This week, we’ll be uploading two reviews for the latest issues of I Am Batman: a catch-up for last month’s issue #2, and one for this month’s issue #3. Both will cover different scenes, praises and critiques, but you’ll find that each of them have a similar score.
Before I continue, I’d like to quickly address some complaints I’ve seen about I Am Batman from my first review. I regularly read your comments, and your voices are definitely heard: I understand why you feel like Jace feels forced, whether that’s because he hasn’t earned his place or because his insertion within the Batman universe feels unnatural. In my last review, I commented that I enjoy the idea of Jace speaking for the people, and how he’s a Batman that feels like he could be more connected with those on the streets of Gotham. Understandably, I think people bristled at the statement – Bruce represents the people just fine, one commenter said. This is true! I’d be an idiot if I didn’t see the values in stories such as Batman #44, “A Simple Case”.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t think any of this has to prevent Jace from being the Batman he is right now. I remember after Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo “killed” Batman in Endgame, readers had a similarly adverse reaction to Jim Gordon taking the role of Batman – and while these aren’t the exact same circumstances, I feel about the same here as I did then. I don’t particularly feel like a character needs to earn their place as Batman – you’re fighting an uphill battle you’re never going to win if you try to do that. So long as a creator is making good work for its own sake, then I don’t think it matters if a character has “earned” their figurative stripes. But it’s not for me to say if John Ridley is writing Jace Fox for the artistic value – it’s only for me to say if it’s good or not. So, is it?
I mean… it’s okay.
This comic has a problem that’s happened with each of the three books Jace has starred in so far – I think the character himself has a lot to enjoy, but Ridley struggles with finding a strong direction for the story to move in. The Next Batman had a fantastic beginning, but it was partially carried by its art – something that its second, third and fourth issues didn’t have to support it. Second Son somewhat mitigated this by adding a great backstory to Jace, but the central plot could only go so far with that as its strongest element. Here, I Am Batman has neither the shine of a new character, nor the intrigue of a backstory – it has to rely on its own merits, and it doesn’t have that many.
It’d take too long to speak to all of my issues here, so let’s take this review to focus on the antagonists of the story. For one, Arkadine – this is a character who’s been mentioned since Second Son as being up to no good, but we don’t have any particular reason to believe he’s anything special. As a villain, he means nothing to me! He has no real relation to Jace – other than he’s the first real criminal he’s looking to take down – we’ve essentially never seen him, and he hasn’t done all that much to warrant a sense of gravitas. Just look at how they talk about him here, and consider that this is one of the story’s main anatagonists so far:
Glorified lackey or not, there’s nothing interesting about him – and we certainly aren’t any closer to finding out about his employer, either. He’s one example of how little I care about the central plot.
The “Hidden Agenda” subplot is confusing, too. Like, so confusing, there’s no way around it. Just look at this word vomit from a minor character in the issue, if you want an example:
The concept of “the Hidden Agenda” is introduced by the mysterious villain Seer as a rather clunky analogy for the Deep State. Not only are the police and the Magistrate part of a shadow government controlling Gotham, but also somehow so are the masked heroes and villains the government is trying to hunt down? You could argue that real life has conspiracy theories that clunky, but I’m looking for some level of coherency in my stories. This is supposed to be a tragic and unfortunate scene that causes dividing lines between two cops – instead, we fail to understand the fundamental logic of the storytelling, meaning everything the characters do in response to the event seems confusing and hollow.
This moment here? That’s an interesting conversation, if the premise behind it felt genuinely convincing. That’s not even covering the fact that Renee should not be in this position – a hole she only digs deeper for herself as the comic continues.
What saves this comic is the art, which manages to still be quite good despite my continued disappointment that Olivier Coipel only drew the first issue. Steven Segovia’s illustrations may not be as detailed as Coipel’s all the time, but what he does draw captures a similar vibe while still giving it his own creative flair. My only real critique is that some of his faces look a smidge too cartoony, honestly.
While I like a lot about his work, from his expressions to his storyboarding, I think the way he handles action is particularly impressive here. Jace’s Batman feels like a tank of a man, knocking down people with a single whirl of his arms. It’s a fun progression from the literal tank suit he began his career as Batman with, to the sleek outfit you find him in during Future State‘s Justice League.
This kind of visual storytelling is why I love comic books, and it’s what keeps this book from being a slog for me! But that’s not really enough to make it an instant buy.
- You’re into Jace’s less refined approach to being Batman. It’s new, and I like new!
- You’re into a politically charged mystery, even if the mystery feels a little… *shrug*.
- Renee Montoya’s your favourite character, even if she’s a beurecratic cop who compromises to corruption. So… maybe not, then?
I was initially going to give this a 5, but upon listing the critiques of this book in order, I’m inclined to dock it another point. The art is a great time, but the art can only go so far – and while I really do love Jace and his backstory, there’s only so much goodwill I can give before I want more from Ridley’s Bat-saga.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch