This is the conclusion of a longsuffering, up-and-down trip with the Dark Knight, one that is long overdue to end. Grant Morrison has had his moments with this mega arc over the years, and strictly speaking, as a follow-up to the superb-in-every-way Batman: Son of the Demon story, it really does succeed. There’s a lot of chaff–a lot of chaff in the mix here–but as I was reading this last volume of the Batman, Inc. story, I found myself charmed at its ability to revisit almost all of the characters and stops on the way. It many ways, it reads a lot like Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army : a huge, final showdown between the titular hero and a longsuffering villain that reboots that hero’s corner of the New 52 retroactively. I suppose it’s not a coincidence that these two titles are the ones who enjoyed softer reboots when DC reset back in 2011.
Morrison gets credit here for elevating the most interesting part of this conflict to its highest point during the run: the clash between Talia and Batman over their son, their hearts, and the world itself gets all of the attention it needs, and it’s great attention. There’s violence, passion, heartbreak, and that genuinely sorrowful sense of lovers who cannot reconcile their differences for each other in this story. The attraction between Talia and Batman has always been one of the most robust, dynamic areas of the character, and since Mike Barr put it on the map of the DCU with Son of the Demon , it hasn’t been done better than in this conclusion. Talia is every part the dark mother of myth, part the Hetzerin inciter, and part jilted lover; as the final confrontation approaches Morrison balances all three and does what great storytellers do: brings a familiar story structure to light in a new way, this telling even more impressive as it’s with the Most Popular Character in the World. Morrison may be a writer that polarizes readers, but his management of this story, its huge number of elements, and the conclusion couldn’t have been more successful.
Burnham’s art is barely passable (the teeth still look like they’re rotting and falling out of people’s heads) but the only real contention I had with this collection was the overlong, two-issue wrap-up of Batman, Incorporated that featured very little substantive content and showcased a sort of string of vignettes of the international Batman community fighting crimes in various strange ways. It sort of emerged at the end of the book as a remainder to the experiment’s equation, and I found myself wondering what it added to the conclusion other than a series of short epilogues to characters that were, at best, supporting functionaries.
8/10 – Morrison wraps up his work with Batman in grand fashion with a violent, heartbreaking finale that will finally release Batman to the New 52 fully and with more than enough fire to start things like they have been running under the superb direction of Snyder, Capullo, Tomasi, and Gleason.