Batman Inc 11, by Chris Burnham and Jorge Lucas
Been waiting to comment on this one, as I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. On the one hand, it’s a poorly-timed fill-in issue, coming as it does in the middle of the years-in-the-making climax to Grant Morrison’s extended Batman run. But on the other hand, it’s a burst of pure Bat-Fun, a Kirbyesque romp with Batman Japan. It’s funny and weird and energetic in a way that mainstream spandex comics too often aren’t anymore. But I’m not sure it’s any good, for all that.
Alright. Let’s start at the top, with the easiest issue to take care of: the fill-in. Nothing wrong with that, per se. I didn’t have to buy the thing, after all, and it’s a far better option than hobbling the on-going storyline with rushed, sub-par fill-in art (look no further than Morrison’s Action Comics to see how badly that can go). Burnham and Lucas even get in a good little joke at the main arc’s expense with their opening panels:
I’m pretty sure that Damian’s cat was the only Bat-character we hadn’t seen kneeling sadly by the little bastard’s grave at this point. Hell, even the Huntress did it, and she’s not even FROM this dimension! The only thing better would have, of course, been Bat-Cow, but that might be taking things a little too far even for this story.
Still, I kind of wish they’d left all reference to the main arc out. This issue’s light-hearted (some would say parodic) tone is jarring up against what’s been happening in this book lately. Because, insane as last issue’s Bat-manbat-bot conclusion was, it’s still a story about a little boy being murdered, and his father going just slightly mad to get revenge on the killers. It’s a story about Our Hero throwing all his hard-won self-knowledge out the window and retreating into his damaging and self-defeating loner shell. It’s about Bruce Wayne once again being subsumed by the Bat. It’s sad and ugly, and it really has no business being shoved up against micro-dating…
…and Kirby Dot costume-change zappers.
That said, of course… Micro-Dating! And Kirby Dot costume-change zappers!
Burnham and Lucas are obviously having fun here, and it’s infectious. The giant yen is pretty funny, and… is that Devil Dinosaur over on the left? This is the tone throughout, something of an exaggerated cross between Batman Japan’s first appearance (as Mr. Unknown) and the Super Young Team sequences from Final Crisis. So… true to Morrison, but without all that pesky complexity and subtext.
Which is a bitchy reviewer sort of thing to say, but which is, I think, at the heart of what bothers me about the issue. It captures the surface gloss of Batman Inc, the part of the series that throws Chief Man-of-Bats in our faces and dares us to take it seriously. Except… There’s no dare here.
The Kirby pastiche that’s going on only adds to my apprehension on this front. I like the look of it, mind you; Lucas does a nice job aping Kirby while still getting enough of his own style in there to keep it fresh. But the issue seems to treat Kirby as camp, and I think that’s missing the point. While his DC work sometimes does seem campy to a modern eye, Kirby himself always treated his material very seriously. There was comedy relief, to be sure, but really he was writing philosophy, observations on human nature disguised as myth and science fiction for kids.
So when the humor in this comic gets reality-TV shallow…
…I’m a little more let down than maybe I should be. Because, whether its shallowness is appropriate or not, this issue is obviously intended as nothing more than entertaining fluff. And as entertaining fluff… it’s pretty damn good. It’s stylish, it’s got fun super hero action and fantastic grotesques…
…and (maybe best of all) it’s got a villain named… Lady Tiger Fist!
And that’s so damned funny that it makes up for… well… just about anything.
So, final analysis: Lighten up and enjoy the ride.