Review: I Am Batman #15
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: John Ridley
Artists: Karl Mostert
Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters: Troy Peteri
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
I Am Batman #15: A Dark Crisis tie-in issue! When Jon Kent first asked Jace Fox to join the new Justice League the answer was a firm “no”. But as Deathstroke and the Legion of Doom hunt the heroes of the DCU Jace learns the hard way that there are some fights from which Batman cannot run, and the only thing he has to fear…is fear itself!
So far, Ridley has kept Jace’s adventures in I Am Batman somewhat separate from the rest of the DCU. Even in the earlier issues set in Gotham, Jace didn’t really interact with the Bat-Family. The only notable interaction he’s had with other DC heroes or villains is the Question’s guest appearance in the previous few issues.
But now, Jace takes his first steps into the wider DCU with I Am Batman #15 being a tie-in issue to the Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths event. In Dark Crisis #1, we saw Superman Jon Kent attempt to recruit Jace into a new Justice League. However, Jace rather brusquely rejects the offer, telling Jon, “The last Batman to team with anyone died. Go ask one of the Robins”.
However, Jace’s refusal to go with Jon to fight in the Dark Crisis proves futile as the Dark Crisis instead comes to Jace. Deathstroke has put out contracts on any active superheroes, and Sinestro has been assigned to take out the new Batman.
Last issue, Jace got into a heated argument with Detective Whitaker and apparently killed him. However, Whitaker had a strange yellow aura about him. And Sinestro’s presence explains what’s going on. The whole encounter is revealed to be an illusion designed to drive Jace to commit suicide.
Sinestro is stronger than ever, with his powers bolstered by the Great Darkness. On the face of it, Sinestro could kill Jace easily. And he demonstrates to Jace just how easily he could kill Jace out of hand. But Sinestro doesn’t work that way. Sinestro instead uses his new powers to psychologically manipulate Jace to give in and end his own life.
The actual fears that Sinestro confronts Jace with are very illuminating about Jace’s psyche and the forces that drove him to take on the identity of Batman. First off, Sinestro makes Jace think he’s killed Whitaker in a moment of anger. This suggests that Jace has a fear of losing control of his anger. Perhaps he uses the Batman identity as a release for his anger issues. But it could also prove to be a hindrance to his crimefighting if he loses control.
Sinestro also puts Jace int the position of the person he hit with a car, showing Jace how helpless and afraid that man felt in his last moments. The villain plays on Jace’s guilt to make him feel unworthy of being alive. However, this guilt also motivates Jacee to atone for the harm he’s done to this man and others by fighting crime as Batman.
But Sinestro also recognizes a strength in Jace’s psyche, as well as its accompanying weakness:
You’re not afraid to die, are you? Your lack of regord for yourself, that’ like… your little superpower. And self-doubt is your weakness.”
It seems that Jace has the fearlessness characteristic of a Green Lantern. But his self-doubt could prove his undoing. Being a Batman requires total confidence in your own abilities. Thus, this flaw might be the most dangerous chink in the armour.
And Sinestro attacks Jace’s self-doubt by putting him face-to-face with the original Batman, Bruce Wayne. The Batman calls Jace out as a pretender. Jace tells the illusory Dark Knight that he’s not the real Batman, who replies with a cutting, “Neither are you”.
The Batman goes on to tell Jace:
You were afraid you couldn’t ake it on your own. So you stole Batman’s name, appropriated it, just so people would pay attention to you. Desperate. Pathetic. The opposite of heroic.”
Not only does this cut to the heart of Jace’s own doubts about his taking on the identity of Batman, but it also has a meta level about Jace as a character. Some readers take exception to the fact that Jace was a relatively random person who just decided to take Batman’s identity for himself – with no regard for the fact that the original was still using the identity. Jace and John Ridley have the same problem: having to justify Jace’s being Batman. So far, I believe Ridley is succeeding, but it remains to be seen whether Jace is succeeding in the DCU.
But Jace’s final decision could prove a big step in Jace being accepted by other heroes as a Batman. When Vol suggests that Jace seek out Superman’s help against Sinestro, Jace vetoes the idea, feeling that he doesn’t deserve Jon’s help due to his refusal help Jon.
When this started, Superman came to me. He told e he needed my help resurrecting the Justice League. And all I did… I just blew him off. I told Superman all that Crisis nonsense wasn’t my issue.”
But his encounter with Sinestro has taught him the lesson that he will need to interact with the superhero community and help them whenever he can. If he can make friends and allies among the other heroes, he will earn the right to call on them for aid with threats he can’t handle on his own. And so I Am Batman #15 ends with Jace heading off to join Superman and the other heroes face the Dark Crisis.
Event tie-in issues can often be quite lacklustre. There’s a temptation for the writer to just copy their character’s scenes from the event title, except from the character’s point of view. However, Ridley avoids this temptation. Instead, he provides a story that’s separate, but still connected to Dark Crisis. And he takes the opportunity to relate an important step in Jace’s evolution as a superhero: Jace’s first interactions with the wider DCU.
Often event tie-in issues are rather forgettable, but John Ridley bucks this trend with I Am Batman #15. Instead, Ridley gives us an exciting and thoughtful story that reveals much of what drives Jace Fox to be Batman. And on top of that, we get to see Jace taking an important first step towards building relationships with DC’s superhero community.