Detective Comics #1045 – Review

In the final part of writer Mariko Tamaki’s story, ‘Nakano’s Nightmare’, Mayor Nakano must put aside his differences with Batman so that the two men might destroy the parasitic virus

Detective Comics #1045

Writers: Mariko Tamaki (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and Stephanie Phillips (“Foundations Part Two”)

Art: Dan Mora (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and David Lapham (“Foundations Part Two”)

Colors: Jordie Bellaire (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and Trish Mulvhill (“Foundations Part Two”)

Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and Rob Leigh (“Foundations Part Two”)
Released: 23/11/21
Published by DC Comics

In the final part of writer Mariko Tamaki’s story, ‘Nakano’s Nightmare’, Mayor Nakano must put aside his differences with Batman so that the two men might destroy the parasitic virus, originally unleashed by Hue Vile, which has been terrorizing Gotham. Then Stephanie Phillips delivers part two of ‘Foundations’, which sees Batman chasing down a deranged man intent on destroying any chance of rebuilding Arkham Asylum, only to be confronted with a surprise visit from a former member of his rogue’s gallery.

I’m glad to see Tamaki’s story finally being brought to its conclusion. Truth be told, this particular run feels like it has gone on a lot longer than it needed to, with a somewhat muddled direction. It started out with an interesting new villain in the shape of Vile, who was then sidelined to make way for Mr Worth, only to fizzle out here with a giant monster that is ultimately destroyed in such a way that ties it directly to a particular moment in time during the whole Fear State climax. This would all be fine, except it really does become very confusing to work out what has happened when, and why the events that have happened elsewhere in DC’s Batman comics haven’t had more of a direct impact on each other.

It’s next to impossible to see how everything that has been happening with Scarecrow, Simon Saint, Peace Keeper-01 and Miracle Molly, over in Batman, could possibly be weaved into all the story threads that have supposedly been happening at the same time over here in Detective Comics. It seems to me that Tamaki’s hands have been tied by the whole Fear State thing, and so we get a story that is fighting for its own identity, whilst being hampered by the need to tie in to the bigger picture.

Ultimately, having Nightwing show up at one particular point in the story is a big mistake, as this was Batman and Nakano’s story. It should have stayed that way. As it happens, I do like the character of Nakano, and the direction they seem to be heading with regard to his and Batman’s relationship is something that has been sorely lacking without the presence of Jim Gordon. This should begin to fill that void quite nicely. Although, yet again, I am reminded that certain information that Batman gives to Nakano surely should have been the very thing that got Bruce Wayne released from prison a considerable number of issues back. How does Nakano NOT know this already!

Despite my mixed feelings across this whole story-line, I would love to see Tamaki continue on Detective Comics now that she is free from the shackles of ‘Fear State’. Let’s see what she can do when she is allowed to remain self-contained. Also, Dan Mora’s artwork has certainly been a highlight throughout this run, so I would be more than happy to see him stick around.

With ‘Foundations’, writer Stephanie Phillips poses the question, “Is Arkham Asylum truly worth rebuilding?” After all, it can hardly be noted for it’s stellar track record in releasing flocks of cured patients back out into the world, ready to contribute to society. It’s a nice little page-turner, which has the feel of something that might have appeared within the pages of ‘Legends of the Dark Knight’, back in the nineties. As I read it though, I am struck by the thought, “what if Bruce Wayne put all the funding into a place like Arkham, making sure to hire the best mental health practitioners in the world?” Instead of dumping people like Scarecrow and Joker into Arkham, only to wait for their inevitable breakout, Bruce could use his resources to take a more active role in their recovery.


Verdict –

The end to Mariko Tamaki’s contribution to the ‘Fear State’ saga really does feel like a long time coming, perhaps ending with more of a, “meh”, than a, “hurrah”. But it sets up some enticing prospects for the future, whilst the second part of Stephanie Phillips’ ‘Foundations’ poses an interesting question, which only leads to more questions (in the best possible way).


Review by Bryan Lomax, 04/01/22

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


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


Batman #111 Review

Tynion has no problem showing us where he sits on the rogues gallery totem pole, as Scarecrow takes centre stage and puts Simon Saint’s puppet in his place.


Batman #111
Reviewed by Bryan Lomax

Writer: James Tynion IV
Art: Jorge Jimenez (“The Cowardly Lot Part Five”) and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (“Ghost-Maker Chapter 4”)
Colours: Tomeu Morey (“The Cowardly Lot Part Five”) and Romulo Fajardo Jr. (“Ghost-Maker Chapter 4”)
Released: 03/08/21
Published by DC Comics

James Tynion IV does a truly great job on villain duty this issue. He is helped immensely with long-time Batman villain, Scarecrow, thanks to the amazing artwork of Jorge Jiminez and Tomeu Morey in ‘The Cowardly Lot Part Five’, which turns the villain into a truly scary, Jigsaw-like mad man. He becomes a viable threat towards Batman whereas, in the past, he has often run the risk of appearing like a B-lister.

I love that Tynion doesn’t get too precious with his own creations here too. Having brought us Peacemaker 01, building the villain up over the previous four issues, there might be a temptation there to show just how formidable he is at Scarecrow’s expense. But Tynion has no problem showing us where he sits on the rogues gallery totem pole, as Scarecrow takes centre stage and puts Simon Saint’s puppet in his place.

Not that I doubted for a second that Miracle Molly would get out of the predicament she found herself in at the end of the last issue, but I still couldn’t help breathe a sigh of relief that the character will live to fight another day, having grown rather attached to her.

Ghost-Maker chapter 4 properly gives us an introduction to the new villain, Razorline, a horrific self-made monster who, once again, gives off some serious movie-inspired vibes. For anyone who has seen the French horror film, ‘Martyrs’, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. This is a sick and twisted mind that has sought to gain some form of transcendence through pain.

The artwork by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz hasn’t really grabbed me until now. But his style seems to fit with the character of Razorline for some reason.

The only thing that I am seriously unimpressed with are the final words of the issue, which tell us that the conclusion to the Ghost-Maker storyline can be found in the upcoming Batman Annual #1. Personally I am of the opinion that annuals should feature self-contained stories, but that also, unless a particular story is part of a major crossover series then it should end within the pages of the title where it began. Otherwise it just feels like an attempt by the publishers to get you to pick up more titles.

Still, this is a great issue that makes me excited to read the conclusions to both storylines that feature within. Bring on Batman #112 and Batman Annual #1!


Verdict –

Ghostmaker is given a truly compelling villain and Batman faces off against perhaps the best iteration of the Scarecrow that I’ve ever seen.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 15/08/21

Batman #110 Review

The pairing of artist, Jorge Jimenez, with colourist, Tomeu Morey, works wonders in bringing Tynion’s compelling study on societal fear to life…


Writer: James Tynion IV

Art: Jorge Jimenez (“The Cowardly Lot Part Five”) and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (“Ghost-Maker Chapter 4”)

Colours: Tomeu Morey (“The Cowardly Lot Part Five”) and Romulo Fajardo Jr. (“Ghost-Maker Chapter 4”)

Published by DC Comics Released: 06/07/21

Review by Bryan Lomax


I stated in my review for the previous issue that I came into James Tynion’s story, “The Cowardly Lot”, somewhat late, but that I filled in the blanks with a quick search on the internet. Since then, I have gone back and read issue #106-#107, and I would highly recommend everyone doing the same if you haven’t already. Issue #107, in particular, really tells us who the character of Miracle Molly is, and what she stands for, in a way that makes me care for whether or not she will get out of the predicament we find her in by the end of issue #110. It also dives deep into the main themes of Tynion’s overarching story, adding more weight to events that happen in the current issue.

That theme is fear or, more to the point, societal fear. Tynion is asking, “where does that fear come from, why do we allow ourselves to be held prisoner by it and who stands to gain something from it?” The Scarecrow is obviously the perfect villain from Batman’s rogues gallery with which to explore that theme. But it’s still unclear as to where he fits into it all. Is he being used or is he the mastermind behind all that is happening in Gotham?

Then we have Simon Saint and his Peace Keeper program. Saint represents a threat that uses fear to achieve an agenda. And, while that agenda may ultimately be based on noble ideals, it’s execution reveals a complete lack of trust in the people it would supposedly serve. It is therefore no more than a vain attempt at making a play for power and control, marking Saint out as a true villain.

We have former Arkham security guard, Sean Mahoney, who takes up the frontman position of Saint’s Peace Keeper force. He represents much of what so many people today fear, particularly in the US, as their country becomes more and more divided, seemingly heading towards totalitarianism. If Gotham was to embrace Saint’s Peace Keepers then it might as well change its name to Mega City One.

The scary thing about Miracle Molly and the Unsanity Collective is that everything they say about the definitions of “sane” and “insane” and who gets to decide upon them makes for quite a convincing argument. The greatest system of control, Tynion argues, is fear and we are all caught up in it. But those who do not fear anything, such as Ghost-Maker, are labelled as psychopaths, even though, as this story shows, they might be the only ones we can count on to release us from our own prisons of fear.

These are the things I find myself thinking about as I read this issue, which is all down to the excellent story telling from Tynion. And once again I have to say that I’m really loving the artwork by Jorge Jaminez and the beautifully rich colours by Tomeu Morey.

I’m still not quite as keen on the artwork for the “Ghost-Maker” origin story, now in its fourth chapter, which kind of feels like Tynion is setting up a rogues gallery for his creation, that he can then use as a starting point, should the character get his own series. Beyond that there’s not much to complain about and I eagerly await the next issue.


Verdict –

The pairing of artist, Jorge Jimenez, with colourist, Tomeu Morey, works wonders in bringing Tynion’s compelling study on societal fear to life.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 17/07/21