January 20, 2013

REVIEW: Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes!

In this one-shot from 2011, the mastermind behind the criminal organization Leviathan is revealed. Leviathan Strikes! collects the two part "season one" finale of Grant Morrison's Batman epic, and preludes the current New 52 arc. It's a book you won't want to miss and definitely something to look back to if you haven't already read it. Oh, and did I mention Stephanie Brown makes an appearance?

GameStop, Inc.

Published in late 2011, Leviathan Strikes! is essentially issues #9 and 10 of volume one of Batman, Incorporated. In other words: pre-New 52 Batman, where Dick Grayson is still the Batman of Gotham City, Tim Drake (a.k.a. Red Robin) was formerly an ACTUAL Robin, and Stephanie Brown is still Batgirl. To avoid potential headaches of muddled retcons and New 52 reboots, the final issues of Batman, Inc. were delayed and released after Flashpoint had concluded and the New 52 Universe was (somewhat) established. The fine editors at DC kept this all in mind, and specifically state in the book's opening pages that the events being told take place before the events of Flashpoint occurred.

If Leviathan Strikes! establishes anything, it's that Leviathan means business and Batman and Batman Inc. may have finally met their match. The first half of the book stars Stephanie Brown as she investigates the St. Hadrian School for Girls (secretly run by Leviathan), while the second half features Batman/Bruce, Batman/Dick, Red Robin, Robin and the rest of Batman, Inc. as they infiltrate the lair of Dr. Dedalus.

Although both chapters are equally enjoyable, I enjoyed the first chapter much more than the second. Told in the point of view of Stephanie, Morrison proves once and for all that Bruce made the right choice in picking her not only as an albeit temporary Robin, but also as the new Batgirl and a member of Batman Incorporated. Fans of Stephanie Brown definitely won't want to miss this book. If someone from DC is listening, Stephanie's return in the DCnU is long overdue! Bring her back already! On an unrelated note, lookout for Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga as students of St. Hadrian's. Madonna also appears as the headmaster. Gotta love Easter egg cameos!

The second chapter was done in typical Morrison style of confusing but fun, as Batman/Bruce finally confronts Dr. Dedalus. Batman/Bruce falls victim to hallucinogenic gas, and we get the typical Morrison-esque jumping from setting to setting as Batman fights its effects. If anything, the best part of the second chapter for me was seeing the entirety of  Batman Incorporated working together.

The art of Leviathan Strikes! is also exceptional and suits Morrison's story well. Long time Morrison collaborators Cameron Stewart and Chris Burnham show some of their best work in this book. Although I enjoyed the art throughout, I again particularly enjoyed the artwork in the first chapter more than the second.

Despite the delayed release, unfortunately for current DC readers specific questions in the New 52 are never explained. There's no clear segue way into the New 52 universe despite this being the "last" Batman book of the pre-reboot universe. Why did  Bruce dissolve the team of Dick and Damian? Why did Dick Grayson give up the cape and cowl? What happened to Stephanie? It's easy to look past but hard to swallow all the same.

Continuity issues aside, Leviathan Strikes! is a superb book, and a shining example of the epicness of Grant Morrison's lengthy Batman tale. All the typical Morrison storytelling is present here; plot twists, setting jumps, and of course the surprise ending, which despite being somewhat expected, a total surprise all the same.

THE GOOD: Great stories by Morrison, and exceptional art by both Stewart and Burnham. Especially loved the first chapter starring Stephanie. I also have to admit, it's nice seeing the pre-New 52 universe one last time.

THE BAD: Unfortunately, Morrison doesn't directly resolve the New 52 continuity issues. This book is the last official appearances of Dick Grayson as Batman and Stephanie Brown as Batgirl. Seeing as it was delayed and published after the entire New 52 reboot, some continuity resolutions would have been nice. I guess we can't blame Mr. Morrison entirely, as it's safe to say the New 52 reboot was more or less a giant speed bump in his epic ongoing Batman story.


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