I Am Batman got a whole lot interesting last month when John Ridley and Ken Lashley moved Jace Fox to New York City. It allows for a Batman in a more relatable and grounded city than Gotham. It also allows Jace to become a bit more of his own version of Batman as he’s no longer living in the shadow of Bruce Wayne’s Batman. In part two of “Empire State of Mind” it becomes more clear what Jace must do to protect his newfound city.
John Ridley is not slowing down with this story arc, only just introducing Jace to the police force in the last issue, but in I Am Batman #7, they’re already working together albeit not quite on the best of terms. Jace’s Batman has always been more of a blunt force and it’s interesting to see him continue to grow and shape into his own Batman as outside sources redirect his energies.
The political element continues to be a huge factor in the series which gives the story more weight. Early on, Jace makes it clear he’s not interested in capturing a serial killer of rich white people but wants to do the most to help the poor and less fortunate. The solution is a clever one as the police force makes a trade, so to speak, to do the work Jace wanted to do so he’ll focus on the crazier type. It better suits Batman, after all.
The commissioner is a whole other ball of wax for Jace to likely confront at some point. This issue opens on a press briefing with the commissioner who is not pleased with the press’s focus on Batman. Later on in a key scene, Ridley reveals he’s also a bit racist and stuck in an older way of doing things. Considering Jace probably couldn’t care less, it’ll be interesting to see how the series tugs this element out and forces Jace to confront it.
Confrontation is a key element of this issue as well — Christian Duce draws a good issue with a key chase scene and a pulse-pounding cliffhanger. Jace’s motorcycle looks super cool and it’s an element that seems to say something about Jace’s approach to being Batman more than anything. He’s not only exposed on the motorcycle but also loud.
Duce draws plenty of great backgrounds that help distinguish it as a more modern and brighter city than Gotham. In one key moment, we get good luck at a walkup covered in graffiti and gleaming bright skyscrapers touching the sky far behind them. Duce is backed up by Rex Lokus on colors who adds a lot of blues in the skyscrapers throughout the backgrounds in the issue. There’s also a neat cloud effect which helps distinguish the night sky as not a gloomy dark void but a moonlit sky. It’s a cliche to say the city characters reside in is a character unto itself, but it’s clear as day the creators are inserting as much of the city as they can in every scene with buildings even popping up through windows that might normally not be clear.
Jace’s family members get a bit of page-time here, but they don’t add a whole lot. These scenes serve to remind us of their impression of Batman or the hell they went through in Gotham that they’re trying to escape. It’s a nice reminder, but it’s not clear yet why we need these check-ins unless some kind of payoff is building. They make up two pages from the book, but they feel like “so what” kind of moments.
I Am Batman is a tantalizing Batman book because it’s allowed to do things differently. On top of a different type of city, Jace is trying not to be just another Batman, but something more and something that suits him. Add in the political elements the modern feel of New York, and you have yourself a pressure cooker of a story that does the rare thing of feeling like an evolved Batman.
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