Fear State has come to its conclusion, and with it the run of James Tynion as both a Batman and DC comics writer as he has headed over to substack to do the freelance thing. Substack is the latest effort by writers to male their own way outside of the established order, be it newspapers or comic book publishers, and Tynion opted for that instead of continuing on with one of the big two.
Fear State deals with a Gotham that has been rattled to its core by the events of the previous arc, Joker War, with a new mayor Christopher Nakano and a new police commissioner in former Detective Renee Montoya. Nakano was a Gotham police officer who was injured during Joker War and developed a distrust of caped crusaders along the way. As mayor he bans any work with the Bat family and hires Montoya as top cop with the directive to end all collaboration and bring them in if they won’t stop.
Into this new situation step one Simon Saint, with a whole new project courtesy of his Saint Industries – the Magistrate, a new wave police force separate from the Gotham Police with a promise to bring the order that neither the GCPD or the Bat family could not. Unbeknownst to all Saint is working in cahoots with one Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow, to trick the populace through fear into approving the Magistrate imposing a new world order on Gotham. Unbeknownst to him Scarecrow has something far more sinister in mind.
No Joker! Now the reason for that is the previous arc was Joker War, but it is still a cause to rejoice when a Batman writer can go six months or more without bringing him back out for a other go round. For better and worse Joker has become the villain that every Bat-author just has to do one all encompassing story with, and lately he’s become an over powered menace to the point where you just glad to see it end. At least that’s how Joker War felt to me.
But a big, major story with Scarecrow at the front was long overdue. And that for the first half of the story he wasn’t even using the fear gas to scare people, just playing on our tendencies to believe crazy stuff in 2021, was a great commentary on misinformation and how it can literally change people entirely, to the point where they believe the world right outside their door has things going on in it despite what the evidence says to the contrary.
The evolution theme behind the story was well done also. Gotham and it’s people changing with the times no matter what the Scarecrow or the Batman do to put or keep them locked in different boxes was very timely. Scarecrow trying to force a change of his design while Batman tries to evolve as his city does, and not give in to the desire to impose an better order, was a stark contrast in characters. There’s a misconception that Batman is somewhat of a fascist control freak when in reality he’s a man dealing with the world as best as he can while he tries to save people from having to deal with the pain he carries from losing his parents.
Tynion has introduced a ton of new characters in a relatively short time, which is always good and bad. Good because who doesn’t want more cool characters but bad in that now you have yet more people to fit into this world, and once the writer is gone those characters tend to get shelved as well. Ghost maker, Clownhunter, the Unsanity Collective, and Simon Saint have all been brought in and now will likely be going away for a while. New characters are often introduced so the author can do things that they cannot with existing legacy characters and that definitely happens throughout Tynion’s run.
There was also the continuation of one of the recent tropes I’ve come to find really irritating in Batman comics: Broke Bruce Wayne. Now they never make him as broke as us, they just use some convoluted means to separate him from most of his money in an effort to make things more difficult for him. Not only is a dumb crutch in my opinion but it’s implausible in a world where Bruce can just call one of several friends and have his money retrieved and safeguarded against any theft or intrusion. Broke Bruce needs to go away along with depowered Superman and broken Lantern rings.
While it was out there in scope, it was a good Gotham centered story. The story itself was very timely given the losing battle we’re fighting against misinformation in our real lives today. The final scenes also give us a good picture into the insight of Bruce Wayne and how he sees the world, too. If you can get a collected edition of this, go for it.