I am Batman #4 is a comic dedicated to cleaning up plot threads and establishing a new status quo that doesn’t seem too different than what just came before. The Magistrate is in shambles, Simon Saint is behind bars, and characters spend a lot of time discussing what just happened as opposed to what happens next. There’s nothing here to entice newcomers to jump aboard and those who are sticking around are likely eager for the book to move on before they do.
Last month’s issue had a fair amount of bombastic action so I’m not surprised to see things slow down this issue. However, we do get a quick follow up to the previous cliffhanger where Jace meets Seer “face to face” before being ambushed by the remnants of the Magistrate’s Peacekeeper force. The dialogue exchange between Jace and Seer spits out some vague notions of secret plans and how the Magistrate was just the beginning of the changes soon to come to Gotham. This is a little undercut by the fact that this scene is interrupted by Magistrate remnants attacking both Jace and Seer letting readers know that things are changing, but not quite yet.
The action sequence is well done and in general both Stephen Segovia and Christian Duce are more than capable artists, even if their respective styles don’t make me rethink what comic art is capable of. Rex Lokus’ colors do a great job of meshing the two artists together, and the extended opening in an abandoned building in the garment district sets the appropriate mood even if its aesthetics border on drab. There’s a lot of cool blues and sickly greens that permeate the entire sequence and it makes this sequence a little murky. Batman’s dark black outfit and the peacemakers’ blue armor don’t exactly pop off the page, so the page layouts have to amp up the tension with slanted panels and evocative lettered sound effects. In fact, ALW’s Troy Peteri’s lettered sound effects do offer a little pop of color and energy within the murky visuals. Another saving grace is that character poses are dynamic and the compositions do change perspective to empower some of the action beats. A wider shot of Batman pouncing toward a peacekeeper is followed up by a dynamic panel where Batman punches them “toward” the reader. It isn’t always pretty, but it’s effective.
While that momentary flash of action did intrigue me, I’m less enthused about the rest of the issue where our large cast reflects on the past. Characterizations are blunt and dialogue never rises beyond expository, deciding subtlety is not worth the effort. Lucius and Tanya’s argument over the “masks” isn’t nearly as engaging as their worries about Jace. Tanya had an opportunity to shoot “Batman”, not knowing it was her own son, but didn’t pull the trigger due to her changing feelings toward vigilantes. The best type of arguments usually have both characters as correct, but here it’s hard not to feel as though Lucius’ unchanging moral barometer is frustrating rather than tragic. The interpersonal drama that does work is Lucius’ anger at Jace, underperforming at his new opportunity working for him, not knowing that Jace’s focus is on his mission as Batman. That’s the type of superhero interpersonal drama that works, not bending over backwards to constantly reiterate how a certain character hates “masks” despite the mounting evidence that Jace’s Batman is fighting for good.
The Fox family drama has its moments, but what follows can’t help but feel like a wasted opportunity to fully break away from the Magistrate and the remnants of DC’s Future/Fear State. Victor Noonan, now ostensibly our new main villain, sets his sights on picking up where the Magistrate left off. The idea of a new leader continuing the work of the past isn’t inherently bad, but upon revealing his new “kind of law enforcement officer”, it comes across as more of the same. The new force emerging is called “T.A.L.O.S.” (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) and it looks a lot like the Magistrate armor. It’s the same type of villain with a new name and a barely new coat of paint. So even while the issue does its best to clean house and render the Magistrate as obsolete, those moving into the now empty void don’t seem to be a fresh change of pace. Ridley’s script does end on a very classic type of cliffhanger, but it’s hard to build much excitement from a narrative that seems afraid of really shaking things up.
- You’re invested in the fallout of Fear State and Simon Saint’s Magistrate.
- The Fox family drama intrigues you, particularly the fragile relationship between Lucius and Jace.
- You’re still holding out hope that Ridley’s take on Batman can still forge a unique path for itself.
I am Batman #4’s flaw lies with the inherent “angle” John Ridley has taken with Jace and his taking on the Batman mantle. It’s hard for me to find a compelling hook beyond the somewhat unique backstory of the Fox family and their diverging opinions on masked vigilantes. Jace’s relationship with Lucius is by far the most compelling dynamic in my opinion, but the series needs to find Jace a truly unique adversary and mission to take on if this book is to ever gain momentum. As it stands, Jace’s mission feels like playing clean up for the fallout from the main Batman series.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.