Batman Incorporated #4 “The Kane Affair”

Batman Incorporated #4 “The Kane Affair”
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Burnham & Nathan Fairbairn

I’m not sure what to say about Batman, Inc. It’s Grant Morrison. It’s shallow yet deep, dark yet light hearted, accessible yet impenetrable. The title isn’t for new readers, and if you haven’t invested yourself into Morrison’s prior runs, specifically RIP, there’s nothing for you here. If you have, and you can keep up, it’s a wonderful addition to the Batman mythos.

What’s been especially endearing about Morrison’s Batman, taken as a whole, is that he’s changing the very rules of DC. Marvel has always had a massive, fast and loose continuity. If something happened in 1963, Marvel has never been afraid to acknowledge it and play with it. Conversely, DC has always felt more at home resetting things, trying to streamline decades of continuity for old and new readers alike. And with Batman, Morrison has burrowed into the archives and said “Hell no.”

And so begins the Kane Affair, which focuses on Kathy Kane, The Batwoman. The yellow and red Bat-family Batwoman. The backstory and characterization is great, the history is solid, and her relationship with Bruce and Dick is cemented and believable. There are other things happening around this, with the current Batwoman getting stuck in the middle of Kane’s legacy, and Batman and El Gaucho in a duel to the death over their shared ex-lover…Kathy Kane.

Like anything Morrison does, the single issue story leaves you wanting more. Grant Morrison’s stories are like making out in a college dorm. Your partner is hot, and intelligent, and more than willing to trade off submission and dominance and teasing…and then you hear the clatter of keys, the cold grind of metal on metal, and the door opens only to slam against the chain. The roommate is home. The issue is over. You got a piece, but no pay off.

It’s this experience with Morrison stories that really makes me just want to wait for the trade.

But if you’re not just in this for Morrisons mind fucks, if you’re in it for Batman and DC and the love of the comic book, then you need this issue. Because while the story is splintering and bound to grab you, it’s because of the art.

Chris Burnham’s pencils and inks are fantastic. Each intertwinging story has it’s own art style, from the gritty Batwoman carnival chase, to the claustrophobic and dark scenes with Batman and El Sombrero, and my favorite: the Golden Age flashbacks. The pencils and inks are beautiful mix of modern day detail and 1940s comic book aesthetic. Burnham may not pop with a distinct personal style, but he doesn’t need to. He’s not about flash, he’s about substance, and this versatility is rarely embraced by the comic book crowd for the talent it is.

Of course, Burnham’s art is only a foundation, and it’s Nathan Fairbairn’s colors that seal the deal. I enjoy Fairbairn’s colors in other books, and in this issue, he goes above and beyond. The claustrophobic, tense scenes are only made moodier with his deliberate use of cold colors. The carnival is dark and dirty despite the lights. The flashback scenes spark with carefree color and glitz, with an aged filter selling the idea that these are actual scenes from sixty years ago.

Pat Brosseau’s lettering is clean and well designed, considering all the different narratives weaving throughout. And the masses of Morrison dialogue.

Seventy years of history. Morrison’s bold vision of Batman marches onwards, and whether you agree with what he’s doing, it’s issues and stories and artists like these that will keep Batman going on and on.

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