In Review: Batman: Kings of Fear #1

Absolutely recommended for fans of the Dark Knight!

The covers: A pair of different covers to pick up on this fabulous first issue. Interior artist and colorist, Kelley Jones and Michelle Madsen, are responsible for the Regular cover which is quite the attention getter. Batman raises his right fist to bring down on one of the many villains around him which include Killer Croc, Bane, the Joker, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, and the Penguin. Bane’s attention is not on the hero but a gigantic shadow of the Scarecrow behind them. The characters look terrific and the colors are sensational; they’re dark, but not so much so as to make the art obscured. I love this cover. The Variant cover is a black and white piece by Bill Sienkiewicz. This is in the same format as the textless variants that DC has been doing for a few months, where the credits are very tiny at the bottom center of the issue. Batman is dead center, standing on a gargoyle, while bats swarm behind him, with one flying before the full moon. Great piece by Sienkiewicz. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant A

The story: The Joker and his crew are in a warehouse. He pokes a finger into a hole on a box and says, “What are your afraid of? I know you’re there. I may not be able to see you…but I can tell. You can’t hide forever.” He’s talking to Batman whom he believes is hiding in the large room. Realizing he has to force the Dark Knight’s hand, the Joker slices the throat of a prisoner and Batman leaps out among the men, fists flying. “Oh yes,” the Joker says. “This is what we’ve all been waiting for.” Scott Peterson has the action come to a satisfying conclusion, but the car ride that follows is spectacular: Batman is taking the Joker to Arkham Asylum with the criminal sitting in the back seat of the Batmobile. What the Joker says is sensational, and when Batman adds to the one-way conversation it’s a delight. Everything the Joker says is gold and Peterson is to be congratulated. The final lines on Page 10 are brilliant. Once at the asylum, Batman turns the Joker over to the staff, but not before the newest doctor at the facilities has strong words for the vigilante. Something occurs at the end of Page 12 and another big action sequence occurs. It ends as one would expect, but it’s the final four pages that seem to be setting up the premise of this six issue miniseries. Where this is going I don’t know, but I’m locked in to picking up every issue. Overall grade: A

The art: Kelley Jones is a stunning artist and absolutely jaw-dropping when illustrating the exploits of Batman. Jones was the reason I picked this up and the story gives him plenty of opportunities to create some stunning work. The opening page is an incredibly tight close-up of the Joker’s eye from the point of view of the box he’s looking into. It’s a certainly a frightening way to begin the series. The second and third pages are a double-page splash showing the clown looking into the box, his gang looking nervously at their boss, and the many wooden boxes that surround them. Page 4 focuses on the Clown Prince of Crime as he speaks to the elusive hero and the horrific action he takes on a prisoner. Batman’s entrance on 5 is great, with the snarling faces of the gang at the outer most reaches of the illustration. Take a look at the killer work Jones does on 6 which contains no text but twenty-five panels, with no gutters between them, of Batman fighting the stooges. It’s wonderful! The car ride back to Arkham is also amazing. Batman’s visual reactions to the Joker’s dialogue are outstanding and the Joker is stunning, especially in that last panel on 9 and the second panel on 10. Batman’s exit on 12 is awesome! His pose as he races to enter a room on 13 is killer. The fight that follows is amazing, even when the lights go out: the first two panels on 16 are worth the cover price of this book alone! The entrance of the big bad on the penultimate page is startling and the full-paged splash of the final page has the reader join Batman in terror. You can’t get better horror than with Kelley Jones illustrating Batman. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Also crushing it on this book is colorist Michelle Madsen. Jones uses a lot of shadows in his work and the wrong colorist could have the work come off so dark that the artwork is lost. That’s not an issue with Madsen who flawlessly knows how to make every element of Jones’s work spring to life. On the opening page the colors of the Joker’s eye have the iris a dark green, while red circles around the socket. It’s grotesque perfection. The Joker’s skin and his trademark violet suit have him standout whenever he appears. However, on the third page the colors of the title and credits are beautiful, with the bright reds and yellows standing out against the warehouse browns. The light source in the ceiling on that page is great! Page 6 uses a barrage of colors to make the battle furious looking. The interiors of the Batmobile are awesome in bright computer buttons and the green tint from a monitor that colors Batman’s face. The neon lights the vehicle speeds by are bright and tacky in their coloring. I love red the highlights on the Caped Crusader on 13 as he races into a room. Reds and violets are exceptional at the top of 16’s first two panels. The browns, reds, and greens on the final page are a nightmare brought to life. Madsen is incredible on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Rob Leigh creates this issue’s dialogue, the book’s title, the story’s title, the credits, sounds, an annoying whistle, character identifications, and the tease for next issue. All the titles and credits on Page 3 are big, bold, and classy. It sets the tone of a tale from Gotham City instantly. The sounds are the highlight of Leigh’s work, with each punch and body slam a visual treat. The character identifications are small, but state whom the reader is looking at in the small spaces. The tease for next issue is excellent with uneven block letters leading to a shriek of a word. Leigh is doing a bang up job. Overall grade: A

The final line: Absolutely recommended for fans of the Dark Knight! Batman versus the Joker and a slew of villains illustrated by the incredible Kelley Jones. Every illustration is like a dive off the deep end into adventure. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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