This series and the creative team continue to not shy away from tackling powerful and painful relevant topics, continuing their quest to showcase the similarities and vast differences in the two men that would be Batman. A dialogue-heavy issue never once loses interest as the art team delivers on every single emotional and powerful beat, drawing the reader deeper as the pages progress.
Within most societies around the world, there comes a point where the level of power that an individual or group holds begins to taint them. More and more their actions, while they might have the best interest at heart, slide into the “I did it because I can” rather than “I did it because I should” type of realm. The Next Batman: Second Son #9 shows the moment where Lucius Fox truly arrived at that point in the past.
While the majority of those that hold the power in the United States are of a very select small demographic (white cis-heterosexual males), John Ridley has openly tackled the idea in this series that power itself and the way it can corrupt or entice is something that can affect anyone. The Fox family is Black which brings a whole slew of struggles to their plate in this country, but they are also rich and powerful. Which Lucius uses in devastating ways within this issue to protect his son Tim/Jace from what society would do to him for the sin that he committed.
What Lucius does is something that can leave the reader feeling appalled, yet at the same time it is perfectly framed in a way that one can one hundred percent understand the reasons why. While it protected his son, it also used some of the tactics and tools that the power elite regularly use against marginalized group members that are not holders of power/wealth.
When approaching the idea of someone that can or might replace Bruce as Batman, creators often try to create someone very similar to him. That’s not the case with here. The two are similar in coming from wealth, but their journeys diverge greatly from there.
Bruce had tragedy forced upon him and made the choices that led to his seeking out training and skills to prevent that from happening to others, and eventually found and embraced Batman who is his true self more than the playboy cover. Jace though was a young playboy and was privileged and tragedy came through his own poor choices. He was then forced into the place that trained him to be better and more of a fighter. It’s a very smart way to set up the character that could one day be the Batman of the future.
Travel Foreman, Norm Rapmund, Rex Lokus, and Deron Bennett have worked hard in previous issues to create a very moody and grounded style that is befitting of the stories being told. These last two issues have allowed them to really narrow the focus even more and present something fully emotional and personal. There is not superhero action or other stuff to take away from the confrontations between Jace and his mother in the present and with his father/continuation of his origin from the past.
Making ‘talking head’ type issues ones that keep the reader’s interest can be quite hard at times, but that’s not the case here. The emotion on display and the hard nature of the topics makes the issue keep moving at a brisk pace.
While it might be part of just not wanting to draw too many faces and to keep the focus on Jace, so many faded faces both in the near and far background is so fitting for the flashbacks. It speaks to the idea that these are Jace’s memories of the past and so those things that were not an immediate focus for him at the time would not be in focus in his brain. Most of us would be hard-pressed to point out every detail of the people and things around us in some memories, and that little artistic touch works very well in this case.
The Next Batman: Second Son #8 is on sale now digitally from DC Comics.