Batman Inc. #7
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Burnham
Holy crap. An issue of Batman Inc. that isn’t so late you kind of forgot what happened in the last issue. Not that this issue perfectly picks up where the last issue left off, further establishing the global scope of Batman Inc. Issue #7 focuses on the activity of Native American Batman & Robin analogs, Man-of-Bats and Raven Red on the reservation where they make their home, a choice which makes this arguably the most political Batman comic written by Grant Morrison (or anyone in recent years.)
At face value, this issue is about the strained relationship between Man-of-Bats and Raven Red. The elder and father of the pair, Man-of-Bats, is dedicated to protecting the people on his reservation while Raven Red desires to spread his wing and join the heroes of the world at large, namely the Teen Titans. Of course, just to keep with the overarching theme of the book, Leviathan rears it’s ugly head in the form of drug dealers on the reservation and Batman swoops in to reunite the heroic pair and help them take down the common foe of Bat-garbed heroes. worldwide.
But a little more is going on between the covers than just that.
Morrison has spent his tenure on Batman deconstructing the character and that exercise continues this week.
He teases the reader with the notion of “Batman on a budget,” given the fact that Man-of-Bats and Raven Red aren’t super rich like Bruce Wayne or Oliver Queen or Ted Kord or Tony Stark…they’ve got to make do with what they can scrape together and given Man-of-Bats proclivity to sacrificing everything for his people, that’s never much. He really highlights this current deconstruction of Batman with the title of the issue “Medicine Soldiers” and the first few panels:
The conceit of this issue seems to be that a “Batman on a budget” is infinitely more valuable to the people element of the work rather than a greatly funded Batman with a nigh global reach.
Allow me to explain: The difference between Man-of-Bats and Batman (and the issue that seems to be driving a wedge between Man-of-Bats and Raven Red) is the fact that the villains Batman faces are ones he can often put a face to and then punch. Drugs in Gotham? Punch the suppliers. Corrupt politician? Punch their backers and blackmail them. Crooked cops? Have Harvey Bullock punch them. Of course there are greater stakes involved in what Batman does, he can’t prevent political corruption, he can’t catch every crooked cop, he can’t force a reform in the justice system so the Joker stops getting sent to Arkham…but he has options in regards to various problems afflicting his area of purview.
Man-of-Bats doesn’t really have that option. For those of who aren’t particularly well-versed in the issues affecting Native American reservations, well, they’re almost a lot like the ones depicted in this comic (except no super-villains) – there’s rampant poverty, drug addiction and alcohol abuse. You can’t punch those things. He can punch the drug dealers he catches but he can’t stop the supply. Booze is legal so he can’t do much about that. He can’t create jobs so people can find work. Unlike Batman, who’s almost a surgeon when it comes to removing the cancer that is crime and social blight, Man-of-Bats and Raven Red are more like band-aids, yet the panel posted above seems to speak more to their efficacy than that of Batman’s.
Batman rarely has a personal connection with those he helps. Few would be happy to see him and Robin at their door and I imagine there’s a great deal of Gotham City that either feels untouched by Batman’s efforts or resentful of the super-villains they feel he attracts into their city, an idea which almost calls into the question the value of the Batman idea….
…but of course it all ties together towards the epic Morrison is building with his Batman work. The idea of Batman Inc. is to combat Leviathan, an evil that’s seemed to always exist and be everywhere. Batman’s journey through time established the idea of Batman as a force for good historically and Batman Inc. is his attempt at solidifying that in the modern world. It’s more about Batman not just being in once place, it’s about Batman being more than one thing – white, black, female, asian, muslim, native american, big time JLA level superhero or small-scale defender of the downtrodden.
Oh, and barring all that mythos building, it was a pretty damned good single issue story. The DCU needs more Raven Red.
Tags: Batman, Batman Inc, Grant Morrison