Warning: spoilers for Batman #114 are ahead.
The legacy that Batman leaves in Gotham City has been a hotly disputed topic throughout his DC Comics career, and it now enters a new chapter with the event Fear State. Batman’s impact on the city hasn’t been wholly black and white, especially with someone as damaged as Bruce Wayne at the helm. While his billionaire finances and deep mental turmoil have led him down many dark paths in the past, Bruce Wayne still has a commitment to doing good for the city when no one else will. His confrontations with Gotham’s criminal underworld have been a true test of whether a good man can resist the darkness of his surroundings and stick to his goals.
The ongoing Fear State event has highlighted the value of Batman’s essential elements as a character, particularly his Gotham City methods. While the stakes of Fear State as an event appeared low at first because fans had already read about Gotham’s likely future in Future State earlier this year, its broader implications for Batman as a character make it an important decider on what years of the Dark Knight’s mythos have been building to.
Dread State is essentially forcing Batman to reap the seeds he planted when he first became the Caped Crusader, resulting in the creation of an identity based on fear. Now that Batman is battling the rise of dread in Gotham City, he must face the truth that he contributed to the climate that Scarecrow is exploiting. Fear is a simple opponent for superheroes to face, but it’s far more complicated for Batman because of his vigilante character. In this way, the most important question Fear State offers to both Batman and fans is whether fear can ever be employed for heroic causes.
Fear State is more of a mirror through which Batman must recognise himself if he truly wants to improve Gotham. Terror State’s exploration of whether fear may be used for good or evil will ultimately put an end to Batman’s longest-running conflict: is he Gotham’s greatest hero or its worst agitator?