Batman ’66 #28 review

Batman 66 28

Batman ’66 #28: “Scarecrow Comes To Town/Hunt the Croc Down”
Written by Jeff Parker
Illustrated by Lukas Ketner and Dean Haspiel
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick and Allen Passalaqua
Lettered by Wes Abbott

With only two months to go before we reach the sad conclusion of this series, Jeff Parker is taking one last chance to utilize some villains who haven’t received much attention on this title.

The first installment features long-time Batman rogue the Scarecrow, who, if my memory serves me correctly, has not made an appearance in this comic to date.  That’s a bit of a shame, as having him on the Arkham Institute staff would have been a nice bit of world-building, but it’s too late for that now.

As a character, the broad strokes are the same: Jonathan Crane, a brilliant but tortured individual, uses fear gas to prey on the citizens of Gotham City so as to enact his crimes.  It’s in his backstory where the similarities begin to fade and, well, it’s kind of silly.

After an attack on Gotham City, Batman and Robin follow a trail of clues to discern the history and identity of the Scarecrow.  Their search takes them to Jitter’s Hollow, which is every stereotypical backwoods small town you’ve ever seen.

Like I said.Like I said.

From here they discover that Crane was abandoned as a child and raised by a Miss Crane, whose own son terrorized him with (you guessed it) a scarecrow.  He grew up, went to university, and used his smarts to strike fear into others.

I don’t mean to sound as flippant as I might be coming off; this story is pretty fun, if a bit silly, but the plot is pretty basic.  What really sets it aside is Lukas Ketner’s pencils and the always great Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colors.  Their portrayal of a small town is fairly cliche, but it’s all in good fun.  Most surprising, though, is how scary some of their images are.

Robin’s fear is, unsurprisingly, being a disappointment to Batman, who they portray as a terrifying, monstrous figure:

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Batman’s fear is reliving his parents’ murder, where he’s portrayed as an equally terrifying Bat-baby:

Strike that: more terrifying.Strike that: more terrifying.

Even moments that aren’t reflective of fear gas influence are still effectively creepy, with a great attention to detail paid to everything in the panels.  Gotham City is appropriately modern (or at least modern for the Sixties), Jitter’s Holler feels lived-in and rustic, and a few Dutch angles are thrown in for good measure.  Ketner should also get props for crafting the most terrifying horse I’ve seen this side of those creepy masks that people insist on wearing.

"...when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." -James Cameron, The Abyss“…when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” -James Cameron, The Abyss

As far as Scarecrow stories go, it’s no Never Fear or Dreams in Darkness, but hey, it’s streets ahead of Scarebeast.

“Hunt the Croc Down,” featuring Killer Croc, serves more to tie up loose ends than anything else.

Last seen as one of King Tut’s goons way back in issue 8, Waylon Jones had all but disappeared after ingesting the ancient concoction that would “make a man’s skin so tough, bullets can’t penetrate it.”

After a robbery during a “routine money transfer,” Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara call on the skills of the Dynamic Duo to help track the culprit down.  After their “mystery attendant” informs Gordon that Batman and Robin are already on patrol, Gotham’s Finest resort to utilizing an item that got very little use on the show or this book: the Batsignal.

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Gordon, in a nice bit of recognition that they rarely use the signal, hopes that Batman is looking to the skies to see it.  Luckily, he and Robin were on patrol already, pursuing a missing member of King Tut’s gang, when Gordon and O’Hara tell them about the armored car robbery.

You can probably see where this is going.

Realizing that the two cases are probably linked, Batman and Robin head to an old flame of Jones’ to try and get some information.  Miss Eva Allister, ever the good hostess, offers Batman and Robin a drink as a sign of hospitality.  Batman, ever a square, insists that water or juice will be fine.

Naturally, Eva denies any recent involvement with Jones, insisting she hasn’t seen him since his disappearance.  Even more naturally, he’s in the apartment the entire time.

Croc escapes after being sprayed in the face with the crocodile repellent Batman used in Egypt (the victory is in the preparation, chums), and he leads the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder into the sewers where we finally get a good look at his monstrous form.

image

At least it’s better than Scarebeast.

Croc is quickly and easily defeated and incapacitated, bringing the story to a relatively anti-climactic close.  It’s disappointing, too, as Croc is one of those characters whose presence in the comic could have really taken advantage of the medium.  Instead, we got a pretty sparse script that’s light on both dialogue and action.  Thankfully, Jeff Parker throws in a few genuinely funny one-liners, especially at the expense of this Batman’s steadfast dorkiness, but Dean Haspiel’s pencils are a bit of a disappointment.  They’re serviceable, and far from bad, but they lack a lot of detail and aren’t incredibly dynamic.  What little action there is here is rather dull, and Croc’s character design isn’t phenomenal.  It works, but it’s not memorable.

As a filler issue, this works fine, but considering we’re two months away from the finale I was expecting more.  Usually I like the brevity of the stories in issues like this with two standalones as opposed to a single arc, and while neither one was bad, the quality does take a noticeable dip after the pretty strong first half.

Recommended if:

  • You like Batman ’66.
  • You’re a fan of the Scarecrow.
  • You’re a fan of Killer Croc, and have a ridiculously good memory and wanted to find out what happened to him two years after the fact.
  • You’re looking for a fun, light read that’s perfect for kids and adults alike.

Overall: It starts strong and ends on a bit of a whimper, but even a lackluster issue of Batman ’66 is still more fun and enjoyable than a lot of the other books out there.  Enjoy it while it lasts, guys, because it’s almost over.

SCORE: 7/10

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