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Includes Issues:Original Graphic Novel
Issue Dates:February 1, 1990
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This review contains light spoilers. Skip To The Verdict? »

Ah, the prize jewel of my extensive graphic novel collection!

When humble craftsman Pepe Moreno first started work on his small creation about a little known character, Batman, he never would have thought that Digital Justice would become one of the best selling graphic novels ever made, rocketing Batman into mainstream appreciation and jumpstarting a long and illustrious career.

Now, twenty years later, this classic of artful engineering seems to have not aged a day. It’s just as earth shatteringly inventive and beautiful as it was upon release.

This book was crafted entirely using computers! You might not have noticed it due to the subtlety and smoothness of much of the linework. The whole package was lovingly printed in an oversized hardcover and softcover release.

Like Batman: Year One, The Killing Joke, or The Dark Knight Returns, it’s hard to discuss such a monumentally important story without spoiling it, so we’ll just assume you’ve already read this classic and dive right into plot discussion.

In the future Gotham City, at the end of the 21st Century, mankind lives in a dystopia comparable to 1984, Brave New World, Blade Runner, the novels of Philip K. Dick, and the works of so-called “cyberpunk” writers.

Hey, would you look at that – the bookjacket even states that “Digital Justice will be compared to such dystopian visions as 1984, Brave New World, Blade Runner, the novels of Philip K. Dick, the works of the so-called “cyberpunk” writers in recent science fiction” – how did they know that 20 years later I’d be making exactly those comparisons??

They must have seen that they were sitting on something really special here.

As the book says – Welcome to Future Land!

The Batman we know is long dead and Commissioner Jim Gordon’s grandson, thankfully also named Jim in order to avoid confusion, is the only good cop on a force run primarily by computers.

Things are getting bad in future land, as the protection systems have mistakenly taken down living cops and left real crime unavenged.

Jim’s investigation eventually leads him to believe an evil mega-virus has taken control of Gotham City – the Joker virus!

The only force that can stop it? A newly reborn Batman!

The story spins through webs of action packed drama, introducing new takes on familiar characters at every turn.

Bruce Wayne has left behind a computerized Alfred, ready to serve the future fight. From the ranks of the neo-surfers, a young punk Robin joins the battle.

A voluptious popstar rises from the ranks of the mutant generation – and eventually takes on the persona of the Catwoman – but is she an ally or enemy?

Along with these inventive recreations, exciting new characters flesh out the cast: Know Man, Mob Lord, Law Man, Media Man and even an intriguing Madame X!

These iconic personas speak to the core of our digital age souls.

In fact, the entire book whispers to the fears of the 21st century man. What does mankind’s future hold? Will we all just be bits in a machine, “wetware” easily controlled by computerized sex and rock and roll?

Moreno takes our doubts and spins them into dark poetry – his Joker was a programmer:

“As time passed, his virus proved more dangerous than anyone dreamed.”

“It spread to more and more systems, accumulating core storage — and power.”

“Eventually, it became capabale of manipulating the political and media centers of this city and quickly gained near-total control!”

“Under the reign of this outlaw code, technology has been warped, from the tool of humanity… to its master! A master who has striven to delete legend, faith, and hope from the hearts of the people.”

Who among us doesn’t whimper themselves to sleep under the burden of such thoughts?

But the author is kind and gives us hope again in the form of his new alliance “Digital intelligence teamed with the cream of humanity” – Batman and Robin of course!

The final climatic meeting of these two sides, human and just vs. insane code, results in a world shaking psychedelic journey taking the reader to the edge of time, eternity itself, and beyond!

Everything is portrayed in breathtaking detail – computerized innerscapes, fantastic air-space battles, and even street level crime. Moreno displays a startling grasp of human anatomy and a touching understanding of expression- every face feels alive, the subtlety of their countenance bringing the reader deeper into this world.

There are great heights of beauty among the chasms of dark depravity necessary to bring weight to such a heavy tale.

While the story ends, far too soon for this reviewer, thankfully there is extra content in this book to help handle your craving for more.

There is a diagram for the Batcraft (Stealth VTOL Multipurpose All Weather Craft) which showcases the impressive high-tech design for this sleek futuristic vehicle.

There is also the Batsuit, complete with brain wave interface and helmet integrated micro-computer. Finally a diagram for the ominous Servocop bots rounds out this selection – I was wondering exactly how much they weighed!

The extras also include some DNA ID cards – the “character stack” showcasing some beautifully crafted portraits of our heroes and villains. Lastly, a “glossary stack” really showcases just how much creative work has gone into building this fine tuned world. Terms such as Robo-Phone and Pleasure Suit are given history and context for the interested reader.

Pepe Moreno’s impressive bio is featured in the last two pages.

As he ends – “certain that multi-media, digital entertainment is the wave of the future. He plans to be at the forefront of it.”

So rarely is an artist able to predict his own career. Moreno is a quickly recognizable name in today’s burgeoning field of digital comics and deservedly so!

As for this book, it will always go down in history as the one that showed everyone that digital comics were vastly superior to outdated analog measures.

It’s quite obviously the best graphic novel to come out of the late 80s and early 90s – probably the best Batman story ever.

Verdict:
5 out of 5. An inventive and mindblowing story lovingly wrapped in futuristic art sure to impress any reader.

Not only an amazing work of sequential art but also a classic of post-relativistic anti-modernist literature.

Essential Continuity:
This is the book that started the Batman craze of the 90s – without it we would have never gotten Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman: The Animated Series, The Dark Knight Returns, or Batman branded pop-tarts.

Read first:
Everything you need to know about Batman is right here.

Read next:
After this book, you’ll never need to read another comic again. Or want to!

Still, Batman: 3D came out the same year.

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10 Comments Post New »

  1. avatar Ryard wrote on at November 28, 2010 9:43 pm:

    I…uh…um…huh.

    Ok, I was blown away as a 16 year old…and even today some of the character designs are impressive (that Joker sprite was pretty cool)…

    But…yeah.

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on November 28th, 2010 at 9:55 pm:

    It’s got nothing on that catwoman design!

    [Reply]

  2. avatar scorpioo wrote on at November 29, 2010 5:56 am:

    Interesting – is this elseworlds or not?

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on November 29th, 2010 at 11:28 am:

    It doesn’t have the Elseworlds logo, but is very much out of continuity – I placed on the list with the rest of the DC alternate universe titles.

    [Reply]

    avatar scorpioo replied on November 29th, 2010 at 12:32 pm:

    Ok.thanks

    [Reply]

  3. avatar Carlos wrote on at June 5, 2012 11:46 pm:

    As a kid I remember to see a video from the Joker virus, did that really existed or was it some figment of my imagination..?

    [Reply]

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