Batman: Kings of Fear #4 – Scott Petersen, Writer; Kelley Jones, Artist; Michelle Madsen, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Therapy Session
Ray: The interesting thing about Batman: Kings of Fear is that this Kelly Jones-driven miniseries has a lot of similar themes as the top release of the week, Heroes in Crisis. The difference is that instead of getting willing therapy from a creepy robot house, Batman is the unwilling patient of the Scarecrow. And Scarecrow is determined to get to the root of all Batman’s problems – and probably make them worse. The issue opens with another flashback to Batman’s formative years and early trauma, and while we’ve seen this many times it’s rarely depicted quite this hauntingly. From there, Batman and Scarecrow begin an elaborate chess game as they each try to get at each other’s psychological weak spots. As a trained psychologist, naturally Scarecrow has the upper hand, and soon he has Batman revealing some of his darkest secrets through the power of illusion – including a strong segment that shows how Batman sees himself.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon is hot on the trail of the escaped Scarecrow and captured Batman, and manages to track down a hapless minion. After putting the squeeze on him by threatening to send him to the one place in Gotham no one wants to go, he gets a lead – but not before Scarecrow has gotten into Batman’s head. I’m not sure I’m a fan of the last page, because the idea that Gotham wouldn’t be what it is without Batman’s presence is never a concept that’s worked for me. But then, this is Scarecrow manipulating Batman, and you could hardly think of a worse blow to Batman’s self-worth. The art drives this series, but the story is pretty strong too. It reminds me a little of Robinson’s Two-Face story in Detective Comics, in that it’s an intimate spotlight on Batman and one of his long-term villains. Strong art and a compelling story lift this above similar stories.
Corrina: I believe that the last page, of Scarecrow showing Batman that Gotham would be so much better without him, is to make Batman give up. Because, as the “therapy” implies, Batman can never win. You can’t save everyone. Jonathan Crane doesn’t want to help Batman, he wants to end him.
This is a creepy, bleak, intense, and fascinating issue. On the one hand, I’m horrified at how Crane is making Batman relieve his worst nightmares and how Crane is insinuating himself into Batman’s mind. On the other hand, I’m fascinated by the insights that Scarecrow draws out of Batman, especially the sequence in which Batman reveals how he sees himself. It’s my belief that Batman is Gotham’s protector because he never wants another child to suffer as he did, so I’m pleased to see this comic agrees with me. Batman isn’t suicidal, he’s driven to protect.
Much of the story is told silently, with the writing letting the stellar Jones art tell the tale as much as possible. It shows how much the success of a story depends on the art. That’s never more clear when the Bat-signal is turned on and the art turns to all the corners of Gotham, and the criminals who scatter for hiding places. I’d never thought of how using the signal would affect Gotham’s criminals but it makes perfect sense. Warning, criminals, hide, because Batman is officially out there, in the night.
Oh, and it’s great to see gray-haired Jim Gordon again, being proactive and kicking ass. Redhead Jim is fine but I like this version better.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.