REVIEW: ‘Batman: Fear State: Alpha,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1

Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1 is the start of the Fear State event. Published by DC Comics. Written by James Tynion IV with art by Riccardo Federici. Chris Sotomayor is the colorist, and the letters are by Clayton Cowles.

The Magistrate has moved into Gotham with intentions of a total and dominant rule. Simon Saint meets with Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow. They want together to create a fear state, shocking a population into a state where they become malleable. Using Scarecrow’s attacks as a basis, the Magistrate order a full lockdown of Gotham’s communications. Oracle and the city’s heroes can’t get hold of each other, Peacekeeper-01 has been put at odds with the Magistrate, and Batman is missing.

This is the beginning of a story built on fear. The implementation of the plot has been slow by Tynion, and this continues into the first issue. The pace allows the true depth of the story to build as Gotham is plunged into darkness and uncertainty. An interesting tactic by the writer is that they tell the reader what will happen before it actually does, like a scientist with a hypothesis. This is fascinating as the reader then watches it unfold. The slow pace should not be mistaken for lack of events as so much happens inside Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1. The major players are revealed, and the different directions the story will go in can be seen. Tynion’s horror background is clear from the atmosphere created. It is mysterious and unsettling, a new take on an event comic.

Whilst this issue features Batman in the title, he is absent for much of it. The fact that his whereabouts are unknown by the others instantly puts fear in their minds. This isn’t just a Batman story, however, as it is a story about the whole city. Oracle and the hero network losing that pivotal communication aspect is isolating. Against a uniform, calculated enemy, The divided vigilantes need to regroup quickly.

The Gotham City Sirens are also involved. The acknowledgment of Harley and Ivy’s love is welcome in a huge flagship book such as this. Their connection is both beautiful and heartbreaking inside Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1. Similarly, the sensitivity from Catwoman towards Ivy is touching as the green plant-lover appears crucial to this crossover.

The art is phenomenal. Federici has a scratchy style that heightens the sense of fear in every panel. There are “shots” in this issue that look unique within a comic book setting, such as vantage points above or below. The artist seems to like to use space within their pages or vanquishing it when needed. Incredibly tight close-ups are met with very powerful facial expressions. All of the characters are drawn superbly in a way that makes them fit this horror setting. But it is the design of Scarecrow that will resonant long after this crossover has finished. Federici makes him look horrifying. The longer gas mask, the overhanging hat, the hunched back all fuse together to make a nightmarish image beyond anything else around. He seems to suit this art style more than the others as if this is his world that they have been dragged into.

The colors are dark and gloomy, but that is intentional as it matches the haunting atmosphere of the book. Sotomayor does use light to his advantage when necessary. The first scene, where Saint meets Scarecrow, is almost overbearingly bright. When there is a computer screen, the unnatural glow pierces through the murkiness around it. In Ivy’s kingdom, the characters and world are allowed more color as it becomes vibrant.

The letters work well for much of the comic, apart from in one instance. When Scarecrow is in costume, a shadow is added to the text that makes it hard to read.

Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1 is a fantastic Gotham story. Every one of the creators seems to revel in the creation of fear as the foundations of the plot are set. Multiple different books will spill out of this one, and yet it feels complete and compact. Scarecrow is being cemented and a masterful villain when treated well, and Tynion’s understanding of characters is fantastic. Fear State is here, and it seems like it will stay.

Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1 is available now where comics are sold.

 

Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1
4.5

TL;DR

Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1 is a fantastic Gotham story. Every one of the creators seems to revel in the creation of fear as the foundations of the plot are set. Multiple different books will spill out of this one, and yet it feels complete and compact. Scarecrow is being cemented and a masterful villain when treated well, and Tynion’s understanding of characters is fantastic. Fear State is here, and it seems like it will stay.