Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated fizzled out to an anti-climactic end with the release of its final issue this past Wednesday. The only conclusion I was able to reach was that now I have to reread the entire series without blinking. Seriously, I love you, Grant, but you sure know how to test my attention span, and that’s coming from a guy who found the series finale of LOST straightforward. That being said, it was a fun ride while it lasted.
The series began with a phenomenal idea: Bruce Wayne uses his immense wealth to recruit and fund talented vigilantes around the globe. Actually, the idea sounds really dumb, especially because Bruce Wayne isn’t out of the hero closet like his Marvel counterpart, Tony Stark/Iron Man. But Grant Morrison made it work with humor and the resulting read was very empowering.
Many people consider Batman to be the most inspirational superhero because he’s just a human who solves problems using wits and gadgets. However, with his equipment getting more high-tech over the years, vigilantism seems to be a rich man’s game, reserved only for spoiled trust fund kids or crackpot lottery winners. If I were to accumulate billions of dollars necessary to be Batman through hard work, I would have no time left to actually be Batman. I’m far more likely to acquire superhuman abilities by being doused with the right chemicals and struck by lightning, or receiving a magical ring from a dying alien. Society unfortunately can’t count on folks like Donald Trump to start donning a cowl.
It was fitting that his first recruit in the series was, Jiro Osamu, the employee of a comic book shop in Japan. Obvious pandering to fans, but much appreciated, Mr. Morrison! It makes you think that the next Batman could be someone you met at your own local comic book shop, or maybe even one of the writers of the Geek League of America…
Heck, you don’t even have to move to a big city to be a Batman. Take it from William Great Eagle of the Lakota Nation in South Dakota. He’s a working doctor who moonlights as the hero/social activist “Man-of-Bats.” His son, Charlie, acts as his sidekick, “Raven.” In Batman Incorporated vol. 1 issue #7, Raven says words familiar to many teens who grow up in a small town: “Nothing important will ever happen here.” Raven eats his words when Batman shows up to help the dynamic duo fight Leviathan soldiers on their home turf. Man-of-Bats and Raven impress the original Caped Crusader, who says, “It doesn’t have to take millions, does it? The idea works. Batman on a budget.” This flies in the face of our modern-day expectations of Batman’s bare necessities.
Batman Incorporated also injected some much welcome diversity into the Bat family. There was Nightrunner, a Muslim parkour expert living in Paris. Batwing, a recruit from the Democratic Republic of Congo, ended up getting his own series. However, the insensitive DC Comics promoted him as “the Batman of Africa,” as if the continent were just one big country. Cassandra Cain, DC’s first non-white Batgirl, remained active as a Batman Incorporated agent in Hong Kong. We can only hope she still exists in DC’s post-Flashpoint universe.
Unfortunately, as the series reached its conclusion, it focused entirely on Bruce Wayne and his baby mama drama. By last issue, all the exciting international characters were mere throwaway background characters. Issue #11 released last May took a break from the regular storyline and was everything I hoped the series would be. It depicted a day in the life of Jiro Osamu, the Japanese Batman. It was funny, zany, and brought a welcome change of pace from all the gloom and doom surround Damian Wayne’s death. Now I hunger for story arcs revolving around Nightrunner in Paris, Dark Ranger in Melbourne, Australia, or Cassandra Cain as Black Bat in Hong Kong – that is, if she hasn’t been written out of existence.
Next month DC Comics will release a one-shot featuring a collection of stories focusing on various members of Batman, Incorporated, so perhaps the organization will still exist after Grant Morrison’s departure. Some might worry that multiple Batmen cheapens Bruce Wayne’s role in the DC Universe, but I say it elevates it. He’s no longer just a vigilante in a mask, he’s a revolutionary leader that inspired a global movement.
I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to live in a world where any one of us could be Batman.