Annotations: ‘Batman Incorporated’ #1
Well, we’re back. (I realize I never got to the Leviathan Strikes oneshot, and I swear on the graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne I’ll get to it soon enough.)
But it’s a new #1 issue, in a New 52, and there are new readers, so let’s sit back and absorb the 22 (!) pages of the first issue of Batman Incorporated volume two, by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn, who continue to prove themselves insanely well-matched for Morrison’s scripts. I hope these guys collaborate for a long time to come, especially with Frank Quitely off toiling in the Millarworld money fields. I’d recap what’s happened so far, but that’s like about half of this comic as it is, so let’s jump right in.Page 1: This page takes place one month in the future — I imagine we’ll catch up to it eventually — and features Bruce and Alfred, in the rain at the Wayne family graveyard, with the GCPD coming for Bruce to arrest him, right after he declares Batman to be over. Alfred points out that ending Batman is what his enemies want, and it’s true: Indeed, it was Doctor Hurt’s great goal in Batman R.I.P. It’s unknown whether the cops know Bruce is Batman, and if they did, why Gordon would be leading the charge to arrest him — unless he finds out about the events that transpire at the end of this issue. But we’ll get to that.
Pages 2-3: Opening splash! Batman and Robin exiting their car in style. It’s the New 52, so Batman’s got his New 52 outfit and Batmobile, and other than the obligatory Pandora appearance later that is the single item in the list of references to the continuity switchover. Other than that, this issue picks up right from the end of the Leviathan Strikes oneshot — although Morrison spends time catching the reader up, since it’s been five months since the oneshot and seven since the last regular issue of the series.
The “Dark Tower” bag is notable since the logo makes it fairly clear that it’s Gotham City’s version of White Castle; however, much like the forthcoming Demon Star has a meaning, so must this. On one hand, it’s a bestselling series of Stephen King books with a more than healthy dose of author-inserting metafiction (a trick to which Grant Morrison is no stranger) and a story about a hard man who comes to let people into his heart again. On the other hand, it’s the Tarot card, the Tower, which can symbolize tearing down false structures and institutions — the mission statement of Leviathan.
Pages 4-5: They’re chasing a man with a goat mask into a slaughterhouse, one operated by Demon Star, a front for Leviathan (Batman himself will explain that symbolism later). It looks like some of the workers are associated with the goat motif and some aren’t, but the end result is Batman and Robin punching dudes in chainmail with chainsaws with a bunch of dead cows everywhere, and that’s pretty cool. Also notice that Batman advises Robin to go for their heads, at which point he proceeds to not listen at all and instead go for their knees.
Page 6: Batman dodges the badass Gears of War chainsawgunthing and socks a dude in the face, while a piece of shrapnel flies off and cuts a dead cow — and allow Burnham to pull a neat storytelling transition to one of the Brothers Grimm eating a particularly red meat at Leviathan’s banquet.
Page 7: Damian runs after the original goat-masked assassin — named Sam Lucas, apparently — and after catching him, he pulls him up to interrogate him, at which point our narrator shoots him in the back (while meaning to hit Damian). Whenever the narrator is saying this, it’s way after the fact, talking about how he “still” curses himself for what’s going on on this page. Damian has a predilection for killing, which is why he immediately insists that Lucas’s death isn’t his fault.
Page 8: Of course, it’s not going to be easy for Batman and Robin to find the sniper, since he’s literally all the way across Gotham shooting with a rocket-powered sniper rifle. Which is pretty badass. This page basically introduces us to the main Goatboy: a cab driver with a dead ex-wife who wants the $500 million bounty on Damian’s head from Leviathan so he can ensure that his boy doesn’t have to go into foster care. Leave it to Morrison to try to make a child murdering assassin symapthetic.
The Bill Hicks sketch he took his name from doesn’t actually feature any deep symbolism, unless Goatboy is trying to hump everybody, but I do hope it turns out his first name is Randy. The Gotham = goat home thing is way more relevant.
Page 9: The slaughterhouse owner is freaking out over the mess, because God forbid human blood mix with the pools of animal blood in his abattoir. Batman points out that the demon star-branded cattle are contiminated (most likely with Leviathan mind control drugs), while the experience forces Damian to vegetarianism — and here Morrison said Damian WASN’T a self-insert character! The final panel, of Damian and his “Bat-Cow,” is tragic while being hilarious. Much like a cow with a demon star, Damian Wayne was bred for slaughter.
Page 10: Turns out that particularly juicy red meat Grimm was eating earlier was his brother! Oh, Leviathan, you so crazy. One has to question how nobody else has put together who Leviathan is when they’re running around with Talia’s ninja man-bats and the whole damn League of Assassins.
Page 11: Exposition time! While Batman chases after the last Lone Star beef truck, he chides Damian for killing Masterspy Otto Netz in the Leviathan Strikes oneshot. Interestingly, he places the events of that story after Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s last Batman and Robin arc where Damian ended up killing Henri Ducard’s son NoBody, even though it occurred before the switchover to the New 52, so a version of Leviathan Strikes occurred after the New 52 switchover in a similar form but aaaaaaaaaagh my head just exploded.
Damian also brings up the fact that he was partners with Dick Grayson, who he claims never lectured him as Robin, which is hilarious since this scene is basically shot the same as the opening of Morrison and Quitely’s Batman and Robin where Grayson lectures the hell out of Damian.
Page 12: Here, Morrison brings up two more events from his run: Batman’s death in Final Crisis and subsequent return in Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne as well as Damian straightening out the Waynetech finances during his run on Batman and Robin. Batman’s warning Damian about his “ridiculous hood” is both a callback to his hatred of Dick’s original hood in Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, and the fact that he’s mistaken about the hood will play into the end of this issue.
Page 13: Batman and Robin finally notice the upside-down star on the truck — the “demon star,” also known as the “eye of the gorgon,” also known as Algol — in other words, Talia al Ghul signing her name to her work. It’s worth mentioning that way back in Batman #666, when we saw a future where Damian Wayne was Batman, his enemy was leaving a demon star on the map of Gotham, Damian called it a “satan signal.” With the previously-revealed (in Leviathan Strikes) (I know, I know) connections between Professor Pyg, Doctor Hurt, Spyral and Leviathan, it’s possible that that issue may play as much into this arc as it did into the one in which it was written.
Pages 14-15: Cut to San Francisco where George Cross, the Hood, picks up a new costume he’s ordered and rides the changing room as an elevator down to what the Outsiders have termed “Batcave West.” Here, we see him join all the other heroes who seemingly died in Leviathan Strikes: El Gaucho, the Outsiders and Batwing, all of whom state their traps and escapes on the page. The cave is filled with trophies from past Outsiders adventures — I recognize Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning’s mask and a giant penny for Simon Stagg, at least — and Freight Train, God bless his DiDio-created heart, points out that the Outsiders survived their explosion by Metamorpho using the same trick he pulled off in Morrison and Howard Porter’s JLA #1, expanding his body to protect everyone else.
How any of this stuff happened in the New 52, where nobody’s ever joined the Justice League past the Big Seven and there’s no indication Batman ever quit to form the Outsiders, I have no idea. I can also only assume that this story, and the special, take place after the current events in Batwing as well, since Batwing isn’t pretending to be dead in his own book.
The rivalry between the Hood and Gaucho stems from the England/Argentina conflict in the Falkland Islands in the ’80s, and as for Wingman, nobody knows who he is, save someone Batman gave the identity to after the original Wingman perished on Mister Mayhew’s Island after betraying the Club of Heroes back in Batman #669. One of the running theories back when Batman first gave him the costume in Incorporated v1 #6 was that it was Superman; another, that it was Dick Grayson. But I can’t see either using the word “rabble.” Considering the Leviathan reveal, I imagine it’ll seem awfully obvious once it’s revealed.
Page 16: I don’t have much to say about this page other than that it’s utterly beautiful. Batman and Robin continue to argue before coming across a gang of Mutants (from Frank Miller’s seminal Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, although they’re more a manifestation of ’80s urban decay paranoia than applicable today) moving the Lone Star supply to a Dark Tower truck, which would make Harold and Kumar Go to Dark Tower a pretty damn dour affair since they’d be mind controlled and suicide bombing by the end.
Page 17: Meanwhile, Goatboy decides a dive bar is the best place to go after you just tried murdering a ten-year-old. That’s Pandora, patron saint of the New 52, chillin’ in the back, although I very much doubt she’ll ever have anything to do with this narrative. $1 shots seems like a pretty sweet deal, though, although the dancers make it look like a dive strip bar, and that’s just scary. Goatboy takes a fare, takes some pills, puts the mask back on and gets ready to shoot Robin again, this time at the confrontation with the Mutants.
Pages 18-19: Damian beats the crap out of some Mutants while Goatboy takes aim — at the hood he’s wearing, which would absorb the impact. Batman finds him. And now the story begins to fracture, literally.
Page 20: Cut to what I can only guess is a few hours later, where Goatboy and another random dude are being paraded before Leviathan, surrounded by what I guess are Mtamban soldiers and the Heretic himself. His identity is as yet unknown, but the going theory is that he’s an artificially-aged clone of Damian, previously glimpsed in Batman and Robin #12. Goatboy mentions that his own son is ten years old — Damian’s exact age — and shows Leviathan a cellphone picture of the last page. Note: a picture, not a movie.
Page 21: Goatboy tells his version of the story: He shots Batman right between the eyes with his rocket-powered rifle, shattering his cowl lenses and leaving a bullet hole in the face. Then, according to him, he shot Damian while his hood was down — except we saw that Damian’s hood wasn’t down, because he’s still in full-on “screw you, dad” mode.
Page 22: We see the picture of Batman holding Damian’s body and screaming — and let’s just look at this picture. First, Batman’s cowl lenses are intact, and so is his cowl itself. Damian’s face, and head, are covered by a hood, so we can’t see any actual bullet impact. And somehow Goatboy, after shooting Bruce and then Damian, got a chance to run away far enough that Bruce didn’t tear him apart limb from limb but close enough to take a picture with an iPhone camera.
In other words, Damian’s the latest member of the Dead Heroes Club, his death effectively faked using the most obviously staged cellphone cam picture in the world. And now Goatboy is Bruce’s mole in Leviathan.
Links to my other annotations:
– Batman: The Return; Batman, Inc. #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8
– Return of Bruce Wayne #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6; Batman #700, #701, #702; Batman and Robin #14, #15, #16
– original Batman run and previous issues of Batman and Robin