Fear State reaches its midpoint this week. After last month’s mental deprogramming, Batman is ready to take whatever Scarecrow can throw at him. While the past few issues have been getting our heroes back into fighting shape, this issue comes into focus on Scarecrow’s loaded gun, Peacekeeper-01. Batman #114 brings the action to the event, but is it the showdown we’ve really been waiting for?
This entry is much lighter on Batman this time around as we focus on the showdown between Peacekeeper-01 and Peacekeeper-X. After an extreme exposure to Crane’s toxin, Peacekeeper-01 has been rampaging through Gotham under the impression he’s “saving” its citizens, while in reality he’s leaving a bloody trail of innocents in his wake. This plotline has been steadily building across this event and it comes to a head here as Simon Saint sends his experimental unit, Peacekeeper-X, to take down Peacekeeper-01.
What ensues is a climactic battle that tears through the streets and causing even more chaos. This fight takes up most of the pages in the issue and capitalizes on the visuals of two cyborgs in an all-out brawl through Gotham. It’s a visceral fight on every level and Jorge Jimenez takes full advantage of it. One can feel every hit as these cyborgs knock each other through buildings and blast energy weapons. The colors particularly shine here. The vibrant neon palette sings and bumps the art up a notch as a whole.
However brilliant the visuals are, it doesn’t make up for the lack of emotion. A fight like this should be epic not only in art but in story, but because we barely know Peacekeeper-X it doesn’t connect. Peacekeeper-01’s plotline has been seeded since Infinite Frontier #0 and we’ve seen how the man in the machine has gotten to this point. Yet having his big showdown with Peacekeeper-X instead of Batman makes for a bizarre choice. On top of this, Batman’s role in this whole issue is relegated to being a spectator as he’s overwhelmed by drones we saw him easily dispatch last issue.
Also included here is the finale to Clownhunter’s ‘D.I.Y.’ arc. Here, Bao’s still under the sway of Scarecrow’s fear toxin and fights for his life. Looking at this entry with the context of the previous two parts paints a rather unsatisfying picture. Each entry has essentially retreaded the same story beats of Bao being terrorized by monstrous clowns and trying to survive. The trippy visuals have been a nice treat and this part is no different especially with the title splash, however at the end of the day this story is completely disposable.
Though this issue packs the visual punch we’ve come to expect, it continues to focus on the strangest portions of Fear State. The idea of a Peacekeeper-01 showdown in theory is great, as we’ve seen him and Batman butt heads many times, but to sideline the protagonist and fight with someone else is unsatisfying. The issue also leaves us in an strange spot as Miracle Molly has somehow puzzled out Scarecrow’s plan before Batman. So not only has the World’s Greatest Detective failed to live up to his moniker, but has basically been made a side character in his own book. It’s just disappointing to see a book with such fantastic artwork be so hindered by its storytelling.
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