Using his latest batch of fear toxin, Scarecrow channels his inner Clarence to show Batman that it’s not a wonderful life. This demon on the Dark Knight’s shoulder is on a quest to get his horns by showing our hero that Gotham would have been better off if the superhero never existed. Will Batman fall for the villain’s malevolent machinations or will he overcome his greatest fear?
“By Fighting all your So-Called Rogues Galley, You’re Simply Encouraging Them.”
One of the most prevailing questions surrounding Batman could be summed up using the chicken or egg paradox. Does Batman exist because of the villains in Gotham or did the villains come to Gotham to rise to the Dark Knight’s challenge? Perhaps more simply put: Does Batman’s existence harm Gotham more than he helps? In Batman: Kings of Fear #5, Scarecrow seeks to show Batman that he is the source of all of Gotham’s problems. Scott Peterson achieves this through a series of pages where the Scarecrow shows Batman all of the potential outcomes for his Rogues Gallery had Batman never been created by Bruce Wayne.
These vignettes are a highlight of Batman: Kings of Fear #5 because of Scott Peterson’s creativity in constructing alternate lives for these villains. Not only does Peterson create alternative lives for these villains, but also showing how each of them would have become heroes in their own fields. My favorite alternative lives that Peterson presents are Joker’s and Penguin’s, which I won’t spoil here.
Kelley Jones’ art remains a selling point for the series as he beautifully conveys the hallucinations that Batman is experiencing under the effects of the fear toxin. Images bleed together almost as if the reader is in a dream (or nightmare) as the narrative switches focus from one thought to the next. Jones’ art does the heavy lifting here and elevates Scott Peterson’s story. Some of my favorite imagery within the issue is Batman filling the role of Sisyphus, as he continues to roll the stone uphill. Additionally, I love the pages depicting the Batman experiences as he is literally the only thing holding Gotham from falling into the abyss.
One of the things that I want to mention here is the dialogue that Scott Peterson has constructed for Scarecrow and Batman. As much of the story takes place within Scarecrow’s analysis of the Dark Knight, a great deal of the narrative relies on dialogue. Scarecrow’s characterization and dialogue help sell the story.
“What Did You Do to Me!?”
One of the largest gripes that I have with this series as a whole is with its pacing. As we progress from one issue the next it feels as though very little has truly happened to push forward the narrative. Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones’ analysis of the Caped Crusader remains great, if it doesn’t necessarily provide any new insight. The result is a mixed bag. Scott Peterson has a lot of work to do to wrap up this conflict with issue six. I’m still wondering what happened to the hostage he took earlier in the series. Thankfully, the final pages where Batman injects himself with an unknown substance helps build anticipation for the final issue.
Batman: Kings of Fear #5 is a mixed bag. Scott Peterson’s analysis of the Caped Crusader’s character remains great even if the plot feels a little light. Kelley Jones’ artwork helps to elevate the plot by wonderfully illustrating Batman’s hallucinations. Ultimately, I feel that Scott Peterson’s slowly paced story will benefit when read as a trade paperback.