This story doesn’t just introduce us to a new Batman run (well, I guess Batman: Rebirth did that) and a new Batman writer in Tom King (Grayson, The Vision). I Am Gotham also introduces two new superpowered superheroes, the flamboyant sounding duo of Gotham and Gotham Girl.
For King this first story is all about setting up how he’s going to run the show, the sort of writing you can expect, and the tone of the book. Starting his run with such a strange seeming pitch from the get-go – Batman’s role as protector of Gotham is challenged by the introduction of the Superman-esque powered Gotham and Gotham Girl – could basically go one of two ways. Thankfully it’s a very solid piece of work, and a great start for what’s to come.
Of course the title, I Am Gotham, is not just meant to be introducing the character Gotham. It’s got a lot of meanings, and it’s one of those stories that examines what Gotham is as a city and what it means to wear a mask and protect it.
The concept of the Gotham duo is a little camp, and it does take a little while for the five part story to get going with where it’s going. Naturally they’re a little at odds with what Gotham is at its roots, and this is where the conflict comes from rather than it being a story about Batman being jealous or something stupid.
Gotham and Gotham Girl are both used very well, and aren’t as two dimensional as they might at first appear. Unfortunately Duke Thomas AKA Lark, Batman’s new Robin-esque pupil, doesn’t have much presence in the story, possibly because of the need to have a lot of focus on the Gothams. He’s barely been introduced in Rebirth in this new role, and it’s a shame we don’t yet have more of a handle on how he’ll fit in.
I Am Gotham is in some sense about how Gotham corrupts and drags down, and about sacrifice, responsibility. But King’s introductory piece isn’t without levity, with some dry chuckle-worthy warm moments to punctuate those of poignant reflection.
David Finch’s (Moon Knight, The New Avengers) artwork is pretty pencily and sketchy, creating some gaunt shapes and impressive Gotham vistas, and plenty of room for the Inkers to go to work creating some bold shadows. Perhaps most stand out though is Jordie Bellaire’s colour job. It’s a bright, vivid mix of oranges, greens, and blues with a marvellous, painterly blotty style that helps make the city feel rough and alive. It’s great to look at.
I Am Gotham is a strong story to start on, and is also (perhaps more importantly) one that makes you want to read on. The Epilogue in #6 works as a standalone piece too, and is packed with emotion and good old “feels”. The Epilogue has a different art team that generally do a great job, but it doesn’t feel quite as strong as in the main story. The Epilogue also has one of my favourite comic book pages in recent times.
I wasn’t too crazy on the DC Universe Rebirth one-off, nor the Batman Rebirth one-off, but this is a great start to what will hopefully be a great Batman run. Long-time fans will enjoy it, and it’s a pretty solid jumping on point too — though a cursory knowledge of Batman is likely expected. Give it a read!