Everyone… Stop what you’re doing. We finally get some plot progression in James Tynion’s Batman. I repeat, we’re getting some plot progression in “Fear State!”
Granted, it’s not great, but at least it’s something…
The previous issue ended with the Magistrate invading Queen Ivy’s underground sanctuary, and as expected, this version of Ivy isn’t going to take this very well. For multiple issues, we’ve been teased and reminded that Ivy has roots running all through Gotham so she can destroy the city’s foundation and bring it down on top of itself. And she does exactly that… Well, she has her roots attack, but the city doesn’t crumble, so that poses some questions while playing into my, “things happen but their not great” mentality.
Now, for all of you who have been wanting a Ghost-Maker fix (not me), you get your dose here. As the Magistrate proceeds to invade Ivy’s underground, Ghost-Maker slices and dices them down rather quickly and way too easily. This is part of what makes Ghost-Maker so obnoxious to me. There are no flaws to the character. He can do anything and everything. And, hey, if he’s highly skilled, that’s fine. But it’s Tynion’s insistence to diminish other characters – including the title character – for the sake of building up his characters.
At this point, we’ve watched Batman struggle multiple times with the Magistrate. But now we have Ghost-Maker mopping the floor with them and making it clear that hardly any effort was utilized. I’m just not a fan. In general, I don’t like arrogance, and Ghost-Maker is overflowing with it. If you enjoy this, then I’m happy for you, but I consider it to be a lazy and juvenile approach to writing.
Most of the issue is spent between Scarecrow, Batman, Miracle Molly, and Peace Keeper-01. This portion of the book delivers some genuinely strong moments, but it’s also peppered with plenty of problematic moments as well.
Batman and Molly make their way through the sewers of Gotham in search of Scarecrow. As one might expect, Scarecrow is one step ahead of them and manages to cut them off. With the mind machine in his possession, he’s got an immediate one-up on Molly due to her technical enhancements and uses this as leverage against Batman. This is a story element that I really like. But like most aspects of this arc, the set-up is strong while the actual execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Batman becomes extremely passive because Scarecrow is hurting Molly. I get it. However, there are many moments where Batman could easily take control of the situation, and he simply doesn’t. Scarecrow isn’t a physical threat. He doesn’t stand a chance against Batman unless he impacts Bruce’s mind. And yet, Batman just acts like a chump and takes no action.
There is a moment where Batman does, finally, make a move, but it’s so poorly constructed it only made the scene worse. While Scarecrow starts monologuing (Tynion is going to Tynion), Batman throws a Batarang to disarm the mind machine from him. Now, instead of doing the obvious thing and knocking Crane out – who is standing between Batman and the mind machine device – Batman lunges for the device. Really? Come on!
One punch and Scarecrow would be out. Batman knows this. He’s not stupid. But, James Tynion can’t write Batman. Not well anyway. Or at least not a competent one. There are so many moments thrown into this run that are there for the sake of aiding an anemic plot, and once you remotely question it, you realize it doesn’t hold any water. And while I understand the importance of suspending disbelief, there are still limits. A guy dressed in a bat suit fighting crime? I’m there. Girl with mind-tech enhancements? I’m there. Completely ignoring the confines of characters in this said world just because you want something to happen? Nah, I’m out.
Anyway, Scarecrow now has Batman and Molly in his grasp, and in his layer, we see that Peace Keeper-01 is continuing to be tortured. He’s hooked up to a separate mind machine, and he still hasn’t been cured of the fear toxins he endured earlier in the arc. It’s clear he’s not going to be doing anything of his own free will and when he is released from the machine, I suspect he’ll be even more unstable than before… Well, if a competent writer were writing this, he would be.
Scarecrow starts monologuing again, and this is where the story takes an unexpected turn.
While talking, Scarecrow is unexpectedly shot from behind? Who’s responsible? Well, honestly, I expected it to be Molly. We don’t really know if she has it in her to kill, and if somebody is increasingly hurting my mind, I’d want it to stop. But, surprisingly, it is not Molly, but Peace Keeper-01 who shoots Scarecrow.
And just like that, I’m pulled from the story. It could’ve been a number of other characters and I would’ve bought it. You could reveal that Peace Keeper-X is still alive. It could be Harley. Catwoman. Another member of the Unsanity Collective. Hell, I’d even accept Clown Hunter or Red Hood after the recent back-ups… But Sean Mahoney? No.
So, why don’t I accept this? Well, he hasn’t had any clarity for multiple issues. Why does he suddenly have it now? Also, how did he escape the grips of the mind machine while still feeling the effects of Scarecrow’s fear toxin? Not to mention, we literally just saw him screaming and struggling under the weight of the machine. Those are involuntary responses. How did nobody – especially Scarecrow – not notice that Mahoney was no longer screaming. Again, this is just another convenient plot point that doesn’t hold water.
With Scarecrow shot and dying, Molly is now in a race to save him so she can stop the mind machine from attacking the citizens of Gotham – because we haven’t had enough of Gotham being in peril lately. Meanwhile, Batman is in another fight with Peace Keeper-01. The fight is entertaining and high energy, but it’s also a heavy dose of “been there, done that.”
To close out the issue, we’re left with Batman fighting Peace Keeper-01, while Molly tries to disarm the mind machine. The stakes are meant to feel high, but I don’t really care because I feel like so much of my time has been wasted over the months that I just want to move on already. We also, finally, get the missing piece of Poison Ivy reunited with Queen Ivy. I feel this is also supposed to feel monumental, but it falls flat.
Jorge Jimenez returns to art duties and it’s a welcomed return. He does so much heavy lifting here, and I still feel that it’s a shame he couldn’t have better scripts to work with. Hopefully, he’ll get some better stories under Williamson, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I’m just ready for a combo of good scripts and good art. For years now, one of the only redeeming qualities to Batman has been the art, and fans deserve better. Just two more issues folks… They can’t come fast enough.
We get the second chapter of three for the Batgirls back-up. I expressed discontent with the tone previously, and that remains true here. While I understand this is strictly my taste, it’s just something that doesn’t sit well with me. I’m certain many people will enjoy this – especially the light-hearted nature. I’m just not that guy. I’ve grown to appreciate Corona’s art a little more here, but the script, specifically the dialogue, is pretty bad. If I want a Cass/ Steph fix, I’ll just go back to Pre-Flashpoint stories.
- We finally get some plot progression!
After months of dragging its feet, James Tynion’s “Fear State” finally moves the plot forward. There is still an abundance of problems here, but at least we got something positive. Granted, I feel like a shill for praising something as rudimentary as plot progression, but that is unfortunately the reality we live in these days.
DISCLAIMER: Batman News received an advance review copy of this book.