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Batman Incorporated v2 #0 Annotations


Brand Building
DC Comics, November 2012, Color, 32pgs, $2.99
Batman, Incorporated wants you!

Batman has a war to fight, but first he must recruit an army to combat the menace of Leviathan.

See how The Dark Knight assembled his lieutenants!


Taking inspiration from Morrison and J.H. Williams' conceit that the various members of the International Club of Heroes have had 30+ years worth of unpublished comic book adventures and character development, Chris Burnham and Grant Morrison's super-compressed plot gives us twenty-odd scenes in as many pages and, whilst not doing much to forward the ongoing Leviathan story, adds texture and some great character moments amongst it's multitude of mini-epilogues and between-the-panels vignettes.  There are some great new characters (Veiniac!  Doubleface!) and some under-utilised familiar ones (Nightrunner!  Ravil!  Dead by the last page of his first appearance!).  It's a depressing fact that DC will likely throw these babies out with the bathwater when Morrison's run on Batman Incorporated comes to a close.  Unless...

Chris Burnham is the only writer who can succeed Grant Morrison on Batman Incorporated.  It'd be even better if he could draw it too, but I'd still buy it even if he didn't. That is all.


Cover - Chris Burnham's regular cover, using the same 'bursting through the page' device that the rest of DC's zero books are sporting this month, is full of character, especially Beryl on the left there.  Moving clockwise from Batman at the top, we have Gaucho; the new Dark Ranger; and The Knight and Squire, who make a welcome return this issue.  Though the zero issue was originally solicited with the cover of the first issue as the backdrop, the finished article has Batman and co. tearing through page 8 of this issue's interior.

Aaron Kuder, an excellent up and coming artist best know for replacing Chris Burnham on Claudio Sanchez's Amory Wars title, provides this month's variant.  His cover showcases, from left to right, Raven Red and Chief Man of Bats; Batwing; El Gaucho; Beryl and Cyril, the Knight and Squire; Nightrunner and the mysterious Wingman. Kuder is deservedly picking up a lot of work from the big two lately and you can see much more of his art here.

Though he skips the interior of this issue - Frazer Irving provides the colours for his own work - colorist Nathan Fairbairn turns in another typically excellent job on the two covers.

Page 1 - Picking up immeadiately after the last page of Batman #669, we see what happened after Batman and the surviving members of the Club of Heroes escaped from John Mayhew's island.  As we see later in the issue, the Musketeer is serious about getting out of the capes game, though he did manage one last hurrah with the Club during the 'Batman R.I.P.' arc.
Page 2
-Originally seen in Detective Comics #33, and here filtered through Frank Miller and David Mazuchelli's 'Batman: Year One', the bat's dramatic and historic entrance through the window of Wayne Manor has been referenced many times in Morrison's run, most recently in the Batman: The Return oneshot that immeadiately preceded the first volume of Batman Incorporated.  The "That's it." dialogue is from the original, most likely written by Bill Finger. 

This whole scene, specifically the ringing of the bell in the final panel, was highlighted as probably the defining moment of Morrison's Batman-run in the final issue of The Return of Bruce Wayne, siginifying as it does that Batman has never been, and never should be, a grim lone avenger.  He is defined by the help and assistance of his peers, be that Alfred, the various Robins, or the Batmen of All Nations.

The title "The Legend of The Batman - Who He Is And How He Came To Be" is from the original Batman #1 from 1940, which reprints the 'Tec origin page with a new title frame.  It too has been referenced many times over Morrison's run, most explicitly in the Damian-as-Batman issue, Batman #666.
Page 3 -The top and bottom panels are direct references to and quotes from The Return of Bruce Wayne #6.  We saw two headstones way back on the flash-forward from the first page of Batman Incorporated v2 #1, though I'm pretty sure I assumed they were Thomas and Martha Wayne's graves at the time.  Could they be the last resting place of his son and wayward love rather than mother and father? 

"In the cave, in the dark..." is deliberately ambiguous and refers to the cave Bruce fell into as a child (seen in the first of the middle set of panels), the cave where Batman underwent the Thorgal ritual in 52 - the very first act of Morrison's Batman story - and the cave he found himself in after Darkseid sent him back in time, as per the end of Final Crisis and the beginning of The Return of Bruce Wayne.  The story has heavily implied that these are all pieces of a jigsaw that combine into one picture - that Bruce's 'dark night of the soul', his Herculean rationilisation of his 'dark side', stretches out across time and space, simultaneously occuring in his childhood, at the height of his powers, at his lowest ebb and in the here and now, all building toward that Better Batmobile (read: Batman), promised in the first issue of Morrison's run.

The metallic tunnel Batman falls through in panel three of the middle sequence presumably represents his jaunt through time in The Return of Bruce Wayne.  Its probably purposefully vague as that incident doesn't really fit with DC's New 52 Batman at all, though its extremely heartening to see this stuff being referenced here.  60+ issues in - the longest sustained narrative in Morrison's career - to derail the conclusion with pointless continuity patches and revisions would be a tragedy, so its a massive relief to see that the lip service paid to the new continuity - the new Bat-suit, the odd reference here and there - doesn't stop Morrison and Burnham from telling the story that they want to.  Just this once, bravo DC.

In the middle of the page, Frazer Irving's incredible art and psychedelic pallette - genuinely, I find it difficult to believe that there are people who don't like this stuff - deliver a Saul Bass-meets-Ralph Steadman James Bond Goes To Hell title sequence in minature, with a shattered bat consumed by the ominous Yantra of Leviathan.  A perfect encapsulation of where we are with Incorporated so far...
Page 4 - The Wayne Enterprises building, looking more conspicuosly Batman-esque than ever.  Whatever happened to that crazy old building with the tree in the middle?

Following up on Bruce Wayne's announcement of the formation of Batman Incorporated at the end of Batman and Robin #16 (see a theme developing here?); he's delivered it to the public, now he's delivering it to the board.  The Victims Inc. programme, briefly reference in Batman Incorporated v1 #6, was set up in Frank Robbins' landmark Batman #217, an issue that would define the Bat-franchise for the best part of 15 years, with Dick Grayson leaving for college and Bruce giving up Wayne Manor in favour of the penthouse apartment above the Wayne Foundation.

Morrison's Lucius Fox has drawn heavily on Morgan Freeman's interpretation of the character in Chris Nolan's Bat-films, something Chris Burnham is happy to run with here.

" least twenty brave men and women..."  Fifteen of them appear on the cover of Batman Incorporated v1 #6, and we've Moscow's Ravil to add to that list (more on him later).  The five members of The Outsiders take us to 21.
Page 5
- Exposing Mr. Treadwell as the rotten appple on the Wayne Enterprises board caps off a subplot that first appeared, along with Treadwell himself, way back in Batman and Robin #10.  Damian had uncovered some suspiciously large, and ever increasing, payments made to a charitable foundation for victims of railroad accidents set up in the name of the veritable Thomas Wayne.  The long-running embezellment could be a tentative early step for Leviathan, or possibly a subtle hint (remember all that Mexican Train stuff?) pointing to a return for Dr Hurt.

Nice to see the Dynamic Duo, Dick and Damian reunited in the Batman and Robin suits.  And an always-welcome Burt Ward hand punch.
Page 6-7 - Last time we saw the Bat-robot army was in the second half of the Leviathan Strikes! one-shot, raising the Leviathan from the ocean floor.  They first appeared in the Batman: The Return one-shot, though their back-story there was explicitly tied to the rogue G.I. Robots from Andy Diggle and Whilce Portacio's 'Rules of Engagement' from 2007's Batman Confidential #1-5.

All of DC's zero issues this month are subtitled 'Before The New 52!', though given Batman Incorporated's loose ties to the rebooted universe it's more applicable here than in most other titles.
Page 8 - It's usually foggy rather than raining every time Batman visits England (see Shadow of the Bat #21-23 and Batman Annual #24 for example), though there is almost always at least one murder.

The Knight inherited the Micro-633 Squadron from his dad, Sir Percival Sheldrake, the original Knight.  We saw them in action in Batman Incorporated v1 #3.

Detective Inspector Burnside was one of the main character's in long-running UK police procedural The Bill.

Batman's mission in Yemen was seen in Batman: The Return.  "Squire and Knight -- You're needed." is a nod to the "Mrs. Peel -- We're needed." intros from the classic 1966 series of The Avengers.

"Mad for it" was a phrase popularised by tuneless Britpop dullards Oasis in the mid-nineties. 

Beryl and Cyril are taking inspiration from cartoon secret agent Dangermouse, who also had his (mouse-sized) headquarters inside a post box.  You'll have to take my word for it as I can't find a decent picture of it.
Page 9 - Johnny Riley, the former Scout, took up the mantle of Dark Ranger after the death of his mentor in the Club of Heroes three parter in Batman #667-669.  We saw him being inducted into IBatman Incorporated in volume one issue six. 

Does Cyril's invisibility suit have something to do with Sivana's meta-material diamond from Batman Incorporated #1?
Page 10 - Inside Johnny's Ranger Cave.  The alternate Ranger suits and boomerang on the wall are a nice touch.
Page 11 - Ravil, the Batman of Moscow, made his first and last appearance in Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Batman and Robin v2 #1, where he was dissolved in acid by the villianous Nobody.  Though he probably has a very detailed backstory written down somewhere, it's not been shared with the rest of us and he remains an elusive cypher.  I do like that he has a Bat-Bus though.
Page 12 - Nightrunner, the French representative of Batman Incorporated, debuted in 2011's Detective Comics Annual #12 and was created by David Hine and Kyle Higgins.  He appeared very briefly in Leviathan Strikes!, but was last seen in action in Batman Incorporated v1 #6.  He's very much the modern face of France - a French-Algerian parkour expert from the Paris slums - in opposition to The Musketeer's swashbuckling traditionalist.

Just like Aquaman in the Brave and the Bold cartoon, it seems The Musketeer quickly bashes out a memoir at any opportunity.  His 'The Black Glove Strikes' is likely based on his exploits whilst on the island of John Mayhew during the 'Club of Heroes' story.
Page 14
- As in their spotlight issue (Batman Incorporated v1 #7), the Chief Man of Bats and Raven Red story is all about the community, and the inspirational role the Chief plays on the reservation.  Though I didn't catch it at first, thanks to Chris Burnham for pointing out we have seen Jeff Moon before, on page one of v1 #7.  There he is on the left if you don''t believe me.
Page 15 -Jiro, alias Mister Unknown, has changed his costume since we last saw him in, you guessed it, volume one issue six.  The new one was designed by Frzer Irving and seems to have come about due to DC's ongoing insistence that there should only be one Batman.  Veiniac is new and makes his debut here.  Both Professor Gorilla and the Japanese Clayface mentioned on the next page appeared in the Bat-Manga! book.

The Super Young Team, Japan's answer to the Teen Titans, were created by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones and first appeared in 2008's Final Crisis.  The caterpillar made of police cars is an homage to Battle of the Planets, the US dubbed version of Japanese cartoon Gatchaman.  Though G-Force seem to fight more than their fair share of giant caterpillars - both robotic and from space - this one is specifically referencing Spectra's caterpillar robot from the episode 'Cupid Does it to Keyop'.  Much, much more here.  Thanks again to Chris for pointing me in the right direction on that one.
Page 17 - El Gaucho appears here descending from El Papagayo's balloon in an unseen moment from Batman Incorporated v1 #3, then in the midst of his super-charged fist fight with the Dark Knight from v1 #4.  Hip deep in sewage, the fourth panel has him about to leap into battle against the cultists seen on the last page of v1 #6, and the final panel recounts his meeting with the Club of Dead Heroes, alongside Looker, Halo and Freight Train of The Outsiders, in Batman Incorporated v2 #1.
Page 18 - Batarangs and Boomerangs.  Great stuff.  And the (Australian) bad-guys' car is very Mad Max/Cars That Ate Paris.
Page 19-20 - As we began with a reminder of Batman's revelation from The Return of Bruce Wayne #6 - that he isn't and indeed never has been alone - we end with a great character moment between Bruce and Alfred, and a rare moment of 'normality' from Bruce; this pinnacle of human achievement, settling down for a sandwich.  Morrison's Batman and Robin made great play of Dick's love of eating, contrasted against Bruce's almost inhuman aloofness and distance from anything remotely resembling normality; and it's wonderful to see Chris Burnham and Grant invert this here.  "It all comes round in the end" indeed.

As usual, any comments, corrections or additions welcome.  Thanks for reading!

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