Let’s be honest, “Fear State” is incredibly lackluster. It’s one of those “events” (I use that word loosely) that is so slow and unmotivated, that I really wish DC would just put it out of its misery. Beyond that, it’s a Batman book and event that barely has Batman in it… Which, if you’ve followed Tynion’s Bat career, this pretty par for the course as far as he’s concerned. So, as much as I genuinely wanted to like Tynion’s curtain call, the reality is that I hate it – well, from a story perspective anyway. Jorge Jimenez’s art is great.
There are a number of elements to “Fear State” that are genuinely intriguing. I feel as though we got a solid set-up that side-stepped Future State just enough to garner some interest and excitement for readers, but now that we’re three issues in (four if you count Fear State: Alpha), it’s clear that James Tynion is just milking it. He’s also falling back into the habit he had with Joker War where he completely ignores all of the interesting plot points. I’ve mentioned before that it’s as if Tynion writes around his stories, and that’s exactly what Fear State feels like. That, or he’s just regurgitating the same speeches over and over again.
This issue launches with Miracle Molly having a conversation with Queen Ivy, as the two discuss reasons for helping or opposing the people of Gotham. There isn’t anything that’s really new here – and I don’t mean that generally, but within the confines of the story itself – however, despite the repetitive nature of the scene, I do think it is relatively well written. Regardless, not much happens.
And that’s kind of the theme for “Fear State.” Not much happens. I mean, hell, we’re technically four issues in, and all we’ve gotten is that Peace Keeper-01 has been drugged by Scarecrow’s new fear toxin, Anti-Oracle is fear-mongering Gotham, and Saint is going all-in on the Magistrate. All of this, by the way, was set up prior to the event starting, and we’re still in the same place narratively.
The previous issue saw Saint revealing Peace Keeper-X – a prototype suit that is supposed to be lightyears better than the Peace Keeper-01 suit. This issue delves into the specifics of what makes the PK-X suit so much better – attached, ad-nauseam, with a heavy-handed line about it costing $500 million more to make than the PK-01 suit. While it’s meant to make PK-X more threatening, all I could think was, “Why wouldn’t they have just gone with the better suit for Peace Keeper-01 to begin with? It’s only been, what? A month, if that, since Saint introduced Peace Keeper-01? If the entire idea of the magistrate rides on Mahoney being viewed as a hero, you’d think Saint would want to put his best foot forward. Anyway, it’s not a huge issue, but it was enough to pull me from the story.
I will give this chapter some small praise for being slightly more entertaining than the previous issues, but it’s mostly because a large portion of the issue is action. Tynion can’t really take credit for this though considering Jorge Jimenez does all of the heavy lifting. But seriously, Jimenez is a hell of an artist and knocks it out of the park here. I thoroughly enjoyed the fight between PK-01 and PK-X.
I also enjoyed seeing Scarecrow continue to make PK-01 even more paranoid by manipulating his mind more and more throughout the fight. I do think there could’ve been room for better execution though, but while the fight itself intensified when Scarecrow did this, it never really felt as though Peace Keeper-01’s desperation or paranoia increased. He’s essentially been at the same level since he was dosed.
As I said, there’s really not much to this issue other than the fight. While the bout is entertaining in its own right, it doesn’t really do much to increase my interest in the story. And that’s a shame when you look at how beautiful this book is. Jorge Jimenez continues to deliver spectacular art that is forced to lift up an amateur-level script and story. It’s a shame.
Also, I can’t discuss the art without bringing up Tomeu Morey’s brilliant colors! He washes different scenes and locations in different colors and hues to help create a tone for the story. I’ve talked about this before, but I still find it striking. Then there’s just the general pop of the colors he uses – whether it be Miracle Molly or the lush environment of Queen Ivy’s underground – it’s fantastic.
To end the issue, Tynion reintroduces a minor plot point from earlier in his run concerning the Unsanity Collective and their Mind Machine. This is intended to be a big tease, but it really just comes across as a poor attempt to make the Unsanity Collective relevant. Unfortunately, this tease appears to undermine a well-established plot point concerning Mad Hatter’s mind control tech, so I’m curious to see if this is just a change in direction.
We get the third and final “Clownhunter” backup for Batman. These backups all feel the same, and all accomplish the exact same thing. There is no actual story in these pages. You just get Clownhunter tripping balls before getting saved by Tim Drake… Who appears to be going by Red Robin again, because DC can’t seem to get the shit together and streamline their books.
Anyway, the end of the “story” teases that the story will be continued in the pages of Batman and Legends of the Dark Knight because it’s impossible to just tell a story anymore. The backup is a waste and just jacks up the price of an already overpriced book that completely underdelivers.
- The only thing I can recommend this book for is the art.
Once again, Batman “Fear State” fails to move the needle in a meaningful way. While I won’t consider this issue a yawn-fest like the previous turnouts, I will consider it rather lifeless.