"Batman: Kings of Fear #4" 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 November 28th, 2018
Batman is reeling from a new kind of fear gas cooked up by the Scarecrow. The villain is taunting the Dark Knight, poking fun at the ridiculous nature of his never-ending war on crime. Batman is forced to face his greatest fears and weaknesses as his mind swirls in chaos. Meanwhile, the effects are leaking out into the city, with people running in terror at the mere sight of the Bat Signal.
I will never get tired of Kelley Jones' Batman. The artist's design is awesomely gothic. Batman's body is made of pure muscle and you can see it struggle and contort to try to come to grips with what he's seeing and hearing. It's like finding out your whole life was a lie. This is the effect that the Scarecrow is having on him.
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The Scarecrow is his scariest yet. As much as I love Jones' Batman, his Scarecrow might be even better. It's a macabre monster, like some kind of undead horror show. Ropes are wrapped around his arms and neck, as if he just survived a hanging and shuffled away, dragging the noose with him.
While the scenes with Batman and the Scarecrow are beautifully dark, the pages with the other characters, like Commissioner Gordon, are less detailed and more sketch-like. It's almost like everyone agreed this isn't as cool as the Batman shots, so less time was spent on them. This makes up a very small percentage of the comic, so it's not a huge distraction.
Shadow is used so very well in Batman: Kings of Fear. There are some great images of the Caped Crusader staring out from the darkness, with his costume appearing in an iridescent blue amid a furrowed brow. Colorist Michelle Madsen makes these colors pop on the page, which is interesting in and of itself with how shadowy and grim everything looks. Batman is always a focal point, even when he's writhing in agony and much of that comes through in Madsen's colors.
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There's a telling sequence when Batman is asked how he sees himself. For a moment, his costume changes to one similar to Superman with bright blues and reds. The image gets a little cartoony, like a child's vision of a hero before he's ripped back to reality. This presents an intriguing dynamic. Batman sees himself as the hero, standing up for what's right, just like his best friend, but his world is down in the darkness, not out in the light like Superman.
Since so much of Batman: Kings of Fear is dialogue driven, letterer Rob Leigh does much of the heavy lifting. There are some choice shots from the Scarecrow where he delivers some harsh truths to Batman. Leigh drops them in these expertly placed word balloons that carry such weight.
Writer Scott Peterson is presenting an interesting dynamic between these two characters. I always knew the Scarecrow was a fierce foe in Batman's rogues gallery, but this book puts him on a new level of psychological horror. He literally brings the Dark Knight to his knees and he never even had to throw a punch.