now that Wayne is Batman's public backer.
There's something timeless about Batman sitting at the Batcomputer and typing "Batman is Bruce Wayne". It's been teased on covers and been the fodder of dreams and imaginary stories but Morrison is best at taking everything old and making it new again. Plus, the idea that Batman trolls conspiracy theory websites is really funny.
Grant Morrison is very probably my favorite writer. He rocks my world and I am never less than impressed by his work but what he has been doing with Batman these past few years has been nothing short of visionary and transformative. He revels in all the classic aspects of the character while keeping him the height of the modern Super-Crime fighter. I don't know if it's just this issue or something subconscious but I have been really taken with Nathan Fairbairn's colors as well. The big splash page shows that well with the scintillating array of colors in each scene. Also, look at Bruce Wayne's shirt and tie in his press conference scene. Fairbairn brings a dynamic and lively quality to the detailed and complex art of Chris Burnham. Burnham has a style that brings me in mind of Frank Quitely (one of Morrison's most frequent collaborators) but the faces of the characters are less scowling and brutal. He brings an energy to Bruce Wayne that is undeniable. When is the last time you saw Batman smile? He's doing it a lot in this. It's exciting because Batman is clearly excited about what he is doing and the challenge that Leviathan presents. When he first discovered this evil secret organization and their machinations he sat back in his batchair in the Batcave and said "Game on" and he really meant it. It's a new direction for the character in so many ways while not ever being out of character.
This book rates a solid "A" and well it should as it is one of the best titles that DC is currently publishing. This issue did not have a moment that made me jump out of my socks or gasp so I cannot give it an "A+" but it's still the best book of the week.
For $2.99 this is a great Batman story and the beauty of it is you can pick it up and read it and not need to know too much about what's happened before or what's going to happen next. It enforces and expands on things from earlier in the series and is clearly getting pieces in place for what's to come but this issue is stand alone enough that I'd recommend it to anyone who likes Batman. Cheers!

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