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Saturday, August 27, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- BATMAN INCORPORATED #8

First off, let me preface this review by stating that Batman Incorporated #8 is one of those comics you're either going to absolutely love or absolutely loathe.  There's no middle ground here, it seems, because you either buy this issue's story premise and artistic style or you don't.  As it turns out though, I loved it.

Ever since writer Grant Morrison began his current run on Batman, Batman and Robin and Batman Incorporated, he's been producing some of the most innovative Batman tales in a good long while.  The various Batman books, especially with the shift to Batman Incorporated, will tell one kind of story one month and then a completely different kind of story the next.  This particular story, "Nightmares in Numberland," focuses on Bruce Wayne showcasing his new "Internet 3.0" virtual reality system to a group of prospective investors but the system is hacked by someone calling himself The Worm Captain and the investors' avatars are taken hostage.

Nothing too distinctive about a "Batman saves hostages" story, but the virtual setting creates the opportunity to utilize computer graphics artwork by Scott Clark and Dave Beatty instead of a traditionally drawn style.  Yeah, these types of comics have been around since First Comics introduced Shatter and its Apple Macintosh dot-matrix universe to the world in 1985, and of course there was Batman: Digital Justice in 1990, which gets a name-check as the title for this story's final chapter.  However, it feels pretty fresh when you consider that the previous issue of Batman Incorporated was about a Native American Batman called Man-of-Bats and set in a reservation.

Human faces depicted with CG still look stiff and unnatural here, but Clark crafts some bold and stylish visuals for this virtual landscape.  Batman and this issue's partner Oracle are given distinctive avatars that look like animatics for the film Tron: Legacy, while the Worm Captain resembles some strange offspring of Morrison's Solaris creation and an Atraxi from the television series Doctor Who.

Morrison, meanwhile, cuts loose with high-concept technobabble and econobabble, throwing out ideas like "zombie economies" and "mutation engines" as if they were everyday terms.  Batman defeats a virtual henchman by "powering up" touching the floor and the Worm Captain renders one of the investors incapable of communication by changing her avatar into a small dog and making only gibberish come out of her virtual voice as if you pounded your fists onto your keyboard.

Some big, bold ideas here and definitely not the same old, same old, so do yourselves a favor and give it a try.  Even if you don't like it, you should walk away thinking about everything that comics have the potential to offer us...and that's always a good thing.

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