Batman #117 Fear State Finale Review

Batman #117 Review – Fear State Finale!

After all the build up the finale for the Fear State event is here. James Tynion has been building to this finale throughout the course of his run as the Fear State that Scarecrow and the Magistrate have brought to Gotham City will either come to an end or be the new status quo for the city. As we’ve seen with all the Batman Family titles tie-ins to Fear State there is a lot to do in order to overcome what has been done to Gotham City. Can the Batman Family save the city and its people? Let’s find out with Batman #117.

Writers: James Tynion (Batman: Fear State Finale); Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad (Batgirls: Can’t Hardly Wait)

Artists: Jorge Jimenez (Batman: Fear State Finale); Jorge Corona (Batgirls: Can’t Hardly Wait)

Colorists: Tomeu Morey (Batman: Fear State Finale); Sarah Stern (Batgirls: Can’t Hardly Wait)

Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: Inside the Magistrate Skybase Simon Saint ignores all calls from Mayor Nakano as he has complete focus what is going on in Eden as Queen Ivy is disrupting his network with the earthquakes she is causing.

Nightwing, Oracle, Batgirls (Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain), and Red Robin show up, having used Peacekeeper armor to sneak on to the Magistrate’s Skybase (see Nightwing #86 for how this happened), and announce they are taking down the airship.

In the sewers Scarecrow taunts Miracle Molly about the Unsanity Collective’s mission while she is trying to disarm the Fear State bomb. Miracle Molly knocks out Scarecrow just as she is able to get the commands to disarm the bomb, which she shows hesitation towards.

Batman #117 Fear State Finale Review
Batman vs Peacekeeper intensifies with every blow taken by both fighters in Batman #117. Click for full page view.

At the same time, nearby, Batman and Peacekeeper-01 are having an intense back-and-forth fight.

Over in Eden, Harley Quinn gets Queen Ivy to calm down and convince her to become whole again by merging with her Poison Ivy side that Gardner split from her out of concern. Queen Ivy agrees and merges with her other half.

Poison Ivy returns to her original form and immediately uses her powers to help the people overcome by fear and heal those that are injured like the Unsanity Collective’s Squeak.

As that process ends Harley Quinn starts talking about becoming a hero. Poison Ivy pulls Harley Quinn towards her so they can share a kiss.

Back in the sewers Peacekeeper-01 shows his full confidence in leading the Magistrate and controlling Gotham City. Batman ties his utility belt to his right hand while revealing that Peacekeeper-01 and everyone working for the Magistrate will be fully prosecuted for their crimes. Peacekeeper-01 does not believe this and charges at Batman. Batman quickly dodges the attack and uses his right hand covered by his utility belt to knock out Peacekeeper with a punch to the back of the head.

Batman then calls out to Miracle Molly to ask her if she was able to disarm Scarecrow’s bomb. Miracle Molly says not yet as she now plans to reprogram the bomb to wipe away all the trauma of the people of Gotham City. Batman tries to convince her there is a better way but Miracle Molly doesn’t listen. Batman then decides to show her that there is a better way by showing her how things are already turning around for Gotham City.

Miracle Molly plugs into the local broadcast and overhears how the media blackout in Gotham City has been lifted, Mayor Nakano announcing the end of Simon Saint and the Magistrate, and how Poison Ivy saved the people of Gotham City. The reporting continues to talk about how there is a familiar light of hope shinning over the city.

Oracle, Nightwing, Batgirls, Signal, Red Robin, Harley Quinn, Batman (Jace Fox), and Batwoman all gather as they watch the Batsignal shine in the Gotham City sky.

Back in the sewer Batman removes his cowl to talk to Miracle Molly as Bruce Wayne. Bruce convinces Miracle Molly that human’s capacity for good is incredibly powerful, including the ability to overcome fear. Miracel Molly disarms Scarecrow’s bomb and says she wants to believe what Bruce said. She then hugs Bruce. He tells her everything will be okay as a flower blooms on the ground in the sewers near where they are standing. End of main story.

The Good: While Batman #117 does not solve all the problems this event had it is by far the best issue of the Fear State story that was told in this series. The simple reason for that is how James Tynion and Jorge Jimenez were able to integrate multiple plains of action throughout Batman #117. In doing so we were presented with the full scope of what was at stake for what Fear State means to Gotham City with which side of this conflict would come out on top.

Opening up with the Magistrate being taken down by the Batman Family was the perfect tone setter. This is an aspect of Fear State we didn’t see very much of. James Tynion built up Simon Saint to be a villain you hated because of how cocky and authoritarian he has acted since debuting. The entire breakdown of Simon Saint was exactly the result you wanted from his character arc because he deserved to be embarrassed in grand fashion.

Batman #117 Fear State Finale Review
Poison Ivy returns to her full form and shares a kiss with Harley Quinn in Batman #117. Click for full page view.

The fact that it was Oracle, Nightwing, Red Robin, Spoiler, and Orphan who were the ones that took down the Magistrate was a cool thing to see. Because at the end of the day Batman alone wasn’t able to take down the Magistrate. It needed to be a united effort to take down the Magistrate, which speaks to how what Simon Saint created was something the Batman Family needed to be united to defeat. It was also a great payoff to how the Batman Family were shown fighting against the Magistrate without Bruce Wayne during Future State. It just felt appropriate that Oracle, Nightwing, Red Robin, Spoiler, and Orphan would be the ones to stop Future State from ultimately happening.

This allowed Tynion to end his run by showing how there are real consequences to everything that was being developed under his run. Simon Saint and the Magistrate were only going to be able to operate the way they have for so long. The quick rise to power just added to how Simon Saint believed himself to be untouchable. Now with Mayor Nakano so closely tied to the Magistrate it will be interesting to see how he tries to save his own political career in the fallout. Because it is clear the media are not happy with how Mayor Nakano and Simon Saint tried to control them, which adds another layer of storytelling to explore across all the Batman Family titles.

While Simon Saint was certainly overcome with the power he believed he had no character had more of a power trip than Sean Mahoney as Peacekeeper-01. The additional power he gained that made him into a Bane-like figure just added how he truly felt invincible even though he has not had the best fight record. He fully believed he would take full control of the Magistrate with his enhanced powers. This made all the teasing of possibly going down the Future State direction something that stayed at the top of the mind for Fear State.

Tapping into the memories of Future State for fans who did read those Batman Family titles was a smart way to add further stakes to the Batman vs Peacekeeper-01 fight. It made you constantly wonder if Batman would come out on top or if this was going to be the big defeat that causes him to disappear, as he did in Future State. Which made how Batman was able to overcome Peacekeeper-01 an even more satisfying outcome. Because it wasn’t just defeating him in a fight, because thanks to the Batman Family we saw that it was insured that the Magistrate would not rise to power even with Sean Mahoney surviving this fight.

Making Batman’s fight even more interesting is the fact that it wasn’t actually Bruce who ended up being the big hero in the end. He certainly took down the two physical manifestations of an end boss in Scarecrow and Peacekeeper-01. But in reality the ones that made the biggest difference in ending the Magistrate was the Batman Family. This fact made how we saw the entire Batman Family that’s in Gotham City reflect how they are able to protect Gotham City without always needing Batman to be the big hero. They can all be as big, if not bigger, heroes that will rise to meet any challenge. Which was all wonderfully capture with the epic splash page that Jimenez drew of the Batman Family together.

Bruce’s speech without his cowl to Miracle Molly further emphasizes this hope that the entire Batman Family represent. It isn’t just one person that needs to shoulder the responsibilities of making Gotham City a better place. It will be a team effort, whether it’s the Batman Family, community leaders, GCPD, or the government officials, that’ll make the most difference. Miracle Molly having her eyes open to this was a good resolution for her character arc that was so connected to Bruce’s own journey through all of this as Batman.

The resolution with to the Queen Ivy/Poison Ivy sub-plot was handled as well as it could’ve. A lot of the development for this sub-plot was handled by the Catwoman and Harley Quinn comic books. That said, Tynion was able to get across the importance of the two halves of Poison Ivy becoming one again. It came across as a monumental moment thanks to Jimenez’s artwork. There was genuine power felt with how this sequence was drawn to put over how this was wrapping up a major sub-plot across all the Batman Family titles.

It was also great that it was Harley Quinn, with help from Gardner, that was able to bring Poison Ivy back together. These two have wonderful chemistry with one another. Harley Quinn talking up how she is trying to turn over a new leaf by going down the road of a superhero was a good way to get into the relationship a bit more as Poison Ivy wanted to just be reunited with Harley in this moment.

The back-up Batgirls storyline by Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, and Jorge Corona continued to be a solid build-up to create excitement for the upcoming ongoing starring Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain. As with the previous chapters, the team did well in getting over the chemistry between Stephanie and Cassandra. Batman #117’s Batgirls back-up also established how Barbara Gordon will be even more proactive as their mentor. Which will be important given how it looks like the Seer will be a major antagonist for the new Batgirls series.

Batman #117 Fear State Finale Review
Barbara Gordon reunites with Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain post-Fear State in the Batgirls back-up story in Batman #117. Click for full page view.

The Bad: Not everything was perfect about the ending to Fear State that we got in Batman #117. One thing that stands out is the opening. For as much as I like the fact that it was Oracle, Nightwing, Spoiler, Orphan, and Red Robin who took down the Magistrate I wish they were included more in the Fear State story presented by Tynion in the Batman series. Even if it was silent splash pages of what the rest of the Batman Family were doing in their respective tie-ins would’ve helped to make their importance to how Fear State ended. The way it goes down here does come across as them just appearing out of plot convenience rather than natural story progression within the story present by the Batman series.

Gardner’s role in Fear State also wasn’t well developed. Any time she is on screen it just seemed that she was a deus ex machina character to help explain why things moved as quickly as they did with the Poison Ivy sub-plot. Her character was just never well developed for readers who are only picking up this series where she was originally introduced to fan. You definitely need to be reading at least the Harley Quinn series to best understand the character since she wasn’t shown doing much in this series.

Overall: Fear State was far from a perfect event. Even in the conclusion James Tynion could not escape some of the problems the event had in the Batman series. That said, Batman #117 delivered an ending that was extremely satisfying. The involvement of the Batman Family along with development of other major Fear State sub-plots helped elevate the story told around the Dark Knight’s efforts to stop the villains of this event. That along with the fun Batgirls back-up story made the conclusion a successful way for Tynion and Jorge Jimenez to end their run on the Batman series.

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