With ‘Fear Stat’e in full swing, the new Batman is put through a baptism of fire, making his presence known in a really tight and character/Gotham-focused first issue. Every Jace Fox putting so far has been brought to life by truly solid artistic teams and this issue is no different, as the team delivers a gorgeous depiction of Gotham city and the new Batman in action.
Fear and chaos have gripped all of Gotham City as the DC Comics event ‘Fear State‘ has begun, and while the city has been told that the Batman is dead a new different second Batman has risen to stand up for the beleaguered city.
If one were to say that The Next Batman: Second Son was Jace/Tim Fox’s Batman Begins and the Future State: The Next Batman series is his The Dark Knight Rises, then the new series I Am Batman would be The Dark Knight of the entire endeavor. The previous two series worked to established who Jace was in the past/current day on his path to becoming Batman and on his future where he was already solidly Batman fighting against a dystopian regime. While I Am Batman has Fox fully donning the cape and cowl (a custom modified version of Bruce’s suit found in the Fox Tech bunker) to take on chaotic forces overwhelming the city as Fear State touches all of the Bat-books.
John Ridley has found the groove with this character across the three different series and has turned the Fox family into a cast of main characters rather than the supporting cast they often were to Bruce Wayne in his book. Jace is just such a solid character that even moments where he references someone being “canceled” during a fight aren’t as silly seeming as before, because one can understand that he’s in the cape and cowl but still trying to really find that voice and persona needed. I can’t even imagine what stuff I might quip or throw out there if I suddenly was taking on a heroic identity with such a legacy.
One of the most interesting parts of the issue is the juxtaposition of what type of civilian persona Jace has taken on compared to the one that Bruce held for so many years. While both of their personas are a mask for what they really are doing/feeling, Jace has chosen to go for a hiding in plain sight type of setup working for his father and pretending to be the returned son who is fully embracing the family legacy.
Honestly, his whole outing as Batman here is very interesting because Jace is a far more talkative and visible version of Batman compared to Bruce. This is a Batman that wants to be seen and wants the world to know that he is watching and will act while doing all he can to help even with the smallest of matters. Not only does it fit Jace’s personality, but it serves to further set the Batmen apart from one another.
While there is some set up at the start and some explanation, along with some solid character beats with some supporting cast including cops Whitaker and Chubb, the majority of the issue is Jace in action through Gotham as the new Batman. Tackling various criminals and events, bouncing around trying to help as many as he can in this city constantly under siege.
Bringing that action to life is the gorgeous work of Olivier Coipel and Alex Sinclair. Coipel has such a distinctively deep and detailed style that has some really great flourishes to it. Gotham looks amazing under his pen, and there are so many moments that are stand out and the type of image one would place upon their walls if they could. There is a lot of smart panel work too that allows the various bits to breathe and isn’t afraid to focus on a detail that isn’t a face in the name of driving home the full experience of the story.
Sinclair helps these images pop as Gotham is both bright and shadowed/dark at all times, fully hitting that light/dark aesthetic perfectly. This is what Gotham is quite often, the place that is touched by the light but cannot ever eave the darkness in order to embrace that light. A street-level Batman, because the Bruce Batman honestly has become something far bigger with the League and other stuff, also is one that can remind us what it’s like for the average people on the streets. And here Coipel and Sinclair make sure that their depictions are varied and ‘real’ in many ways.
Troy Peteri rounds out the creative team and brings a great touch to the lettering. All of the dialogue works within the structure of panels and artwork that Coipel is providing, giving you just enough without overloading any given panel or space. The location captions have a really awesome style to them, taking on a sort of street-like texture to follow this Batman’s pace in the world. Of course, there are the colorful and bold SFX that enhance a scene and in a few cases (like Jace’s unleashing of his built-in weaponry during a fight) it fully sells the overall package of action within the scenes.
I Am Batman #1 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.