Hey everyone! Batman #113 is here, and it’s got what I know everyone here has been waiting for…
More exposition! Buckle up folks, because we’re hacking the mainframe and going inside the Batman’s brain! Memories abound! Backstories galore! What more could you want from a story?
Hopefully you didn’t want plot
Surprise! The majority of this issue is spent talking. Batman and Barbara talking, the fake Oracle talking, Renee Montoya talking, Batman and Ghostmaker talking, Batman and Ghostmaker talking ABOUT Ghostmaker talking to Scarecrow, there’s just… so much TALKING. Hell, the only time we see Harley this issue, she’s getting ready to talk to Ivy. And the cherry on top? This book’s big action sequence is overshadowed completely by Batman making a big scary speech to Simon Saint while he fights off Magistrate robots.
That being said, it is a good speech.
Tynion then immediately pivots away from the fight scene to take us on a journey into Batman’s mind, starring Batman and Ghostmaker! Yep! There’s just, like, a Bat-mind-control helmet that they need, because of subliminal programming Scarecrow planted in Bruce because its, like, a new way he’s found to instill fear, man.
Bat-ception, brought to you by the Bat-Oculus Quest!
The way that the pair look like they’re about to play Bat-Beat Saber (Bat Saber?) aside, the goings-on in Bruce’s mind don’t really matter much to the story. There’s a ton of exposition about how big and scary Scarecrow is, but how bigger and scarier Batman is (including a weird line I’m going to talk about in the spoiler tags later), that eventually ends in a giant revelation about Ghostmaker (which will also be discussed in the tags). As far as a non-spoiler-y review goes, that’s about the sum of the main plot this issue. The side plot about Peacekeeper doesn’t really get addressed for more than about a page, so if you’re (for some reason) reading for that, there’s not really a reason to pick up this issue.
I can see him… in my mind’s eye…
So basically, we need to talk about the Fear State. It sounds cool, right? “Fear State.” Like some kind of policital region, a place ruled entirely by fear, or at least the person who was puppeteering that fear.
Well what if I told you that the Fear State was not a place, but a state of mind? Like, just being in a state. Of fear. And that was just… kinda it?
The big Ghostmaker reveal is that once he talked to Jonathan Crane in college and Crane decide to infodump about a thing he called the Fear State, a state of mind instilled in the greater public that will make them so afraid they have no choice but to rise up and overcome their fear. Or something.
This idea, by itself, is fine. It’s a little same-y for Scarecrow, especially if you’ve played Arkham Knight recently (like I have), but there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it. The problems start to spill in when, in the same issue that you explain that the Fear State is a completely mental construct, a place of fear so deep and so primal that it’s infinitely worse than anything Scarecrow has scared up before, you also explain that Batman is completely immune to it because he’s… already… experienced it?
This isn’t a joke or an assumption, by the way, it’s literally stated by Ghostmaker that the Fear State can’t work on Batman because he’s been through it before and survived. I appreciate that it doesn’t mean he’s 100% totally unaffected, but it does remove the tension for any future situations where Batman experiencing the Fear State could have heightened things in any kind of interesting way, because we know he’ll come out the other end fundamentally unchanged, and there’s not even a way to pretend he won’t. It’s incredibly frustrating and a little cheap, honestly.
As always, the visual elements of this book are by far the best parts. Jorge Jimenez is one of my personal favorite artists in the game right now, and is absolutely a dream when paired with Tomeu Morey’s colors. Every page is gorgeous, and the world feels alive. There’s a particularly striking image of Gotham burning that is the perfect blend of realism and stylization, and I absolutely love it.
Clayton Cowles is having a blast this issue as well. There’s lots of fancy bubbling and lettering in this issue that’s just honestly a lot of fun to read. I’m always a fan of fun lettering, and there’s no shortage of it here. Gold stars all around for the visual team here.
The backup story this issue is a direct continuation of last issue’s Clownhunter story, written by Brandon Thomas and illustrated by Jason Howard. We pick up with Bao as he’s falling from the roof he was pushed from, still tripping on the fear gas Crane dosed him with. Oh, did I say as he’s falling? I meant post-fall. Unless he’s still hallucinating, Bao is on the ground, and there’s no telling who got him there. It definitely wasn’t himself, he’s just a normal kid. The short story is just kind of more hallucinations before we realize there’s something Bao has forgotten about his parents, or something else about his backstory, it’s a little unclear. The story is otherwise fine.
- You’re in this for the long haul.
- Jorge Jimenez
- That’s kinda it
I’m so tired of being told about what’s going on instead of seeing literally anything happen. This is incredibly boring, albeit flashy and pretty to look at, but I can’t wait to move past it. I was really excited for Fear State as well, I’m disappointed.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.