In Review: Batman: Kings of Fear #2

The visuals make this a must-own for Batman fans.

The cover: A building has come to life, assuming the visage of the Scarecrow, and has lifted the hero in its hand. An appropriate frontpiece given who the big bad is of this series. Artist Kelley Jones looks as though he’s had fun with this cover, making the building frightening and unquestionably humorous as it lifts the Dark Knight. Overall grade: B+ 

The story: Batman has been gassed by the Scarecrow. The villain leans into him. “Let’s try some free association. What’s the very first thing that pops into your head?” Batman says, “No,” but he’s overwhelmed by images of his rogue’s gallery, the death of his parents, and the death of his partner. As he struggles to stop what he knows cannot be real, Two-Face flips a coin behind him, Poison Ivy has her vines wrap around him, and Mr. Freeze has his feet bonded to the floor. Other villains appear, but begin calmly calling his name, until one catches his fist. Scott Peterson brings the reader into this story quickly, with the Scarecrow forcing the Dark Knight to confront his fears and then twisting the villains into sympathetic characters. The reveal on 6 is good and the concern from the character on 7 is strong. Why Batman has to rush to catch the escapees from Arkham Asylum is revealed on the same page, and that’s what drives the Batman for the remainder of the issue. The brief dialogue scene with Alfred is great, as the faithful servant does his best to look out for his employer and friend. The tag line for this issue comes at the bottom of Page 18 — that’s the best line I’ve heard Batman say in years. Page 20 has Batman confronted by several surprising gun bearers. The finale looks to begin Batman’s journey into his psyche, so I’m hoping Peterson goes there. Overall grade: A

The art: Kelley Jones is the reason to pick up this book. The visuals are incredible. The opening page is a full-page splash of Scarecrow whispering into the Batman’s ear. The villain looks huge, while the hero looks incredibly small. This is a great way to show who’s in control of the situation. A turn of the page has the reader encounter a double-paged spread of Batman surrounded by his many classic foes and the deaths of those he loves. Every character looks great, but it’s the Joker that steals the focus, not only because it’s the brightest corner of the illustration, but the Clown Prince of Crime is using his acid spewing flower on the hero with the background composed entire of HAs. The three panels on 4 shows Batman encountering three different foes, but when looked at as a whole the entire figure of the protagonist is clearly seen. The final panel on 5 is awesome, because if any foe is capable of that act, it would be that one. This panel makes the reveal at the top of 6 incredibly strong. The bottom panel on the same page is a beautiful composition of the asylum and the moon, with the former getting a better image at the start of the next page. The final panel on 7 is outstanding: it’s rare for that person to get such a strong silent illustration and it’s incredibly powerful. Pages 9 – 12 have no text, save one sound and a whispered word on 12. Jones’s use of bricks on the two pages that follow this is sheer awesomeness. I also really like the bottom panel on 15 that has a fantastic point of view and employs a cool shadow effect. The reveal on 16 would frighten anyone. The final panel on 18 is awesome, and when accompanied by that line is simply delicious. The progression of panels on 20 is great, with the vortex effect mesmerizing. The art on this book is incredible. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Much of this book depends on darkness, so the colors from Michelle Madsen are dark. This isn’t to say that it’s difficult to see the artwork, but it does get very dark at times. The opening page has some great work done on the Scarecrow, with highlights in his gruesome mask terrific. Placing him and Batman against a green backdrop really makes them pop. The second page is a little too dark on Batman over Robin and his parents’ final night. I get that it’s supposed to be a dark moment for Batman, but if the art can’t be made out with the dark colors, then what’s the point? The oranges behind the Joker on Page 3 look great. Gorgeous greens return as the backdrop for Page 4. The interiors of the Batmobile have got some great colors, a virtual rainbow of monitors and screens. The light source in the third and fourth panel on 11 allows the hero to have some terrific highlights. 16 is a fairly dark page, but it should be since Batman is emerging from the dark. My favorite panel of the book is the final panel on 18; a great mix of colors against a dark visage makes this awesome. The reds and yellows on 20 look appropriately spacey. The last page is really difficult to make out much because it’s so dark. It’s a frustrating conclusion. Overall grade: B+ 

The letters: Rob Leigh is the book’s letterer and he creates dialogue, the story’s title, the book’s credits. Killer Croc’s dialogue, transmissions, a sound, and whispered words. The title and credits for this book are tremendous on Page 3, looking epic for a epic character. Though only one word, Croc’s dialogue looks different from every other speaker to show how apart from humanity the villain is. The whispered dialogue comes from two different characters: one to show surprise and the other to show terror. Nicely done. Overall grade: A

The final line: The visuals make this a must-own for Batman fans. Watching the caped crusader in action is impressive as he truly emerges from the darkness to stop thugs on the street. When his costumed antagonists appear each is a horror in his or her own right. This book is a winner and will please any fan of comics or superheroes. 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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