It's hard to believe that it's only been four months since the last issue of BATMAN, INCORPORATED. We were left with an unresolved story as Flashpoint and 'The New 52' took over the DC Universe. Now we finally get to see the issues that were supposed to have been released.
From the very first page you are brought back to the pre-New 52 Universe. When Bruce Wayne first returned, he mentioned he wanted Stephanie Brown, the Batgirl at the time, to enroll in a private school in England. This idea had some appeal but aside from a team up with Squire, we never really saw it play out.
Having Stephanie take the center stage of the first half of this 'one shot' reaffirms the potential her character had. I had liked her as Spoiler and wasn't crazy about her as Batgirl but as her BATGIRL series progressed, she really started to grow on me. Being undercover for Batman showed the amount of faith Batman had in her and hopefully this will earn her a spot in 'The New 52.'
Cameron Stewart's art on this portion is a wonder. Sure, there are the almost-inappropriate school girl outfits that are seen throughout but Stewart draws it all so well. The unfortunate thing is this half of the book makes you wish Stephanie's story could have lasted longer with Morrison and Stewart as the creative team. Somebody needs to make a Cameron Stewart/Stephanie Brown book happen.
There are obviously elements of the 'Who is Leviathan?' story but the action kicks up in the second half the book. Chris Burnham takes over wonderfully with his gritty style and this portion begins with Batman, Dick (dressed as Batman as well), Red Robin and Damian. As great as Batman, Incorporated has been in showing us the Batmen of other nations, this is the team-up we want to see. In typical Grant Morrison fashion, we get the Batman story we want and expect from him.
There are some shockers. It's to be expected. The payoff is enough to make up for whatever reason this story was delayed. What we need now is to see the ramifications from this and there should be some enormous ones. Morrison will be back on BATMAN, INCORPORATED in 2012. Let's hope it's earlier in the year rather than later. What happens here needs to be addressed and so far, it doesn't seem as if any of the current Batman writers are able or allowed to touch on them.
Continuity. There are so many good things in this book that pre- and post-New 52 shouldn't be an issue. The problem is, it is. Dick Grayson is still Batman here. We never really got a full explanation as to why Dick went back to being Nightwing. We've seen little mentions but it's always felt there was more to that story than we were told.
Stephanie Brown is Batgirl. Somehow I got the impression when this one-shot was announced, Stephanie's guise or name would revert back to Spoiler. I would be completely okay with that. I wouldn't even be bothered if she was still wearing her Batgirl outfit and was referred to as Spoiler. The fact that she's still Batgirl here will annoy the nit-picking readers trying to figure out why Barbara Gordon went back to being Batgirl and what that means for Stephanie now. She more than proved she was an essential element in Batman's arsenal against evil. I don't want to turn this into a "where's Stephanie?" rant but the fact is, she deserves to be seen and we deserve a better explanation as to how this story fits in with the current continuity.
Since all this happened before the 'New 52' issues, how come there hasn't been any mention of the craziness that ensued? Batman doesn't always speak out about his feelings or concerns but too much happened to simply set aside for another day. In the current books we have had mention of Batman, Incorporated but there has been no indication that these stories took place. I don't want to dwell on the lack of continuity (due to delays) but for all we've invested into reading and following the stories with all these characters, it's unfortunate to have this come out at this time and is something that is difficult to overlook.
There are some 'bonus features' at the end but the summary of what happened before would have made more sense at the beginning for new readers. A mention that the recap was there could have at least been mentioned. The covers and variants is something that should have been saved for when all of BATMAN, INCORPORATED is collected.
Grant Morrison is back to finish his BATMAN, INCORPORATED story with Cameron Stewart and Chris Burnham. The two artists fit perfectly with the portion they draw and both nail their portions. The $6.99 price is bound to make some think twice about purchasing but at 80 pages and the quality of the story and art we get from the creators clearly makes it worth it. If you've been following along Morrison's tale of Batman, it's a no-brainer that you need to get this. The shocking ending is also one that will have major ramifications. Unfortunately those ramifications should have been acknowledge or alluded to in the first four issues of the 'New 52' Batman titles. The fact that this book takes place pre-New 52 gives a big sense of awkwardness. You'll want to try to overlook it but it becomes a little difficult when seeing Dick as Batman and Stephanie as Batgirl. Despite this, it's going to be a long wait until Morrison returns to the touch on what he's set up here. Leviathan Strikes was a joy to read but it would have been great if we were able to read this before 'The New 52' or at least have some explanation over bridging the gap between the two periods.