I didn’t have high expectations for what looked like the TRON issue of Batman Inc. For some reason, the idea came across like a forced attempt to jam Batman into a digital world where he doesn’t belong. However, I was completely blown away by this issue. What I thought would be a cheesy cashing in on the recent TRON sequel turned out to be one of the most visually interesting and entertaining comics of the year.
From the very first panel, I was impressed by the computerized look of this issue. The comic opens on Bruce Wayne and a group of billionaire investors having a meeting inside of a simulation of Gotham City. The art in this digital world looks much more like CGI than traditional comic book art. It’s an effect that’s both like having a psychedelic experience and playing a video game at the same time.
Bruce Wayne explains to the investors the potential of this virtual reality dimension, and interestingly enough, Morrison has him use terms that reflect his personal influences. Bruce Wayne says of this Internet 3.0, “Here, the map and the territory are the same thing.” “The Map is not the Territory” is a philosophical statement that writer Robert Anton Wilson, one of Morrison’s stated influences, famously used in his book Prometheus Rising. It’s always intriguing to me when Morrison’s esoteric leanings creep into his mainstream superhero work where most people won’t even recognize the reference.
The digital board room meeting is interrupted by a computer worm that invades in the guise of zombie terrorists. The art here is really stunning. My words can’t possibly convey how good these panels look as “the worm captain” and his AK-47 toting team of zombie terrorists breach virtual Wayne Enterprises. You’ll just have to pick up the issue and see for yourself. Following the worm captain’s penetration into the Wayne mainframe, we get a truly awesome full page spread of a digital Batgirl cruising on a cross between a TRON light cycle and the Bat-Pod from The Dark Knight.
I know I sound like a broken record, but the art in the subsequent panels is truly amazing. Batgirl crashes into the boardroom and beats up the computer worm terrorists, and with each blow they explode into bursts of ones and zeros. The action jumps off the page, and the colors are vibrant and day-glo. It looks a bit like Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies (wait, let me finish) if his films were unrelentingly awesome instead of groan inducing disappointments.
After Batgirl makes her entrance, we get to see the digital version of Batman. Like Batgirl’s virtual costume, this Batman outfit is heavily TRON inspired, and even though I went into this thinking I wouldn’t like it, it looks surprisingly cool. Bruce Wayne escapes with the investors while simultaneously operating his Batman avatar; this is a conceit that plays on the classic secret identity trope and is an interesting sci-fi concept. In this digital Gotham, there’s no reason Batman and Bruce Wayne can’t be in the same place at the same time, but this comes at the price of splitting the caped crusader’s attention between two avatars. Bruce Wayne comes across as distant, shocked, and frozen as he flees with the investors who just assume he’s panicking liked the spoiled rich kid he appears to be.
The antagonist of this issue is a man who has infected Bruce Wayne’s Internet 3.0 and taken the investors hostage. If they unplug from the virtual reality, they risk losing their fortunes to the cancer-like infection that has infiltrated the system. The digital cancer cell that the antagonist uses as his avatar is very creepy, and it’s a cool visual effect.
Without delving too deep into the mind bending specifics of the plot, suffice to say that this is an extremely well written comic. Not only that, but the visuals are some of the best that I’ve seen in a comic. This is definitely the first time that I’ve seen computerized art used to such amazing effect in a comic book. I went into this issue expecting very little, but I’d highly recommend this comic to even the most skeptical of Batman fans.