I love John Ridley‘s work. His run with this new take on Batman has been fantastic delivering something new and different. We know, Jace’s Batman will be heading to New York City to start a whole new direction, so, does the end of this arc leading up to that stick the landing? Sadly no. I Am Batman #5 has some historic moments but overall those fall a bit short in an issue that feels too rushed and missing Ridley’s usual character focus.
Jace is up against the next iteration of the Magistrate’s program which is being helped by his father’s technology. Things don’t look good and the issue does a solid job of delivering a fight where Batman feels overpowered. But, it all feels like beats to get us to the latter part of the issue where the real impact is meant.
Up to this point, Jace has generally kept his lower mouth covered. He was Batman not “Black Batman”. Removed only once (might be twice) this was a series about a hero attempting to find himself and doing things his way, not the way of Bruce Wayne’s Batman. Here, the fight is a tough one causing his lower mask to be shattered revealing his skin color to his pursuers, including his father.
This should be a moment with a lot of heft to it. Ridley is amazing at delivering that punch and forcing the reader and viewer to dive deeper than the initial moment. In this case, a police force is the cause of this sort-of unmasking. White officers revealing the identity of their Black suspect feels like it should be more of a thing, but it sort of putters. It feels like there should be deeper meaning or a deeper moment to that, but it doesn’t land.
That moment is saved for later as Jace and his father Lucius have a discussion each with cards on the table. There we get the statement of the impact of a Black Batman, what that means and how powerful it can be. The reader is told this is important instead of it being shown to be important. It deflates the moment in some ways taking what should be an iconic image and making it something a little less. There’s almost too much thrown in as Lucius also discusses his own struggles and how he himself can help raise awareness and remove the stigma of mental health. It’s important but like the face reveal feels kind of thrown in.
Things aren’t helped by the art. Christian Duce, Juan Ferreyra, and Laura Braga all contribute to the art. Unfortunately, their styles are so different the switch stands out. It’s jarring and there’s no reason storywise for it to happen. While I read, it took me out of the story the three are so different in their delivery. None really nail down those “moments” either. The art isn’t bad and the series has generally staid away from the typical Batman poses but this is an issue where it could have really been used and used in poetic ways to visually have Jace standing up as Batman who happens to be Black not Black Batman. The trio are joined by Rex Lokus on color and Troy Peteri on lettering.
I Am Batman #5 unfortunately falls short of what it could be. This is an issue that could plant a flag that there’s a Batman that’s not Bruce Wayne and not White. This is a new Batman going off in his own direction and who is an icon for multiple reasons. Instead, the issue feels rushed attempting to wrap up its initial storyline, giving us an important moment between father and son, and setting up the next arc. None of that really gets the amount of time it needs. It’s an unusual stumble for Ridley and hopefully one that lasts just this one issue.
Story: John Ridley Art: Christian Duce, Juan Ferreyra, Laura Braga
Color: Rex Lokus Letterer: Troy Peteri
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Purchase: comiXology – Kindle – Zeus Comics – TFAW