Scarecrow’s raspy cackle reverberates in the depths of the Dark Knight’s soul. As each new question pries at the Caped Crusader’s resolve with the subtlety of a crow bar, Batman can feel his psyche begin to dismantle. How long will it take for the World’s Greatest Detective to crack under the effects of Scarecrow’s newest fear toxin? With no time to spare before the villain’s master scheme levels Gotham City, Batman will have to overcome his greatest fears in order to save his one true love.
“How do you See Yourself?”
One of the most interesting aspects of Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones’ Batman: Kings of Fear mini-series is their deconstruction of the Dark Knight. In the first three issues, Scott Peterson laid the necessary foundation for building to the reveal in Batman: Kings of Fear #4’s final pages. After reading this issue, I have a greater appreciation of the “show don’t tell” approach that Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones utilized in the previous issues.
When a story is well crafted, I have a lot of fun with reading in-between the lines and determining what the creative team is trying to say. Up until this point, Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones have used “show don’t tell” approach effectively to craft their message about the Caped Crusader. Scott Peterson uses these moments to adequately build to a natural conclusion. As a result, I was mostly satisfied by the “A-HA!” moments at the issue’s end. This satisfaction is largely due to the confirmation of my suspicions. Unfortunately, part of me left the issue feeling a little underwhelmed because I felt like I had figured too much of the story out. I know this seems contradictory, but part of me wishes that some of these revelations would have been presented with a new twist or angle that doesn’t undermine the groundwork the creators have already paved. I think this would have helped with my overall investment in future issues.
I think one of the most interesting sequences within the issue revolves around Batman’s perception of himself. When asked by the Scarecrow, “How do you see yourself?” Batman instantly transforms into a variation of Superman. This is not the response that I would have expected from the Dark Knight, but it also makes complete sense. I do not think that Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones are saying that Batman views himself as the “Dark Blue Boy Scout,” but rather that he and the Man of Steel share the same goal: to protect their city. Scarecrow seeks to eliminate the comparison between these two titans by undermining Batman’s confidence in achieving this goal.
“We always hurt most the one we love most.”
Batman: Kings of Fear is a slow burn. This benefits Scott Peterson’s character story by enabling the reader to delve deep into his psyche, but is beginning to hurt the overall narrative. With the solicitation of each new issue, we are teased with some grand scheme that Scarecrow has for destroying Gotham City. The readers are now four issues in and we are still no closer to understanding this plan beyond Scarecrow’s deconstruction of Batman. Without possessing some understanding of the stakes involved, this story is losing its sense of urgency.
With Batman: Kings of Fear #4, Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones continue their excellent character study of the Dark Knight. It is obvious that each of these creators have a great understanding of the character. Additionally, Kelley Jones art wonderfully conveys the hallucinations Batman is experiencing under the effects of Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Unfortunately, the conflict’s pacing as well as a general lack of understanding are beginning to harm the overall narrative. Additionally, the revelations presented within this issue may have benefited from a new angle that demanded further exploration. I am starting to think that this particular story would benefit from the graphic novel format as opposed to being released in monthly installments.