Empire State of Mind (More like Empire State of Mild, heyo!) reaches its conclusion – and I’m as thoroughly whelmed as ever! Not much else to say, so let’s just get into it.
With Manray slaughtering his way across the elites of New York City, the mayor is the next on his hitlist. It’s up to Batman to figure out why, as well as how to stop him – but so far, Manray is only going after the corrupt of the city. So, is the mayor secretly corrupt?
That’d be nice. It’d make him more interesting than he currently is. I Am Batman relies a whole lot on political intrigue, but it lacks the character depth to make that compelling. Jace is well-written enough at this point (you’d hope, he’s had three entire comic books for it), but even he has a rather middling transition from “crisis of faith” to “self-assured hero” in this arc. So, you have a problem: when he’s your major character and the rest of the cast is there to predominantly support him, you’re either plagued with characters who overshadow him or characters who are even less interesting. Unfortunately, it’s the latter in this case.
Manray is currently New York’s only villain to go up against Batman, and this issue doesn’t do much to deepen his motivations. Either the creators are assuming you have enough to go on from previous issues, or they’re holding out on information about him for the next arc. Either way, it makes the fight in this issue rather so-so. We’re not talking about two mortal enemies fighting with both fists and ideals, we’re seeing another action scene between the same two guys in a slightly different location, where little to nothing has changed about their characters. Meanwhile, the cops are watching from the sidelines, and I’m barely able to keep track of which one’s which.
You know how the cast of Gotham City gets away with being so consistently interesting? They cheat! Penguin could be written as the most generic mob boss you could think of, and he’d still have a fantastic design, making his presence pop when he waddles around the page and sneers at his goons. Riddler could be giving you the most basic of puzzles that even a child could think their way out of, and you forgive it because his outfit is exuberant, and he’s fun to admire in every panel. Good writing is usually essential to a good comic, sure – but there’s a safety net in Batman’s family and rogues gallery, where people will likely enjoy themselves whether you’re trying or not.
That safety net is nonexistent here. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing to me about say, detectives Desante and Keenan, that makes me all that interested in them for their personalities or designs. Christian Duce’s art works well for action (and this issue has plenty of that!), but it’s a different craft altogether to make five middle-aged white guys in suits look distinct from one another, without straight-up hiring actors and using them as references. This is a comic book, and comic books benefit from distinctive silhouettes. The only distinctive silhouettes here are Batman, Manray and arguably Chubb – everyone else is lost in a void of mush. It’s serviceable, but don’t expect much more than that.
- You’ve been with Jace this far.
- Spiked steam iron flails are really your scene, for some reason.
- Well, what else is there to say?
I was going to give this book a higher score, but I don’t think I can. I’ve been reading Jace’s comics for over 19 issues now, and I’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting for this book to hit its stride. I don’t want to wait any more. I’ll keep remembering how much fun I had with his first issue in Future State, and I hope I read something of his that captures that feeling once again… but in the mean time, I cannot recommend I Am Batman to anyone but those who have a lot of expendable income, and a very patient nature. For now, that’ll be my last word on the subject.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch