- Release Date: February 27, 2013
- Publisher: DC
- Story By: Grant Morrison
- Art By: Chris Burnham, Jason Masters
Spoilers here. Duh.
I might be crucified for saying this, but I think knowing ahead of time that Damian Wayne gets killed at the end of Batman Inc. #8 makes it a better issue. Not that Grant Morrison’s run hasn’t been great in its own quirky, Adam-West-meets-violence-he-never-knew-on-TV kind of way. But the fact is that Batman Incorporated, while an enjoyable book in its own right, feels like the only little corner of the DC Universe somehow untouched by Flashpoint and the New 52 relaunch, and for that reason, it’s better to read it as a pocket story leftover from Morrison’s epic Batman run that introduced Damian as Robin in the first place. And in that sense, it certainly works. The dramatic pacing is spectacular, the innovative panel layouts give a sense of urgency, and the dialogue—particularly when Robin keeps trying to humanize his mother up until the very end—make for a compact and exciting issue, on its own terms.
If you reach outside of this issue’s significance in terms of Grant Morrison’s Batman arc, however, it loses steam, particularly when you take into account that nobody really stays dead in superhero comics (save for Uncle Ben and Batman’s parents). So in the greater scheme of things, killing (another) Robin feels like a gimmick—especially after the conclusion of Scott Snyder’s “Death of the Family” story arc, which managed to effectively let the Joker win without involving death. Also, for readers not familiar with Chris Burnham’s art style, it might seem incongruent to pair such a harrowing narrative with a rounded, almost caricature-like sense of facial construction. I’d argue that Burnham’s art paired with Morrison’s weirdness is what has made Batman Incorporated so unique among DC titles—especially the Bat titles. But again, putting it alongside titles like Batgirl and Batman doesn’t really work. So let’s just take it for the 22 pages it is.
Damian’s triumphant bottle-rocket-like entrance on the second page spread is fantastic and worthy of cheering for. The scenery of falling rain that segues into Batman being trapped under water like Houdini is complete narrative joy. The interaction between Nightwing and Damian’s Robin is playful and, as I mentioned, even more effective when you know the ending. Even the retro feel of the punching sound effects (“Pow! Bif! Bam!”) works in contrast to the violent end you know is coming. And when it does, it doesn’t feel cheap.
Ultimately, I suggest taking this issue as a worthy microcosm of the effectiveness of greater storytelling rather than worrying about what Damien’s death means for the DCU. Grant Morrison has been working outside of it, anyway, and once you get the ‘spoiler’ over with, the superior storytelling is all that counts.