In Review: Batman: Kings of Fear #3

This is a book you look at and don't read.

The cover: Batman screams as the Scarecrow takes off the top of his head. Emerging from it is a ghastly green that contains the Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, Two-Face, Manbat, Mister Freeze, Poison Ivy, Bane and others hidden under the title. I love the Kirby Krackle on either side of the Dark Knight which increases the image’s craziness. Kelley Jones and Michelle Madsen have done a great job on this warped frontpiece. I like how the green sets off the villains and the Krackle is a bright eye catching orange. Overall grade: A

The story: Scott Peterson’s focuses entirely on the Scarecrow following Batman around for the night to observe him in his natural element. Batman isn’t thrilled with this, but the villain says he has a hostage and if the hero wants him freed he has to tag along. Page 10 has the antagonist needing some assistance and the protagonist helps him in the most direct way. Page 16 introduces a young character in the tale that shows the softer side of the imposing hero. The story has the hostage’s fate revealed to Batman, but the Scarecrow has other ideas. This was a really light story as Batman is just observing people, making sure that all get to where they’re going safely. It’s the words of the Scarecrow that provide the book’s tension, but his words don’t suit him. He comes off as a low class Joker. Nuts, to be sure, but not engaging. This story doesn’t really do much. In fact, this issue could probably be skipped if one is looking for plot advancement. Overall grade: D+

The art: Kelley Jones is the artist of the book and is the reason why one would pick this up. The issue’s story is incredibly slim, but provides ample opportunity for Jones to create some intense Batman illustrations. The second page is a full-paged splash of Batman regaining his focus as he falls down the side of a building. The character looks tremendous and the building full of excellent Gothic attributes. On Page 3 the Scarecrow looks down from atop a gargoyle to see what’s become of the hero. If the reader looks down at the very bottom of this panel a tease of what’s to come is shown. I love the angle of the first panel on 4, with the action that follows it in the next panels superior. The bodies in the middle panel on the next page are outstanding and I love the distance in the final panel on the page, showing where the characters have ended up. It’s rare to see the Batman smile in a comic, I miss it so much, but there’s a slight one in the fourth panel on 6 and it’s great. The close-up of the villain at the bottom of the same page makes him a complete horror, rather than a guy in a funny suit. 8 is another full-paged splash, again focusing on Batman, but this has six different illustrations of him as he makes his way through the city. The action at the start of 11 is exactly what I wanted to see and I loved it! The bottom panel on this page shows the Batman exactly as he should be in every book he appears: it’s the quintessential Batman image. The final panel on 19 is a terrific image that shows that this dark knight has a heart. It’s beautiful. The final page of the book is a full-paged splash of the Scarecrow about to perform some makeshift surgery on the hero. Whether this is real or part of a vision created by the villain’s gas won’t be revealed until the next issue. Whichever it is, this is an outstanding visual cliffhanger to close the issue on. Overall grade: A 

The colors: Michelle Madsen is trying to keep the book dark, for that’s what the title character thrives in, but sometimes this book is just too dark. The first page is an example of this. It’s incredible difficult to make out the monster sized face of the Scarecrow. Brighter colors were needed to make the visual seen. If not, this page could have just been omitted. The second page is better, though still pretty darn dark. The Scarecrow is really dark in his first appearance on Page 3, but lightens considerably in the second and third panel. Why did he have to be so dark in the first panel? I really like the how colors change slightly in last panel on Page 5, with the glass windows and the shards from a broken one superior. 8 is another page that’s too dark; lighter colors have been used to keep things dark and allowed the reader to fully see the art. There are moments in this issue where Madsen uses a very bright yellow-orange background to make the characters pop and it’s fantastic. More of this would have been welcome. I’ve enjoyed Madsen’s work on tons of book, but this one disappointed. Overall grade: C

The letters: Rob Leigh’s text includes the story’s title, the book’s credits, dialogue, two sounds, a transmission, and the tease for next issue. Because Batman doesn’t fight any foes in this issue, 98% of the lettering is dialogue. This is fine, but doesn’t really show how far Leigh can stretch himself. The two sounds look good and the transmission is done with, appropriately italicized words. The tease for next issue is massive, building on the final image tremendously. This work is good, but nothing that will wow the reader. Overall grade: B

The final line: A slim story that depends on the visuals to sell books. I can’t disagree with how good this issue looks, but I don’t see how this develops the overall plot. This is a book you look at and don’t read. Overall grade: C+

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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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