This was kind of an odd issue for me that I thought was just okay at first, but the more I thought about it the more I disliked it. It has some interesting elements but they don’t click together and this arc as a whole is shaping up to have the same unbalanced structure as Hurwitz’ Penguin: Pain & Prejudice. Up until now it’s been a small scale story, sort of like an actual horror film confined to a single location. Like Penguin: Pain & Prejudice it’s also focused more on being a character study, taking us deep into the troubled past of our villain and plodding along at a slow but steady pace. Unfortunately it’s also making the same mistake as Penguin: Pain & Prejudice by trying to turn itself into a pop-corny action adventure in the final chapter.
Let’s start with the positive stuff: the artwork by David Finch. This is some of his best stuff to date. He’s been utilizing a sketchier style in this arc and it’s really paying off. You’re not going to read a gorier, grimier Batman comic than this and in a month when almost every Bat-book features a faceless clown, that’s saying something. Every brick looks like its crumbling, every corner is littered with bones, Scarecrow and a surprise villain SHOW SPOILER ▼all look quite creepy and memorable, and the action is pretty intense. It’s really graphic at times. There’s blood and guts pouring out of these character on almost every page (but the blood is actually the one poorly drawn thing in my opinion. In some scenes it comes off as looking far too viscous like its spraying out in pudding-like globs) and Batman does something pretty extreme with a grappling hook that I don’t think I’ve seen before. However, it’s also an act that’s pretty out of character for him.
The last issue ended with Batman saying something along the lines of “Big mistake leaving me in here with this suit.” but it doesn’t appear as if the suit really helped him out too much. Scarecrow is the weakest physical threat Batman has. He makes the Riddler look like Macho Man Randy Savage. Yet when Batman has Scarecrow on the ground, this happens:
Scarecrow is still able to drive the blade into Batman’s armored suit and create a puncture that explodes blood everywhere. That shouldn’t have happened. It’s a crappy bone scythe, Scarecrow is weak, he’s in a horrible position without any leverage to put any momentum behind the blade (unless we consider that it was Batman’s fault and he leaped on top of the blade, which is actually worse), and that armor should be pretty darn tough. Either way, Batman is bleeding profusely as a result of this and when pushed so far he decides to do this:
That all happens in the first couple of pages and was released as a free preview so I’m fine spoiling it for you (By the way, it’s like Batman’s rogues gallery is becoming a who’s-who of dudes who shouldn’t be able to talk normally but can. Joker cut off his face so he has no lips, Two-Face hasn’t had half a mouth in ages, Croc rarely has lips, most writers forget to change the speech of Scar-Face, and now Scarecrow has been shot in the jaw but talks normally throughout the rest of the comic). It’s a pretty bad ass move, but one that I don’t think Batman would’ve made. He could’ve skewered Scarecrow’s shoulder and got the same result. Aiming at the head could’ve easily killed Scarecrow. EASILY. What’s even more annoying to me is that it wasn’t even a permanent fix. I thought for sure that he would’ve left the grapple gun attached so Scarecrow would’ve been locked in place, but no. Instead what you see on the page is what you get: Batman crawls away. He runs. He surely knows that the rope isn’t going to hold Scarecrow for long. He must have smelled the gas spewing out of the pipe and known that an explosion was highly possible. This means that he could be leaving Scarecrow to die. And what about the little girl? I’m unsure if Batman would’ve known she was there, but he must have suspected. Scarecrow has been doing nothing lately but kidnapping children for horrendous experiments so why wouldn’t Batman check? The Batman I know wouldn’t flee from a situation like this when there’s a possibility of there being more innocent lives in danger nor would he leave the Scarecrow to die. And if he didn’t know the house was going to blow up, he wouldn’t leave the Scarecrow without being certain that the villain was totally restrained. You can argue that he was bleeding a hell of a lot and needed to find medical attention, but I argue that he’s the goddamn Batman and should put the safety of Gotham (i.e. making sure the Scarecrow can’t break free) above his own life. Think of the children!
Speaking of the children, the little girl in this story didn’t sound very natural to me. To be honest, if there’s one Scarecrow captive I wanted to hear from it would be Gordon. Boy did that plotline go nowhere. Remember back when Scarecrow terrorized Gordon and Batman went looking for him? It’s all business as usual now and all that’s changed is Gordon is wearing a few band-aids.
I dunno, folks. I really want to like this arc, but the problems I listed above plus the way things escalate in the end SHOW SPOILER ▼really soured this one for me. At least the artwork is phenomenal. David Finch is killing it and even though I hate the direction the story is going, the final pages still look cool, it’s just that they feel like they belong to a completely different story.