The True Power Of Fear: Reviewing ‘I Am Batman’ #3
by Scott Redmond
‘I Am Batman’ takes an uncomfortable but realistic look into our current world state of affairs and the dangers that arise from a portion of society seeking someone to help them unleash their worst selves. Overall this series is benefitting from launching out of the current Batman title crossover event, while making sure it retains its own voice and focus along the way.
Despite what a portion of the internet claims, comic books, like all other forms of art, are more often than not political in nature. Politics are life and death and the world around us, and our art tends to reflect that in various ways. Right now there are deep divisions in the United States, and just in humanity in general, over seemingly everything.
As the ‘Fear State‘ continues to descend over Gotham City, some of those divisions have escalated and the new Batman must rise up to diffuse the situation before it turns tragic.
The last issue saw John Ridley dipping into the ideas of how there are a large number of individuals who, because they often already have these thoughts within their minds, are easily swayed by conspiracy-style rhetoric from voices that claim to be authorities on the matter. In this issue, we see the fallout of that even more as the technological disembodied individual known as the Seer (Oracle meets QAnon) stokes more flames as their violent hate group the Moral Authority goes to free one of their own who murdered the vigilante Anarky because Seer said to do so.
We’re given a glimpse of some of these members and how they are just “normal” run-of-the-mill citizens who at some point had something go wrong in their life. Along came Seer, to tell them they are special and to give them something to fear and fight against. A system that harnesses that anger and unleashes it upon others, those who are often considered ‘different’ or are a ‘threat’ to that system. Seems very familiar.
A Batman book that focuses on a Batman who is a man of color under the costume, would be remiss if it didn’t tackle a lot of these things because these are the realities for marginalized groups in society. Here Ridley tackles the ideas head-on, not sugarcoating them in any way, making it clear how terrifying and dangerous these types of ideas and behaviors truly are.
At the same time despite this comic world having heroes like Batman who can stop the violence, it’s made clear that no amount of punching or monologuing can make these ideas go away. There is no simple solution, a cape can’t fix it all, which makes it all resonate more because it’s the reality we face. While we often desire a hero to swoop in and save the day, that can often blunt the message about our reality and come off feeling hollow, but here we don’t have to worry about that.
Also, there is a bit of time spent working on what Jace himself is going through trying to juggle this dual lifestyle. Seeing the cracks that are forming, as he battles this feeling of disappointment stemming from his reaction to his father’s anger, indicates we might be in for some rougher moments ahead for the new caped crusader. Hopefully, once the event is passed there will be some more space to really dive back into the world of the Foxs and their issues which were explored a lot in The Next Batman: Second Son series.
Steven Segovia remains on board for this issue, after the three previous issues had changing artists, but is joined by Christian Duce to pick up some of the art. There are clear points where the art switch can be seen but the two have styles that are similar enough that it’s not a jarring change. A lot of the dynamic energy and detailed work carries over between the two, as do a lot of their choices in how to set up panels within the pages.
Most of this issue revolves around action, as the Moral Authority lays siege to the Juvenile Detention Center and the cops and Batman fight back. It all flows pretty well and there are some great shots of the new Batman living up to the old one in his use of shadows and other methods while doing his own thing. It’s interesting to look at Segovia’s are in this book and then one such as Hellions over at Marvel, and see the similarities but also some wide differences.
Some of that difference comes from adding Rex Lokus’ colors to the artwork. There is an inherent shadowy nature within these colors that adds to the artwork and brings a heaviness that is fitting for the world of Gotham. While there are a ton of blacks, greys, and shades of brown that make up most of the scenes, it’s all still clear enough to distinguish because of the different shades Lokus uses. While Gotham can be beautiful in its own ways, we see that a ton in Detective Comics and Batman and Catwoman among others, here we are seeing the darker more dreary, and harsh parts for this particular story.
A lot of the life of this book is shown with the various bits of dialogue, as Troy Peteri gives the caption boxes and the various bubbles a bit of their own look. There are a good number of SFX dotting the pages, and they are bold and bright and hit as hard as the action moments they belong to. There are just enough of them to drive home certain moments, rather than filling every single page of the heavily action-oriented issue.
It will be quite interesting to see where this book goes and how it stands on its own once the Fear State event comes to an end.
I Am Batman #3 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.