Warning! Spoilers ahead for Batman: Fear State Alpha #1
DC Comics’ Fear State has come to Gotham City, beginning with the reported death of Batman himself. Much like the recent Future State event, which offered a potential look at what’s to come for the Dark Knight’s city, Gotham again believes that Batman has been killed (albeit due to very different circumstances). Rather than the Magistrate taking over and turning Gotham into a fascist state, Scarecrow has chosen to betray the paramilitary forces, choosing instead to push Gotham to the very brink by forcing it to experience levels of fear it’s never reached before. However, it seems as though Fear State will continue to serve as a darker mirror to the prior event with the rise of the Next Batman.
In DC’s Future State event, Batman was believed to have been terminated by PK-01, the Magistrate’s top enforcer. However, Bruce Wayne survived while letting Gotham think he was dead, choosing to stick to the shadows and working in secret to bring the organization down. However, the present has revealed that the path that was headed towards Future State has been significantly changed thanks to Dr. Jonathan Crane’s Scarecrow. While he and the Magistrate were working together in the present (and would have continued to do so as seen in Future State), recent issues saw Crane betraying the Magistrate and continuing his fear campaign, sowing distrust and terror within the city without even needing a drop of his signature toxins.
Scarecrow has kidnapped Batman, who’s being held hostage and tortured with the Bat-Family having no idea where he is. While Barbara Gordon’s Oracle tried to use the city’s emergency broadcast system to reassure and calm Gotham’s residents, her message was hijacked by Crane himself. Using Oracle’s voice, Scarecrow created even more distrust and terror by telling the city that Batman is dead and that neither the Magistrate, government, nor Bat-Family can be trusted, plunging the city into further terror.
Unfortunately, Scarecrow is at a massive advantage. With the large-scale and devastating City of Bane and Joker War events happening in such quick succession, Gotham was already struggling and full of fear, making it a prime target for Crane. Using the media and his alliance with the Magistrate’s founder Simon Saint (until he didn’t need him anymore), Crane has positioned the city to rip itself apart while still believing that whatever populace remains will become stronger thanks to the massive trauma he’s going to inflict. Additionally, with Gotham believing that Batman is dead and that they’re unable to trust anyone, there’s literally nothing for Gotham City to do except feel fear thanks to Crane.
However, just as Batman’s “death” and disappearance led to the rise of Tim Fox’s Next Batman in Future State, it does appear the same will be happening with Fear State serving as the Next Batman’s canonical debut. Whatever happens, here’s hoping the Bat-Family will be able to press on and potentially rescue Batman as Scarerow’s Fear State continues. If something doesn’t change soon, Gotham could fall into a darkness it may never be able to climb out of, leading to something even worse than Future State.