James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez wrap up the first arc of Batman to follow Future State with a series of action set pieces and a third-act betrayal that sets up the next big Gotham crossover: Fear State.
Let’s get into it!
SPOILERS AHEAD for Batman #111!
By now, 26 issues into Tynion’s run on the flagship Batman title, you probably know what to expect. This is not a wordy or cerebral Batman book. (God knows we’ve had plenty of them in the past.) There is a lot of punching, some very cool, manga-inspired visuals, and possibly a new character introduction or two.
Tynion, fresh off of winning the Eisner Award for Best Writer, has a great eye for new characters like Punchline and Miracle Molly, but of all the books in his catalogue, Batman feels the most like a throwback. The writer Jim McDermott recently described Tynion’s Batman as having “a sense of constant forward propulsion” and it’s not hard to see what he means.
Nearly every scene of this issue is a fight or the prelude to a fight. The Unsanity Collective squares off with Peacekeeper-01. Batman squares off with Peacekeeper-01. Harley Quinn curses a lot. That sounds like a critique, but strangely the gestalt of this all works.
Batman is not a whodunnit, or a character study, or even much of a mystery. It didn’t take the World’s Greatest Detective to see that Scarecrow was going to betray Simon Saint, as he does with singular delight at the end of this issue. What makes the Scarecrow of this story so effective is not his bravado or intelligence, but how demonstratively threatening he looks.
Jimenez is as brilliant a character designer as anyone working in comics, and his Scarecrow design might be my favorite of the bunch. Complete with a gas mask, sticks protruding from his back, and razor-sharp nails that look like Freddy Krueger cosplay, Jimenez’s Scarecrow is maximalist to the extreme. I can’t remember a time the character has looked this electrifying. (Apologies to Cillian Murphy’s burlap sack of a mask, but that’s just not cutting it.)
The freewheeling sense of showmanship that informs Scarecrow’s design bleeds into the comic’s cyberpunk aesthetic, which Tynion nods to here by having Molly name-drop RoboCop. Even when characters are hastening through a fight scene or rehashing relevant plot details, Jimenez and colorist Tomeu Morey keep the story humming with their kinetic visuals.
Morey really earns his paycheck with a superb two-page sequence showing Scarecrow turning his fear toxin on Peacekeeper-01. The psychedelic horror of that moment is reflected beautifully in Morey’s darker range of background colors.
Amid the near-nonstop action, this issue successfully maneuvers all the pieces in place for Fear State. The Unsanity Collective now have an uneasy alliance with Batman, who has to fend with an empowered Magistrate — newly commissioned by Mayor Nakano to hunt vigilantes — and Scarecrow as the Big Boss. This book may be the fourth or fifth-most interesting thing Tynion is writing right now, but its commitment to being “accessible and bombastic,” as McDermott put it, is central to its appeal.
Some other, scattered thoughts on this issue and what comes ahead:
- The Ghost-Maker back-up is a nice, tonal diversion from the A-plot. I appreciate the effort to give Ghost-Maker a compelling rogues’ gallery, but one drawback for me is the comic’s blocky lettering style. When Ghost-Maker’s artificial intelligence speaks, it is actively difficult for me to read its dialogue. Another weird thing: the back-up is apparently concluding in the Batman annual, which is being published in November. I guess the main Batman book is switching over to Clownhunter back-ups during Fear State and then briefly back to Ghost-Maker in the annual?
- Unless I’m mistaken, I believe Squeak, a member of the Unsanity Collective, uses they/them pronouns. I’m not sure we’ve seen a nonbinary character in Batman before — if I’m wrong, folks, please correct me — and certainly I hope Tynion gives us a better sense of Squeak and the other collective members in future issues.
- As much as I miss the Robins, it is a great bit to have Ghost-Maker (who is a troll) and Harley Quinn (who is a well-intentioned troll) as Batman’s main allies in this arc.
- The solicitation for Batman #112, the first issue of Fear State, teases “the emergence of an Anti-Oracle spreading fake news across all channels and inciting terror and violence on the streets of Gotham.” Hmm, I don’t love the sound of that!
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