By: Grant Morrison (writer), Scott Clark & Dave Beaty (artists)

The Story: Look, just as long as you don’t let your kid starve to death, play online all you want.

The Review: The idea of taking our technological connections, the virtual threads that seem to wrap us tighter together by the day, and going one step further with it, where we can actually exist and interact as presently online as we do in real life—that idea isn’t new by any means.  In fact, once The Matrix brought it to big screen conception, almost every story with an immersive virtual reality scenario since seems like a blatant spin-off.

And so it goes with this issue of Batman Inc., featuring Bruce Wayne’s latest and greatest innovation: Internet 3.0.  We have scant specifics about how it works; at most, you presume people plug in through a headset of some kind and the advanced haptic technology actually lets them feel things that exist only in code.  As one of the investors brought onboard for a test-run remarks, “The prospects for the social side are sci-fi.”

Too often the plot forces us to take for granted the perils of plugging into Internet 3.0.  At one point, Oracle as Batgirl-avatar informs another investor that if their avatar gets hurt or killed, they’ll lose their entire fortune.  Why now?  And why does Bruce repeatedly warn his fellow billionaires to not leave the simulation?  These questions don’t ruin the story, but they distract you from immersing as much into the plot as the characters do into this new level of the internet.

Aside from the pseudo-science involved, the rest of the issue runs pretty smoothly.  Here you have Batman, a man who likes to physically get his hands dirty, trying to do his thing in a world where none of his prodigious physicality makes much of a difference.  Even though he can split himself into two avatars, Batman-avatar serves mostly as a shield, leaving Bruce-avatar the responsibility of looking out for his financial colleagues.

The “Inc.” part of the issue comes in a guest appearance by Oracle, who proves her unique value to the Bat-family in spectacular fashion.  She not only demonstrates that her time in a wheelchair hasn’t made her too rusty in the fisticuffs department (at least, in a virtual environment), but she also proves that in this arena, even Batman has nothing on her.  She really takes point on this mission, proving herself an unmatchable cyber-warrior and something of a coding demigod.

Our villain has a double mission statement, targeting each of the billionaires for their luxurious hypocrisy, and leading a group determined that, “Wherever the standard of the bat rises!  It will be torn down!”  All the while, these zombie viruses chant, “The worm.  Is everywhere…owns everyone…is everything,” a reference to Ouroboros (in biblical terms, both the snake and the worm are loathsome creatures, interchangeable despised).  It’s a sign sure as any that whoever Batman’s after, they have their eye on him and his buddies as well.

Clark and Beaty deliver one of the most unique-looking issues of comic book art, all drawn and colored in a 3D style that evokes the fanciest computer game you ever played in 2004.  The range for expression has its limits, and the movements unsurprisingly look a bit stiff and posed, but it all contributes appropriately to the unsettling otherworldliness of Internet 3.0

Conclusion: A fun idea, executed well, but with all the gloss and lack of depth as an excellent action movie.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – What a waste to give everyone “state of the art antiviral weaponry” and not let them use it.

– “Batman!  Power-up in the floor!”  How much more awesome can it get than Oracle programming a power-up for Batman to use as a stats boost in his fight against the zombie virus?