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Batman, Harley Quinn, and Miracle Molly on the cover of Batman: Fear State Alpha #1 (2021). Image: Ben Oliver/DC Comics

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Batman’s nemesis Scarecrow brought Gotham to its knees without a drop of fear gas

Batman: Fear State is a Scarecrow story without the Scarecrow

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Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

James Tynion IV is wrapping up his run on Batman with Fear State, a new arc/status quo for Gotham City teased in this year’s Future State event. Now, Gotham City is a cyber-dystopia ruled by heavily armed police with advanced tech out the wazoo.

I’ll be the first admit that I had trouble staying engaged with Tynion’s Batman after the conclusion of Joker War. It felt like new cool characters and concepts — Poison Ivy’s college ex-girlfriend who looks like if Janelle Monae had plant powers, a neon-laced radical cyberpunk humanist faction called the Unsanity Collective, a teenage clowns-only vigilante — were being introduced left and right, but with barely any time to enjoy them.

So color me surprised and intrigued when the actual first issue of the crossover, Batman #112, pulled all those threads tight and yanked one cohesive big picture into view: Gotham’s current crisis was the Scarecrow’s plan all along.

What else is happening in the pages of our favorite comics? We’ll tell you. Welcome to Monday Funnies, Polygon’s weekly list of the books that our comics editor enjoyed this past week. It’s part society pages of superhero lives, part reading recommendations, part “look at this cool art.” There may be some spoilers. There may not be enough context. But there will be great comics. (And if you missed the last edition, read this.)

Batman #112

Batman explains the state of the city as a concerned Oracle/Barbara Gordon and a frightened Spoiler/Stephanie Brown look on, and inset panels show a raging Peacekeeper-01, a cowed Simon Saint, a triumphant Scarecrow, and Gotham citizens boarding up their homes and readying weapons in Batman #112 (2021). Image: James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez/DC Comics

Tynion has kept the Scarecrow in the background or in framing devices during his run, seemingly in the employ of tech billionaire Simon Saint — a villain in his own right who’s been manipulating city politics and public opinion to get his tech-enhanced security forces positioned as Gotham’s answer to both its costumed criminal and costumed vigilante problems.

But Fear State isn’t really Saint’s master plan in action: It’s his master plan falling apart, as Scarecrow builds on Gotham’s shaky recovery from the Joker War to make sure there isn’t a single edifice in the city that its people can rely on, from the police, whether public or private, to their resident superheroes, or even their own neighbors. A city full of fear, without a drop of gimmicky fear gas.

Defenders #2

Taaia reveals the Mother-cube, the tool to defeat Omnimax “Charged with all Omnimax lacks — the emotions of everyone on Taa!! Love!! Joy!! Pride!! The hues of a life outside his gray hunger — the “empathy box” will transmit it all!!” in Defenders #2 (2021). Image: Al Ewing, Javier Rodríguez/Marvel Comics

Will I ever cease to be delighted by Marvel comics borrowing Jack Kirby stuff from DC and vice versa? No, no I will not. Defenders has a kind of New Gods crossover this week, complete with way too many exclamation points and totally unnecessary use of quotation marks. I love it.

Batman/Catwoman #7

Bruce Wayne, naked, wakes up in a dark room with his hands restrained behind his back. A loud alarm is ringing. There’s a note taped to the wall that says: “ Hey hon! Just FYI, you’re in a vault in the basement of the Bank of Gotham and I already set off the alarm. I’m going home with A to kill the Joker. Sorry and good luck. Love you! - C” in Batman/Catwoman #7 (2021). Image: Tom King, Liam Sharp/DC Comics

In this week’s Batman/Catwoman, Catwoman knocked Batman on the head and left him naked and handcuffed in a bank vault so she could help the Phantasm get some revenge-murder on the Joker without him stopping them. I also love this.

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #5

Two figures sit by the ocean as a huge sun sets, the sky is a mix of oranges and turquoise. “This is the miracle, this place, the sand, the sky, the sea beyond. No grand magic, just a quiet breath taken to yourself.” says one in The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #5 (2021). Image: Ram V, Filipe Andrae/Boom Studios

The final issue of The Many Deaths of Laila Starr hit shelves this week, and it stands a very good chance of being on my Best of 2021 list, so you should definitely pick it up when it comes out in trade.

The Nice House on the Lake #4

Ryan wakes up on the porch in a sleeping bag, surrounded by boxes. “Ryan, we’ve tried all this,” says David. “the boxes don’t come if anybody is looking.” Image: James Tynion IV, Álvaro Martínez Bueno/DC Comics

This is just to say: The Nice House on the Lake continues to be very, very good and strange and harrowing. Tynion adds another layer with every issue and Álvaro Martínez’s art is just stunning.


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