This issue, which takes place entirely in “Internet 3.0”, is hands-down the worst single issue of a Grant Morrison-written Batman comic in the past six years. The art is jarring, the script is paper-thin and “the new internet” where we’re asked to spend all our time is poorly conceptualized and a little dumb, a mishmash of 1980s cyberpunk tropes and throwaway videogame references. The only slightly redeeming thing about this one is the revelation at the end.
I liked it? Bruce Wayne hosts a business meeting in cyberspace, circa 1995 ,and everything goes to hell when cyber-terroists invade and force the execs (aided by Batman and Tron/Oracle) to fight through a bunch of video game levels to save their wealth. I mean, the art was terrible, they type of computer art that people thought represented “the future” last century, which is a damn shame. The story was fun, providing some connective tissue between Morrison’s Batman R.I.P. arc from a few years ago and the current Leviathan mega-story. Also, Oracle’s Tron-inspired internet avatar was pretty cool. But man, that art was awful.
Somewhere hidden in Batman Incorporated #8 is a fascinating idea that Batman’s enemies are everywhere as he has to fight them even in the virtual world of the Internet 3.0 but the story gets obliterated by computer-generated artwork that makes this issue painful to read. Characters are inconsequential and action is muddied thanks to artwork that tries to emulate the environment of where the action is happening. This kind of computer artwork may have been cutting edge once upon a time but here feel stiff and unconnected to anything else that’s happened in this series. Morrison’s story lacks any punch as well as the brave-new-future that Bruce Wayne is pushing involves simulations and virtual relationships. Morrison isn’t pushing his Bruce Wayne in any new directions but is instead creating virtual worlds that have existed in fiction for decades now. It feels like he only recently saw Tron and thought it would be a neat idea for a Batman comic book.
I’ve been mostly enjoying the Morrison bat-books. Even when he’s at his most bizarre or delving deep into the character myth and history, leaving me scratching my head through a story, I tend to still enjoy the individual issues while I’m reading. This issue of Batman Inc. doesn’t fall in line with that tendency. Reading this story I really felt like this was just a piece out of a story I hadn’t read the beginning of. Nothing about this story makes much sense, even after the reasons for Bruce putting the investors “in danger” in the virtual world is somewhat explained, the entire concept of Internet 3.0 is still weird. I get the idea of some sort of Matrix-y interface, but the way it works is confusing — for instance, why would the people’s bank accounts be wiped out if their avatars are killed? Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. However, even if I’m just missing something from the story, the creepy, lifeless CG-based art didn’t improve my enjoyment. I would have much rather seen an artist’s actual drawings of a VR-type landscape and characters than this. These creepers make the Polar Express characters look cuddly and warm.
My eyes! Oh God my eyes! Grant Morrison is really into pushing the boundaries of what a comic can be, such as the all prose issue during his Batman run, but this is just an experiment gone wrong. It’s the ugly step-brother of the old ReBoot cartoon, which is an insult to ReBoot’s animators. Artist Pepe Moreno apparently made a Batman graphic novel in 1990 called Batman: Digital Justice that looks like cut scenes from games I would have played on my Mac LC 475, which is an insult to the good people behind SpaceQuest IV. If there was a story in this issue I was too busy screaming about my eyes to notice. This is possibly the worst looking comic put out by a professional comic book company in the past twenty years.