"Batman: Kings of Fear #3" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by DC Comics
Written by Scott Peterson
Illustrated by Kelley Jones
Colored by Michelle Madsen
Lettered by Rob Leigh
2018, 32 Pages $3.99
Comic released on October 24th, 2018
Batman has been hit with a mega dose of the Scarecrow's fear gas and he is tripping balls. The Caped Crusader can't tell what's real and what's fake. The Scarecrow taunts him along the way, trying to cure Batman because clearly a man who dresses up as a bat and climbs buildings every night is dealing with more than a few mental illnesses. Batman is tolerating this as the villain has a hostage hidden somewhere in the city...or does he?
I absolutely love stories where a character can't trust his own mind, especially in comics. It makes for some of the most visually interesting tales and Batman: Kings of Fear is no different. Artist Kelley Jones creates a frightening gothic landscape that's made even more harrowing by the constant questions of reality.
The Scarecrow is right alongside Batman every step of the way, so you have to wonder if this gangling reject from The Wizard of Oz is really keeping up with the Dark Knight as he leaps across rooftops. The contrast between the two is startling. Batman is a hulking monster made of muscle and terror while the Scarecrow is skin and bones, albeit a rather unsettling skeleton.
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Jones' character work is very expressive. The Scarecrow has a twinge of sarcasm to him, making some quirky faces as he questions Batman's actions, particularly when the guy jumps off a building to stop a petty thief. The villain feels insulted that Batman would waste his time with something like this when real bad guys like the Joker, Two-Face, and himself are out there creating actual terror. Writer Scott Peterson injects just the right amount of humor into the series with these elements.
There are times where the Scarecrow's words appear in these haunting word balloons, like they were pulled from his lungs with a last breath. Letterer Rob Leigh uses this sparingly, although I'd love it if it was done for every time the villain speaks. It adds to the uneasy quality that the character brings forth.
The expressive qualities extend to Batman as well as he grapples with the fear gas. There are times he's clearly trying to power through it, like he's attempting to force himself to see what's real and what's not. There's a troubling interaction with a little girl that provides for some internal reflection, but in the end, he can't tell if she was really there or not.
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Adding to the dark gothic tones of Batman: Kings of Fear is Michelle Madsen's colors. They accentuate the shadows well, especially with the Dark Knight. There are some panels where his eyes are the only things visible through the darkness and others where you can see the lines of concentration contorting his face, like he's wrestling through the shadows.
Gotham City feels like a place where hope has come to die. Batman is this lone warrior trying to fight back everything that has corrupted this city. You get the feeling that the sun never rises here. It's perpetually night time and that's when the evil is at its greatest strength.
Batman: Kings of Fear highlights one terror-filled night for the Caped Crusader. The Scarecrow is like his evil conscience, pointing out all his flaws and weaknesses along the way. There are times you want to see Batman just punch him right in his scrawny neck, but that could mean the death of a hostage and that can't be risked. It will make the Scarecrow's eventual comeuppance all the sweeter.