A truly gorgeous and energetic action-packed issue is somewhat marred by a few ill-conceived story bits not hitting in the way the writer likely hoped that they would. At the same time, quite a number of elements developed through the previous ten issues begin to reveal themselves even more as the final issue is coming up. Despite some stumbles, there is a lot that this series is saying about the real world through the lens of Gotham that are worth checking out.
All things must come to an end, and it looks like the origin and return story for the possible future Batman, Jace Fox, is coming to an end, at least for the moment. Before that next issue arrives to conclude the whole twelve-issue story, things sort of abruptly come to multiple heads in this issue and a few notes come out quite sour along the way.
John Ridley has been threading some interesting storylines through the past ten issues and given some really deep looks at the police in Gotham and the Fox family and others. This issue though took some of those storylines and brought them to a head, not all of them in a pleasant way. On the one hand, the way that Tanya Fox handles her son’s hit and run case that has resurfaced was gross in many ways but fitting with how she’s been portrayed so far. Ridley showcasing that wealth is a force that can be abused no matter the type of person, but also showing that Tanya and Lucius will do whatever it takes to protect their children no matter the lines crossed paints quite a picture.
While that worked out, the overall beats between Katana and Jace were a bit more off. The whole sequence with Katana and the assassin known as the Morrigan fighting sword to knife/sword was really well done and Travel Foreman, Norm Rapmund and Rex Lokus nailed it art-wise through these pages per usual. Where it felt off was the conversation that compared Katana’s vengeance/avenging kills to the man that Jace killed in his drunk driving hit and run.
Her message to let go of his death wish and become something better was solid, but comparing things that way wasn’t the way to go. Even if the story is doing everything it can to frame the man he killed as not a great guy as he was an abuser. Which also feels very disingenuous, to have this moment be such a big thing in Jace’s past and now in the present has it being framed in a way that the audience/characters can handwave away the incident feels kind of gross.
Right now, in the real world, there are issues with cops and law enforcement going too far and abusing their power, and it’s very clear that the Gotham City Police Department is not only already dealing with that but is about have more of that in the future. Through these eleven issues the two cops, alongside now Commissioner Montoya, have been steadily moving further along the spectrum of cop attitudes.
Their disregard for children’s safety in a shootout earlier in the series and now their threats about how they’ll be happy when the day comes they can shoot masked individuals showcase how broken the system truly is. This is a stark departure from a lot of the cop stuff in Batman where despite some bad apples, cops were always heroes alongside Batman. Ridley has things to say and isn’t afraid to say them.
As stated above the blade fighting action dominates the majority of this issue and it’s so fluid and wonderfully depicted. Each blow is felt and the two women feel evenly matched as they are putting their all into this fight, and it showcases how dangerous this Morrigan is after easily dispatching Jace last issue (which wasn’t hard since he barreled in, as Katana calls him out for later.)
Across these issues, Foreman, Rapmund, Lokus, and some others earlier on have just been churning out some amazing work that brings such life to Gotham in a way that is different than the other great Gotham art in other current books. Deron Bennett cannot be left out of this as he’s been here delivering great lettering every single issue. These fights rarely feature any SFX like most other books, but that doesn’t mean that Bennett’s influence isn’t felt across the dialogue and other lettering.
Hopefully, there is more to this book after the conclusion in issue twelve, as they clearly have a great view of Gotham and the characters and it needs to be seen more. As long as the gross hand-waving and comparison of types of kills are never brought up again.
The Next Batman: Second Son #11 is now on sale from DC Comics digitally.