Fear State hasn’t hit the highs I was expecting it to. There is a certain something that this event is missing that Joker War had before it. Still there are a lot to the plot of Fear State that I am very invested with how James Tynion will develop them. The story around Scarecrow in particular has continued to keep my attention. Tynion has developed Scarecrow into a top-tier villain with how he has manipulated all of the events taking place in Fear State. Let’s see where Fear State goes next with Batman #115.
Writers: James Tynion IV (Batman: Fear State); Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad (Batgirls: Clueless)
Artists: Bengal and Jorge Jimenez (Batman: Fear State); Jorge Corona (Batgirls: Clueless)
Colorists: Tomeu Morey (Batman: Fear State); Sarah Stern (Batgirls: Clueless)
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the Magistrate’s Skybase Simon Saint freaks out at the possible death of Peacekeeper-X. Mayor Nakano calls to talk but Simon is not interested. One of the Magistrate employees has found a vine system growing through the bedrock (which is shown to be Queen Poison Ivy’s Eden). Simon takes the information and orders all the Magistrate forces including their drones and Peacekeepers to converge on the new target he wants to be their focus.
Over in Eden, Queen Poison Ivy uses her vines to help Squeak recuperate from her injuries. Master Wyze talks with Queen Poison Ivy and reveals that in the past he worked with Jervis Tetch before he became the Mad Hatter. Master Wyze continued to work with Jervis after he became Mad Hatter but eventually quit after he witness how things were at Arkham Asylum and wanted to break the cycle. Master Wyze then tells Queen Poison Ivy that after witnessing how she used her powers she has the power to help more people.
In the sewers a heavily injured Peacekeeper-01 is approached by Scarecrow. Scarecrow offers to help cure Peacekeeper-01 of his physical and mental injuries. Peacekeeper-01 accepts the offer.
Somewhere in Gotham City, Batman and Miracle Molly head towards Gotham 2.0. On their way Batman admits that he understands that not everything is in his control so he has to trust others to help. Miracle Molly says that she has something that could save everyone.
In Gotham 2.0, Miracle Molly shows Batman the Mind Machine that Master Wyze to help strip away a person’s memories, including traumas, to give them a fresh start. Miracle Molly reveals that she knows that the Mind Machine actually stored all these memories and it is likely Scarecrow used the Mind Machine to weaponize the trauma of hundreds of people to send out across the city.
Miracle Molly then takes Batman to the Mind Machine’s server room. Once they enter the room Batman is attacked by Breaker, who is under Scarecrow’s control. Miracle Molly uses her knowledge of Breaker to quickly disable his power gauntlets. This gives Batman the opportunity to knock out Breaker. Batman then injects Breaker with a cure for Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin.
Realizing that Scarecrow moved the Mind Machine off-site outside of the Magistrate’s watch Batman asks Miracle Molly if she can build something to track the device down. Miracle Molly starts to get to work on the tracker.
Elsewhere, Scarecrow brings Peacekeeper-01 to his secret hideout where he has the Miracle Machine. Scarecrow reveals he is going to use the Miracle Machine to help evolve all of Gotham City with Peacekeeper-01 being the first to go through this evolution he intends for everyone.
Back in Eden, Queen Poison Ivy gets pissed off when she detects someone trying to enter Eden. Queen Poison Ivy decides to go on the offensive and have nature reclaim Gotham City.
At that same time all of Simon Saint’s Magistrate forces enter Eden. Simon orders the Peacekeepers to bring him Poison Ivy’s head. End of main story.
The Good: After everything that went down in the previous chapter of Fear State James Tynion escalates things further with Batman #115. This issue reads like a big set-up for the endgame that will make the final two chapters of Fear State. Though the same problems impacting the previous chapters of Fear State continue to persist in Batman #115
Where Batman #115 excels that the last chapter did not was in getting the ball rolling on multiple plotlines within Fear State. Batman #114 suffered from narrowing its focus just on Peacekeeper-01. Tynion immediately fixes that by having Batman #115 switch between Simon Saint, Queen Poison Ivy, Master Wyze, Batman, Miracle Molly, Scarecrow, and Peacekeeper-01’s perspective. In many cases we see different pairings of these characters. This allows the scope of Fear State to be put over in a better way as chaos continues to erupt throughout Gotham City.
I especially appreciated the self-awareness by Batman that he can’t be everywhere at once that admits to Miracle Molly. This worked for multiple reason. It show how Batman is learning to better understand that he will never be truly successful by taking the weight of protecting and saving Gotham City alone. He is more aware than he ever has that relying on his proteges and other allies will strengthen how Gotham City is protected. In the process Tynion is also able to address how there are other heroes involved in Fear State. Which works in well to let the reader know to read other tie-ins to see the rest of the Batman Family developments in Fear State.
This worked to effectively give a reason why Batman would be open to work with Miracle Molly. It actually shows how far Batman has come in trusting others that he doesn’t just put down Miracle Molly’s ideas from the beginning. He is open to hearing out what she was thinking of doing with the Mind Machine and let her take the lead on this plan rather than taking it on himself.
In doing so Miracle Molly was able to stand out even more than she has since her introduction as Tynion places a focus on her technical ability. She definitely shines with her technical expertise providing us a better showcase of her own unique fighting style. She fights in a way that is more agility based. It makes how she is able to help Batman out in stopping the Scarecrow-controlled Breaker work to further build out her overall character. It certainly sets her to have more of an active role in the story than just creating the tracking device to find Scarecrow.
Speaking of Scarecrow, Tynion continues to further develop Scarecrow in a way that he comes across as the most dangerous villain in Gotham City. The addition of Scarecrow implementing the Mind Machine technology in how he is planning to complete his Fear State plans elevated him further. Using his version of the Mind Machine on Peacekeeper-01 should give us a good example of what his Fear State plan will fully look like during the endgame.
The actions by Scarecrow are further elevated by how he has really torn down everything Simon Saint has built with the Magistrate. Because just as soon as Simon Saint got his Magistrate program fully approved by Mayor Nakano it is already looking like a massive failure. You can sense how much of that failure is eating Simon alive with how he is making rash decisions by now placing his entire Magistrate and Peacekeepers focus on getting Queen Poison Ivy. Simon specifically ignoring Mayor Nakano’s call could end up being a major plot point for his character arc given everything that has happened thus far.
The Queen Poison Ivy sub-plot is one that has its good and bad. On the good side of things Tynion does write the character well. She is about maintaining the peace that she created in Eden. This is not something that is just talk. That is what we see with how she does listen to Master Wyze backstory in a calm manner. We then see how her peaceful Eden being disturbed is what sets her off. This action positions Queen Poison Ivy to play the wild card that changes everything going on between Batman and Scarecrow.
The Batgirls back-up story was much more effective than the Clownhunter back-up we previously got. Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad have a great handle of both Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain’s characters. The voice for both characters are unique to them as they bring their own youthful energy to the role of Batgirl. That makes their dynamic as best friends shine even more as they clearly balance each other out that makes them an effective team.
The Batgirls back-up also effectively gets over how the Magistrate really do have full control of Gotham City. There is no corner safe for any sort of vigilante. Even the most skilled fighters like Cassandra and Stephanie must find ways to escape as they could be overwhelmed the longer the fight goes on. The Batgirls perspective adds to the sense of urgency to the entire Fear State event.
Jorge Corona is a great fit for this Batgirl story. His style matches how there is a more energetic feel to Stephanie and Cassandra as Batgirls compared to how we see Bruce leading things in the main story as Batman. Corona also enhances the back-and-forth dialogue Stephanie and Cassandra with how he matches character expressions to what is being said.
The Bad: One missed opportunity that Batman #115 had was having news reports talk about the explosion from the previous issue. Throughout his run on Batman Tynion has employed news coverage in Gotham City to enhance the story. After the events of the previous issue this was the perfect time to open Batman #115 with a display of how the news is being covered during Fear State. It would’ve made the current loss of control Simon Saint is having over what is going on even more effective.
Why this was noticeable was that Mayor Nakano was shown to be aware of things being Simon Saints fault. But even with Mayor Nakano being built as a major character by Tynion we haven’t seen him or his administration in Fear State. Not having Mayor Nakano involved in some way in the main Fear State story is a big missed opportunity to get over the scope of the story.
The Queen Poison Ivy story also does come across as a half a story being told. The other half involving Harley Quinn and Gardner is being told over in Catwoman but there is no indication of that. It just seems that characters have disappeared without much of a idea where to read sub-plots not being told here. Even the big splash page of the Batman Family doesn’t inform the reader. Instead it just a reminder of how much of the Fear State story isn’t being told in Batman. Which does make the story in Batman feel smaller in comparison to the scope established for Fear State.
While Bengal and Jorge Jimenez are respectively talented artists their styles do not match whatsoever. Even when they deliver good art the pacing of the overall story in Batman #115 is impacted by the switch in art style. The pacing comes to a halt when the switches happen so it takes a page or two to regain it when the art style changes.
Overall: The deeper we get into Fear State the more apparent it is the scope exceeds what can been told in one comic book. Batman #115 is an example of that as the parts of the event that James Tynion does focus with Batman, Scarecrow, and the Magistrate all work. Unfortunately, it does feel like we are only getting a fraction of the full Fear State story being told in Batman. That makes the overall impact of what we see play out in Batman #115 come across as epic as it should be.
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