Batman: Fear State Alpha #1

Batman: Fear State Alpha #1 Review

Batman: Fear State Alpha #1

For all of his fighting Batman was not able to stop Magistrate from taking control as the policing force of Gotham City. With Magistrate taking over Mayor Nakano announced an official ban on vigilantes. And we have seen that Scarecrow has been masterminding everything going on in Gotham City from the shadows. Now with Gotham City reaching this status quo we are entering into the next big Batman Family event titled Fear State. How will the latest Batman Family event change the future of the Batman franchise? Let’s find out with Batman: Fear State Alpha #1.

Writer: James Tynion IV

Artist: Riccardo Federici

Colorist: Chris Sotomayor

Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10

Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10

Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: Several months ago, Simon Saint meets with Jonathan Crane in Arkham Asylum. As Saint is about to offer him work Crane calls out the fact that Saint just wants to use him as a tool. Saint admits he has admired Crane’s work and wants to implement Crane’s Fear State Theory to transform Gotham City into what his vision is.

Crane says he’ll work together if Saint can get him Mad Hatter’s technology that the FBI took along with all the resources to create his Scarecrow equipment. Crane says that when all is done he wants credit for what happens after implementing the Fear State Theory.

In the present, Scarecrow tells a tied up Batman that he will appreciate what he is doing to Gotham City even as Batman will likely forget what he is telling him due to the intensity of the Fear Toxin Batman ingested. Scarecrow says that just like Batman survived his own Fear State and became stronger because of it he is going to give Gotham City that same experience.

Across every news network in Gotham City broadcasters talk about how Scarecrow is behind the chaos going on in Gotham City at the moment. The networks also cover how Mayor Nakano announced that Unsanity Collective is being held responsible for the bombing at Gotham City Hall. It is further reported that the Sean Mahoney as Peacekeeper-01 is leading the Magistrate focus on taking down all vigilantes like Batman.

Batman: Fear State Alpha #1
Jonathan Crane and Simon Saint’s first meeting is revealed during Batman: Fear State Alpha #1. Click for full page view.

Elsewhere Sean Mahoney continues to suffer from the effects of the Fear Toxin that Scarecrow injected into his system.

Inside the Magistrate Skybase-01 Simon Saint is pissed off that his Magistrate team have Peacekeeper-01 is out in the wild while under the influence of Fear Toxin. He tells everyone in the room to get Peacekeeper-01 back before he guns people down in his current insane state.

Saint goes on to say that they also must focus on taking down several vigilantes to get good news out in the press for the Magistrate. He suggests going to capture vigilantes in Alleytown.

Over at GCPD headquarters Commissioner Renee Montoya contacts Mayor Nakano to call out how he did not inform her about implementing the Magistrate and making the corrupt Sean Mahoney Peacekeeper-01. Mayor Nakano brings up how they have a crisis in Gotham City and he expects the GCPD to cooperate with Simon Saint and the Magistrate.

Commissioner Montoya slams her phone hard on the ground out of frustration. One of the GCPD officers tells Commissioner Montaya that the Magistrate have taken over all TV channels in Gotham City. This pisses Commissioner Montoya off even more. She then tells all the GCPD detectives and officers to get make preparations as she suspects the Magistrate will black out all forms of communication soon.

At The Clock Tower, Barbara Gordon has Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain help her with using Gotham’s Emergency Broadcast System to communicate to the rest of the Batman Family in preparation for what the Magistrate are doing.

Just as Barbara is about to send out her message someone posing as Oracle sends out a message to all of Gotham City that is also picked up by Nightwing, Red Hood, Robin (Tim Drake), Batwoman, the Signal, Ravager, and Robin (Damian Wayne). The person behind this new Oracle talks on the fear the Magistrate are spreading throughout Gotham City and announces that Batman is dead with the rest of his allies next to die. The fake Oracle goes on to tell the Gotham City citizens that they must rise up to defend themselves while believing everything this fake Oracle that is passing themselves off as the real one to be speaking the truth.

Back at The Clock Tower, Barbara, Stephanie, and Cassandra are left to wonder who was this fake Oracle. An eye symbol suddenly appears on Barbara’s computer screen saying that the city no longer wants to believe her truth. Barbara’s computer then blows up. Cassandra quickly unplugs the rest of Barbara’s computers out of safety.

Deep under Gotham City in Eden, Harley Quinn convinces the Gardner to allow Miracle Molly and what remains of the Unsanity Collective to hide out there. Harley wants to recruit Poison Ivy to help save Gotham City but Gardner doesn’t think that will work.

Miracle Molly wants to go out and stop the Magistrate for what they did to Squeak and other Unsanity Collective members. Master Wyze says they have to first regroup so they get the best chance to show people the Unsanity Collective’s way of life. Miracle Molly states she can build them the weapons needed but they need to do so somewhere else.

Deeper in Eden, Gardner brings Harley to where Poison Ivy is at. Poison Ivy states she is now Queen Ivy as she grabs Harley with some vines. Harley apologizes for leaving Ivy’s side. Queen Ivy states she will not interfere in the coming war but will allow Harley’s friends to stay in Eden for the time being. Harley thanks Ivy for this.

After Queen Ivy disappears deeper into Eden, Gardner is impressed that Queen Ivy showed Harley so much compassion. Harley asks Gardner how she can get the missing piece of Ivy so she can have her Pammy back. Gardner states that she has an idea for this.

Over in Alleytown Catwoman tells the Poison Ivy that is with her to stay put in the hiding spot she found for Ivy.

Catwoman then joins her team to get ready for the Magistrate that are arriving in Alleytown.

Batman: Fear State Alpha #1
Harley Quinn meets Queen Ivy in Gotham City’s Eden in Batman: Fear State Alpha #1. Click for full page view.

Elsewhere Jace Fox is gets updates on what is going on in Gotham City. Jace then looks at the new Batman armor he has created for himself.

Over at the abandoned Arkham Asylum Batman does his best to fight off the effects of the Fear Toxin in order to stop Scarecrow. After taking a punch from Batman, Scarecrow states that there is no stopping what is about to happen. End of issue.

The Good: Batman: Fear State Alpha #1 is all about setting the stage for the next big Batman event. In that respect James Tynion and Riccardo Federici succeed in this issues mission statement. Everything you need to know about the current state of Gotham City and who will be involved in the Fear State event is all here in Batman: Fear State Alpha #1.

That is where the strength of Batman: Fear State comes from. Tynion spends this entire issue showing the reader where Gotham City is after everything that gone on since Joker War started. Even if you haven’t read Tynion’s run up to this point this is a good catch-up issue because all you need to know is stated here. Specifically using the news reports worked well to put over the state of Gotham City in a way that made all of the exposition we got work as a natural part of the story.

By doing so it allowed all the other set-up scenes to focus on where characters are at. The opening of Batman: Fear State Alpha is a good example of that. We are finally presented with how the partnership between Jonathan Crane and Simon Saint happened before the events of A-Day. The conversation they have about Crane’s Fear State Theory further pushes the idea as these two as the masterminds behind A-Day and the current state of Gotham City.

More importantly, Tynion dives further into the newly rejuvenated Jonathan Crane to be present in possibly his most chaotic and deadly Scarecrow form. Whether its just as Jonathan Crane or Scarecrow, the villain comes across as unsettling with everything he says. That further positions him as the big bad of Fear State on the level Joker was during Joker War.

It is also interesting to see how much more we are seeing the direction for the Batman franchise diverge from what we saw in Future State’s Gotham City. Everything that is happening with the Magistrate and Batman Family looks to fast tracked to reflect Future State. At the same time, we see how speeding into that direction will make Fear State an event that will cause a completely new future to take place as characters won’t be the same after this.

Having that sense of unknown with where different key characters are at is exciting. For example, we have Simon Saint concerned that Sean Mahoney being under the influence of a heavy dose of Fear Toxin will destroy his plans for the Magistrate. This is not something we saw in Future State as the Magistrate takeover of Gotham City was said to relatively easy. That is not the case anymore, which makes Sean Mahoney as Peacekeeper-01 an even bigger wildcard in Fear State.

That wildcard status for Peacekeeper-01 makes things even more dangerous for the Batman Family as both Simon Saint and Mayor Nakano are even more motivated to take down all of Gotham City’s vigilantes. Going after everyone in the Batman Family is the good press they need, especially if Peacekeeper-01 does do something wrong. Its simple motivation that creates another angle in the story Tynion and the rest of the Batman Family writers to explore during Fear State.

Adding interest to the Magistrate’s actions in controlling Gotham City is how Commissioner Renee Montoya is frustration with Mayor Nakano has boiled over. Commissioner Montoya and Mayor Nakano are clearly not seeing eye-to-eye with the direction for Gotham City. With Commissioner Montoya getting the ready for whatever actions Magistrate take it’ll be interesting to see what role the GCPD play in this story. They could very well be the difference makes in this entire story when all is said and done with Fear State.

Batman: Fear State Alpha #1
Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra Cain work to send out a message to the Batman Family in Batman: Fear State Alpha #1. Click for full page view.

Another major sub-plot set up for Fear State is the current status quo of Poison Ivy as she is still split in two. This is a storyline that Tynion, Ram V, and others have been slowly building with Poison Ivy. Now with Batman: Fear State Alpha we see this story being pushed to he forefront as Harley Quinn wants to get Poison Ivy back to normal. Given that the other part of Poison Ivy is currently in the first area the Magistrate are targeting in Alleytown this makes both the Harley Quinn and Catwoman series must-reads.

If that wasn’t enough the Batman Family will also be busy with this new fake Oracle spreading false information as Barbara Gordon’s alter ego. From the looks of it, this fake Oracle looks to have some tie to Brother-eye given the symbol that appeared to send Barbara a message before blowing up her computer. Adding this on top of having to deal with the Magistrate, Scarecrow, and other villains the Batman Family will have their hands full.

At the same time, I am glad that Tynion does establish that the Batman Family will know that this Oracle was not Barbara. Establishing that they know how Barbara would talk when sending out a message adds to how everyone in the Batman Family has worked together for years. Having that experience will lead to Barbara still being able to organize the rest of the Batman Family as she was planning. Which should highlight how well Nightwing, Robins, Red Hood, Batgirls, Signal, and others work together even with “Oracle” turned against them.

Riccardo Federici artwork was solid. His style isn’t what I normally like as there are some inconsistencies with the adjustments he made depending on the scene. That said, the artwork got over how Gotham City is about to become even more chaotic than before. Federici also did a good job in presenting Scarecrow as a villain from a horror movie that could even give Batman chills.

The Bad: The one aspect of Batman: Fear State Alpha that did not work was Batman’s appearance. All of Batman’s scenes with Scarecrow were rehash of the flashforward scenes we got throughout “The Cowardly Lot” storyline. There was nothing new added to Batman being Scarecrow’s prisoner outside of Scarecrow mentioning his Fear State Theory. And even that just came across as repetitive because Crane’s Fear State Theory was already brought up multiple times during the opening scene with Simon Saint.

This all made Batman the most irrelevant character to setting up the Fear State event. He was actually not needed since every scene that didn’t have Batman appear in accomplished more than his appearance in this issue did. It would’ve been more interesting if Tynion just left Batman out until the very last splash page that ended Batman: Fear State Alpha. That way the focus of this issue could’ve been on how Gotham City is without Batman since he is rumored to be dead. That would’ve made the final splash page a much more dramatic way to end this issue on as you would’ve been left wondering what state Batman is in going into Fear State.

Overall: Batman: Fear State Alpha #1 got the job done in setting the stage for the latest Batman Family event. Every aspect from the characters involved to various sub-plots are presented here so you can be best informed what the Fear State event will be about.

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