As much as I call myself a fan of Grant Morrison (I own various material from the man), I have not actually read his run on Batman. I'm not saying I've never heard of it or not kept an ear open about it, because I've read many blogs, story discussions, and heard it from friends at the comic shops, and also read the occasional pages here and there...but I've never actual own any of material from Batman and Son through Batman & Robin Volume 3: Batman & Robin Must Die and actually sat down and taken in the material. I can't explain why I have neglected to give it a try, maybe it's the love-it-or-hate-it affair surrounding it or maybe because I've was focused elsewhere during his run, I don't know. But after much inner debating, I've decided to start here and give it a try. So please bear with me and this review.
BATMAN INCORPARATED includes BATMAN INC. issues #1-8 and LEVIATHIAN STRIKES! Parts 1 & 2. After Batman & Robin Volume 3: Batman & Robin Must Die, Bruce Wayne who has returned from the past and has had a revelation to branch out to the world and franchise the Batman ideology (with Dick Grayson staying in Gotham as Batman), but during his and Damien's (the current Robin) first foray at globe trotting, they already discover a global conspiracy by the name of Leviathan, which then begins in this book BATMAN INC. It immediately continues with Bruce going around the world building his Bat-army by looking for suitable representatives that follow the ideology of Batman, such as no killing, no guns, etc. All the while Bruce continues his mission, he's slowly piecing together it's all connected to a man by the name of Doctor Dedalus/Otto Netz who's involved around the "Oroboro", as well as this "Leviathan" plot that is much bigger (and smarter) then he can comprehend.
Bat Inc. is a globe trotting adventure that spans Paris to Tokyo; Argentina to Australia; battle-torn Africa to Native American reservation (I didn't misspell that!), and even the internet...3.0 style! Various people of the Batman Inc. run around the story doing numerous errands that are to much to name (and give away), but you'll see some book time with Catwoman, Batwoman, Red Robin, Damien, and Black Bat as appearances. Yes there are some more Bat Inc. people you'll see as well.
More of book follows Bruce's personal involvement of each continental representative including Mr. Unknown (Batman of Japan), El Gaucho (Batman of Argentina), The Hood (Batman of England), Man-of-Bats (Batman of some third-rate Indian reservation in the U.S.) and Batwing (Batman of Africa). Morrison adds a little flavor to each character making them different and interesting to look at, as well as the cities Bruce meet. Mr. Unknown showing sacrifice in the line of duty shows his dedication, while showing the flashy highlights of Japan. El Gaucho has a Spanish written biography (better know your Spanish folks, otherwise look that up to read it) while having a tango piece(!) to bring out the Spanish flare. Or seeing a old-school dedicated Man-of-Bats patrolling around a dead dessert town in a beat-up truck. And even going inside a Tron/Ghost in the Shell internet database fighting a (zombie) virus with Oracle. It's quite powerful and truly diverse for words. And added to the whole thing, each character practically gets there own villain (many of which Morrison has resurrected from Silver Age comics) or group that stands against that characters ideals. It's just unbelievable Morrison could pack this much into a book, and it makes it all seem like a large scale about it that's hard to find (in my opinion) for a Batman book.
Besides the vast amounts of heroes and villains running around the globe, I'd like to point out the general theme here for me: influence. Considering Batman has always had a Robin by his side since 1940, he's always had a legacy of sorts, but what of influence? I feel Batman answers that without telling the reader. Think about how Superman has the Legion of Super-Heroes and Legion of Supermen which are societies that carry on Superman's ideals in the future of existence. This is sort of Batman's version of it, but more akin to you the reader in today's times. Each representative of Batmen have various backgrounds, either it be a rich horse breeder, English spy, or a French speed runner...but each person are just normal humans with no powers at all, who dress up and want to help the city where they reside at. Isn't that one of the reason we all strife to be Batman because of it? I'm sure I'm probably one of the few who feel that way, but it's an interesting case study if you think about it.
Art holds extremely well here, with art including Yanick Paquette, Chris Burnham, Michel Lacombe, Scott Clark, Cameron Stewart, and Dave Beaty. Each artist has some different and vibrant that doesn't hurt the flow too badly (maybe Scott Clark and Dave Beaty's work for the internet issue maybe, but it's decent.) Most of the art work is Yanick and Burnham at the helm, so the art narrative holds together pretty strong as a whole.
Now if there's negatives I didn't like, I guess some of them were traits people hate about Morrison. The narrative shifts to places on the fly without any explanation (either it be a flashback or present day), certain issues don't flow into another, pacing jumps un-accordingly, and there's ways of feeling like there subtle holes in each issue plot. These problems are simple and lenient compared to what many would thoroughly delve into (and have from Morrison reviews before), but since my Morrison Batman reading is lacking, I'm trying to take it in stride and easy. I'm entering deep waters on the subject. But for my taste, I actually got the narrative reasonably well. Some of the opening plot holes were Morrison doesn't answer how or why the issue started out that way, would be answered mid issue for example. Another thing is taking in every detail. Morrison leaves information hanging until down the line, where it fills in the holes. You really have to remember and take it all in, or else it will fly over your head and you'll miss it. But again, I got most of the book, and that says a lot for someone who hasn't read most of his run. But the last issue of the book, Leviathan Strikes part 2 is a Morrison issue that is not faint of heart, and is an example of Morrison's extreme indulgence. Doctor Dedalus is a great character, but Morrison has this character written in a level of thought that I can see why people hate Morrison's work, and it took me three or four times to read that last issue to understand things. I admit though, most this issue has many plot points that go back to his whole run to understand (as well setting up many plot threads for Vol.2 of Bat Inc.), so that's my fault for not knowing it, not so much Morrison's.
As for extras, this deluxe edition comes with character biographies on each Batman Inc. member and villain. This is really cool, because we get some fun facts about their creation and background. We also get some variant cover sketches. Decent little extras. Though, I wish DC had included the "Corporate Takeover" plot summary that was originally included in the Batman Incorporated Leviathan Strikes #1 that gave a phenomenal summary of the Batman Inc., as well as a summary leading up to Bat Inc. This would have helped tremendously for new readers considering getting this book, since new readers are probably curious about reading it with vol.2 coming out this year in the New 52 line.
BATMAN INCORPARATED VOL.1 is not at all for new readers (and if your already know and dislike Morrison this book won't change your opinion one bit), and is best read once you read all of Grant Morrison's entire run on Batman. It's not perfect, but I consider myself a semi-newbie in Morrison's Batman, and I actually enjoyed this for the diverse world and scope Morrison has cooked up. Seeing as this is near the tail-end of Morrison's run (the big reveal for his entire run is in this book), I'm actually interested to go back where it started with Batman & Son vs. The Black Glove and read his whole run now when I can. I can't say the same for others, but once I'm caught up, here's hoping for Batman Inc. Vol.2.