Writer: John Ridley
Artist: Christian Duce
Color Artist: Rex Lokus
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Review by Derek McNeil
Minor spoilers ahead
In I Am Batman #7, the focus is on Jace’s somewhat contentious relationship with the New York City Police Department. A wealthy man has been killed, and Detective Chubb attempts to assign the job of solving the murder to the new Dark Knight and bringing the killer to justice.
Vigilante or Officially Deputized Crimefighter?
However, Jace declines to take the case at first, wanting to put his focus on street-level crime. Even though the city is technically paying him a one-dollar honorarium, Jace doesn’t feel that this entitles them to dictate which crimes he will investigate.
A Modern Batphone
As part of his tenuous partnership with Chubb, Jace gives her a method of contacting him. He gives her a cell phone with “a continuously modulating transmitter. You can contact me, but you can’t track me. Here we see another difference in the way Jace operates as Batman as opposed to Bruce. Chubb now has a direct line to Batman, where Gordon has to rely on the Bat-Signal and hope that Batman sees it and responds in a timely manner.
It also reminds me a bit of the red hotline phone Gordon used in the 60s TV show. I always wondered how Batman managed to set that up so that the line was untraceable. Batman’s relationship with the police was rather idealized in that show, so it’s possible that the police were entirely capable of tracing the line, but that they had promised not to do so, meaning that Batman could trust them to keep their word… but I digress.
Will Jace’s Partnership With the Police Last?
Generally, it’s hard to see Jace’s new partnership with the police lasting. The mayor’s supportive, but only as long as it brings him good press. The police commissioner grudgingly allows it, despite hating the idea, and Chubb, who heads “Strike Force Bat”, hates the idea. Her unit’s unpopular with other cops on the force already. On the other hand, as Jace continues to prove himself as a crimefighter, perhaps he’ll win Chubb over.
The new Batman has won others over already, especially within his own family. His mother was a staunch opponent of masked vigilantes but now argues in favor of Strike Force Bat to the mayor. Lucius has also had a similar change of heart. I believe that Tanya’s turnabout is the more striking, considering that she’s still unaware that the new Batman is her son.
Batman Vs. The Batman
I found it interesting that there’s another brief discussion of whether to use the definite article when referring to Batman. This seems rather apropos considering the recent release of the movie The Batman. Tanya’s use of “the Batman” is corrected by the mayor’s assistant, “I believe ours is fine with just ‘Batman'”.
Upon consideration, I think it’s appropriate to omit the definite article when referring to Jace. Using “the” implies that Jace is either the only or primary Batman. However, he took on the identity with Bruce still active in the role. Bruce is the Batman; Jace is a Batman. However, if there comes a time when Jace is the only active Batman, then he will be the Batman.
Can Batman Truly Escape the Craziness of Gotham?
Jace may be getting into more with this first case than he realizes. He tells Vol that his initial murder suspect “isn’t Scarecrow or Killer Croc”. He also states that the case “isn’t Gotham craziness. It’s just straight-up New York City”. Jace believes it to be a mundane murder case. However, I Am Batman #7 ends with him in the murderer’s lair, facing a masked villain. Judging by the grotesque paintings on display, he seems every bit as insane as any of Bruce’s rogues. Perhaps the theory that a Batman attracts insane foes holds some weight after all.
The artwork by Christian Duce is splendid. I especially like the menacing character design for this new villain. Duce’s depiction of the villain’s lair, enhanced by Rex Lokus’ colors, is truly horrifying. Jace’s first encounter with this villain is likely to be a memorable encounter.
Ridley’s decision to move Jace to New York City is proving to be a wise choice – at least as long as Bruce is active as the Batman in Gotham City. It’s more interesting to see Jace building a relationship with the authorities. This kind of story can’t be properly tackled in Gotham, where the police are accepting and sometimes even supportive of their masked vigilantes.
Ridley’s story is showing us how Jace is proving himself and growing into the role of Batman and this is best done out of Bruce’s shadow. Putting Jace in a different, but not entirely dissimilar city allows the new Dark Knight to establish himself with minimal reliance on Bruce’s reputation. Ridley’s story is an interesting deconstruction of the character that asks if one has to be Bruce Wayne to succeed as a Batman. It’s an intriguing premise and I look forward to seeing how it plays out as Jace’s saga continues.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment