DC Comics Digital First Batman-related series doesn’t shy away from tackling real-world issues head-on within the realms of Gotham City, bringing a new look at the world Batman inhabits. The bright colorful general aesthetic of many superhero comics is cast aside for a more direct and darker pallet having work that wonderfully showcases the darkness and heaviness of these topics.
For almost as long as there have been stories of Batman within the realms of DC Comics, the police force of Gotham City has featured in those stories. Over time the relationship between Batman, the police, and their city has shifted for better and for worse with characters such as Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, or Renee Montoya often being at the forefront of these stories.
While it is nothing new and has been an issue forever, our current world sees the power and abuse perpetrated by police forces across the nation in question as more and more incidents of mistreatment and killing of Black people, and other people of color, have come to light. This stark and depressing reality has led to renewed social movements aimed at stopping these incidents along with calls to overhaul, defund, or even abolish the police. Along with these calls has also come renewed discussion about the issues of police portrayals within our entertainment.
Through the first six issues of The Next Batman: Second Son, there has been a small growing spotlight on the idea of changes to the Gotham police force in light of the recent Joker War events. It is a police force that is willing and able to take down any mask-wearing vigilante, by order of the new mayor, including even putting children in grave danger while carrying out that duty. John Ridley has not shied away from showcasing some of the biggest issues of the police as a concept through the focus on the GCPD. This includes the idea of “a good cop on the inside” that many bandy about themselves is flawed as one cannot truly affect change in an overwhelmingly broken system.
Ridley makes sure to have even characters of color that have taken the oath and wear the badge be the ones demanding that orders be followed, no matter what, which hits home in our reality even more. It’s not just white cops or male cops that are the ones seen as examples of a broken system. Those within the system, no matter who they might be, are susceptible to the flaws of the system.
Police are not the only area where abuse of power and the consequences of trauma can be seen in the issue. Great wealth being thrust upon the Fox family after Joker stole Bruce Wayne’s billions, as well as the torture that Lucius Fox was put through in that event, have taken their toll already. This power used to try and seal the files about a past crime that Jace Fox had some part in and Lucius Fox’s descent into rage and potential madness.
These stark issues are perfectly illustrated by the direct and to-the-point stylings of Travel Foreman, Norm Rapmund, and Rex Lokus. There is a brutality to their action pages, fitting for the subjects of those panels, and the simplicity and colorful nature of the backgrounds fully bring attention to the characters in each moment. This highlights the severity in many cases of the concepts they are discussing and the pains they are going through. Everything feels just as real and grounded as the story is asking for.
A perfect example is the deep night shadows that surround Lucius and Luke Fox during their confrontational discussion in the garden. The shadows linger around Lucius as he turns from contemplative father to one willing to unleash his rage about the ‘weaknesses’ of his family, as his traumas take over.
While the action is lighter in this issue, Deron Bennett still has a lot of space to showcase his lettering skills through the issue. It is a heavy expository issue, and he makes it work. There isn’t ever too much dialogue crowded together. There’s plenty of room to breathe is left while not sacrificing any of the words that need to be said in these moments.
The Next Batman: Second Son #7 is now on sale digitally from DC Comics.