I’ve been rather vocal about my opinion of Batman since James Tynion has taken over. Simply put, I’m not a fan. There has been a shining light as of late though, and that has been the incredible art of Jorge Jimenez with Tomeu Morey’s colors. Unfortunately, for this issue, Jimenez shares art duties with Bengal. While I think Bengal is a solid artist, he’s simply not on the level of Jorge Jimenez. All this really does is strip this book of the “make-up” that’s helped make it look better than it actually is… because, let’s face it, Tynion’s Batman is a decompressed, awful mess.
James Tynion continues his Batman swan song with “Fear State,” and man is it a slog. We’ve had multiple issues where practically nothing happens. There’s barely any plot progression. Batman is a minor character in his own book. And the plot threads that are unfolding aren’t interesting or engaging at all.
The previous issue ended with Miracle Molly realizing Scarecrow’s plans for Gotham, and she races to find Batman to tell him. The ending was meant to serve as this big, “Aha!” moment to hook you into reading this issue, but I felt the tease fell rather short. Considering it was a cliffhanger though, I expected this issue to kick off with Batman and Miracle Molly – that is the logical starting point – but we don’t start there.
Instead, we focus on Simon Saint to start the issue – specifically his reaction to Ricardo’s apparent death. Saint’s reaction is so over-the-top crazy, and not in a, “Oh, this camp is delicious” sort of way. No, it’s psychotic. It makes me wonder why people work for Saint, much less believe in him. It also makes me wonder how he got to where he is in life. Also, it’s becoming quite clear that Ricardo was pretty much Saint’s… umm… we’ll just say “house boy” to keep it PC. Honestly, all of it is weird. Let’s move on though. I’ve been opposed to Saint/ the Magistrate since they were first introduced in Future State, so the real “fear state” for me is the fact that they’re still around.
The following scenes also fail to drive the plot forward very much. In Queen Ivy’s underground sanctuary, we learn that Mr. Wyze was previously Door Mouse for the Mad Hatter. I’m not sure why writers keep doing this, but there’s been this insistent need to connect all of these characters together. Tynion has been notorious for it and has already pulled this trope with Scarecrow/ Ghost-Maker. Now we have Mad Hatter and Mr. Wyze. I suspect the intention is that this will create more stakes or conflict, but in reality, it just makes the story – and Gotham itself – feel small.
We also see more of Sean Mahoney – Peace Keeper-01 – as Scarecrow continues to dig his claws in and mess with his mind. Once again, there is no change here from where the story first started. If we actually saw a progression of Peace Keeper-01 becoming more crazy and dangerous, this would be different. But we haven’t. He jumped from morally corrupt to psychotic and has just been living there for months.
I keep talking about the lack of plot progression, and while that does bother me, I’d be ok with it if we actually received some character development and growth, or explored the thematic elements of the story (if there are any… as of now, I can’t seem to spot them). We don’t get any of this though. What’s more frustrating is that we keep increasing issue counts to focus on characters and get their backstory, when those elements should just exist within the main story. Considering how little has actually happened (or just been repeated), it’s not like it couldn’t fit within the page count.
But no, that’s not our reality. Yet again, we have to read an issue of Batman where Batman is completely incapable and incompetent… And that’s exactly what most of this issue is. Batman and Miracle Molly go on their mission to find the mind machine and find a mind-controlled Breaker waiting to attack. As you might expect, Batman needs Miracle Molly to swoop in and do her part so Batman can actually fight. It’s just old at this point. As a Batman fan, I hate the whole Bat-god approach, but this is honestly much, much worse.
As I mentioned earlier, the art took a bit of a dip in this issue. Bengal steps in for most of the page count, and while I enjoy his work, it just doesn’t hold up to Jimenez. The most obvious notice – for me anyway – is the lack of detailed backgrounds. Bengal’s art has panel after panel after panel with color splashes serving as the background. It pulls me from the story because it creates an environment that doesn’t feel fully realized or lived in. I mean, let’s face it, the background is an entire element of storytelling that just appears to be forgotten. And when there is some detail in the background, it’s very minimal.
I also find Bengal’s art is less impactful in its layouts, and ultimately has less energy than the work Jimenez provides. Again, Bengal isn’t bad – nor is a minimalist approach – but comparatively speaking it feels generic compared to what we’re used to. And generic art on top of a boring, generic script…
The backup for this issue is a teaser for the upcoming Batgirls book by Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Jorge Corona. If this is any sign of what’s to come, I’m not sure I’m a fan. There’s such a heavy-handed, new age, teen slant – and yes, I get that these are teenage characters – but they feel so disconnected from their reality that it just rings false. The tone of the story is more fitting for Steph than Cass, but even then, it makes Steph rather unbearable for me. And Cass chiming in with the teen-girl quips just feels odd. I can’t help but feel that both characters have been written so terribly and unnaturally for a while now.
Also, a general complaint that I have with “Fear State” is alive and well here… Where does this fit into the story, and does it actually fit because there appear to be contradictions? I’m also a little uncertain of Jorge Corona serving as the artist here. He’s got a fun take and it adds a certain energy to the book, but I wouldn’t say it necessarily fits the tone the writers are shooting for.
- If you’ve been reading “Fear State” you might as well finish.
- Batgirls fans have something they might enjoy here.
At this point, I’m checked out on Tynion’s “Fear State.” It’s not offering anything – other than Jorge Jimenez’s art – to keep me interested or invested. Once again, Tynion is writing around his story, and despite a solid set-up to the arc, there’s just no substance here. Because of that, I can’t recommend it.
DISCLAIMER: Batman News received an advance review copy of this book.