“Motherless Child” – Part Three
Writer: John Ridley
Artists: Christian Duce, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira
Color Artist: Rex Lokus
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Review by Derek McNeil
In I Am Batman #18 Jace Fox is on the most urgent mission of his tenure as the Dark Knight of New York City: to save the life of his mother. At war with the domestic terror group called the Moral Authority, Jace fights a relentless battle alongside his sister Tiffany and a new hero who bridges DC’s past, present, and future as I Am Batman comes to a spectacular and emotional close.
So we’ve reached the final issue in John Ridley’s ground-breaking series, featuring Jace Fox wearing the cowl. With this being the last issue, along with my assessment of this comic itself, I’d like to add some thoughts about the series overall.
In I Am Batman #18, we get to see Hadiyah in action as the new heroine Nobody for the first time. At least, I presume it’s Hadiyah behind the mask. It isn’t explicitly confirmed, but the clues make it pretty obvious who she is.
I like that this identity seems to have some strong similarities to the Question. This is rather fitting, considering that earlier issues established that Hadiyah and Renee Montoya are old friends. While there’s clearly some influence, her Nobody persona is different enough to stand on its own, rather than being a copy-paste of the Question. We already have two Questions in the DCU, so there isn’t really any need for a third.
It seems likely that Jace has accepted that, like it or not, Tiff is going to be his Batman’s junior partner. Although, she’s yet to pick a superhero nom de guerre. While her costume has a similar colour scheme to the various Robin costumes, it might be best if she establishes her own heroic persona apart from the various Teen Wonders who have partnered with Bruce Wayne.
I quite liked the art in this issue, in fact, the artwork has been superb throughout for the entire run. The team of Duce, Pansica, and Ferreira aided by Rex Lokus on colors and Troy Peteri’s lettering have produced a look that is befitting of a Batman series.
I was disappointed to see there was no resolution to the recent falling out between Jace and his parents. Hopefully, he will be able to patch things up with Lucius, and the rest of the Fox family, but this thread was left hanging. Hopefully Ridley or some future writer will pick it up and provide some resolution.
While I have very much enjoyed this series, there are some problematic elements. I don’t have any inside information, but I suspect that most of the blame lies with the powers that be at DC rather than Ridley.
Jace’s Batman first appeared in the Future State event as a future successor to Bruce Wayne. In this series, Jace was already active as Batman. This was followed by a prequel origin story in The Next Batman: Second Son and leading into this series. In I Am Batman #1, Jace justified his taking on the identity with his assumption that Batman was dead, as he hadn’t been seen for around six years.
However, Bruce was very much visible at this time in his own comic, with Gotham City celebrating him as their savior following the events of Fear State. Thus, it would seem that Ridley was originally setting the title a number of years in the future, but before Future State. It now seems that after Dan DiDio’s departure from DC, it was decided to toss the former DC big-wig’s G5 timeline, and set I Am Batman in the present DCU. However, they forgot to tell Ridley about this change until a few issues into this run.
This had a detrimental effect on the origin that Ridley had already established. Originally, Jace stepped in to fill a vital vacant role that was not being used – a role vital to Gotham City and the entire DCU. However, with Bruce Wayne still clearly active, Jace seemed was taking on a role that clearly belonged to somebody else. Even worse, he did so without the original Batman’s knowledge or approval.
It’s no wonder that some DC readers see him as a usurper. This does Jace an injustice, as Ridley has ably established the new Dark Knight’s worthiness. Just taking the identity in use by an iconic hero, however, is very problematic for how readers see him.
While I have no problem with another character taking on the role of Batman, it needs to happen in a more organic fashion. Ridley originally did so, but DC’s sudden change in plans left the writer with a badly compromised starting point for his creation.
Also, while I have no issues against a successor to Batman being Black (or any other ethnicity), the idea of a Black man becoming Batman in such a manner, could be seen as even more problematic. I’ve heard it argued that introducing a non-white legacy hero can make it appear that a person of that ethnicity needs to ride the coat-tails of an established white hero, instead of standing on their own. I don’t entirely subscribe to this argument, but those who do might feel that this makes Jace look eve worse. It could make it look like he’s nothing more than a pretender playing off the original Batman’s reputation and isn’t the character that Ridley created. Jace is an entirely capable Batman who is striving to be worthy of that reputation and not the pretender that some readers believe him to be.
Related to this is another issue. With Bruce active in the role, why did we not get to see the two Batmen cross paths? Surely Bruce would prioritize dealing with someone else using the Batman identity without permission. This would go a long way towards winning over skeptical readers for Bruce to give Jace his blessing to remain Batman. Hopefully, this meeting will happen and happen soon (and not in the possible tomorrow of Future State: Gotham, where the meeting does take place).
The big question is whether DC has any future plans for Jace. It likely depends on the reasons for the book’s cancellation. If it was because of flagging sales, we probably won’t see him in a solo title anytime soon. At least DC allowed Ridley 18 issues to tell his story. One great thing about the publisher is that they will often support a quality title, even past the point that other publishers would perhaps have dropped it.
Or, has the title been canceled because John Ridley is moving on to other pursuits? I have always thought it unlikely that this title would last if Ridley left. Likely his reputation as a writer brings in some of the readership, but also, does DC have any other writers who would be as passionate about the character as his creator? Sadly, if Ridley’s done with writing Jace’s adventures, I don’t think the character’s future looks very bright.
However, it’s possible that DC has some project in the works for continuing Ridley’s story. Hopefully this is the case. Clearly Jace’s story is not over, so it would truly be a shame for the remainder to go untold.
Despite the issues I quoted above, I still think there’s a lot of potential in the Jace Fox Batman that remains untapped. I hope that Ridley or other talented writer that shares his passion for the character will continue the story in the near future. That being said, I Am Batman #18 makes for an excellent conclusion to this chapter of Jace’s adventures. I just hope it’s not the final one.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment