NOTE: Read Batman: Fear State Alpha #1 before reading this issue.

Alright everyone, take three!

Time for the third – yes, third – new John Ridley Batman book, starring the exact same character you’ve seen in the first two. With the first series taking place in the future and the second being digital-first, this will be the first proper ongoing book starring the Next Batman, Jace/Tim Fox. Financially, this is reason enough to justify yet another relaunch in the title. Creatively? It’s a little frustrating to have to jump between three different comics just to get a basic idea of this character. It’s a good thing that I’ve been liking Jace so far.

For all the hype this book has recieved, Jace doesn’t really do much in his first outing as Batman… but I have to assume that’s by design. Jace’s entire approach as the new Batman, in the wake of Bruce Wayne’s alleged death, is to bring things back down to street level: doing little acts of good, except being actually seen instead of lurking in the shadows. I really like this different take on how Batman can speak to people – obviously we’ve seen Bruce being a traditional hero before, but this angle feels unique enough to at least seem fresh. Instead of a particular agenda, Jace chooses to start with random acts of kindness (or in this case, justice). It does a great job of grounding him in the world of Gotham, especially with the city quickly transforming into one not many Bat-fans might immediately recognize.

The above image is probably my favourite Jace moment as a result. The way his Batman interacts with civilians is absolutely something every Bat-hero does, but it feels like his attempt to connect with the people of Gotham is his goal, rather than an afterthought. I think it’d work a little better if we knew Jace’s opinions on Batman himself a little more, though – we haven’t really seen much of that, aside from acknowledgment that he’s appropriating the image. The relationship with Jace and his father, Lucius, and how he’s working behind his old man’s back, is such a unique one, and I think the Fox family is easily the strongest part of Ridley’s Batman saga.

Ridley also seems particularly interested in covering the police force in Gotham: specifically, the two detectives Chubb and Whitaker, as well as the beat cops they work around. I don’t know how I feel about these cops yet – which is a shame, because they’ve been around for the entirety of Ridley’s storyline. They’re certainly nuanced, that much is clear; but they also feel like they’re treading the same ground, asking the same questions. Should they go after everyone wearing a mask in Gotham? Can they make exceptions and still ethically enforce the law? These aren’t bad questions, but they’re the same questions the characters still ask themselves several years later in Future State. I’d like to see more of their lives, at this point.

Now we get to Olivier Coipel’s art, which might seem to be the least controversial part of this book! I, however, happen to disagree: this art makes me very frustrated.

Not because it’s bad, of course. I’m not sure anyone could call it bad, what with it being… well, just look at how Coipel and colourist Alex Sinclair depict Batman on his motorbike, zipping through the streets of a new and quickly changing Gotham City:

What’s great about Coipel’s work is the subtle ways he manages to make it feel real, without necessarily eliminating the “cool” factor of a scene. When I think of this issue, I think of the subtle ways Batman’s suit feels new, rudimentary – the fabric clinging to him a little too tightly, his stance a little less god-like as compared to the work of Fabok or Mora. It’s dramatic and dynamic, but it’s also very good at grounding the audience.

So, why don’t I like it? Because it’s only here for one bloody issue!

Coipel will not be continuing artistic duties on this book after its first issue, just like how Nick Derington dropped The Next Batman after its debut. I’m sorry, but that’s just not on! DC, why give the debut issue of an important comic to a respected artist, only to not keep them on for at least some of the project after? I’m sure Coipel is a busy person, but if that’s going to be the case, then maybe don’t hire him at all. You’ve done this twice now! How is your audience expected to have confidence in your book if it’s swapped between artists after just one issue?

Ridley’s Batman saga has now cycled through five artists, and it’ll be onto its sixth come issue #2. I’m not happy about that. Art is just as important to a comic as its writing, and while some of the art has remained excellent, the inconsistency only serves to make me worried about if this book will truly have the longevity that I think it deserves. C’mon, DC. This comic’s worth more than that.

Recommended If: 

  • You’ve been keeping up with the Jace Fox saga so far.
  • The world of Gotham in Fear State has you excited for a new era of Bat-heroes.
  • You can afford yet another Batman book on your plate right now.

Overall

I’m not sure there’s ever been a higher volume of Batman content in comics than right now – probably hyperbolic, but it feels especially difficult when you’re on a team that has to review it all. As such, I Am Batman needs to do a good job of convincing you to buy this book over others. It does this by introducing a Batman who feels like he speaks for the people, more than he speaks for himself – and personally, I’m going to keep reading. But a story lives and dies by its art… so let’s see if this holds true come next month.

Score: 7.5/10

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Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this movie for the purpose of this review.

Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch