Doused with a powerful fear gas, Batman must scour the streets of Gotham City to rescue the Scarecrow’s hostage and bring the villain to justice. Unfortunately, this latest batch of fear gas has turned the very city the Dark Knight has sworn to protect into his worst nightmare. With Batman: Kings of Fear #2, Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones have crafted a solid, straightforward story that ultimately plays it too safe.
“I get the whole ‘shock and awe’ thing.”
Picking up immediately from the events of the previous issue, Batman: Kings of Fear #2 finds the Caped Crusader under the effects of Scarecrow’s fear gas. Examining Batman’s profound relationship with fear is always an interesting prospect as long as the creative team is able to put their own twist on the concept. Similarly, toying with a hero’s worst nightmares should provide ample opportunities for drama and character exploration.
One of the smartest moves that Scott Peterson makes is to explore Batman’s crime fighting methods. Between preventing a murder, investigating Kenneth Rhee’s apartment, and stopping an armed robbery in rapid succession, Peterson is able to show the readers the Dark Knight’s tactics that inspire fear in those who prey on the fearful. This demonstrates what makes Batman a titular “King of Fear.”
Unfortunately, so much of the story in this issue gives off the “been there-done that” vibe. If the entire purpose is to expand upon Batman’s fear inducing tactics, this issue does little to provide a unique perspective. Perhaps this is for the best, because we all already know that Batman is the ultimate bad ass who makes criminals wet their pants and we wouldn’t want anything to impact this perception.
“It’s really quite straightforward. You’ve got… well, let’s be honest. You’ve got issues. Major issues.”
One of the best elements of the previous issue is Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones’ exploration of Batman’s self-doubt. This was especially exceptional during the conversations between the Dark Knight and the Joker where Batman’s facial expressions expertly conveyed his emotions. This theme is largely missing during this issue and as a result the story suffers.
Although the issue does a well enough job demonstrating Batman’s use of fear tactics, I think there’s a missed opportunity in this issue to play with the character’s mind. I think that Scott Peterson is saving this for future issues in order to build tension. Unfortunately, too much of this issue feels like additional set-up without the themes that helped the first issues. Considering that this mini-series is only six issues long, it feels like there is a great deal of set-up for what feels like such a straightforward story. I can’t help but wonder if the first two issues couldn’t have been consolidated in an effective way that helped propel the story forward.
Kelley Jones’ art remains a highlight of this mini-series. His Batman is perfect for conveying the menace associated with the Dark Knight’s fear inducing tactics. Additionally, his panel work propels the action forward in interesting ways. The use of psychedelic background shading and shapes is excellent in distinguishing when Batman is experiencing the effects of the fear gas. Unfortunately, the art can’t completely carry the weight of a story that reads like it is playing it safe. Hopefully, the future issues will take advantage of this opportunity to explore the character by messing with his mind.