In Review: Batman: Kings of Fear #5

The story is fantastic and the visuals are to die for.

The cover: A trippy cover for a trippy series. Batman stands before the reader with his arms and legs ready to spring into action. However, artist Kelley Jones has all but his cape and cowl covered in his rogues gallery. Within Batman one can see Clayface, Mister Freeze, Catwoman, Joker, Deadshot, Two Face, Ra’s al Ghul, Penguin, Hugo Strange, Bane, Poison Ivy, Mad Hatter, and Killer Croc. The coloring on this by Michelle Madsen makes each foe shine. This is a fantastic cover. Overall grade: A+

The story: Last issue was an sensational issue written by Scott Peterson getting into what makes Batman tick. Now the caped crusader has to see how Gotham would be different if Batman never existed. It’s a terrific What If? tour for the Dark Knight and where each of his foes ends up is fantastic. I especially like where the first and last character on Page 14 wound up, with the commentary on the latter being hysterical. There’s a lot of good lines from the Scarecrow throughout this issue as he’s getting Batman to acknowledge he’s the cause of Gotham’s continued ruin. Page 7 has some slick ideas of how Batman sees his job, with 8 being telling. After getting the It’s a Wonderful Life treatment, there’s a great moment on 19 where Batman does something that the Scarecrow didn’t expect. This is a terrific way to show the reader, through the villain, that the hero is still capable of surprises even when told, “You’ve got enough drugs in your system to put Croc out of commission for a week.” This is an excellent tease of what happens on 19 – 21. I love how 21 ends with the Scarecrow shocked and how 22 is a scream that will echo through readers’ heads until the conclusion comes out. This was another fantastic trip into Batman’s soul. Overall grade: A+

The art: Kelley Jones is creating some sensational artwork in this series and this issue. The first page is a full-paged splash that has Batman standing, looking to the left, as a gigantic black flag with GOTHAM written on it waves behind him. Three pigeons fly before the flag. In the bottom of the illustration the Scarecrow waves his hands before him deliriously as he presents Gotham without the hero. The next page contains a partial double-paged splash that has Batman looking upon his city with the flag absolutely glorious as it dips into this iconic location. Page 4 has the hero in action with the final panel containing a ghastly image in liquid form. The change of hats on Page 6 are hilarious, cool, and perfectly in character for the villain and what’s occurring. Batman is just freaking awesome in the final panel on that page. The two ways that Batman thinks of his career on 7 are a fantastic visual analogy. I also like what’s shown on 8, though it’s not got the fine line work that I associate with Jones — the villains’ faces are really sketchy. That said, the next two pages are an extraordinary double-paged splash of the pain Batman feels shown through a kaleidoscope of Scarecrow heads. If the protagonist’s view of the city doesn’t make one dizzy, all the Scarecrows certainly will. The updated look at the rogues without Batman in their lives look terrific, with my favorites being Mister Freeze, Catwoman, and the first and last on Page 14. The penultimate panel on 16 is beautifully symbolic in its violent imagery. Batman is a powerhouse in every panel on 17, with him vicious in that final one. The action between the first two panels on 18 is sensational and a great tease that the hero is far from immobile. The last panel on 21 is great for one character’s action and the other’s reaction. The last page is a full-paged splash and it’s a stunner. This image compels me to purchase the next issue to see what Jones has the Dark Knight do next. This art is incredible. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Matching Jones’s intense art are the amazing colors by Michelle Madsen. The first eye catcher by Madsen is the coloring of Gotham’s flag in black with its letters in red. It looks so unlike any flag that any city would fly, but for Gotham it’s appropriate. The shading throughout this issue is fantastic with the colors not blanketed onto characters, but given different blended shades that make them realistic. Take a gander at the work done with Batman’s back on Page 2. It’s beautiful. The different browns that comprise the Scarecrow are also top notch. I love the police light colors that make up the background of the third panel on Page 6. The violets and oranges on 7 are perfect for the nightmare the character is enduring. Pages 9 and 10 are stunners for the colors — it’s a glowing nightmare for the hero. It’s wonderful. I love the reds at the bottom of 16. The oranges and the slight touch of green on 17 is divine. Take note how colors also change between the first two panels at the top of 18, showing the visual change has effected the character’s colors. The final page is amazing for the intensity the colors add to the already strong illustration. I’m standing and applauding, Ms. Madsen. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Rob Leigh creates dialogue, a noise of consideration, a loud groan of pain, whispered dialogue, yelled dialogue, and the three word tease for next issue. This is a dialogue heavy book, but Leigh never has to overload a panel or drown out the art. Every word is perfectly placed. The whispered dialogue is smaller than dialogue, but is still easily read. In fact, its size draws the reader in closer to the book, pulling the reader into the speaker’s words for a stronger impact. Nothing is yelled until the final page and it’s massive and explosive. The speaker’s word blows the reader back. Leigh is another outstanding contributor to this issue. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is a must-read, must-own Batman book. The story is fantastic and the visuals are to die for. I’ve read Batman comics for years and I’ve not seen Batman’s psyche so focused on with such mind blowing artwork. Seriously, this is the Batman to get. Highest possible recommendation. 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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