“Represent. Always represent.”

These are the words that conclude I Am Batman #5, and they feel almost cathartic. Not only is it the final line in a genuinely good scene – one that actually does feel earned, to boot – but it also feels like a turning point. With these words, we’re finally given a real direction for Jace; and while it took way too long for us to get here, I’m very glad to see we did.

Reading I Am Batman #4 (followed by Michael’s excellent review), I found myself struggling to care about where the story was going. I’ll admit, it threw me a few curveballs: the supposed death of Simon Saint genuinely took me aback, and I was glad to see that the remnants of Fear State were being carefully handled, rather than tucked under the rug. But other things – like this Victor Noonan, some Norman Osborne-lookalike who has appeared out of nowhere with his store-brand Magistrate – provide me with no reason to care as of right now, relying on the good will presumably earned by the Fear State event to make us give a crap about this new (but functionally idential) threat.

Issue #5 is more of that, but it does at least have a little emotional weight. Seeing Jace facing a threat he can’t handle, finding ways to fight back, and discovering the people who side with him along the way? All of that is good stuff, even if some of the loyalty proclaimed by the Gothamites on the street doesn’t feel like it’s been earned just yet.

The real interesting content comes with the changes in Jace’s relationship with his father, Lucius. Lucius has been portrayed in a way that’s frustrated me as of late – while I appreciate the attempt at taking a likeable character and giving him shades of moral ambiguity (to put it lightly), I often felt like Lucius’ character was flung onto the opposite end of the moral seesaw without rhyme or reason. Here, there’s an attempt to bridge both versions of Lucius, and it makes for the most interesting content in the story. While I don’t think Lucius will be appearing much from here on out, it gives me hope that Ridley can take what he’s done here and apply it to his new cast as they move to New York.

Now, what’s especially annoying about ongoing books like this is that if they don’t fix complaints you’ve had in issues prior, you start running out of things to say. I find this being the case for the art… or rather, the constantly rotating roster of illustrators. This issue, three illustrators are sharing the workload, including Laura Braga, who handled most of The Next Batman. Braga and Christian Duce have styles similar enough that they interchange well enough, but Juan Ferreyra’s art doesn’t fit with that theme: having a more exagerrated style that makes a rather nothing sequence in the middle of the comic stand out for no reason.

I guess my main issue with this is that it prevents I Am Batman from having a visual identity. When I think of iconic stories such as Year One, I think David Mazzucchelli as much as I think Frank Miller – and even popular runs today such as Nightwing would be nowhere near as popular without the visuals of artists like Bruno Redondo. Snyder and Capullo’s Batman, Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye, these are all comics that prove themselves on both a written level and a visual one. I Am Batman hasn’t had that chance – and instead of sticking with one artist, whether it be Braga or Derington or Coipel, the book jumps from artist to artist to the point where it practically gives me whiplash.

I don’t even think the art is bad in this issue. Each illustrator brings their own unique talents here: Ferrayra’s art is dripping with mood and atmosphere, Braga is getting better at action sequences that still manage to display Jace’s personality, and Duce does a good job of portraying Lucius Fox during a moment of genuine character growth.

All of this is good, and all of these artists have their merits: but when released together in the same comic, none of them are really given a chance to shine. I’d like that to change. The more you can do for your artists, the more they can do to make your book something special. Under a consistent vision, Jace could do wonderful things… but we may have to wait a while longer for that to happen.

Recommended If:

  • You’ve been waiting to see Jace move beyond the literal and creative boundaries of Gotham City.
  • Lucius Fox’s character change has been something you’re invested in, for better or for worse.
  • You want something of an epilogue to some lingering threads from Fear StateFuture State and Tynion’s run.

Overall

This book has yet to reach the consistent highs I’d like it to, but issue #5 does play to its consistent strengths. When this comic tackles the family dynamic of the Foxes, I Am Batman is at its best – so let’s see if we can leave this talk of masks and magistrates behind for now, now that Jace has stepped into his own spotlight.

Score: 6.5/10

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

Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch