Batman #117 – Review

While Batman fights it out with Peace Keeper-01, so that Miracle Molly might stop Scarecrow from unleashing his fear bomb on Gotham, Harley attempts to reunite Queen Ivy with her better half.

Batman #117
Writer: James Tynion IV

Art: Jorge Jimenez (“Fear State Part 6”) and Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (“Batgirls part 3: Can’t Hardly Wait”)

Colours: Tomeu Morey (“Fear State Part 6”) and Sarah Stern (“Batgirls part 3: Can’t Hardly Wait”)

Letters: Clayton Cowles (“Fear State Part 6”) and Becca Carey (“Batgirls part 3: Can’t Hardly Wait”)
Released: 16/11/21
Published by DC Comics

While Batman fights it out with Peace Keeper-01, so that Miracle Molly might stop Scarecrow from unleashing his fear bomb on Gotham, Harley attempts to reunite Queen Ivy with her better half.

After many months of buildup we finally get to the conclusion of James Tynion IV’s ‘Fear State’ cross-over epic. What he brings us is a story about free will and the resulting necessity of evil. In order for men to do good, they must have the freedom to do bad. One cannot exist without the other. This is something that Batman understands. We see it in his final conversation with Miracle Molly. Yes, he deals with the worst of people on a daily basis, but the knowledge that people are free to choose between right and wrong is ultimately what gives him hope. His primary battle then is the fight to bring those who live in darkness into the light even though he himself fights this battle dressed as a figure of darkness.

This theme of free will is explored further in a more metaphysical way with Queen Ivy and her other self, a copy created by Gardner, but consisting only of Ivy’s goodness. One is hardwired for self-preservation, whatever the cost, even if that means destroying all of Gotham. The other… not so much! But when the two merge, it is only then that Ivy becomes a whole person, capable of making a moral choice. I like what Tynion is going for here but, I have to admit, I am somewhat underwhelmed by the execution. Queen Ivy should not have been so quick to merge herself with the other Ivy. She is simply told that, “Hey, it would be really cool if the two of you got back together”, to which her response is essentially, “Oh, okay then!” At this point in the story she is a ball of rage, just about ready to annihilate the city, which better illustrates the point that Tynion is trying to make. So, to have her give in so willingly is far too anticlimactic. Harley and Gardner should have had much more of a fight on their hands in convincing (or even forcing) Ivy to merge with her good self.

Speaking of anticlimactic, one of the big villains of this entire ‘Fear State’ run, Simon Saint, isn’t even taken out of play “on screen”, as it were. No doubt most of that action all takes place in some other comic book that I’m expected to rush out and buy in order to get the full story. But I don’t blame Tynion for this. I have actually read some articles attacking Tynion for what many consider to be a lackluster ending to his run but I consider such attacks to be unfair in the extreme. For one thing, I don’t consider the ending we get here to be that lackluster at all. As I’ve already pointed out, at the very least, it has something to say and specific themes to explore whilst also wrapping things up. But I also consider it unfair to blame one man for a story that he’s had to write in such a way that the multiple other titles in DC’s Batman stable can slot their way into it. Such faults are the failing of DC comics in not allowing one writer, with a singular voice, tell their story without having to worry about what is going on elsewhere.

The final battle between Batman and Peace Keeper-01 is a satisfying one. I love seeing Batman turning his utility belt into a makeshift knuckle duster to even the odds. It’s a great visual that reveals batman’s confidence and ingenuity as well as his tired desperation. Jorge Jimenez’s artwork is also pretty awesome, with Batman’s broken eye piece in his cowl allowing that one eye to peer out from behind it, reminding me of the ‘Gotham By Gaslight’ version of the dark knight. The final conversation between Batman and Miracle Molly is also a nice moment, allowing us to see a lot more light in a character known for being the dark, cave dwelling vigilante.

At the end of this issue’s backup story, ‘Batgirls Part 3: Can’t Hardly Wait’, we finally get to see the person known as The Seer. It’s a disappointingly underwhelming sight to behold, as is most of the story itself, to be perfectly honest. Steph and Cass are hidden away for a few days in a dive of a hotel and that’s it! Aside from one creepy doctored image of Babs by The Seer, the artwork still irritates me and the story itself doesn’t really go anywhere. It just side-lines two characters for the sake of some “humorous” buddy antics, that I’m sure will appeal to teenagers, but which does nothing for me personally.


Verdict –
The final chapter of ‘Fear State’ serves as an examination on free will and the necessity of evil in a world filled with good people, while the Batgirls fail to impress, in a story that sees them side-lined.

  • ‘Fear State: Part 6’ – 4/5
    ‘Batgirls Part 3: Can’t Hardly Wait’ – 2/5

    Overall score – 3/5

Review by Bryan Lomax, 08/12/21

Batman #116 – Review

Without pain, without fear, how does one grow and evolve? This is the question that writer James Tynion IV asks in Part 5 of “Fear State.”

Batman #116

Writer: James Tynion IV

Art: Jorge Jimenez (“Fear State Part 5”) and Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (“Batgirls part 2: Set It Off”)

Colours: Tomeu Morey (“Fear State Part 5”) and Sarah Stern (“Batgirls part 2: Set It Off”)

Letters: Clayton Cowles (“Fear State Part 5”) and Becca Carey (“Batgirls part 2: Set It Off”)
Released: 02/11/21

Published by DC Comics

Ghost-Maker comes to the aid of the Unsanity Collective, as the Magistrate lead an assault on them, which makes Ivy decide to attack the very foundations of Gotham. Meanwhile, Batman and Miracle Molly find the whereabouts of Scarecrow and attempt to prevent him from attacking the city with his mind control device.

Without pain, without fear, how does one grow and evolve? This is the question that writer James Tynion IV asks in Part 5 of “Fear State.” This has essentially been the mission statement of The Scarecrow throughout the entire ‘Fear State’ storyline. His belief is that in order for Gotham City to truly evolve it needs to experience trauma and fear, so that it might overcome them. In some ways his points are valid. But, obviously, it is his methodology that is seriously flawed. However, it does also raise questions as to the validity of the methodology behind the Unsanity Collective.

The Unsanity Collective created a machine that wipes away any bad memories so that one might be free of trauma. But that means they are never truly learning to deal with and process that trauma. Right in the middle of all that, you have Batman, a man whose entire career of fighting criminals is built on the very idea of confronting and overcoming one’s fear and trauma. As messed up as Batman is he probably represents us, the readers, far more than any of us might care to admit.

We all suffer trauma to varying degrees and we are all shaped by it in some way. But, we can choose how it will shape us, for better or worse. All these questions and answers are looked at within the pages of this issue of Batman, which is what makes it a really great issue, at least as far as the main story is concerned.

The backup story, “Batgirls Part 2 of 3: Set It Off”, is hampered right from page one. It does not feel like a direct continuation from part one. We are told that we need to check out both Nightwing #85 and Batman: Urban Legends #8 in order to fully understand what is going on, when we find Stephanie and Cass at the clocktower, which has been trashed. This annoys me no end!

I understand the cross-pollination of comics these days, with overarching stories running through multiple titles, but when individual stories don’t even make sense, unless you buy every current title, then it feels too much like upselling. Not everyone can afford to buy twenty titles every month.

The artwork in this one doesn’t quite work at times either. There are panels where I simply cannot make out what is going on at all! A prime example of this is the middle panel on page 2 of the story. So, somewhat underwhelming given the intrigue that was built up in part one, last issue.


Verdict –

Tynion delivers a great chapter of ‘Fear State’, raising many relatable points about fear and trauma, while the B-story, as is all too often the case, lets the side down.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 06/12/21

Batman #115 – Review

The Scarecrow prepares Sean Mahoney, AKA Peacekeeper-01, for the next phase of his plan.

Writer: James Tynion IV

Art: Jorge Jimenez (“Fear State Part 4”) and Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (“Batgirls part 1: Clueless”)

Colours: Tomeu Morey (“Fear State Part 4”) and Sarah Stern (“Batgirls part 1: Clueless”)

Letters: Clayton Cowles (“Fear State Part 4”) and Becca Carey (“Batgirls part 1: Clueless”)
Released: 20/10/21
Published by DC Comics

The Scarecrow prepares Sean Mahoney, AKA Peacekeeper-01, for the next phase of his plan. Batman and Miracle Molly hunt for the Mind Machine and the secrets it holds inside to prevent them being used by Scarecrow as a weapon. And Simon Saint diverts his attention from Batman to someone who might prove to be altogether more destructive.

I’m a big sucker for the artwork and colors by Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey on this series of late. That’s why I have a hard time with more than half the pages in this issue, which have been taken on by artist, Bengal. Respectively, his work is perfectly fine here, but it would stand much better on its own. Unfortunately, matched against the complexity of the work that sits beside it, by Jimenez, it pales in comparison. I understand that artists need to share the workload from time to time just to give themselves a break, or even to give newer artists a piece of the spotlight, but each time a page pops up from Jimenez you are reminded of just how much better things can be. Even Morey’s colors don’t quite pop the same with Bengal’s work, perhaps because Bengal doesn’t quite give him as much 3D space to work with.

The cover to this issue, while nicely drawn by Jimenez (obviously!), is somewhat misleading as it depicts a scene of action from the story that never actually happens. I’m not a fan of those kinds of covers. There’s metaphorical and then there’s just flat out lying!

Fear State part 4 is one of those chapters of a story that kind of leaves every character in a state of limbo, where you are left with no certainties about what will happen next. And so, you finish reading it with only one question in mind, “Where do they go from here?” I guess we’ll find out next issue. Though I must confess I felt that, even with the psychological issues he’s been going through most recently, Sean Mahoney was all too quick to hop into Scarecrow’s chair without asking too many questions. I’m sure that’s all part of Scarecrow’s mind conditioning but, if so, it didn’t translate so well off the page from a writing standpoint.

The biggest point of interest for me right now is Poison Ivy. I’m really intrigued to see just how big a part she will ultimately get to play in this story. We keep getting told that she now has the power to destroy the whole city, even being given a callback to No Man’s Land and the level of destruction that was caused in that storyline. Will Tynion follow through on that promise or does he have something else entirely planned?

The back up story, “Batgirls Part 1 of 3: Clueless”, is a much more interesting affair than what we got at the end of the previous few issues. It has the Anti-Oracle, now calling herself ‘Seer’, toying with Barbara Gordon and her crew. In a few short pages, writers Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad make me want to stay with the story, making good use of the intrigue that comes from not knowing the identity of one’s tormentor.


Verdict –

Tynion keeps his story moving at a fast pace but Jorge Jimenez is sorely missed throughout most of it.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 03/11/21


Detective Comics #1044 – Review

An issue filled with physical horror that explores the darkest depths of what makes Gotham such a lost soul. Corruption and darkness are the bedrock upon which it is built.


Detective Comics #1044

Writer: Mariko Tamaki (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and Stephanie Phillips (Foundations Part One).

Art: Dan Mora (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and David Lapham (Foundations Part One).

Colours: Jordie Bellaire (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and Trish Mulvihill (Foundations Part One).

Letters: Aditya Bidikar (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and Rob Leigh (Foundations Part One).
Released: 26/10/21
Published by DC Comics

Mayor Nakano remains trapped in the sewers with a host of hatchling parasites belonging to Hugh Vile. The only thing that can save him: Batman, of course! But he’s kept out from a wall of fallen rubble that might bring the whole world down on their heads if he begins to move it. Clock’s ticking Batman! What are you going to do? Meanwhile, Bat-woman makes a play to end the reign of terror by Nero XIX, back at City Hall.

Mayor Nakano remains trapped in the sewers with a host of hatchling parasites belonging to Hugh Vile. The only thing that can save him: Batman, of course! But he’s kept out from a wall of fallen rubble that might bring the whole world down on their heads if he begins to move it. Clock’s ticking Batman! What are you going to do? Meanwhile, Bat-woman makes a play to end the reign of terror by Nero XIX, back at City Hall.

As I mentioned in my review for Detective Comics #1043 that the introduction of Nero XIX could be the lead into something bigger, imagine my frustration when that whole subplot is wrapped up by Bat-woman in a couple of pages, making the whole thing seem like an afterthought. So the real story here is the relationship between Batman and Nakano. Nakano has done everything he can to rid Gotham of vigilantes. But could the events of this particular issue be the turning point in getting Nakano on team Batman? Well, it might if Nakano actually survives the attack against him by Vile’s newborn parasites. And what a disgusting attack it is too! Seriously, it’s something right out of a horror movie, which is quite up my street really.

The real question is how much life does this Vile parasite storyline have left in it? We see that these same eggs, that burst forth these pesky critters to attack Nakano, are also present in the morgue, which means that even if Batman kills all of them down in the sewer, there’s more waiting for them up top. One can’t help but draw a correlation to real-world events. Is Vile’s parasite actually written by Mariko Tamaki as a way of addressing the fear of Covid? A virus that spreads, mutates, and seems unwilling to die. An obvious comparison, sure, but it definitely adds more relevance to the villain that has been plaguing Batman for months now.

The story is bookended with a piece that Deb Donavan is writing about the filth in Gotham’s water supply and a scene in which that filth makes its way to the surface in the final pages. Filth can only be kept hidden for so long. Water is a symbol of purity. But here in Gotham, it’s as dirty as the city itself!

I love the lore that surrounds Arkham Asylum. The asylum itself has always felt like a character in its own right, in much the same way The Overlook Hotel does in The Shining, or the Bates Motel from Psycho. So the back up story here, ‘Foundations’, is a welcome one that will hopefully offer something new to the pantheon of stories that have focused on this house of extreme darkness.


Verdict –
An issue filled with physical horror that explores the darkest depths of what makes Gotham such a lost soul. Corruption and darkness are the bedrock upon which it is built.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 05/11/21

Detective Comics #1043 – Review

Jason Todd leading a Suicide Squad-like team of undead supervillains? Sign me up for that one!


Detective Comics #1043

Writer: Mariko Tamaki (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 1) and Matthew Rosenberg (What the #!$% is Task Force Z: Finale).

Art: Dan Mora (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 1) and Darick Robertson (What the #!$% is Task Force Z: Finale).

Colours: Jordie Bellaire (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 1) and Diego Rodriguez (What the #!$% is Task Force Z: Finale).

Letters: Aditya Bidikar (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 1) and Rob Leigh (What the #!$% is Task Force Z: Finale).
Released: 28/09/21
Published by DC Comics

Mayor Nakano puts some heated negotiations with Simon Saint on hold in order to catch a breather. But once he sends everyone home for the night a group of armed men storm the building and attempt to kill him. He escapes, with the aid of the Batman, only to find himself caught in a situation that might prove to be much worse.

This issue doesn’t have a right lot of plot going on. Instead, writer Mariko Tamaki presents us with a prolonged action set piece, in which Mayor Nakano shows why he was once a cop. He’s a man of action, not one to shy away from a fight, and quite willing to get his hands dirty. He proves to be much tougher than the typical bureaucrats that have sat in Gotham’s mayoral office over the years. Anybody remember Mayor Armand Krol?

I do struggle in placing the story that is running in Detective Comics right now neatly alongside the stuff that is going on over in Batman. I just mentioned Mayor Krol. But back in the days when Krol was mayor (that would be the mid nineties folks!), we had at least 4 monthly Batman titles and I had no problem keeping up to speed with where each one of them was in the main overarching story. I appreciate that James Tynion IV has the story that he wants to tell and Tamaki has hers, but I feel as though they’ve not been organically woven together into the current “Fear State” epic that has currently taken over the Batman line. If you take them both at face value then it seems to me that characters have the uncanny ability to be in two different places at once as convenience seems fit.

It’s a shame because the Hugh Vile storyline (yes, that’s still going on) feels like a major storyline that deserves to be held in its own vacuum. But it’s suffering as a result of needing to fit within the greater world of everything that is going on with Fear State. There’s so many balls right now that are being kept in the air that it’s hard to know which ones are genuine game changers and which ones are just passing through. Take the men that storm Nakano’s office for instance. The impression given is that Simon Saint has no idea who they are. So who are they? Where did they come from? Do they have something bigger planned? And did they really need to be introduced in the midst of everything else that is going on?

The back up story gets us ready for what is sure to be a bonkers ride in the new Task Force Z monthly. Jason Todd leading a Suicide Squad-like team of undead supervillains? Sign me up for that one! It features some nice art work and some particularly nice colours from Diego Rodriguez.


Verdict –

Heavy on action but light on plot, Detective Comics #1043 is mostly concerned with the character of Mayor Nakano, showing us there is more to him than your average bureaucrat.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 05/11/21

Batman #112 Review

Fear State kicks into high gear, promising a fantastic showdown between the heroes (and anti-heroes) of Gotham and the most threatening version of Scarecrow that we’ve ever seen…


Batman #112
Reviewed by Bryan Lomax

Writer:
James Tynion IV (Fear State Part 1)
Thomas Brandon (Clownhunter in DIY Part 1)

Art:
Jorge Jimenez (Fear State Part 1)
Howard Jason (Clownhunter in DIY Part 1)

Letters: Clayton Cowles
Released: 07/09/21
Published by DC Comics

Fear State finally gets under way in the latest issue of Batman. Although, truth be told, this really doesn’t feel like the starting point of the story given that the events that take place here are merely a continuation of everything that has already been happening for the last few months. I feel a more suitable title would be “Fear State: part seven” or whatever! Regardless, it’s a cracking issue, as everything in Gotham seems to be falling apart all thanks to the Scarecrow.

Seeing Batman crippled by fear, thanks to some new technology that Scarecrow is using, is really quite unnerving. At one point, he reaches out to his allies via radio communications, almost begging for help. Several times he uses the word, “please”, as he tries to reach his team. Seeing this from Batman just feels wrong. He’s not the kind of man who begs. Ever! And yet, it only adds to what writer James Tynion is trying to achieve here in making Scarecrow a truly A-list villain, the kind who poses a genuine threat to Batman as well as Gotham City.

Peacekeeper-01 descends further down the rabbit hole of insanity, again, thanks to Scarecrow’s new technology, paving the way for what is sure to be a much more formidable foe in Peacekeeper X.

So far, Simon Saint’s bodyguard, Ricardo, has been a pretty one-note character, so I’m hoping he’s going to get a bit more fleshed out over the course of the next few issues before we are asked to accept him as a bonafide, bad-ass super-villain. Either way, he seems to be heading for a showdown with former GCPD officer, Sean Mahoney which, if handled right, has the potential to flesh out both characters, as they compete for the “honor” of being Saint’s number one lapdog.

Tomeu Morey does the colours once more for Tynion’s story and it must be said that his work is absolutely beautiful! I particularly love what he does with Poison Ivy, who is given a very limited role here, but when she’s on the page with other colorful characters, like Miracle Molly and Harley Quinn, the images really pop. Ivy is a character that has recently been hovering on the peripheries of stories running throughout the pages of Batman and Detective Comics. It’s pretty clear that her power has grown exponentially beyond anything we’ve seen from her before. It’s also clear that, due to her constant background presence, she will at some point play a major part in Fear State. Whether that is in the form of a foe or an ally remains to be seen. But right now she seems to be the biggest threat to Scarecrow’s plans and probably the safest bet in Batman defeating Jonathan Crane’s alter ego.


Verdict –

Fear State kicks into high gear, promising a fantastic showdown between the heroes (and anti-heroes) of Gotham and the most threatening version of Scarecrow that we’ve ever seen, thanks to the wonderful team of James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey.



Review by Bryan Lomax, 23/09/21