Review: I Am Batman Vol. 3: The Right Question hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


With I Am Batman Vol. 3: The Right Question, John Ridley caps off his upward trend on this series. This is absolutely a case of leaving the audience wanting more, and I sincerely hope this isn’t the last time Jace Fox and family grace DC’s pages. Much like Tom Taylor has been able to keep going with Jon Kent in Adventures of Superman, I’d be happy for Ridley to take even a single victory lap in an I Am Batman miniseries, if not more.

I Am Batman stumbled a bit out of the gate with the needs of tying in to Batman: Fear State. Ever since Ridley moved the series to New York, it’s been good and getting better, with a vigilante paradigm I don’t recall seeing in DC Comics really ever. I couldn’t recommend this more highly.

[Review contains spoilers]

Short of Gotham Central, I’ve rarely seen a comic approach the level of a television police procedural as much as I Am Batman, with a cadre of artists providing mostly appropriate realism. In the “Right Question” story there is a blessedly cogent mystery in which the characters actually have to go from suspect to suspect until they discover who committed the crime. There’s the political double-dealing of corrupt city officials trying to bring on Gotham commissioner Renee Montoya to run their police force and how that does and doesn’t coincide with Renee’s own plans. And there are supporting cast subplots(!), something far too rare in modern comics, whether what seems like Detective Whitaker’s family problems or Detective Mueller’s troubled history. That all combines to make a comic as interesting when Batman Jace Fox is in the scene as when he isn’t.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

That’s all enhanced by this setup of Ridley’s in which Jace is a deputized member of New York’s special crimes unit. I expected more fallout than we got over Detective Chubb having shot another officer to protect Jace in I Am Batman Vol. 2: Welcome to New York, but still, it’s a workable but tenuous relationship. Among other things, I’d have been curious to see how the police dealt with increasing numbers of vigilantes being deputized, whether, in this fictional system, there was any difficulty with the police dealing with vigilante minors, or what might happen if Jace’s loyalty to the police put him at odds with one of his vigilante colleagues — who so far include his sister and a woman he loves.

On that last point, it seems very much that Ridley introduces Jace’s love interest Hadiyah as the new Question. She introduces herself as “Nobody,” but clearly a vigilante hero with no face is either a Question or Question-adjacent (the book’s own back cover copy refers to Hadiyah as “a new hero who bridges DC’s past, present, and future”). Though I have much affection for Renee as the Question, recent Bat-writers' use of Renee as a sometimes anti-vigilante police commissioner has been increasingly confusing, and one swift way to solve that is to have Renee passing the torch altogether.

The Right Question takes place between the pages and alongisde Dark Crisis, which I appreciated — that is, Jace appears early in Dark Crisis between I Am Batman #13 and #14, and then the subsequent issues take place parallel to that miniseries. Jace meeting Sinestro held a lot of potential — Jace, a Batman sometimes with a chip on his shoulder, and Sinestro, a former Green Lantern who’s not always evil so much as he has his own moral code — but that ultimately disappoints; we don’t really get Sinestro here so much as Pariah in Sinestro’s body and with Sinestro’s powers.

Still, this and the final issues afford Ridley an opportunity to fully psychoanalyze Jace before the conclusion. Given Jace’s good working relationship with Detective Chubb and so on, it is easy to forget the traumas and his own bad deeds that brought him to this point. The faux-Sinestro’s point about Jace’s self-doubt and self-destructiveness, and Tanya Fox noting that her son tends to run away when there’s personal trouble, are all true but then so tantalizingly different than Batman-Jace’s public persona. Again, I’d happily read more about how all of this shows up in Jace’s life.

Throughout, I Am Batman has been a story about family — the Fox family, the lies they’ve told and the bad things they’ve done for the purposes of protecting each other and Gotham City, and how all of that affects their relationships. Given the end of Ridley’s series (and seemingly his current run at DC), he might have been forgiven for a swift happy ending, even despite Jace suddenly learning he’s the product of his father’s affair. That we don’t get that — rather, things in the Fox family are the worst they’ve been — is perhaps the more realistic way to go but leaves I Am Batman feeling unfinished. Moreover, the book’s big shoe to drop, that neither the Fox sons learn that they’re each secretly Bat-men also seems a large thing for Ridley to leave in other people’s hands.

Again, I hope I Am Batman Vol. 3: The Right Question is not the end, but rather that we do hear from Jace Fox again, and hopefully under John Ridley’s pen. As with Monkey Prince, we do know at least that if DC keeps up with their DC Power specials, that’s an opportunity to see Jace at least once a year — though Jace’s appearance in the 2023 special is a reprint, and I don’t see him appearing in the 2024 one. Still, DC took the important step of creating a Black Batman; I’d as soon they use him in a series over only occasionally pulling him from limbo.

[Includes original and variant covers — including a '90s Rewind variant of Jace facing off against the “AzraBats” Azrael that I’d totally buy if it was a real issue]

Rating 3.0

Comments ( 2 )

  1. If you liked the police procedural vibe in this one, John Ridley's "GCPD: The Blue Wall" ought to be right up your alley! Really felt like a spiritual sequel to Gotham Central (especially with the Two-Face/Montoya connection).

    And I will heartily second more AzBats any day of the week. Might be interesting to see one alt-Batman meet up with another: "Know that men call you liar! Know that men call you betrayer! Know that men call you defiler!"

    1. Review of GCPD already on the docket! I had thought GCPD was set a little earlier, but it follows this volume directly. Quite an involved book, that one.


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