Okay, now this is more like it!
I’m going to try and make this review as snappy and to-the-point as possible. In short, while I had my doubts about Jace Fox’s move to New York, this is a very good first issue in his new arc: and sets the stage for what could be Jace’s first genuinely great outing as the new Batman. Really liked what this issue had to offer here.
The Next Batman, Second Son and the first arc of I Am Batman were stories that felt bogged down by outside forces: Future State, Fear State, an awkward timeline jump that meant Jace had no clear introduction between three comic books, and an artist roster that was rotating faster than a roulette wheel. More than anything, though, I wonder if the story was mostly bogged down by Gotham itself.
Maybe this is a misreading of the situation, but John Ridley (who has been the primary writer for most of Jace’s adventures) hasn’t seemed all that interested in connecting Jace to other characters in the world of Gotham. There’s a level to which I respect that – wanting a character to stand on their own, and all – but he’s writing a character who’s quite literally co-opting an iconic symbol. It’s weird that it hasn’t been given more attention by the Bat Family, and it makes Jace’s existence feel like a strange afterthought rather than its own story. Moving to New York negates all of this.
As we know from the past few decades of Marvel stories – and, you know, real life – New York is a rich and vibrant locale with a lot of potential for storytelling, notably in the superhero scene. It’s never seen as much attention in DC, which makes giving the city its own Batman feel like a rather natural choice. The instant we step into the city, Jace immediately sets himself apart: instead of a Batman struggling to find himself in a city already cluttered with heroes, we see a man making a striking first impression in a new world of political and social intrigue. I get the feeling that Jace will do well in New York – so long as there’s a market for it.
Not only do we instantly get a better sense of Jace’s Batman in this city, but we finally have some clear villains! Currently, there are two primary antagonists at play here: the politicians looking to co-opt Batman’s role as a vigilante by turning him into an arm of the police, and a serial killer targeting the elite of New York. The political intrigue is the better-written aspect of the book so far – I love the idea of the Mayor trying to turn Batman into “his symbol” – but the serial killer aspect is what really has my eye. The issue opens with a striking murder scene, and it makes me wonder if we’re about to see Jace’s first supervillain. I really hope that’s the case!
Empire State of Mind has grabbed my attention more than any other Jace arc so far, which is assisted by art that is, above all else, consistent. It’s good, too (great, in fact!), but just the fact that we finally have a singular artist on this book is a blessing. Ken Lashley’s work is detailed, dramatic and defined: the way he illustrates New York makes it feel wonderfully lived-in, with well-depicted background environments and background characters who don’t need to be as expressive as they are. Some of my favourite parts of the book are the little visual moments, like the efforts Jace takes to bond with the people of New York.
What I especially love is how he inks his own work. Anyone who knows any half-decent Batman story understands the visual importance of shadows, and Lashley demonstrates this to great effect. Many of the more sinister moments of the book are shrouded in darkness, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks of a grizzly crime scene – which I won’t show here. Instead, I’ll show you how he draws Batman, looming over a criminal as he knocks them to the ground. Lashley’s work fits the content of the book wonderfully, and I very much hope he sticks around! A consistent artist like Lashley will do this book wonders, and if the book continues to be like this, my opinion on I Am Batman is going to change dramatically for the better.
- You want to see more of New York in major DC comics! I’m looking to visit myself later in the year.
- Jace’s story – or at least the idea of it – has you interested enough to check it out in a setting independent from Gotham.
- You haven’t been turned off by a rather choppy and inconsistent start for the character.
Reviewing this book has sometimes been quite difficult. A good book is fun, because you get excited talking about it – and a bad book can be fun, because there’s usually a lot to discuss. Mediocre books toe the line, which makes them tricky to review; but this issue is anything but mediocre. I understand why many people haven’t given Jace a chance, but I think if the book uses this fresh start for good, we might finally have a great story that shows us exactly what the latest Batman brings to the table.
Which I’ve said before. So… fingers crossed.
P.S. This should have been I Am Batman #1.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch