Batman: King of Fears #5 – Scott Peterson, Writer; Kelley Jones, Artist; Michelle Madsen, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Like Scarecrow, I’m Fascinated
Ray: As we hit the penultimate issue of the miniseries, Batman: Kings of Fear #5, it has turned into an elaborate one-on-one twisted therapy session between Batman and Scarecrow. It’s time for Batman to face Dr. Crane’s ultimate test – a vision of what Gotham would have looked like if he had never become Batman. This is a question that’s actually raised a lot in fan circles – is Batman the hero of Gotham, or is he causing the monsters he tries to stop to come into existence? Would he do more good if he was a philanthropist instead of a vigilante? These are valid debate topics, but I think they tend to be a bit oversimplified – Wayne Industries is already Gotham’s biggest philanthropic organization, and most of the villains in Gotham were created through their own failings or obsessions rather than Batman’s actions. But if Scarecrow wanted to come up with a way to make Batman doubt himself, he couldn’t find a better question to ask.
The best segment of this issue is the one where we see what all the villains wound up doing in a world without Batman. While this is all very clearly Scarecrow gaslighting Batman, some of them are very clever, like Selina’s turn towards humanitarian activism. Others, like Joker becoming a profiler, are a little less believable. Scarecrow’s sarcasm and pettiness over the course of the issue is very entertaining, and that’s what makes this story work. Ultimately, it’s the kind of one-on-one battle of minds that we rarely get to see in comics. Scarecrow is one of Batman’s most underrated villains, and this story is a great showcase for his brand of villainy. The art by Kelley Jones is incredibly creepy as always, but his brighter Gotham is surprisingly compelling. It’s a more low-key Batman story than what we normally get, with the battle being joined inside the mind rather than the streets, but it’s no less compelling.
Corrina: Scarecrow is gaslighting Batman and…I’m kinda down for it? As Ray said, we rarely get this mind-versus-mind story with Batman, and this one features Crane picking apart Batman’s psyche and, hey, isn’t that what we all do as fans? And, of course, Scarecrow comes into the big Batman debate with his own version of Gotham without a Batman.
And, yet, because he’s the Scarecrow, we know he’s lying. He’s also probably lying to himself.
Jones’ art twists Scarecrow’s body in some panels where he truly seems a supernatural force of nature. That works because we know Batman is viewing things through a hallucinogen. It also provides Kelley a showcase for exploring all the Gotham residents, and Gotham itself.
I hope the ending is as compelling as the rest of the miniseries has been.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.