Book Review: I Am Batman Vol. 1

“I Am Batman” – Volume 1
Writer: John Ridley
Artists: Travel Foreman, Norm Rapmund, Olivier Coipel, Steven Segovia, Christian Duce, Juan Ferreyra and Laura Braga
Color Artists: Rex Lokus and Alex Sinclair
Letterers: ALW’s Dave Lanphear and ALW’s Troy Peteri
Review by Derek McNeil
Review Copy Courtesy of Penguin Random House: ISBN 9781779516619
I Am Batman Vol. 1The age of a new Dark Knight starts now!
Spinning out of the events of  The Next Batman: Second Son, Jace Fox thrusts himself into action when the Magistrate’s crackdown on Alleytown begins! With his own Bat-Suit, Jace hits the streets to inspire and protect…
The new Dark Knight will have to counterbalance the misinformation and violence the anarchistic Anti-Oracle is spreading and face off against Arkadine, and one Gotham vigilante pays the ultimate price when they’re shot down in cold blood. The aftermath of Fear State unfolds in I Am Batman; collecting I Am Batman #0-5, variant covers, sketches, designs, and more!

I Am Batman Vol. 1

I like that Ridley’s basing his new Batman on pre-existing lore, rather than retroactively inserting new characters into the mythos, as Jace actually first appeared all the way in Batman #313 (1979). I also appreciate that when Ridley reintroduced Jace back into continuity, he made sure to keep the existing Fox family history intact. Timothy Fox, now going by the nickname Jace. was the prodigal son, reconnecting with his estranged family. Another plus is that his being Batman doesn’t come at the loss of his brother Luke’s history as Batwing.

I have heard a lot of praise, and also a number of complaints, about Jace taking on the role of the new Dark Knight. One of these complaints is that he doesn’t have nearly the level of training that the original Batman does. Ridley’s shown some of Jace Fox’s conditioning, but it doesn’t appear to come anything close to equaling the total dedication that Bruce put into his own training from childhood.

However, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. The differences in background offer an opportunity to explore how Jace’s Batman will be different from Bruce’s. Perhaps Jace will have to rely more heavily on technology and equipment than Bruce did, or he may need to find other methods that Bruce overlooked.

Can Fans Accept A New Batman?

The other complaint is that a percentage of fans will be reluctant to accept Jace Fox as Batman because of his ethnicity. It would be easy to write those who feel that way as racist, but I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Sure, there will be some readers whose objections arise from racism, but I think that’s just a very vocal minority of readers. Readers reviled Jean-Paul Valley taking on the role and he was as white as they come.

Fans are reluctant to accept change; even though there have been times where the changes were embraced, but that usually involves some sense of legacy. Fans liked Dick Grayson’s temporary stints in the Batsuit and they embraced Wally West taking Barry Allen’s place as the Flash. Unfortunately, there’s no sense of passing the baton here, as Jace appears to be taking the role for himself without Bruce’s knowledge, let alone blessing. Fox is not the heir apparent, so it’s understandable that some readers could see him as a usurper, and not a true successor.

Different Knights

One of the most notable differences between Jace Fox and Bruce Wayne is that the new Batman’s parents are alive and well… and both are giving Jace troubles as the book begins. We see Lucius berating his son for his poor job performance and, as the Batman, the new hero has to save his mother from an attack on the Gotham City Juvenile Detention Facility. Unfortunately, Mrs. Fox is not the least bit grateful, due of her hatred of masked vigilantes.

There is some room for hope that his mother may come around, however, as even though Tanya threatens to shoot the new Batman, Jace is able to talk her down.

He tells her:

Another time, another place… I think you’d try to pull the trigger, and I would be forced to stop you…  but enough violence for one day.

The fact that she then hands over the weapon indicates that she’s open to reason on some level, and may eventually soften her views on Gotham’s vigilantes.

However, I have to wonder what might happen if she doesn’t come around. What will happen when they eventually find themselves in that “time and place”? Would Tanya actually try to kill the Batman? What if she succeeds in harming him, only to find out that he’s her son? Would Jace be capable of fighting his own mother to save himself? Eventually, the conflict between mother and son will have to come to some sort of resolution.

Goodbye, Faceplate

This is important symbolically. Not only does it clearly signal that Jace is not the original Batman, but it also makes the important statement that he’s proud of being a person of color rather than hiding the fact behind the faceplate. This is an important and somewhat welcome social statement.

However, I have to wonder if this is not unintentionally also sending a not-so-good message? Perhaps, when the world has recently come out of a global pandemic, this isn’t the best time to have Jace’s Batman choosing to remove the part of his mask that covers his mouth and nose. Maybe this should have been held off for a bit, or some other way of making his skin color apparent could’ve been used.

When Is This Story Set, Exactly?

The removal of the faceplate also introduces some more complications to the confusing continuity of this title. When is this series taking place anyway? In the present-day DCU, or at some point in the future? I Am Batman has some inconsistencies, as it’s apparently a prequel to Future State: The Next Batman, which takes place in 2025 (according to the timeline shown in DC Nation Presents Future State #1). However, in that future, Jace was still wearing the faceplate, and Tam was still in a coma.

So, maybe I Am Batman is set in the present. This does seem possible. Simon Saint was killed in the last issue, and his death has been referred to in the other Bat-family titles (e.g. Batgirls #2 and Fear State Omega #1, which also mentions “another Batman” having been spotted in Gotham, which might refer to Jace).

However, Jace remarks in chapter two of this book that the original Batman hasn’t been seen for about six years. This places this story at least that many years from the present, as the original Batman was quite visible in the Fear State event (which was running concurrently with this story, as it was being released monthly). It’s safe to assume that this series is buffered from the rest of the books by several years, much like Batman Beyond.

I’m glad of this, as I think that keeping the story set in a possible future timeline bodes well for the longevity of Jace’s career in I Am Batman. Honestly, I can’t see DC permanently replacing Bruce as Batman in the present day. Perhaps temporarily, as in the case of Jean-Paul Valley or Dick Grayson, but we all know Bruce would return to reclaim the mantle at some point. Only Terry McGinnis has managed to hold onto the role for years, in the Batman Beyond timeline.

Also, the fact that the original Batman had been missing and presumed dead for years makes me more comfortable with Jace’s decision to take the mantle. If Bruce was still around or recently disappeared, then Jace would seem more like a usurper, but he’s filling a void that needs to be filled and no one else has stepped up.

Is It Outside DC Continuity Altogether?

Something doesn’t quite line up here. I think that this series was originally intended to be set in the present as part of the aborted 5G initiative. Then DC decided to include The Next Batman in “Future State” and had John Ridley set Future State: The Next Batman a few years in the future. At some point, I believe DC decided to set Jace’s origin as the Batman in the present but didn’t communicate this properly to Ridley, who set The Next Batman: Second Son and this title before Future State, but still a few years in the future.

I love the art in this book, even though it changes chapter to chapter. I especially enjoy the depiction of Gotham. It really feels like a living, breathing city. Every artist’s version of The Next Batman is also every bit as cool-looking as the original Dark Knight.

I also like that John Ridley is making it clear that Jace is not just going to copy Bruce’s methods. We see the new Dark Knight eschewing grappling guns and Batarangs. Instead he plans on using the tools he’s familiar with; rather than drive a fancy Batmobile and Batplane, he opts for a motorcycle.

Conclusion

I have to wonder if Jace will remain Batman, eventually quit, or end up taking on a different identity. Judging by DC’s history, it seems almost certain that Bruce will always be the one true Batman. Despite death, injury, or retirement, he always returns to take up the cowl again. On the other hand, DC has gradually become more accepting of multiple heroes sharing the same name. There are currently three Flashes, two Robins, two Supermen, and three Batgirls… so, why not two Batmen?

I think the tenability of Jace remaining in the role depends on whether or not the series sells well. Generally, it seems to be getting a warm reception amongst comic fans, and the concept to be generating a fair amount of interest. Will John Ridley be able to maintain it? He’s certainly a talented enough writer, and his story has been excellent so far. Whatever the case, the sales figures will likely have the final say, so let’s hope that I Am Batman continues to do well.

Whether John Ridley’s title is in-continuity or not, I still enjoyed this book immensely. I’m glad to see that Jace is establishing himself in the role. The eventual move to New York,  and the minor, but significant change in costume should help distinguish Jace from his predecessor, and I look forward to watching his continuing evolution as the Batman.

I Am Batman Vol. 1 is a great jumping on point for readers wanting to learn more about this all-new, all-different Dark Knight. Highly recommended.

Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment


Related posts

New ‘Batman Black Version’ Deluxe Statue Announced By Sideshow Collectibles

Sideshow Collectibles Announces ‘Batman: Scars’ Fine Art Lithograph

Review: Suicide Squad: Dream Team #2