Batman’s latest event Fear State has gotten off to a solid start thus far. It hasn’t blown me away like James Tynion’s previous Joker War did with every chapter. There is something missing from the beginning of Fear State to make it a hot start for this Batman event. The elements for Fear State being a great Batman story are all here. Now it is about bringing it all together to make this another great storyline as part of Tynion’s stellar run on this series. Let’s see how things escalate in Fear State with Batman #114.
Writers: James Tynion (Batman: Fear State); Brandon Thomas (Clownhunter: DIY)
Artists: Jorge Jimenez (Batman: Fear State); Jason Howard (Clownhunter: DIY)
Colorist: Tomeu Morey (Batman: Fear State)
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In Eden, Miracle Molly uses technology from one of the Magistrate’s drones to listen into the Anti-Oracle while creating a new glider for herself.
Queen Ivy questions Miracle Molly on her motivations to protect people. Miracle Molly talks about how the Unsanity Collective is an opportunity for people to become what they couldbe without the trauma created by the world around them.
Miracle Molly goes on to say that Queen Ivy could become the world’s greatest hero with her powers. While Miracle Molly has peaked her interest Queen Ivy says she isn’t going to help the people who created the current state of the world.
As they continue to talk Miracle Molly realizes what Scarecrow endgame is and says she needs to reach Batman.
In the Magistrate’s Skybase-01 Simon Saint orders Peacekeeper-X to first attempt to bring Peacekeeper-01 back to them but if that doesn’t work he has the authority to kill Peacekeeper-01.
In the streets of Gotham City, Peacekeeper-01 attempts to talk Peacekeeper-01 to return to the Magistrate as he has been infected by Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin. Peacekeeper-01 can’t hear any of this as he sees Peacekeeper-X as a monster.
From a distance Scarecrow feeds into Peacekeeper-01 growing fear by goading him to kill the “monster” in front of him. Peacekeeper-01 attacks Peacekeeper-X to begin their fight. Seeing this Simon Saint orders all the Peacekeepers to take Peacekeeper-01 out.
While Peacekeeper-01 is able to take out the grunt Peacekeepers he is quickly overwhelmed by Peacekeeper-X superior power and technology. Peacekeeper-X ends up punching Peacekeeper-01 so hard he sends him through a building and loses visual on Peacekeeper-01.
Before he can find Peacekeeper-01, Peacekeeper-X is suddenly attacked by Batman. Simon Saint quickly responds to this by having all the Magistrate Peacekeeper robots attack Batman. This gives Peacekeeper-X the opening to continue to search for Peacekeeper-01.
Having been watching all this Scarecrow continues to feed into Peacekeeper-01’s deepest fears. Peacekeeper-01 goes berserk on Peacekeeper-X. Peacekeeper-X counters with a powerful energy blast. Peacekeeper-01 staying standing even with his body heavily burned by the energy attack. Peacekeeper-01 then causes Peacekeeper-X’s gun to explode with his sword, which blows off one of Peacekeeper-X’s arms.
Seeing how Batman is fighting off all the Peacekeeper robots and Peacekeeper-01 is about to Simon Saint freaks out. With tears in his face Simon Saint orders all the Peacekeeper robots self-destruct mode be activated.
As all of the active Peacekeeper robots explode throughout the city Batman barely escapes the blast. As he recovers Miracle Molly shows up offering to help fight back against Scarecrow. End of issue.
The Good: The situation with Fear State is escalating at a steady place but Batman #114 still doesn’t get this event to the point where the magnitude of the what is going on is fully felt. The story is still appearing smaller than it actually is. Though there are still elements explored in Batman #114 that keep the part of the Fear State event being told in this series something that keeps your attention.
The big draw for the part of the Fear State story that Batman #114 tells is Scarecrow. James Tynion continues write the best version of Scarecrow with Fear State. The character comes across as a disturbing, manipulative individual who only needs his words and some well used Fear Toxin to be a major threat. We see that with how throughout Batman #114 he carefully chooses every word he speaks to Peacekeeper-01 to make sure that his tool in creating Fear State within Gotham City goes as planned.
The way Tynion writes Scarecrow is further elevated by how Jorge Jimenez draws the character. Every time we see him the visuals are dark and creepy. It all adds to how the villain is just looming over everything going on in Gotham City that he has created. Which all goes to create an aura of being an endgame boss because of how well both the dialogue and visual for Scarecrow work so well together.
Scarecrow’s portrayal also helps to elevate the wild card nature of Sean Mahoney’s Peacekeeper-01. This is not the same methodical Peacekeeper-01 that we saw in all the Batman Family titles during Fear State. Sean Mahoney’s Peacekeeper-01 was already an unhinged person who was given great power who Scarecrow turned insane through a heavy dosage of Fear Toxin. Now Peacekeeper-01 is purely an agent of chaos who has lost all sense of reality, which Scarecrow happily plays with.
The entire fight with Peacekeeper-X did a good job in showcasing how crazy Peacekeeper-01 has become. Tynion and Jimenez properly escalate the fight to be as much a mental game as it was physical. Because we saw initially how Peacekeeper-X completely overwhelmed Peacekeeper-01 in their first fight. But once Scarecrow pushed the final buttons in Peacekeeper-01 it became a completely different story. Peacekeeper-01 used his own fears to push through every attack by Peacekeeper-X and deliver a brutal assault that made him appear to be a berserker.
Adding weight to what Sean Mahoney was doing as Peacekeeper-01 was how differently Simon Saint started and ended Batman #114. At the beginning we saw Simon Saint still confident he could regain control of what was going on. But as things went south with Batman appearing to ruin his plans and Peacekeeper-01 defeating Peacekeeper-X the reality of what he has done is setting in. He has not created a utopia through the Magistrate program. Instead he has turned Gotham City into a warzone that he is trying to control through a police state with his Peacekeepers. The decision to activate the Peacekeepers self-destruct mode spoke to this.
With this decision Tynion creates a lot of questions for not only where Fear State will go next but what the entire direction of the Batman Family titles will be. Because up until now there has been a focus on Mayor Nakano’s anti-vigilante crusade. But with this latest development of Simon Saints big choice of creating a giant explosion in the middle of Gotham City there is a lot damage done to Mayor Nakano’s vision for the city. This creates an even more chaotic situation which further plays into Scarecrow’s hand.
Adding to all of this continues to be Jorge Jimenez artwork. Jimenez does an excellent job framing every moment in Batman #114 to maximize the impact of the actions taken by Batman, Miracle Molly, Scarecrow, and the Peacekeepers. There is a big event feel to the entire story that is going on. The final desperate action that Simon Saint makes hits because of how the Jimenez draws the moment the explosions take place. It does visually look like Gotham City is once again changed because of this action.
The Bad: For all the good that is done with developing Scarecrow as a major villain and the battle between Peacekeeper-01 and Peacekeeper-X the Fear State event has yet to hit the highs expect from a big Batman event. There is too much time focused on this one aspect of Fear State that the overall storytelling doesn’t fully get across how much danger exists in Gotham City. Even the Magistrate’s police state and warzone that Scarecrow’s Fear State has created feel like it is all contained to one small corner of Gotham City.
This causes Batman’s appearance in this issue not be as impactful as it should be. It appeared as though Batman is more worried about the small picture of a fight between Peacekeepers than everything else going on in Gotham City during Fear State. His appearance is even made to be a small distraction so that the Peacekeeper-01 vs Peacekeeper-X fight could be moved to another location.
What makes Batman’s actions look even worse is that Tynion has references to the other ongoing plots in Fear State with the Anti-Oracle, Mayor Nakano and Magistrate’s police state, Queen Poison Ivy, and Unsanity Collective as Fear State continues. These are all major stories that Batman just seems to be avoiding, which we know isn’t the case from stories going on in other Batman Family titles. At least some reference of how Batman is working with not just Ghost-Maker but the entire Batman Family to juggle everything going on would help the overall narrative being told in this series.
By not addressing all the elements that have made Fear State such a big event the involvement of the supporting characters that do appear are lessened. That happens with both Miracle Molly and Queen Poison Ivy as their discussion doesn’t necessarily add to the stakes of everything we know is going on. It was just a chance for two characters to interact until one of them realizes the plot needs them somewhere else. Finding a way to balance out the big storylines in Fear State will help improve how much focus has been given to the Magistrate’s police state story and make the overall event better.
Not helping this any is the fact that the Clownhunter back-up story adds nothing to the story. The entire back-up story just felt like a distraction rather than adding to the scope of Fear State. It wasn’t until Tim Drake’s Red Robin appeared in the end that some intriguing plot development is provided in the Clownhunter story. But even then the appearance of Tim Drake was just a reminder of how Tim and the other Batman Family members should’ve been given the lead of a back-up story to enhance the Fear State event.
Overall: Fear State is still not hitting the highs after all the build up that led this to be a highly anticipated Batman event. There are certainly character beats with Scarecrow that James Tynion nails in Batman #114. Jorge Jimenez’s artwork certainly helps keep the visual storytelling look like a big event. Its just that the focus in this series thus far has not matched grand scope Fear State wants to have.
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