Fear State is upon us. The latest assault on Gotham City has been building to this from the events of A-day in Infinite Frontier #0. With Scarecrow’s machinations coming to fruition, are Batman and the rest of the Bat-family prepared for what’s in store for them? Can Gotham survive another attack? As the kickoff for this event, Batman: Fear State Alpha #1 comes in to offer a bats-eye view of the event’s scope.
This issue mainly functions as a final run-through of the many puzzle pieces moving throughout the Batman line. It takes the time to give every major player some panels to establish where they are at and what they are dealing with. This book juggles plots from Batman, Detective Comics, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and I Am Batman and somehow it all reads cohesively. Despite its impressive balancing act, however, it does have many problems.
As a concurrent reader, the whole issue reads like an extended recap of the past six months of stories. Very little is revealed except in the opening between Scarecrow and Simon Saint, and I couldn’t help but feel the urge to skim the following pages. The issue is extremely heavy on exposition and one can feel it. An exposition dump here or there can be fine, but when it takes up the bulk of the issue, it unfortunately becomes a slog. There are two pages in particular that boil down to talking heads hitting the highlights of preceding issues. In spite of this, the characters are consistently written and it does continue to build up Fear State; but at the end of the issue I didn’t come away with really anything new or gripping.
With regards to the issue’s art style, it works well at setting the tone for the event. As Gotham is cast into turmoil, the dark and moody art style suits the narrative beats. On a visual level it looks distinctly different from the main Batman title, but it still works to the issue’s strength. The artwork is very textured and adds a level of realism to the imagery. The coloring also works in tandem with the line art and further creates an eerie atmosphere.
At the end of the day, Batman: Fear State Alpha #1 is hard to recommend. It’s completely superfluous for concurrent Batman readers, but maybe it’s not for us. Maybe this issue is for the new reader looking to jump into the next big event. The issue does hit the high points of the past six months to catch one up, but at the same time it assumes you know all the new characters that have been introduced, like Peacemaker-01 and Gardner. One cannot help but feel the issue pulling in two separate directions.
Fear State Alpha #1 is an issue fighting against itself. On the one hand, it wants to prep readers for Fear State, but at the same time it assumes you are familiar with all the moving pieces. This recap also comes at the expense of long exposition dumps, further working against the issue. If you are looking to get caught up before Fear State starts next week and have no prior knowledge, this might be for you. If you are a current reader, Fear State Alpha #1 is not worth the price of admission.
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